We're Already There
(I and Ear Reords)
Ahh power pop. Its so easy to get it wrong. Look at Oasis. I once proclaimed them the greatest big rock band in the world and now I can't even be bothered to illegally download their latest things. And who else is there? So many bands that approach this sound now are nursing a Gang of Four fetish, and not knocking those who love men in uniforms, but the Gang is not a big sound, its a tight circuit, a hard wire burnout, so basically their marketing strategy is colliding with their production line, and releasing sub standard product. It happens. Sometimes the customer end of the service economy doesn't know what it wants, so a bunch of people in the business end are forced to guesstimate (a once-butchered term that is in common usage in the business world) whatever it is that the kids want. Its a tricky thing. Supposedly they think boys in eye makeup are the thing, so trot out the Mascara cart already and let's get out some product. But, if you are one of those that fight against your demographic, flailing like a flag trying to change the wind, then there is still hope for the future of power pop, it just takes some searching.
Knowingly named for a 17th century French diplomat, whose cleverness and deft maneuvering allowed him to direct the empire while someone else was the king, Mazarin is one of those groups. Quentin Stotlzfus and his cohorts combine varying elements from the serpentine vocal harmonies of the Stone Roses (remember them?) neo-post-punk-psychedelia and drumbeats lifted from Joy Division to create some brilliant, large arena-in-your-bedroom pop, sounding as big as Oasis without sounding as bloated. We're Already There is thusly named, since this stuff is shit solid. "The New American Apathy" is an insurgent kick ass opener, with a slap ecehoed beat that moved JD past its alleged moroseness into dizzying rock abandon. People should not be scared of handclaps. This track shows when and how to use them properly. "For Energy Infinite" keeps up the same kind of throb while "Another One Goes By" knocks down the pace to make a sweet ballad that reminds me of Nick Lowe and Marshall Crenshaw and the other great New Wave songwriters that gave that era its soul. Plus is that autoharp in the background? Not sure, but this has the perfect mix of funky ornamentation and straight up classic pop hooks.
Their experimental sides show the spirit emanating from the above photo of them posing with their WTF gear, stuff that gets synth lovers out of their seats to gawk at the stage. "At 12 to 6" shows the group in command of their Paisley side, delivering a steamy slice of "Tomorrow Never Knows" pop that the Gallaghers wish they could still concoct, while the fuzzed out weird track "Schrode(er)inger" with its bells (this group is fond of bells) sounds like Book of Love on some bad E, in a good way. "Kenyan Heat Wave" is probably the best of this branch of their tree with the echoey dub funk and the twittering of birds and all. Its good stuff. Buts its the more straight ahead stuff that has the strongest punch like the static hook stream of "I'll See You In The Evening" or the roof-raising "I'm with You and the Constellations." I love that huge sound, that makes your headphones into a giant ballroom. The final title track combines the two sides into a palpable physical grind, like the aforementioned Stone Roses would get to when they got up top full steam.
So I've dropped a bunch of names, and the band wears its influences on its sleeves - so what. Its great stuff and lives up to all the influences it modulates like current through the gizmo's they hold in their picture and still have 10x the original sound that Franz Ferdinand has. Fun well-crafted kick ass stuff.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com