South London’s finest, Meatraffle, are major players in the Trashmouth Records scene that also includes Fat White Family, Taman Shud and David Cronenberg’s Wife. A melting pot of reggae, dub, funk, communist rock and psychedelia, the five-piece eschew commercialism completely. Meatraffle themselves have described their sound variously as “death raga”, “industrial standard”, and (my personal favourite) “gulag baroque”.
From the strange obsession with sound quality to their fervent far-left imagery and politics, they personify unorthodoxy. Though they take in a wide variety of influences as mentioned, Meatraffle remain unashamedly punk. Led by a bleary-eyed South Londoner called Zsa Zsa Sapien who is a curious mix between Edwyn Collins, Ian Dury and a town crier, the motley crew of Meatraffle have created one of the most unique sounds of this decade. They’ve supported the Fat Whites on several UK tours and released a debut album, Hi-Fi Classics, but they still remain (inexplicably) under the radar. Their album is not only one of the best things to come of the Trashmouth scene but one of the best albums of 2015. It veers from post-punk on ‘Oppenheimer’, reggae and funk on ‘The Horseshoe’ and demented South London trip-hop on ‘The Clocks Gang’. It has a wonderful lo-fi quality to it without being cutesy. Sapien’s cockney burr is one of the band’s best assets, growling and crooning and wailing, his vocals put a stamp on the music that is resolutely Meatraffle. The cover of ‘Hi-Fi Classics’ undoubtedly deserves a mention- the impressionistic painting of Lenin holding an iron is not only instantly recognisable but iconic.
Meatraffle have a knack of turning abstract lyrics, triumphant cornet refrains and a drum machine into gorgeously wistful dub-pop. Much like their comrades the Fat Whites, their lyrics straddle the obscene and the profound. Sapien sings about setting bankers on fire in ‘The Wickerman’, a ‘Nice Young Couple’ that sell drugs ‘to the community’, and perhaps his finest couplet, ‘When we were high on LSD/ in 1943’.
Meatraffle have real swagger, a real sense of sonic style. Just listen to the dub sneer of ‘Acid in the 1940s’ off Hi-Fi Classics, Meatraffle just don’t give a toss. Tingle Lungfish, the guitarist, reportedly doesn’t know any chords, keyboardist Chris OC plays his instrument with a million-yard stare, and bass player and occasional singer Cloudy Truffles lays down gorgeous bassline after gorgeous bassline with the same disinterested air of a bored police officer. One of the great things about Fat White Family’s runaway success is that they can bring bands like Meatraffle into the spotlight. They recently described ‘Nice Young Couple’, the penultimate track off Hi-Fi Classics, as “the best song of the year”.
When discussing the Trashmouth scene that Meatraffle are part of, it seems almost rude of me as a music writer not to turn this piece into a state-of-the-nation address about why Meatraffle and bands of their ilk are a welcome foil to the conservatism of music today. Meatraffle prove that there is at least a little life left and that soon we might dare to hope. After such a brilliant album and a string of dates supporting the Fat Whites on their UK tour, recognition for Meatraffle must be just around the corner. They are a force to be reckoned with, and I encourage you to get your fill of gulag baroque and go see them live.