U2’s foray into electro-pop a decade ago is not the reason those guys are as internationally fawned over as they are. Take, however, U2’s penchant for glorious climactic sound swells, add more than a little of Beck’s Sea Change-era voice (it’s mellow and droning), retain some of the processed drum-machine beats of both, and what you’re left with is Mellowdrone‘s debut LP, Box. Unlike Coldplay’s X&Y, though, Box is by no means a pallid U2 imitation.
Mellowdrone’s singer/instrumentalist Jonathan Bates and guitarist Tony De Matteo clearly understand the emotive power of a laconic verse followed by a soaring chorus awash in distortion and crashing cymbals. They’ve studied their Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, and songs such as “Fashionably Uninvited,” sounding like a Radiohead outtake from The Bends remixed by M83, announce Mellowdrone’s entrance into good company.
“Four Leaf Clover,” “C’mon Try A Little Bit,” and the poppy “Oh My” follow those bands in a way that honors, not imitates. Although Mellowdrone treads that line closely, and occasionally the combination of mellow and droning equals boring, Box succeeds for the dichotomous relationships it manages to sustain: ethereal yet heavy, familiar yet forward-thinking and original, pre-programmed yet unfailingly human.