There are at least a couple of guarantees with the Meanies. One is that the songs will all be short, between two and three minutes, every time. The second is that each burst of savage punk/pop noise will also be a potential anthem; an unclean riff with a beating heart of pure melody.
Little has changed with the Meanies since they started to make their mark on the Melbourne indie scene with the release of 1990's "Boogie Wonderland" single. Now there's a new album, 10% Weird, and they remain something of a sure bet while retaining a sense of the unpredictable. This, as the band inferred in the title of last year's triumphant 25-track "Best Of" compilation, is The Meanie of Life.
The Meanies' unashamed Ramones' streak doesn't stop at short, sharp pop assaults with Sixties (Beatles/Kinks) inflections. They are - by name - Link, Wally, DD and Ringo Meanie. The original bass player, pre-Wally, went by the name of VB Meanie.
Link, the singer (and Meanies' artist), writes all the songs, words and music. His onstage demeanour is manic; his scream pierces even its own amplification, and his physical thrashing, hurling, flying and falling can be quite dangerous.
That's why I don't like to do too many shows in a row," he says. "I've hurt myself many times. I'm not as bad as I used to be. I've only broken one bone, my finger. Mostly I put my back out or fuck up the tendons in my legs. My knees got hurt the most. They used to be perpetually swollen and brown, with a callous covering."
The Meanies released a flood of five singles in six months during 1990/91, all on Au-Go-Go Records, including the gems "Never" and "Paranoid". They also supported Nirvana, the Lemonheads, All and Superchunk. By concentrating just as heavily on Melbourne's unique all-ages network as they did on the pubs, they have also managed to reach a new and undiscovered fanbase, in tandem with Tumbleweed, You Am I and Screamfeeder.
"A lot of our fans obviously can't come to the pubs," says Wally Meanie, who also works as Melbourne booker for 35 Australian indie bands. "The all-ages thing used to be huge. There was a Manic (all-ages' promoter) day-gig once every six weeks at the Corner Hotel (in Richmond)."
Last year, the band toured Europe, America and Japan. In those territories they have released, so far, six vinyl singles, three compilations and a mini-album, all through different, local indie labels. During their visit to the States, they recorded 10% Weird at Seattle's Egg Studios.
"If anything we were going for less quality," recalls Link. "We just wanted it trashy and live-sounding but it ended up probably better than anything we've done. It's not over-produced or anything, which is what I like, but it still sounds really good. I wanted to call it Eating Roaches after one of the songs but no one would let me. The bastards - they beat the shit out of me until I agreed."
Link says he has so many songs half written on tape somewhere that he need never write again. "It's true," says Wally. "If he wrote them down or set tapes aside with his ideas, there'd be fuckin' squillions of the bastards. There's shitloads of songs on cassettes that we've heard but never played. He is very prolific."
- Chris Johnson 1994