BY JENNIFER KELLY
Not necessarily equated with Australia’s Eastlink freeway, the five-man Eastlink is still a rock ‘n’ roll pileup of epic proportions. It’s also Melbourne mainstay Al Montfort’s seventh or eighth band; you might recognize his surreally offhand rant, bored on the surface but maniacal underneath, from the UV Race. He’s the only non-guitarist in the band. The four other members are also well-connected in Melbourne’s garage punk scene; Zephyr Pavey is in Total Control with Montfort. Ben Hepworth plays in Repairs. Lee Parker is in Tears, Lakes and Spitehouse. Johann Rashid plays guitar for Home Travel, Promised Land, and directed The UV Race movie Autonomy and Deliberation.
They play together with the looseness of guys who make music all the time, but maybe not with each other, audibly trying things out in the margins of Eastlink’s monumentally reiterative sound.
Indeed, Eastlink is not about moderation on the new Eastlink album (In The Red). Four guitarists flail and drone away, turning block simple riffs into shimmering monuments of volume and tone. The album’s centerpiece “Dinnerchat,” rolls on doggedly for seven and a half minutes, bridging the difference between Neu! and the Stooges “Dirt,” a transcendent mess that churns towards far horizons. Neither punk nor drone, but some unrecognizable amalgam of both, it crawls into your ear like a buzzing bee and dwells there, threatening to sting, but mostly humming.
You also notice right away, the sheer volume of guitar sound, the way that multiple people, playing the same thing, as loud as they can, can turn a four or five-note riff into a prism-shattered rainbow of splintered light. “What a Billy Day,” which opens, is made out of a blindingly simple riff, founded in punk but psychedelic in execution, as overtones and feedback warp the sound into unexpected shapes. It is endless, bull-headed, bludgeoning, but also hard to grasp because of the way a white hot sheen of distortion glares off its elemental surfaces.
“Overtime,” at the beginning of the second side, is the album’s closest thing to a banger, faster and more emphatic, with the kind of cadence that shakes the floor as everyone in the band bounces up in time, slamming on the same notes at the same time. There’s a saxophone in there somewhere, too. It’s just loud enough not to be a hallucination. “Scat” backs the tempo down to the mesmeric. It starts with the simplest kind of drum solo, just the kick drum thud, thud, thudding the fours. The guitars swing from note to note with pendulum heaviness, and a voice, dreamy, indistinct, wreathed in smoke and ambiguity intones lines about futility. You listen to it, and you are trapped in jello.
You could read Eastlink as too much, too many guitars played by guys in too many bands, too many riffs repeated too many times, but that would just be cheating yourself. Sometimes too much transcends itself and becomes elementally simple, loud as it goes and exactly the right amount.
DOWNLOAD: “Dinnerchat,” “Scat”