BROWN BIRD - Mexico City (Plus One Records)
This album's a surprise packet as much for the fact that it tones down the country influences as that I'd forgotten Mexico City was still around. Despite living in a connected world, it's easy for Brisbane bands to pass under the radar when you live in Sydney. While their past work had been pretty good, "Brown Bird" sounds like Mexico City have really found their own turf.
"Brown Bird" rocks regally while keeping the loping, liquid rhythms. If I was looking for a reference point I'd probably come up with Alabama's Dexateens, although Mexico City's Southern Rock influences (if they exist) are buried much deeper. Both bands share that rustic guitar sound with shards of light and darkness radiating through the songs but Mexico City's roots are in a Brisbane garage.
There's a warm, rumbling bottom end that surges forward, dragging you along like churning surf, strong melodies and some choice guitarwork that recalls, rather than clones, Neil Young. And this crop of songs is the best Mexico City have written.
Of course Neil's here in spirit, and "Ghetto" is the closest to a track from "Zuma" that you'll hear on "Brown Bird", but the engine room of ex-Giants of Science bassist Tanzie and drummer Ben Carstens are a much tighter proposition to the one that anchors Crazy Horse. (Come to think of it, most rhythm sections are.)
The guitars of vocalist Adam Toole and Simon Radich mesh at their best on this song - like "Cortez" with a little less killing. Likewise "Trick Of The Light" where things get particularly out of shape.
Toole turns in an oustanding vocal throughout, full of character and carrying the melodies.
You can take refuge in quiet songs like "I Had A Dream Last Night" but it's the guitar you're probably here for. In that vein, "Damn Shame" swings and kicks like a truncated mongrel version of "Highway 61" while opener "Raised An Empire" simply broods. The guitars get nice and dirty on "The River Followed Me", and "Baby You've Changed" would be all over mainstream radio if programmers had double digit IQs.
Michael Carpenter's production is beefy and uncluttered and Mexico City benefits from his sporadic presence on keyboards.
Overall, this is an accomplished, strong album and, yes, you probably need to hear it. – The Barman
BLACK COMEDY - Mexico City (Reverberation)
Ever since Neil Young jumped the shark on "Greendale", there's been a gaping hole. Brisbane band Mexico City might just step up to the plate on the strength of this, their debut album.
You could argue that the Neilster's still a vital and commanding musical figure but, sorry, you'd be wasting your breath. Take it to the Rust Never Sleeps mailing list if it's an issue. If the signs weren't there around "Broken Arrow" then they'd manifested themselves fully in the so-so "Are You Passionate?" and the downright boring "Greendale"? "Road Rock" was OK but how many live rabbits can you pull out of your contractual obligations hat? You can't say he's terminal but the signs ain't good. But enough about Neil - this is a Mexico City review...
Saying Mexico City's music is full of Youngisms is a touch spurious. Guitarist-singer Adam Toole doesn't have the same yearning whine (more a faltering Brisvegas drawl) but can strangle out a nice, wandering lead break on his six-string. "Carolina" wouldn't have been out of place on "On the Beach" with its muscular plod and keening pedal steel, but "Ain't No Lie" is more a straight re-write of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Like a Dream" is the spawn of "Leopard Pillbox Hat". The other tunes are less obvious in their dipping of the lid to the Zim, but he's an obvious and pervading influence.
The Bobster looms large but a song like "I Stepped Outside" puts paid to thoughts that Mexico City aren't their own band. A simmering, angry storm of a tune, it rolls in like thunder on a steamy Brisbane January afternoon. The closing lament "Canefield Blues" that follows is almost a hymn-like respite before skewing off into harmonics and feedback as it shuts down. Powerful stuff.
Production is by ubiquitous powerpopper Michael Carpenter but it's without the gloss of much of his work and has an earthy but languid feel, in contrast to the rusty edges of the previous two EPs. Carpenter and a couple of others contribute organ and backing vocals that colour around the edges rather than dominate.
Mexico City wrestle and cajole their music rather than beat the songs into submission. Props to the engine room of Ben Carstens (drums) and Mick Elliott (bass) for knowing when to hold back. It might be too subtle for some but should find a place in most open-minded Barflies' collections.
Not straight country, barely rock sometimes - there's certainly nothing as openly rocking as "No Sympathy" or "When Billy Won the Big One" from the previous self-titled EP. I can dig this but am intrigued in where the next one's going to go. – The Barman
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