MEAN TIME is the Barracudas' masterpiece. Coming several years after their debut, this, the second LP from the band, takes on the direction only suggested on the surfer-wannabe DROP OUT WITH THE BARRACUDAS. When that 1981 album came out, the band was already leaving the surf thing behind and getting a little more serious. If you combined early and latter-day Flamin' Groovies, MEAN TIME is what you'd get--tons of gorgeous 12-string jangle, but with the aggressiveness that was lacking on the last few Groovies albums. And at this point the Barracudas were truly an international band, featuring members Chris Wilson (himself a former Groovie) from the U.S.A. on guitar and backing vox and Jim Dickson (Passengers) from Australia on bass, along with perennials Jeremy Gluck and Robin Wills from merry ole England. The album kicks off with two of the band's finest songs, "Grammar of Misery" and "Bad News." From there the pace is maintained throughout. "Shades of Today" is excellent lyrically, and "Dead Skin" is a truly chilling account of what-ifs and coulda-shouldas. "Middle Class Blues" is unique because it tells the story of so many white people from the suburbs. The album closers, "Eleventh Hour" and the desperate wail of "Hear Me Calling," send it out the way it came in: rocking to the jangle.