This country is headed in a bad direction. Let no amount of boredom distract you from that truth. Eastlink’s new record Mullum Mullum could be depressing but is inspiring instead. It’s that rare LP that sounds like it has conviction. The first notes of ‘What a Silly Day (Australia Day)’ come on like a lot of guitar bands you’ve heard before – the difference is what it locks into. This is ‘hip shaking’ music. It has ‘swagger’. It sounds like the drummer plays the snare with a shaker – you can’t not nod your head. A few bars later someone fills in the major chords. It’s not all new but it’s being done a lot better. The first lyric arrives from Al Montfort’s familiar voice: “They busted up your brain for an idea.” Later: “What a silly day”. What an understatement from one of the masters of that art. “You’re supposed to have fun – what a joke” / “I’m supposed to get down”. No one will ever write a better song about this disgusting day.
The other perfect song on this record starts the B-side, sung by Johann Rashid. Don’t let the video clip for ‘Overtime’ stop you from hearing the tune. Again it’s the groove, it’s the boogie. It’s the feeling that this group believes their own rhetoric, is behind their own message and inside their own sound. “It’s cement and fuckin’ plaster”. It could go for half an hour without changing. “Overtime is justified.” As with the line, “what a silly day,” it’s not really the words that are the key, it’s the space between them. It’s what they don’t need to say. To fill in those spaces, read the lyric sheet, look at the pictures in the sleeve. Read your tabloid. See the pictures of Hawke and Keating – the “sellouts,” according to Eastlink. I don’t know if I fully agree with that one, but maybe I should.
The opinions and convictions and sentiments of this record are an inspiration. This is a protest record, whether the group would want to call it that or not. It’s a humanist record. It’s that rare record that seems to care about what happens to people. It’s about the things that have gone wrong and the things that will keep going wrong. It doesn’t have solutions; it’s just one of the best sounding lists of the problems I’ve ever heard. Four of the tracks don’t have lyrics. The five that do aren’t exactly essay length, but it’s all there. “You’re supposed to have a little bit of fun […] you paid for the gun / I paid for the baton.”
I can’t think of many other groups that work with the dance rhythm Eastlink does. That drum sound on ‘Spring St’ reminds me of glam. It all sounds like T-Rex to me, but it also sounds like a group of young Australian people who don’t like much of what they see around them. There’s real power in this record. There’s power in the sentiments that plug into the practice amps inside it. It’s also relentlessly clever. Smart people made it; people with a sense of humour and with a sense of right and wrong. The sound of the young man screaming, the delay on the four guitars. Tom Hardisty has done another service to the community in watching over this LP – recording another group the way they truly sound.
Eastlink has done a service to Australia with this album. It’s a milestone in the ‘culture’. If there’s a message, it could be to pay attention to what goes on. Just because you can’t fix it, doesn’t mean it isn’t hideously broke. As Montfort recently put it in a piece for Mess & Noise, “Yes we need to get on with it… but ignorance is for toys.” Mullum Mullum isn’t.
Mullum Mullum is out now through In the Red Records.