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VEGETARIAN MEAT (Buy CDs by this artist)
Let's Pet (No. 6) 1995

With far too many modern bands falling on the wrong side of Spinal Tap's "clever/stupid" demarcation, it's easy to mistake "uncategorizable" as a subgenre of the latter. Vegetarian Meat, the peripatetic basement-recording duo of Manish Kalvakota (guitar and drums) and Alex McAulay (everything else), doesn't help matters by hopping genre fences at random (not to mention an apparent aversion to playing live). But the quirky, slightly new wavey pop on the duo's lone longplayer does display some admirable influences: Brian Wilson, Half Japanese and the whole New Zealand school of shambling popsters. Vegetarian Meat's offbeat tuneage charts the ups'n'downs of lurve, with the songs' protagonist frequently being on the receiving end of flagellation (sometimes self-inflicted). Loser or not, songwriter McAulay works his charm by matching the musical arrangements to the lyrical ambiance—a fuzzy wash of guitars to accompany a whiny mood in "Pet," metallic, punkish power chords for a nastier temperament in "Silver and Gold," etc. In an optimistic moment, he soars with a rockist verve that recalls mid-period Who ("One Way Down"); waxing whimsical in "Trip," he channels vintage psychedelia and gives a passing nod to British folkies of the '60s. In a nutshell, no two songs on Let's Pet are alike, and the record would seem to signal the emergence of a talent worth citing in the same breath as Guided by Voices, the Grifters and Lou Barlow.

[Fred Mills]