Mordecai Smyth... Esther Square
Review: Mordecai Smyth – Sticky Tape & Rust
Published on January 30th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The buzz: The first album to be released by new label Mega Dodo, Mordecai Smyth are…well, there’s not a whole lot of information to go off. See what you can glean from their website.
Sounds like: A selection of late-‘60s Kinks outtakes; that’s very much a compliment, in case you were wondering. Opener “Mr. Hitchcock” (probably not named after my old English teacher, as wonderful as that would be) rides on a riff that’s suspiciously similar to that from The Beatles’ “Run For Your Life”, yet resoundingly elicits forgiveness by dint of its understated jollity and obvious knack for melody. That, along with the instantly endearing, Ray Davies/Stuart Murdoch-esque lead vocal (we don’t know who to credit for this, such little information is provided about the band), bodes well for the rest of the album and it doesn’t disappoint.
“Herbert Frowsy” flaunts a delicious oboe-‘n’-strings arrangement atop an English country garden trot that could almost rival “Autumn Almanac”, while “Almost Murder Ballad” sounds impossibly innocent given the string of attempted killings professed to in its lyric (“I threw you in the sea, but you swam back to me / I pushed you out of a plane, but you flew back again”), another sharp melodic twist in the chorus keeping matters within the realms of quality songwriting, and just out of the daft clutches of excessive whimsy.
It’s impossible not to reel out the obvious reference points of vintage English psychedelia – Syd Barrett, Small Faces, Kevin Ayers, Sell Out-era The Who etc. – but the songs remain strong throughout, while songs such as “Sinister Cyclist” and “Don’t Cross Colin” infuse these more retro aspects with a wry, Half Man Half Biscuit-like humour that can’t help but endear.
When “Big Hit” tells of a man who is “a big cheese at the new exclusive restaurant” and always trying on ladies’ underwear, you might suddenly feel the urge to throw on Face to Face, but the ‘sunshine nostalgia’ harmonies of “Here I Stand” and sly, creeping organ of closer “Georgina Jones” point towards a band that would struggle to write a bad song even if they tried. Welcome Mordecai Smyth!
In a few words: Unceasingly playful and breezily melodic; familiar yet strange and ultimately pleasing, like a pint of bitter with Ray Davies’ face etched into the foam like a clover on a Guinness.
Like a cross between: Face to Face-era Kinks and Misty’s Big Adventure.
Sticky Tape & Rust, the debut album by Mordecai Smyth, is available now, right here on the band’s website.