AT THE TOP OF THE BOTTOM - The Meows (No Tomorrow Records)
I read a statistic once that said that Spain has lowest rate of depression per head of population in the world. For anyone who's spent time in Spain, that won't come as much of a surprise. Spain is littered with tasty food, quality (and affordable) alcohol and a street culture that's as welcoming and public as suburban American gated communities are not. Spain's rock'n'roll may not be as well known as its contribution to the culinary and sartorial arts, but you can't have everything.
The Meows are from Spain, and they know their rock'n'roll inside out. The first thing that struck me about their new album (a friend remarked recently does "At the top of the Bottom" mean second to last?) was the cover art work – the same marriage between simplicity and style that permeates Spanish fashion. And although plenty of people say you can't judge a book by its cover, the reality is much more complex.
But this album is more than just pissweak cultural observations, and equally vacuous assessments of Spanish fashion. It's an album that celebrates the very best in 50s Chuck Berry rock'n'roll beats shoved through a New York Dolls-and-beyond filter.
"Just One Time" is AC/DC with a Casanovas slant, and a lead break that's straight from a 50s revival scene. "Soulbreaker" continues the honest rock theme, this time with occasional lead splashes that are closer to Ace Frehley than Johnny Thunders – but that's not a bad thing.
The cover of the Hitsville USA era "Function at the Junction" has a swaggering tone to it that reminded me of the Johnny Casino album of earlier this year, but in this case given a serious boost by some honky tonking piano moments. "Mother's Day" is classic Little Richard excitement (I kept waiting for it to morph into "Long Tall Sally"), while "1966" rocks like a whisky fuelled bar room at 1am reacting to the barman's call of last drinks.
"Five Feet Under Ground" is spirited, although the spirit is arguably more branded than original; "Hear Me Say" has a subtle lick that contrasts nicely with the blazing guitar flashes that herald another excursion into 70s rock god territory. "Stolen City" charges off into the distance like a well maintained Chevy in search of a good rockin' time, some latent alto vocals introducing a sensibility at odds with the Blackmore style lead break that's almost inevitable.
The album includes a couple more covers, Ike Turner's rousing, hey hey, ho ho excited "This Man's Crazy" (I'm sure Tina would've described him in far less equivocal terms), and the final track, Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Burn Baby".
The Meows certainly have a formulaic approach to rock'n'roll. But fundamentally, rock benefits from structure, and The Meows know the ingredients for a good time. Get yourself some quality cerveza to quell your thirst and allow The Meows to show you a good time. - Patrick Emery
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