Monday, April 7, 2014

Mean Creek

It's been a while. Some significant personal events have sapped much of emotional availability for side work like this, combined with a pretty sparse selection of new material and my overwhelming disappointment with The Hold Steady's (NMT) latest offering, Teeth Dreams, have contributed to the dearth of posts recently. Fortunately, the exuberant power-pop (or, I guess what they used to just call "rock-and-roll" back in the day) from Boston's Mean Creek might be just the cure for this funk.

Mean Creek
New Release: Local Losers
Release Date: Today (April 8, 2014)
Record Label: Old Flame Records
Sounds Like: The Postelles (NMT); Hollerado (NMT); The Arcade Fire (NMT, NMT)
Location: Boston, Mass.

It's a shame that there needs to be a sub-category for the kind of material that Mean Creek is pumping out on their fourth full-length release. It's pretty straight-forward rock-and-roll: guitar, bass, drums, vocals. Plenty of swagger and punch. These days, you might term is power-pop. Or indie rock. Or post-punk. Whatever the label, it really doesn't matter. If you're sick of dream-synth, emo folk and noise rock, the eight tracks of Local Losers are the antidote. Recorded at Boston's Fort Apache studios (where some of my favorite records by Tugboat Annie and The Sheila Divine were produced), the quartet doesn't over-complicate things, instead doling out quick bursts of enjoyable, sing-along rock music. Kind of like an amped-up version of The Postelles or an enjoyably less clever Hollerado. Thank God for that.

Come for: "Cool Town" (the album opener is brash and hard-hitting; although there's plenty of "let's move to California" tropes out there in rock music, I never seem to tire of hearing just one more; Hey, look: a guitar solo! I thought those were passé!)
Stay for: "My Madeline" (remember when The Arcade Fire promised their next record would be filled with shorter, more rock-oriented tracks? Well, this is what it should have sounded like, with Mean Creek co-fronters Chris Keene and Aurore Ounjian besting the most recent efforts of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne in that department)
You'll be surprised by: "Mass. Border" (has an anthemic, heartland rock quality to it that would make it a candidate for a live show closing number)
Solid efforts: "Anxiety Girl" (a thumping punky romp with a catchy hook); "Night Running" (the trade-off vocals between Keen and Ounjian strike the rare balance between ramshackle and polish); "Johnny Allen" (the pace is just a bit more restrained than the others, not no less muscular); "Hangover Mind" (its verses somehow manage to vacillate between breezy and murky, then it delivers the knockout punch in the chorus); "Teenage Feeling" (Keene's first verse could have easily found a place on the aforementioned, less-obtuse Arcade Fire record that should have followed The Suburbs; the closing number doesn't wrap things gently, which is more than welcome on a record with this much hustle)

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