A good punk demo can feel like a riveting mission statement or the fucked-up scribbles of a snot trying to make his friends laugh. The first outing recorded in Kel Mason’s bedroom as Gee Tee, in 2016, was his last: a collection of goofy, sample-filled punk songs about cars, flame stickers and driving too fast. This ski-mask-wearing weirdo from Gold Coast, Australia named his project after a rat fink-adjacent muscle car artwork, and he rode the trick on an excellent self-titled 2018 album. On that little-heralded collection of lo-fi power-pop, wormy synth melodies and belligerent power chords showcased a songwriting flair capable of more than just finishing touches. Turns Out A Song About Lounging At The Gas Station Can Be Fun and a hit
good night neanderthal is a long-awaited follow-up to those who eagerly scooped up the past half-decade of Mason’s prolific 7″ releases, compilation ads, and Bandcamp loosies. The grounded punk ultimately settled on just 10 songs totaling 18 minutes. of material. With a full band and the backing of the revered garage-rock bosses at Goner Records, he wanted no fault on this track. (“I get really picky about what I release,” he said of the album. “If I don’t think make it cool, I don’t see the point of putting it out.”) Two months before Mason sent him to Memphis, he quickly wrote and recorded most of the album’s songs, scrapping much of what he had done in the months before. good night neanderthal it bottles the energy of that spontaneous burst of creativity. True to its mission, the new album is skip-free.
While Gee Tee is no longer defined by his early biker cartoons, Mason leans heavily on the historical playfulness of the project. The album’s title track is defined by a big, flashy keyboard melody that oozes Technicolor joy, which is counterbalanced with plenty of tough-guy bullshit. Powerful fuzz covered chords ring out as Mason sings from his guts about how a big club just hit him over the head. His resilience to blunt force trauma isn’t the only cartoonish trait about him; Mason taps into a variety of over-the-top vocals, giving each song a distinct vibe. He’s a nasal brat on “Bad Egg,” wondering over a fast guitar killer hook over a nasty smell in the kitchen. (Spoiler: that’s you, you’re the bad egg!) He’s a leprechaun with vocal frying on the burly “Heart Throb,” who insists you can’t get enough of him even when this piece of shit covers his hair in dirt and grease. .