A debut album is certainly an exciting thing. Being a fresh musical experience, it offers music fans the potential of discovery. It’s arguably the band in its truest form, before notoriety, pressure, and artistic development take hold. Often it’s our first in-depth encounter with a band, and ultimately it will dictate our first impressions. Based on Mosaic, the debut Love of Diagrams — the Australian three-piece led by shrieking sparkplug vocalist/bassist Antonia Sellbach — seems to be equal parts angular U.K. post-punk and fuzzy, feedback-driven squalling melodies a la Sonic Youth. It’s a band that, because its influences are not so subtly hidden, is especially easy to pigeonhole.
Love of Diagrams’ sound is often associated with bands like Gang of Four and Wire, and it seems that because of that the band has taken on the formidable burden of either proving better than their influences or of at least moving into unexplored territory. The trouble is, the band members have boxed themselves in with Mosaic by following their own blueprint strictly. Still, even if derivative, the music can at times be riveting. “At 100%” bleeds screeching feedback and driving bass into a boisterous, up-tempo number, complete with a progression change at the end that hints at the potential of a distinct sound. That track and the three that precede it are an inviting introduction to the band and the album; each rollicks along with impressive hooks, vigorous instrumentation and anger, frustration and confusion.
On the few attempts at deeper emotional depth — particularly the last two songs, “What Was I Supposed to Do?” and the untitled hidden track — the band veers out of its comfort zone. The closer displays some necessary range, featuring multilayered harmonious moans from Sellbach over skeletal bass lines and sporadic shrilling guitar and a monotonous repeated vocal. But after eleven attempts of mimicry and reinterpretation, these late attempts at profundity and exploration come off as too little and too late.
With a sound so rooted in influential bands of the past, Love of Diagrams needed to prove that it was worthy of attempting to update this well-worn trail. As it is, Mosaic simply wallows in borrowed attitude and style. A good first impression should inspire, awe and, most important, clearly define a singular, original voice. For the members of Love of Diagrams, the challenge is to not let their influences brand their band, but to take the foundations of their sound and make them their own.