The Mendoza Line’s seventh full-length, a wonderfully crafted album built on songwriting that is witty and potent, is a pinnacle of the Athens, Georgia-based sextet’s catalogue.
The members of the Mendoza Line have always spoken their mind through their lyrics, but with Full of Light and Fire they have crafted an album that evokes senses of warmth and levity while scorning the powers that be. The sprawling, guitar-fueled “Golden Boy (Torture in the Sand)” has Shannon McArdle’s soothing Americana-laced voice chiding the United States for turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses of it allies. She sings a first-person account of a woman who experiences the horrendous plight of females in Saudi Arabia: “Conformity our creed/ Cut the throats of those who speak/ Reward and soothe the weak.” The lyrics on “Pipe Dreams” are especially articulate. It construes the chronicles of a world leader who’s living in a fool’s paradise while his country is sinking deeper into war. Sound familiar?
Full of Light and Fire adds a very eclectic disposition to the Mendoza Line’s trademark alt.country backbone. The rhythm of “Name Names” carries a Pretenders-esque glide, and “Mysterious in Black” contains spacey synth licks that sound like Gary Numan is playing along with the house band at a barn dance during a slow song. Even the power-pop ebb in “Morbid Craving” will leave New Pornographers fans relishing in its craftsmanship.
But the tracks can also remain deep and heartwarming. Radiant numbers such as “Water Sound” and “The Lethal Temptress,” where the merging of instrumentation and McArdle’s haunting coo evoke the lonely, late-night strata of country greats such as Patsy Cline, show Full of Light and Fire to be as powerful as it captivating. Each member exhibits superior instrumental precision but, more important, they seem to be on the same page spiritually. The album is not only an enjoyable listen, but it gives listeners something to think about as