Base and Superstructure by MeatraffleRelease date: September 29, 2023
Label: Blang Records
South London miscreants Meatraffle come shuffling back around the corner with a blue carrier bag and a welcome surprise. Not only are they still a thing, but this new (third!) album Base and Superstructure is a bright ‘n’ shiny pop-tastic delight. Very possibly their best yet it’s full of irresistibly toe twitching beats and old school synth sounds, seasoned liberally with Zsa Zsa Sapien’s sweet trumpet lines and world weary musings.
In the past I’ve known people to be a bit dismissive of Meatraffle, eyeing them warily like that guy who sits too close to the fruit machine. Not without cause perhaps. There’s the strident Marxism, the funny names, and the dubious company they keep. Never mind their louche and off kilter music. Worst of all they have a sense of humour, an attribute some people find weirdly hard to forgive. A handy litmus test for the undecided arrives early doors, if “My mum loves Bryan Ferry. How much? Very very.” provokes a wry smile then you’re in the right place. If not you should maybe consider lightening up a bit.
This is the opening line of ‘Posh People in Pop’ which neatly combines two of Meatraffle’s regular concerns, pop music and class. A little unfair to Bry’s humble origins you might cry but he made a career out of pretending to be some kind of rakish aristocrat so he’s only himself to blame. Their core gripe hardly requires explanation but “Posh people got nothing to say/Apart from “hoorah” and climbing mountains” is deliciously direct. Musically it features some great early Depeche Mode synth sounds. It’s no surprise to note that they, and all the other names the album calls to mind (Pulp, New Order, Happy Mondays, Human League, The Fall, Altered Images, Ian Dury, Sleaford Mods) belong to a long tradition of forward thinking working class pop.
The tremendously quotable ‘Posh People in Pop’ also brings us “Why do I always bring class into it?/ It’s coz the people in the lower classes suffer most, innit.” Meatraffle have never been shy about their Marxism. Base and Superstructure takes its name from a Marxist theory about the organisation of society, intriguingly illustrated here by the cover image, an unusual shot of the monument to Yuri Gagarin in Moscow framed against industrial smokestacks. Their politics manifests in their music neither as righteous fury or an attempt to convert but more as a clear eyed shrug about the way of the world.
‘New Maps Of Hell’ skewers braying Tory twats on the golf course while ‘Bully Boss’ punches upwards in the most relatable of ways with a chance to sing along “Take your job and stick it, where the sun don’t shine” over some agile lounge funk. The grim realities in the lyrics are shaken off by vivid, upbeat tunes, none more so than the joyful pop rush of ‘Mannaggia La Miseria’ featuring a wonderful vocal from bassist Cloudy Truffles decrying the misery of trickle down economics but making you want to dance and shout anyways.
‘Love Song Industrial Complex’ opens the album with a laidback disco groove and a grumble about the dreary omnipresence of vapid love songs. Saving the best for last they wrap up with ‘Smallest Gang’, a real charmer driven by a steady bass pulse liberally sprinkled with layers of warmly nostalgic synth. As you’re swooning along to the chorus you think “hang about, this is one of them love songs they were moanin’ about innit”. And it sort of is “We are the smallest gang in history/ our love is the membership fee/ the membership being just her and me.” Only rather than all the tired old lust or heartbreak business it’s about the other stuff that really matters. A you-and-me-against-the-world tale of petty crime and tender devotion. A song of love as companionship and trust, about how love makes winners out of losers, and it seems to get more lovely every time. It’s fucking brilliant.