It makes me proud to wave the patriotic flag for the Aussie Lads from Methylated Spirits. They have all endured their share of mishaps common to all expats around the world, lost passports, lost identities, lost jobs and a great sense of displacement at some point in their musical careers yet their survived life’s assaults and experiences and you can hear it in their music.
Hard, rocking punk blood instilled and glued to them is their need to show dissatisfaction with the trends, norms and other pressures of this straight world. No matter how ‘out of the news’ some of the songs they cover, the Spirits make them sound raw and unbeatable like a big bang across your head that needs some days to recover. And a good two days of rejuvenation I needed after an assault of beer, fun and punk ethos with the Methylated Spirits last week at Wild at Heart, the cave for rock and roll in Berlin’s Kreuzberg.
Although not many suckers in the audience that night and the place looked like a church hall on a Sunday morning, the boys were in good spirits. John the growling singer rolled around on the floor, on the stage, and onto the tables and belched those tunes out with a vengeance. The lyrics very unclear came out of the mike like a row of shotguns. But John had better things to do with the mike rather than scream at it; he put it up his arse, and showed us his own brand of Methylated long johns. Not very cool dacks! Said Markus Fister (whose birthday was last week therefore he must be feeling more grown up) but they were a scream. On stage (and off stage) John is not afraid to be himself. He will make you shy with one look and he will shock you with one line while his beer manner will help you drink yours all up before he catches it.
The drummer, Chris Hughes missed out on John’s tasty snappy fashion parade as his head was lost behind the snare drum while his hands were trying to catch the sticks he twirled up in the air. Chris banged those drums so hard I thought they will crack and drum debris will fly around everywhere. But that’s his style, the energy in his arms, the beats are in his head and legs while his eyes run wild from drum to drum, his intense gaze almost burning holes through them. Markus the grown up, has a style of his own, static and serious yet very cool, with eyes too shy to say hello. He has a concentrated demure very much in conflict with John the Singer’s state of mind. Joe the missing link in this Methylated Spirits musical puzzle kept waving his arms to the sleeping mixer demanding more sound, more presence. After each song I could see his exhausted, frustrated face pleading the mixer with his eyes to turn him up. An audience member had to go and wake the mixer up and tell him to keep his hands away from his own knob. And rest them somewhere else. Where they are needed.
Now that I finished creaming the pages about the boys’ cool demure and wild movements I will heat up the songs they performed. Songs with rated R titles such as: Fucking Machine (good one…. which one of you is this song about?), Cock and Pocket an adaptation from a Stooges song with a similar name, Hindu Gods of Fuck (a new religion? I want to join…) Bugalloo (cute and creamy title yet dangerous for your ear), to Motor City Rifarama, (I am sure they are singing about an instrument shop somewhere in Detroit) one can tell these boys have brains and a sense of humour behind them. Apart from these original gems they play, Methylated Spirits come to your attention if you’ve got some to give, by converting originals with a twist of their own. That is punk fanatical, pure rage and candid behaviour. Old punk bands like The Stooges, The Gories (a Detroit band from the early ‘90s, Chris Hughes tells me over the phone), Saints (another Aussie icon that set the queen’s world on fire in the early ‘80s), Flipper and MC5 have all served as an inspiration. When these bands are in Spirits’ hands, they explode in extreme fast beats.
This band will never disappoint an audience that expects wild punk tunes. Their performance always delivers outrageous, exaggerated, obnoxious moods and the lads generally blend in with the atmosphere the audience gives. If the public is full of deadshits sipping beer and nothing else than expect the band to be an angry riot. If the audience will jump and boogie, the band will be generous and buy everyone a few rounds of beer, abuse you with good intentions and generally interact by showing more skin and musical attitudes. Demand and Supply seems to be their stage law. These talented musicians deserve their audiences to cooperate, stage dive, show their arses, and generally misbehave on the dance floor. John is always ready to play with his gizzards live on stage and go all the way with the mike but what does the audience do, if they even show up? Tickle dry air and wait to get excited if Soft Cock Rock anthems blare from the speakers.
If we want to keep the wild in rock and roll and stop it from melting into soft rockweed you must give up our Electro Clash fantasies for a little while and go out and support bands like Methylated Spirits do their thing. And if we demand more unruly and naughty behaviour they might even put out a new CD and get the record deal they deserve.