Indie Rock, the biggest thing out and about this summer with Jimmy Eats World being played every 12th minute, is about as far from Indie as it could be. Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind is what bands like Jimmy Eats World try to recreate in studios and on MTV stages. Can't be done. This album has all the wide stereo panning of a purposefully bad mix; late-model drum machines, the 4-track effects bleeds, the blanket vocal reverbs, the fuzz guitar that brings Indie from the garage to your CD. Imagine Cake jamming with The Replacements after a 12-hour beer fest.
The songs are strong and the mix, although pointing to low-rent recording and equipment, is consistent. They aren't reaching for the arena sound on a Tascam Porta-3, they're shooting for their own sound. And have done it.
Using driving beats of a subdued drum machine to offset its mechanicality, hard-panned fuzz guitar and straight bass lines, the sound is straight out of early punk bands like The Embarrassment. The vocals are effortless for their ability to sound untrained, but not untalented or unrehearsed. Mad Melancholy Monkey Mind is Mark Rich on vocals, electric guitar, and keyboard with Marth Borchardt handling the electric guitar, bass, and backup vocals in most songs.
Like Everyone Else opens the album with a nice hook chorus, simple marching beat and the seemingly detached fuzz guitar that is a trademark sound of Drive. Do I hear a Rock-Lobster walking bass and rhythm in Red Roses? Maybe, but the sub-pop flavor of Martha Borchardt's vocals are reminiscent of a Blondie tribute.
You're Good tracks like an early-80's alternative anthem replete with power refrains and a Social Distortion 3-chord riff. Is that a hint of Don't Fear the Repear in Peaceful Mask? Drive, the title track, escapes the plodding indie-pace of the other tunes of the album and delivers on the sub-pop promise of the album's packaging and eccentric name. Little Bit of Nothing is a something-a-billy tune. Its not rock-a-billy, not punk-a-billy, not psycho-billy. But its definitely something-a-billy.
Drive is a consistent album with a strong indie sound. It's got a strong style with excellent phrasing, craftsmanship and lyrics. Rooted in 80's sub-pop sounds with occasional flashes of swamp and classic rock, it is not so much repetitive as subdued. No song here can be called complacent, but every song has its moments where you ache for an emotional punch that is not delivered. Toes will tap. Songs will get stuck in your head. It has its strong moments, and its worst moments are only mediocre.
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