Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Meteors – In Heaven (Retro Album Review)

by Mika Kallio

‘In Heaven’ - released in 1981 - was the Meteors debut, a band now considered as the fathers or even grandfathers of psychobilly. The group, comprising P.Paul Fenech (guitar, vocals), Nigel Lewis (bass, vocals) and Mark Robertson (drums) only formed as The Meteors in 1980, even though Fenech and Lewis had  been playing their increasingly aggressive style of rockabilly in and around South London for a number of years, during which time Robertson was in punk band ‘Models’.

The album begins with title track ‘In Heaven’ (also included in the soundtrack of ‘Eraserhead’ by David Lynch). In practice it is just a 40 second recording of fans shouting the words of the song. The other 15 songs are a fast paced rockabilly-new wave-punk fusion for which psychobilly soon became the universally accepted term for the genre (rather than ‘punkabilly’ or ‘shockabilly’). The ‘psychotic’ element derived partly from the eccentric personal behaviour of Fenech (tabloids claimed Fenech’s ex-girlfriend had accused him of having eaten her dogs’ stillborn puppies) and to a greater extent that the songs were mainly inspired by either 50’s sci-fi films or 70’s splatter movies.

So, how has ‘In Heaven’ stood the test of time? To be honest, not quite as well it could have. Technically many of the psychobilly bands of the 21st century are as good or better than Fenech, Lewis and Robertson were in the early 80’s. Also, what was considered shocking then would now be deemed as odd or amusing at best (it could be society or just me being 30 years older, but the impact of the songs is more nostalgia than adrenalin pumping excitement). There are still highlights though, especially the cover of the Jagger-Richards’ penned ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, where the big beat sound of Robertson’s drumming would still stun any club audience today, and the wild energy and feeling of errr...freedom in songs like ‘Shout So Loud’, ‘Earwigs In My Brain’ or ‘Rockabilly Psychosis’.

The original Meteors broke up soon after the release of ‘In Heaven’ with Lewis and Robertson leaving the band. Both have since played in a number of other bands including Tall Boys and Dead Beats, and while none of these projects appears to have been particularly long-term, there are some goods songs there if you can find them (God bless Youtube!). Fenech however, continued to use The Meteors name as his own moniker. Other members come and go as Fenech pleases, and the band is still actively touring and sporadically recording.

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