Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mutineers: Friends, Lovers, Rivals

     I'm not going to lie. As a Gronow, I'm probably biased towards Mutineers, seeing as their bass player is a fellow of the same name. However, putting that to one side, I've been requested to cast a glance over the Mancunian quartet's debut record, 'Friends, Lovers, Rivals'. A band formed back in 2009, and with this album released as last year drew to a close, the whole affair is a musical gem, be it one whose shine has been dulled by the untouched shelf of obscurity. In taking it down and dusting it off though, I hope this album will get the audience it deserves. It's a secret that needs to be shared and a well-kept promise that needs to be broken. The production is clean and the melodies conform to that invulnerable level of pop perfection. Unlike some indie pop outfits however, Mutineers manage to give their sound a grown-up maturity. These guys aren't kids, lamenting a regrettable fling. They're men whose hearts have been broken more than once. Their recollection of thought retains an honesty and passion and sadness that's both distinctive and rich, making for an effort crafted with emotion, and which evokes the same. Frankly? 'Friends, Lovers, Rivals' is the very definition of a hidden gem.
     That being said, no debut release comes without its downsides. By citing Echo and the Bunnymen and Suede as influences, a decidedly similar feel to some tracks becomes noticeable. A hint of Delays springs up in a few parts as well, and it's true that the vocalist Nicholas James Mallins holds a certain Smiths quality to both his voice and lyricism. Namely in 'My Words Desert You', a line from which reads, "Please don't take me home tonight". A nod back to 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out', by fellow Mancunian band? Perhaps. I think I would have preferred a little more originality, but the charm here most definitely carries the flaw. A few songs blend into each other on repeated listen, and a couple of tracks feel a little manufactured as well, but in the end did I really mind?
     Opener 'Infidelity' feels very anthemic and cinematic in scope, with its harmonious guitars grooving over magnificent synths. It's one of the many bigger songs here, with the vocals light and poppy but still comfortingly strong. These contrast ever so nicely with the delicate tenderness of others, but like I mentioned before, melody tends to bleed into melody to the point of reminding yourself what track you're actually listening to. The next number 'Shadow Kisses' is one of my favourites. The thought-provoking chorus is brilliant; "In death, love and squalor the sordid details were removed, straight from the heart of a suicide girl". Straight after the strangely appealing note upon which 'girl' is sung however, comes a whole 'nother nostalgic melody that I'm not afraid to admit hit a heartstring or two.
     'The Landlord's Daughter' is another great track after the not so memorable 'You Used To Be Okay'. It's lyrics talk of a boy with braces, being bullied at school, but this still feels very mature in its delivery. 'Alone In Our Ideas' stumbles upon another noticeable influence, and one cited on their myspace page as such. These four-ish minutes sound unmistakably like the Cure, from the pop melody to the higher notes to the stadium-ready sound they're trying to emulate. That's not a bad thing, but it is noticeable throughout the album when you listen through for the second time. The finisher, 'Hyde Road' is arguably one of the most endearing to appear from pop even today. It's inspiring lyrics are desperately sang; "she said ‘you can’t see me without my make up on’, I thought you’d never looked better", and catchy wailing closes the album. In closing however, that undeniably great hook draws you back, and you can't help going back to the very start!
     In the end, this isn't the best pop record out there, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bassist Iwan Gronow, you've done the name proud, and I for one will be looking back through this album every so often. In eagerly awaiting the next release, I eagerly suggest you check these talented artists out. Because despite the strong influences, they've crafted a distinctive feel that's all their own. Nostalgic atmospheres fueled with passion and executed on a level of emotion that I've missed in modern pop. Don't let this musical gem get dulled by the dust of obscurity. Let it shine and proclaim the name! Mutineers!

'Shadow Kisses'