The Meanies + The Numbskulls + Lizard
The Enigma Bar, Adelaide
November 6, 2015
Mandy Tzaras photos

But what’s the lead singer’s dilemma?

You didn’t know the lead singer had a dilemma?

The lead singer has a dilemma.

What it is, for all lead singers, is how to keep the audience’s attention.

Fine if you’re Freddy Mercury, look divine, have posed for years in your mum’s mirror (probably) and have a fab singing voice. Fine again if you came up when you could have a minimum of talent and get by and be a legend in forty years time cos so few people were doing what you were doing. (I’m sure you can think of a few people who fit this category)

Link McLennan reminds me a little of Nick Cave - that onstage desperation to fill the stage, not repeat himself gesturally, but gain and keep the audience’s attention. Also, some of his movements, which again seem born of this desperation, are very similar to quite a few of Nick’s … some time ago now.

Now, I’m guessing to a certain extent here, but the way Link leaps, bounds, staggers, stiff-walks, flings himself about (once rather like a young sheep trying to avoid the attentions of a horny shearer) is one thing, but the way he also veers wildly between self-deprecation and dead serious delivery is frankly ludicrous, alarming, and commanding. His horrifying plunges into the stage, as if he’s dropped himself off the side of a container ship, are as juvenile as they are arresting, and as shocking as they are exhilarating. Not only is there a strong element of the stupit here, there’s also an endearing childlike aspect - rather like watching an eight-year-old going on twenty-four grimly strap on rubber batman wings and clamber up on top of the neighbour's shed just to show him you don't care what he thinks.

link and wallyNow, The Meanies, with their Ramones-ish pop (with a shot of The Ronettes) and their sharp, hard edge and a healthy dollop of (I may have mentioned) stupit, could have been just another fine band a scene. However, Link lifts the band, raises their quality levels, transcends mere rock'n'roll, forces the band to pay attention to what’s going on. He’s friendly, down-to-earth, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes deathly serious and at all times … he conquers the singer’s dilemma. He is the enthusiastic joker, the class clown on a mission which may as well be for God as anyone ...

Take the moment when Link leaps onto some bizarre black box nearby. Standing up, he biffs one of the two hugely loud speaker boxes which have been deafening the punters since they were installed. The box, somewhat precariously suspended on absurdly thin chains, sways into the lighting rig, which also threatens to wibble downwards. The bass player is determinedly keeping the beat beneath. We're standing there, petrified the bloody things are going to drop like cartoon safes ... but they don't...

When Link hurls himself into the crowd, it’s not a deliberate provocation - he's embraced like a long-lost brother. In fact, The Meanies are not a provocative band (as The Birthday Party were) - but Link's love affair with his audience is a part of a deeply empathic entertainment. When Link is crouched on the floor bellowing into the mike, or doubled over shoving out the best his lungs can give, he’s giving us his all - just like Nick Cave has done. But again, it’s a completely different vibe to The Birthday Party.

I should explain. Much of the moshpit looked like a lot of fun, with little aggro and much foolishness and hurling of bodies about. For a wonder, no-one is out to hurt anyone, when one person falls down two more are there to help them up (very 1984, that). But the blokes in the moshpit are not self-conscious punk rockers or hipsters (there are no hipsters here whatsoever, remember this), but … well, these blokes look like farmer’s sons, or blokes you meet on the jetty or down the yacht club or down the footy club (but not the rugby club, and certainly not the cricket club).

Consequently, these men dance extremely awkwardly, like they’re not quite used to using their arms and legs for any kind of fun. They’ve caught on to how Link moves onstage, like a puppet with its strings cut, that strange awkwardness, that self-abnegation. He moves like them, or they move like him; either way the crowd love his floundering attempts to be articulate in the face of likely (not merely possible) mockery if he takes himself too seriously. Yet these blokey, rough as guts men love Link unashamedly. Like they love a ... well, you know.

Are you getting a sense of the lead singer’s dilemma yet?

There’s not a lot of distance between the bar where you can’t hear anything due to the huge row of the speakers, and the stage. About ten steps. So stubbies of Coopers are bought and gobbled, bought and scoffed and foam flows and sprays and all the rest of it, and real stubbies, too, not those pissy plastic cups which make you feel somehow death-bed old and hopelessly incontinent. Ever feel that, at a gig when they give you your beer in a thin plastic cup? That there’s either some sort of pill or potion in it, like you’re at a mental hospital and it’s time for your laxative?


Must be me then.

link meanie 2Ah. I’ve digressed a bit. There are a few of my friends in the crowd tonight - and I should add that Adelaide really turned it on this evening; there were several other crowd-pleasing gigs - including You Am I - but this gig is remarkably well-attended and my friends all know the words to the Meanies songs. I guess I really missed a lot of excellent stuff during that ‘caged’ period…

Afterwards, we look at each other and come down to earth. Encountering real life again is a bit of a shock. I leave it a couple of minutes then peer inside the band room. Link has taken his top off and is lying flat on the horrid blue leather sofa, utterly fucked. I’m amazed he’s not bleeding, and rather relieved that no bones are poking out of his skin. Christ, how can he be alive?!

These men represent Australia, particularly Australian men, in the most poignant way I can imagine. They show, and share, vulnerability in such a way that Australian men can comprehend and identify with. And I doubt very much that they are even aware, fully, of what a remarkable achievement that is.

I gather the lyrics to the songs are rather good as well, but like I say, I have no idea what the songs are. This was my first listen to the band.

The set list, should you require it, was

Drill/ What U Need/ Never/ Logic/ Cruelty/ Buzz/ Gap/ Wonderland/ Punchin/ Circles/ Freak Out/ Darkside/ Grandmother/ Violence/ Scum/ Kill/ Roaches/ 100% Weird/ Gangrenous/ Brix/ Balance

and apart from an impromptu stab at New York, New York, the encore was

Authority/ Inside

Like Six Foot Hick, there needs to be a documentary made about The Meanies, using as much live footage as possible.

I can't believe I saw what I saw and am still more or less whole. We'll see in the morning. I do hope the band take Mr McLennan to hospital for a check-up. Just to be sure.