As a major Pearl Jam fan, the release of a new album is something of an event. As one of the only surviving bands from the early 90’s Seattle music scene, they’ve had a long time to stretch their music into various areas, from furious alternative rock to quieter and more poignant moments. After they realised their inner Who on BackSpacer I was interested to see where the band would go next, and if lead single ‘Mind Your Manners’ is any indication it is a very dark place indeed.
Backspacer was a record about coming to terms with age and mortality, and so in ‘Mind Your Manners’ it is exciting to see the band leaning back towards their more socially-outraged side, last seen on 2006’s Pearl Jam. We are firmly back in the territory of Vs. where the band was at it’s most aggressive, as Matt Cameron’s relentless drums and Mike McCready’s sinister guitar line cuts through the mix on ‘Mind Your Manners’. Meanwhile, Eddie Vedder’s anxious lyrics, loaded with feelings of futility and images of governmental hypocrisy, are delivered in Vedder’s characteristic roar. ‘Mind Your Manners’ is a rabid dog on a weakening leash and sounds like the twin of ‘Spin The Black Circle’, nearly twenty years delayed. The sheer aggressive energy threatens to derail the song at any moment, but Pearl Jam have honed their craft and their rage long enough to keep things on track.
As with the lead single from Backspacer, ‘The Fixer’, I was initially unimpressed by ‘Mind Your Manners’. However, Pearl Jam are a band whose music, though attention grabbing, does not reveal itself all at once. There are always subtle tricks which you miss first time around, even on their most simple songs like ‘Lukin’, and it is only after repeated listens that ‘Mind Your Manners’ reaches its full potential. And so if ‘Mind Your Manners’ is any indication, then Lightning Bolt looks set to be a dark and riffy ride.
‘Mind Your Manners’ is available to download now. Lightning Bolt will be released 15th October 2003 through Monkeywrench Record
“Won’t you hear me at your door / Singing give me some more?”
Well, yet another superb find on the Mahogany Sessions (whose Youtube channel I highly recommend subscribing to). When I stumbled across Nick Mulvey’s ‘Fever to the Form’, it was one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments. This wasn’t just another acoustic strummer, but an intriguing song which struck me as having a nugget of truth in it which I’m still unable to quite put my finger on. But it’s that quality which has characterised the work of some of the great songwriters and so I never ignore that gut feeling. His music blends folk and atmospheric influences, also informed by his music studies in Havana, Cuba and his travels as a former member of the Mercury Award nominated Portico Quartet. It is these qualities which have probably garnered him such illustrious support slots with Laura Mvula and with Laura Marling on her upcoming autumn tour.
The Fever to the Form EP itself is a diverse treat in a small package. The lead single, ‘Fever to the Form’ that gives the EP its title centres around Mulvey’s restrained vocals and compelling guitar strumming. However, this is only the surface of the song as tasteful synths in the background complement his playing. They are by no means intrusive, but rather enhance the air of wonder and melancholy the song evokes. This atmosphere is still maintained when the song later introduces drums and strings which makes the track soar with Mulvey’s harmonised vocals. Meanwhile, ‘House of Saint Give Me’ is a brooding ballad which contemplates family ties, conjuring images of dusty old town streets and open plains of the Mediterranean.
The latter half of the EP is a more experimental affair, putting paid to any suspicions that Mulvey has nothing new to offer. ‘Juramidam’ is a catchy mixture of polyrhythmic guitar and eery background instrumentation. Creeping synths and humming create tension while Mulvey’s guitar keeps the song bouncing along. ‘River Lea’ meanwhile features a guitar figure similar to Nick Drake’s ‘Know’, while African rhythms weave into the fore and then recede. Eventually the vocals fade and give way to reed melodies and a cello straight out of Beth Orton’s ‘She Cries Your Name’. Throughout the EP the production is tasteful and balanced, allowing Mulvey’s innate talent to shine through. I realise production is a boring and very nerdy thing to mention, but when dealing with restrained and understated songs such as these it’s so easy for them to get submerged by unnecessary layers of production. As it stands, the songs have space to breathe and Mulvey’s vocals, though not attention grabbing, sound melodic and sincere.
Mulvey should be touring the festival circuit over the coming months before embarking on Laura Marling’s tour. If you get the chance to check him out, I’d strongly recommend it as from live footage I’ve seen it looks like the kind of memorable show which will hush those gig-goers that won’t shut up and will stick in your bones for days to come.
Fever to the Form is available now through Fiction Records.