A bat symbol in the Melbourne night
Spooky Bootleg Tapes Volume 2 – Various Artists (Spooky Records)
Bats get a bad rap. They’re part of nature and humans – some of the stupider members of the human race, at least – feel an idiotic desire to tame nature. Nature will always win; unlike humans, nature plays the long game.
There’s a local politician whose electorate covers the poor, marginalised and disenfranchised inner-eastern Melbourne suburbs where the local population can barely rub two four-wheel drives, a private school education and an annual ski trip together. He doesn’t like bats, probably since he had an involuntary bowel movement after reading “Dracula” at school.
He wants the bats out of the trees in Kew. Dirty, filthy, disease-ridden pests, he reckons. Plus, they might have conspired to unleash COVID on the world, working in cahoots with devious foreign governments, copies of Mao’s “Little Red Book” stashed under their wings…
At the risk of a mangled metaphor, Spooky Records is the deviant subcultural bat pissing off the lumbering, myopic cultural hegemonic beast that is the mainstream music industry. When the majors were prostituting themselves looking for The Next Jet back in the early 2000s, Spooky was putting out killer records by Spencer P Jones, The Drones, Digger and the Pussycats and Sixfthick.
The Spooky Records “Bootleg Tapes, Volume 1“ compilation was replete with killer tracks, some old, some new, some borrowed, more enigmatic Melbourne black than sparking sky blue.
Eighteen years after that compilation comes the successor. Again, it’s an eclectic mix – there’s the usual mix of Spooky roster favourites, like the melancholic surf of Shifting Sands (“Reject My Host”), the tragically departed Brian Hooper (“It Ain’t Free”) and Link McLennan’s bent pop outfit, Sun God Replica. There’s a smattering of more recent Spooky signings courtesy of the lacerating garage punk of The Blowers (“It’s Time to Leave”), the cosmological cognitive exploration of BBQ Haque and Spooky owner Loki Lockwood’s bedroom project, Velatine (“The Witches”).
Brown Spirits (“Chemical Miscalculation”) skips, dances and slides across a velour psychedelic landscape and River Snakes (“Cool Like You”) gets down and dirty, as only they can.
But whereas the first compilation was largely an Australian product, the second volume has an international flavour. There’s Italian content courtesy of the garage pop of The Cherry Pies (“What Have I Got”), Movie Star Junkies electro-blues (“East End Serenade”) and Maniaxxx’s frontal lobe challenging explorations (“Ghost of Chance”). There’s French vigour via Crocodile Boogie (featuring Beast Records’ Seb Blanchais), Gothic chamber from Ventre De Biche (“Où Je Cache les Choses”) and the haunting Belle Phoenix (“Blossom of Love”) and the pagan Brittany rock of Druids of Gue Charette (“Talking to the Moon”).
Spooky is always good for some brutal noise, as evidenced by Melbourne band Macros’ “Moving” and Long Hours’ genuinely confronting “Nagoya Gothic”, and while If So Why’s “Death Spoiler” and Mongrel Country’s “Crab Claws” are cut from the classic dark and murky Spooky cloth, Screensaver’s synth-happy “Living in an Instant” sounds like it’s crawled straight out of an English club in 1985. All class, no fop.
Other than the unavoidable economic compromise of digital-only release, there’s nothing missing here. Plus, any proceeds from downloading of the compilation will go to 'Fly By Night' Bat Rescue in Melbourne. Get into it – it’s only natural.