One part Scottish, two parts English, this fierce trio (led by two ex-members of Motor Boys Motor) is well-named. Not averse to howling until blue in the face, they could very well be the prophesied saviors of static ’80s pop. The Messiahs take their jaundiced love of Americana and render it into an unrecognizable hybrid of psychobilly, R&B, garage grunge and lethal punk energy.
Blistering would be a euphemistic description for Good and Gone: singer/songwriter/guitarist Bill Carter shrieks and wails his way through these six tracks in a merciless attack. The crudely worded “Someone To Talk To” (supposedly culled from a Marine drill chant), “Happy Home” and a cover of Hank Williams’ “You’re Gonna Change” give the Messiahs a roguish sort of appeal. Daring, foolhardy and just plain good fun. (The Peel EP dates from July of that same year and captures the band in its primal glory. Tracks include a trio of songs from Good and Gone and “Let’s Go Down to the Woods,” later included on Gun-Shy.)
On the title track of Twin Cadillac Valentine, the jagged edges have been smoothed down and the tune wanders amid sterile production. The three other tracks are raucous live versions of previously issued songs and provide the EP’s only real signs of life.
Gun-shy contains “Twin Cadillac Valentine” and generally suffers from the same restraint. Occasional glimpses of the old form seep through, but never gain the momentum needed to sustain the effort. (Vic Maile and Howard Gray produced separately.)
Overproduction couldn’t restrain a band this volatile, and Bikini Red is the triumphant outcome. An American tour after the release of Gun-shy apparently intensified the trio’s love of America, because it’s a consistently recurring theme throughout this entire album, produced by Vic Maile. The title song, “I Wanna Be a Flintstone,” “I Can Speak American,” “Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge” and “55 — The Law” all derive from singularly American ideals and are the strongest tracks on this LP. Bikini Red is a joyous powder keg of a record that makes the transgressions on Gun-shy easy to forgive.
While Totally Religious lacks the eloquent fury of the Messiahs’ best, it’s not for lack of trying. Carter and crew still crash and burn, but the results are often tired, verging on generic. Great titles like “Four Engines Burning (Over the USA),” “All Gassed Up,” “Watusi Wedding,” etc. don’t deliver on their promise.