Although it’s behind in dental care and edible food, the United Kingdom is way ahead of the United States in terms of the speed in which its music press crowns next big things. NME and its counterparts crank king-making out like some Golden Age of Hollywood dream factory. I recently missed jumping on the Arctic Monkeys’ bandwagon because I was already crippled and bleeding from being struck by the Editors’.
Does Britain not have college radio stations? Because that’s the circle of hell where a lot of potential American next big things seem to stall out. Pavement glimpsed the other side but never became a permanent player on major rock radio. Modest Mouse floated on through with a couple of singles from their last album, but it remains to be seen if they have KROQ-level staying power.
A few years ago, it was Mates of State that was tripping over the wagging tongues of many an undergrad spinner with its second full-length, Our Constant Concern. There’s something to be said for keeping a good thing going, which is probably why the members didn’t change much up for 2003’s Team Boo or their fourth full-length, Bring it Back.
But not progressing in sound isn’t going to get a band gigs opening up for U2 anytime soon. And Mates of State’s progress is limited by its simplicity. It’s a two-piece, with Kori Gardner on the organ and her husband, Jason Hammel, on drums. They both sing, harmonizing quite prettily at most times.
Bring it Back starts out hot with “Think Long,” which drills a very catchy keyboard line into your head. “Fraud in the ’80s” has an intro that’s throbbing, almost industrial, then the song drives home on a powerful organ surge. The two songs serve to nicely introduce new listeners to Mates of state M.O.: bounce, baby, bounce, and keep it cheery. “Beautiful Dreamer” follows suit as a fun head-bobber.
When Gardner and Hammel slow things down in the first half of the album, it stays interesting. “Like U Crazy” and “Nature and the Wreck” start with the album’s typical uplifting harmonies but then modulate nicely into a softer, twirling piano number.
But by the time the final tracks roll around and Gardner and Hammel still haven’t changed their sound much, their lovey-dovey frivolity gets old. Can a married couple really be this happy? “Running Out” is an appropriate last-song title, because it aptly describes the listener’s patience. In it, Gardner repeats over and over that she’s tired of her singing. By that point, I was too.
Prefix review: Mates of State [All Day EP]