Self Released – due out in the summer
This took some time to get to me due to the vagaries of the british postal service.
Oddly when the jiffy bag arrived the stamp had not been franked….anyway I digress. I’d already had four of the tracks via the band in MP3 form so I was sort of primed on what to expect and I was looking forward to listening to the whole thing. It has been argued on more than one occasion that the conurbation of Mancunia is the pop capital of England (if not Europe) and that fine tradition is carried on here with some elan, with the added value of some rock elements that raise it above the mainstream of the hurly burly of indie boys and girls out there.
Another observation is that this band is unsigned and I have to say wipes the floor with a lot of the signed bands I get sent product for these days – I understand the majors are being approached and some are interested so I would assume it’s only a matter of time before they get a release and distribution.
This is a good album – it kicks off with the up-tempo “The Honeymoon Stranger ” which demonstrates the bands ability to play loud and hard – however it’s perhaps not an indicator of the rest of the content of the album – it’s full of Manc swagger and four to floor rhythm and very listenable indeed.
The dreamy ballad “If I had all the answers” is lush, evocative and has just the right amount of guitar in it to give it an edge. Vocally, lyrically and melodically it has all the elements of a classic and is my favourite piece on the album. Next up waves of cheeky wah-wah guitar introduce “Last Orders” where singer Oskar manages to fold a Manc twang into his performance which gives it a unique feel. There is something incredibly populist about this music but at the same time it has a subliminal underground edge which makes you think “hang on a minute what have I just been listening to?” – this requires further listening as there are many disparate elements in these songs.
“Still Waters” drifts back into dreamy balladeering with, again, some nice guitar and ambient sounds to give it a bit of a kick. “Redemption ” keeps the tempo at medium and perhaps suffers against the other tracks on the album in that it is the one that tends to sound like something else (which I can’t put my finger on). The list of influences on the band’s My Space page perhaps gives some sort of clue as to what has given shape to the music viz – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Dylan, Rolling Stones, The Who, Kinks, Doors, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, Tamla Motown, Bacharach & David, Bowie, Queen, Slade, Marc Bolan, Elton John, George Michael, The Smiths, Echo & Bunnymen, REM, Radiohead, Paul Weller, Stone Roses, Stereophonics, Neil Finn, Verve, Coldplay, early Oasis, Cast, La’s, Zutons, Courteeners, Doves, Elbow, I Am Kloot, Tony Wilson.
The acoustic guitar and basic standard song piano arpeggios of “Cult Madness” are more engaging and the emerging trademark sound of soulful songs with keening guitar in the background is best realised here. The song is beautifully understated and there is a very interesting imperceptible dark element to the music which moves it away from pop normality. The title track “Glory Days ” is a perfect summer song, and the faster paced “No One Ever Says Goodbye ” is packed with pop hooks to die for.
The string patch drenched “When Angels Came For Davey” perhaps is a little too maudlin for my taste but I can quite see the crowds at Wembley with their lighters in the air swaying gently to its gentle beat and humming along to the guitar melody. A bit too populist for this old rocker but for all that mighty pretty. The closing “Walking Down Your Way ” continues the laid back feel of the album and ends on a reflective note.
If i’ve one criticism it’s that I would like the band to do more up tempo numbers – when they do start to rock out a bit they certainly have the power and application to move the body as well as the mind. I wouldn’t normally listen to this type of music but Mandrake seem to have found their way to that part of my brain where I store my love of melody and great song structures. I was struggling to recall what they reminded me of as I am not a particular follower of a lot of the influential artists listed above and then it struck me that there is a lot of Grant McLennan’s easy pop sound here – so they are a bit like The Go-Betweens without the angular elements brought by Robert Forster.
All in all a fine debut with a handful of classic Manchester pop tunes. If you like your music well written and melodic then you should check this out.