Never let it be said that Mates of State let an album go by without writing at least one great song. At least one song that, in some new way, makes you want to find a member of your chosen gender and sing along to the harmony and make eye contact comma out. Never. Let. This. Happen. Tomorrow, for instance, practice your confidence by going to at least one stranger and saying “finish this sentence: Mates of State never let an album go by without writing at least one great song, period.” Then when they act confused, yell at them in your chosen non-English language (Serbo/Croatian is a good choice) and waving your arms angrily and point at everyone passerby with blonde hair. Don’t touch them, but don’t let them walk away without pushing you away either. For extra confidence, have a map with you that you can point at during your harangue, as if you just tracked down someone who gave you wrong directions yesterday. Decades later, when you’re drinking with your now-old “Mates of State” buddy, you can tell them that the song in question on “Mountaintops” is “Palomino”, with its soaring hooks and ten second burning intro. It’s a real show-stopper. Or album-starter, in this case. I tells ya, these guys would make for one heckfire of a Greatest Hits (or whathaveyou) mix).
But it’s slightly downhill from there. Which is to say it’s pretty good. The problem with every MoS album is that it makes the best soundtrack ever for cleaning your apartment with your significant other. This one’s a little less friendly to that sort of indifference in favour of ambivalence, but it’s still a happy couple being a happy couple over and over over the sounds of warm keyboards and soft drums. Convincing twist but the shout is just nice people cuddling.
Don’t worry, I like relationships just fine. Much more than I like family. My girlfriend is my current favourite living person, and I’m someone with many lovely friends. But fuck, as much as I enjoy our weekday nights getting drunk and competing at everything from shuffleboard to made up card games to the always entertaining “arguing then apologizing”, I’m not writing damned songs about the day-to-day. But okay, I get it that I did just write about my relationship, and relationships are very interesting. If you can tolerate a song called “At Least I Have You” then you’ll love that Stars-y humming bassline and admittedly great chorus hook (though those “la-la-la”s are inexcusable) then there’ll be two great songs on this album for you. For me, I have to focus on the musical quality. Only if its great can I go along with the lyrics that sound simpering, be they simpering or be they not simpering.
See? Ambivalence! “Total Serendipity” is another good excuse to feel both ways, with a ridiculous jaunty piano riff. It’s Motown-ish! But in a totally new, indie-wtf kind of way. Then “Sway” is all 80s and shit! Whee!
Okay, the whole sound is thicker, and heavier than their earlier albums. But unlike most albums where the sound becomes “denser,” it isn’t less substantial. Just more willing to experiment. So, points for not being totally appropriate for a dinner party, but these experiments are never altogether successful. The standard MoS filler sounds better than usual (except for “Mistakes” and “Change” – I don’t need your dangnabbed affirmations!), but it ends up a wash with the mostly-but-only-mostly successful new sounds.
I don’t know. Ever buy bandaids then wish you would cut yourself more often? Right now I’m considering “accidentally” breaking one of my less favourite glasses while washing dishes so that I can have bandaged fingers.
Speaking of girlfriend, I’m making us dinner tomorrow and I need to make jerk sauce and I’m OUT OF FUCKING ALLSPICE. I CAN NOT HANDLE THIS. Oh, here it is. This review has come across a bit negative, but 8/10 songs here are good songs. The rating of 7 is a testament to how “just….good” those eight good songs are. I have a deep and enduring respect for scotch bonnet peppers. They really don’t care for my eating them, and yet I find a way to not only consume them, but enjoy their fruity taste and atomic piquancy. It is next to flight on my personal list of ways we have conquered nature.