I’ve always marvelled at the motivation and drive in super successful people. The high achievers that never rest on their laurels, and keep striving to reach new goals. Nate Mendel would be forgiven if he chose to kick up his heels at this stage of his career. With a resume most could only dream of, including being the bass guitarist for one of the most influential emo bands of the time, Sunny Day Real Estate and going on to be the only original Foo Fighters member who isn’t Dave Grohl, you’d forgive the man for calling it a day. Instead, two decades after the formation of his powerhouse rock band, Mendel has stepped out of the shadow of one of the world’s greatest frontmen for his solo project Lieutenant, and it’s debut release If I Kill This Thing We’ll All Eat For A Week.
Being a member of a band like the Foo Fighters isn’t always a guaranteed ticket to solo success. In fact, it can often mean the opposite. Fooeys fans like what they like, big stadium rock shows and powerhouse anthems. It can’t have been easy for Mendel to put it all on the line. It’s been done before though, with Grohl himself subjective to the same kind of scrutiny in 1994, with Nirvana fans ready to pounce. But Lieutenant is interesting. Both casual and stubborn, it strongly demonstrates an immediate separation from Mendel’s major act, while delicately imprinting an all new sound. And it’s really cool.
It’s hard to break the record down as If I Kill This Thing acts as a cohesive whole, rather than stand out singles. Listening to the nine song track listing from start to finish is easy, with a laid-back folky feel that pleasantly washes over you and embraces the unremarkable.
From the breezy Believe The Squalor to the playful groove in Prepared Remarks, what is evident throughout is the common thread of layered song writing that is deceptively simple. Have You Ever Wondered is the most attention grabbing of the bunch, but still forms part of the cohesive whole. While If I Kill This Thing features many brilliant feature artists from Mendel’s little black book (Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, SDRE), it’s very much the effort of a lone ranger, running with his own sound much in a similar vain to Vance Joy, Ben Folds, Hozier or Newton Faulker.
Subtlety is the key for Lieutenant. It’s beauty is in it’s nuances, and while fans of the throw down rock sound of the Foo Fighters may find If I Kill This Thing perplexing and even dare I say, boring, the bright, quietly positive vibe of the album won’t be lost on the true believers.