Nearly four years after their 2015 debut ‘HiFi Classics’, South London indie gang Meatraffle are finally releasing its follow-up, ‘Bastard Music’. It features the band making various left-wing yet parochial observations about modern life to a twee, whimsical musical backdrop.
The album’s first song opens with the sound of the titular cyclops snoring and this gives a fair idea of the sleepy pacing of songs that is to follow. There then follows five-and-a-half minutes of trumpets, organs, Peter Hook-esque basslines, and some very on-the-nose, bien pensant lyrics about how “patriotic nationalists” have capitalised on a crisis caused by bankers.
The synthier ‘N’drangheta Allotment’ is next, which is seemingly a tale of lost holiday love with noticeable use of Latino-sounding trumpets and Italian recipe names to create an ‘exotic’ atmosphere. The vocals are half-spoke, half-sung, and reminded me of late 00s British rapper Example.
‘No Books’ is a four-minute-plus reiteration of the old John Waters maxim “if you go back to someone’s house and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck them” accompanied by organs, keyboards, and drums. You can get a fair idea of how localised the band expect listeners to this message to be when the frontman warns his fans not to copulate with non-readers even if they have a “nice little flat off the Wimbledon Chase”.
On ‘London Life’, Meatraffle’s singer sings various unoriginal observations about what living in London is like (i.e. it’s crowded, expensive, unfriendly, and drab but preferable to living in the countryside as there’s more amenities and fewer UKIP voters) whilst what sounds like a drum machine and a Casio keyboard play in the background.
‘Meat Raffle on the Moon’ is a slow song with a trumpet solo midway through that imagines what life must be like on (you guessed it) the moon to a repetitive backing of space-age sound effects and what sounds like a drum loop. The Casio synth and trumpet return on ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’, a thoroughly London-centric vision of Armageddon replete with emergency service siren sound effects.
‘The Bird Song’ represents something of a departure from what has preceded it insofar as it is led by female vocals and features a clearly audible electric guitar. It also features organs, trumpets, and bongos, as is by now becoming predictable. The song takes its title from the guest vocalist’s implorations to an unspecified (presumably male) addressee not to refer to her as a ‘bird’.
Guitar is also used as an accompaniment to the requisite synths, drums, and trumpets on ‘Green Patina’, although it does not dominate the song’s sound as it does ‘The Bird Song’. The lyrics seem to consist of a series of obtuse, unfocused swipes at the military-industrial complex.
‘Digital Blind’ is mercifully brief at just 54 seconds of what sounds like an irritating late-middle-aged man spouting conspiracy theories in the pub while his voice is treated with the same extreme pitch correction effect made famous by Cher’s ‘Believe’ and bongos play underneath.
Ultimately, this is a collection of unremarkable novelty indie pop songs with some very ingenuous social commentary that isn’t half as original as the band seem to think it is. I thought I’d seen the nadir of this type of music with The Fat White Family (who are, unsurprisingly, big fans of Meatraffle) but I was wrong. The music is performed with no real energy and the lyrics are intoned with this sort of half-smirking jocularity that undercuts their supposed seriousness. I was glad when the album ended.