The Mantles paradoxically take somewhat tired musical genres and give them their own spin to make them fresh again. Walking that line is something many bands try to do, without success. With blends of new wave, neo-folk and other classic musical tones, singer Michael Oliveras wears his influences not just on his sleeve, but boldly emblazoned across his shirt.
“All Odds End” gives off warm, familiar textures from times before music became almost dehumanized by technology. There is nothing here that is grandiose. None of the songs are likely to make it into a commercial for a new car or the latest output by the Apple corporation. Rather, the balancing keyboards, root note guitar chords, booming symbols and half-spoken/half sung vocals convey a band that is without pretentiousness. It’s as if they took a nonchalant, happenstance approach to recording, with results that came out better than those of bands who meticulously go over every last detail with a fine toothed comb.
There is a quasi-punk brashness that exists alongside a calming sense of sadness and bright pop within these songs. “Best Sides,” “Door Frame” and “Hate to See You Go” reflect all of the best aspects of Australian band “The Church” and London’s “The Only Ones.” Like those bands, tuneful reflection and pop-styled melancholy ring out sussinct, compact and seemingly, effortless. The largely present jangly guitars recall many of the bands of the Paisley Underground movement of the ’80s (The Three O’clock, Rain Parade, etc.).
In contrast to the often lush instrumentation, The Mantles focus on the mundane, at times disappointing sides of living. Change, boredom and the natural cycles of everyday life set the lyrical tone for Sunday morning music listening that helps us keep certain periods of time alive, if only for a little while. Blase indeed on paper; effective and thought-provoking within The Mantles’ songs.
The retro stylings of this record are more than just photos from a fondly remembered musical past. The songs can echo as far back as Brian Jones-era Stones (as does the minimalist, folky sound of “Lately”), yet they are alive in the here and now. People old enough to recall when the band’s influences were new will appreciate the memory jarring with a 2015 update. Younger generations will get a taste of a period when music didn’t always have to be huge and over-the-top, but could roll along with a casual coolness- something that is lost in the immediacy of much of today’s popular music. This will likely remain a hidden gem which the listener will be the better for finding.
Top Tracks: Door Frame/Lately
The Mantles- All Odds End-CD Review/ Slumberland Records / 10 tracks