The side project for Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman, Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford, Mini Mansions comes together once more for its second full-length.
The Beatles’ late period exploration of psychedelic sounds and grittier performances has a strong presence on The Great Pretenders.
Britpop-tinged opener Freakout! chugs along at the pace of a leisurely stroll, infusing deadened drums with bright, hazy synths and a swinging ‘I’ve been down, I’ve been down’ chorus hook. Imagine the precise beat of London Calling by The Clash combined with the melodic sensibilities yet devil-may-care attitude of David Bowie’s cover of Sorrow, and listeners get themselves a jolly good time.
There’s a suppressed mania evident in the quirky yet sinister synths straight from the 1980s on Death Is A Girl. It sounds like a hybrid of the regal Martha My Dear (off the Fab Four’s self-titled ‘White Album’) and Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. The lyrics oscillating between the hope of living and the hope that one could ‘live in a world where there’s only one day’ deceive the listener despite the upbeat arrangement.
Shuman’s overdriven vocals on the verses of Fantasy conjure a sense of claustrophobia, before they rise through the air in the dreamy choruses. Admittedly, the shift to the warmer, rosier ending is rather sudden but is mood lifting nonetheless.
The finest track is current single Vertigo, which goes all ‘The Young and the Restless’ theme. It already feels big in the opening seconds, as the piano and impending drums up the tension. The ‘oh you know, that’s how it goes’ choruses are basic yet memorable, as they emphasise the carefree tone of the album.
The slower tracks like Creeps and Heart of Stone recall Honey Pie and Happiness is a Warm Gun respectively, right down to the sound of the drum snare reverberating against pianos, organs and floating vocal harmonies. Any Emotions initially droops on first listen during its bare, spacey first two minutes, but ends up being a grower especially once the full band gets thrust into the spotlight.
After the bouncy Honey, I’m Home, Mirror Mountain smacks listeners in the face with its joint ballsy guitar and hard synth sounds. It’s a frenzied affair, as full-bodied vocals are replaced with high pitched shrills, the organ run all over the place, metallic drums bring back a bit of 1980s hair metal and sound effects litter the background. It all sounds good for 30 seconds, but quickly gets old and makes the track feel longer than four and a half minutes.
Double Visions limps until its confrontational ‘are you all that you tell me’ bridge grabs listeners by the collar, before The End, Again closes the album on a pure note with few effects and Shuman’s smooth falsetto.
Mini Mansions’ latest effort has a bit of filler, but manages to effectively tribute its inspirations through quality performances and a little bit of drama to keep things interesting.