This Mantles article was written by Jack Roe, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Sam Forsdick
The phrase ‘pop-sensibilities’ doesn’t carry the same compliment as it once used to, considering the dearth of genuinely enjoyable pop music around at the moment (sorry Taylor). If you look back however, to the early 90’s scene that lends so much to the current generation of jangly, reverb heavy, pop rock that has sprung up in America then it basically meant that you’d cracked it. The idea being that you had ostensibly crafted an alt-rock song so infectious and enjoyable that it would worm into your brain and stay there all day.
In its finest moments that is exactly what The Mantles have managed with their third album, ‘All Odds Ends’, an LP that you could almost imagine Kurt Cobain and his contemporaries placing on a pedestal next to The Vaselines and Teenage Bandwagon. From the synth drenched opening bars of the first track, ‘Island’ this album comes on like a breath of fresh air, music to break through the clouds on a dreary Tuesday afternoon and encourage a smile. It is however, nothing you haven’t heard before. This is a compact, polished little gem of an album but you get the feeling it’s not going to set the world alight, if only because the wheels of pop-culture and alternative music have rather turned against bands like these. The Americana infused, reverb drenched guitar carries a weight of sentimentality and nostalgia enough to invoke the physical context of this album; to borrow a line from track five “I put on your rose coloured glasses/ To walk right through your world”.
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The only hang up is, despite the infectious melodies, joyful soundscapes and wistful lyrics there is a real sense that the album lacks enough edge and experimentation to really stand out in the long run. Having said that, not every album was written to change the world, and there is a great deal to admire. The album wears its influences on its sleeve, unmistakably so, and yet there is enough movement within the boundaries here to suggest this is a band really enjoying their craft. Check out the almost Joe Strummer sneer of the vocals in ‘Police My Love’ or an update on ‘Disintegration’ era The Cure in ‘Best Sides’, probably the album’s standout track.
All in all The Mantles third album is not destined to be a classic. The release of ‘All Odds Ends’ will not be looked back upon as a watershed moment in alt-rock history and it will probably only be held dear by completist collectors trying to define the West Coast brand of alternative rock – if such people even exist. It is however, well worth your time, if it brightens up even one miserable day for you, then the intentions of this music will have been well served.
‘All Odds Ends’ is available now via Slumberland records