Read Yellow fits nicely in the post-punk cannon proudly wearing the influences of Mission of Burma and Fugazi on their sleeve. Released in late 2007 nine months after the group officially disbanded their second full length, Gang Violins, is fully realized and showcases musical chops honed touring the US and Europe supporting bands like TV On The Radio, Mooney Suzuki, Death From Above 1979, Dillinger Escape Plane, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Read Yellow plays well polished yet on the verge of unhinged third wave post punk which in the mid-2000s remained thankfully free of the sheen of retro-ism that slowly crept into so much indie music post 2010. “Cut Through Maps” kicks off the album like a cinder block on the gas pedal while “Youth Is A Ghost” and “Soul Sister” follow behind and lock in just at the edge of control. The band understands the power of the loud-soft-loud dichotomy and use it well through out the album. “Rosa” and “Guitar Shaped Fish” are the ‘softest’ tunes and allow the listeners to catch their breath with echoing guitar notes strung along as percussion is reduced to shimmering cymbals letting the songs drift more than be driven. Sitting at the middle of the album “Pia Zadora” and “New Jets” best capture Read Yellow’s potential as they manage to focus their propensity for noise into a steady, yet non-pummeling melodic force. Gang Violins is the frantic coalescence of rhythm and chaos with introspective shoegaze moments tucked away in the shadowy corners cast by white hot blasts of guitars and raw throated screams. It stands up well for a sophomore album that’s over a decade old. It’s so good it makes me sad at the thought of what could have been for this band. Luckily you can still get this album on iTunes and I highly recommend that you do as it’s the only album of theirs currently available digitally.
After seeing Mammút play live in Portland, ME of all places I was hooked by the end of the first song and by the end of the set desperate to possess their music. River’s End was released in 2015 by Bella Union Records and the 5-song EP is a sampling of tracks from a few of their previous Icelandic albums that were re-recorded in English, so it’s a pretty good place to start for the small number of people not fluent in Icelandic.
The songs are delicately layered and muscular even in their calmest moments with lyrics that evoke emotional landscapes as stark and captivating as the band’s homeland. There is something otherworldly and sensual about the songs like they were written by Molly-dosed absinthe fairies listening to early Sugarcubes albums. My two favorite tracks are “Blood Burst” and “Bakkus” both are rousing and wonderfully chaotic in their energy. Meanwhile “Shore”, “River’s End”, and “Salt” all ease off the gas to varying degrees but are no less potent and at times even more entrancing.
The kneejerk comparison for people of my generation is of course The Sugarcubes, but Mammút while having similarly great pop sensibilities also have a darker, heavier edge. I keep imagining Lush, Curve, and The Breeders all tossed into a blender when I listen to River’s End. And yes I know those are two decade old references, but whatever. Nevermind.
Mammút’s next full length album Kinder Versions is due out July 14, 2017 and will be all original tunes in English so if you like River’s End mark your calendars for that.
Purchase through Bella Union, Bandcamp, and iTunes.
The video for “Blood Burst” may or may not be safe for work depending on your workplace’s policy on Icelanders writhing in kiddie pools.
I’ve got a playlist on my iPod named “Feelin’ Good” that I turn to when I need a little pep in my step or when I’m already hopped up and want it to keep going. Every Friday I’ll be posting a song from that playlist to help get the weekend started. This inaugural Feelin’ Good Friday post is in honor of recent world events.
The staccato drum roll that kicks off “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” is one of those sonic signatures that was burned into my brain and allows me to confidently identify this song within half a second of hearing it. Peter Buck’s loose-limbed guitar jangle and Mike Mills’ bopping bass has been putting a smile on my face for 3 decades. The inscrutable yet catchy lyrics sung by Michael Stipe with focused abandon are icing on this spastic cake. Really, it just feels good to pogo around the room with this blasting and yell, “Leonard Bernstein!” If this song is any indication, I for one welcome the End Times with open arms. #IFeelFine
Body Exit Mind is one of my top 10 albums in general, but it’s also one of only a handful of albums that when I listen to it I prefer to listen to it as an actual album: sequentially and in its entirety. Body Exit Mind is in turns contemplative, energetic, hopeful, and nihilistic. It is a 57 minute, 15 song meditation on consumerism, the global spread of American corporatism, and the emotional detachment that dogs modern life circa 1992.
That all sounds pretty fucking heavy for some second wave ‘Madchester’ Britpop, but this is not a collection of ham-fisted screeds. No, it feels like a late night, mid-twenties conversation where everyone is a little drunk and a little high and every word means something, man. These songs are heavy with the fruit of knowledge. Of course, there are no answers. There never are in pop music, but we always think there might be, don’t we? So we hit repeat and keep listening.
Two decades on I keep listening to Body Exit Mind because I know someday I will find answers buried in here. Until then, at the very least, it never fails to put me in a better, slightly less pessimistic mood. For me part of the emotional lift garnered by Body Exit Mind is down to the lush production. It manages to not sound overproduced or too slick. It’s a sonic cocoon that wraps around your head waiting for your mind to transform.
The third track “Stockholm” best encompasses the feel of Body Exit Mind. The song alternates between quasi-spoken verses and soaring vocal choruses. Its lyrics randomly drift into my head more than any other on the album. “You’ll soon be dust, your deeds already are/You saw no orb no fiery bushes either/I must be drunk I feel unsteady, ah ha/No monster me, sadly, no saint either.” [See what I mean about inscrutable truth?] Give “Stockholm” a quick listen and you will be a convert.
Addendum: Wherein I wax Matt Pinfield-esque even more so about the album… Read More