Saturday, August 19th, 2006
Full Of Light And Full Of Fire
It’s a shame The Mendoza Line released Full Of Light And Full Of Fire so late in 2005 because had it made it out earlier, like before critics around the country had battened down the hatches and closed the book on the record release year, it may well have made its share of best-of lists. Filled with sharp songwriting, barbed, sardonic wit, pointed political commentary and pop hooks with a sweet Southern tang (the band originally hails from Georgia though they now call Brooklyn home), in a just world it would have gotten the attention it deserved and I wouldn’t have to resort to all these silly “hook” adjectives.
Full Of Light was the first album written after co-founder Peter Hoffman’s departure from the band following the release of Fortune and while Hoffman’s contributions to the band were undeniably superb, the album does benefit from the greater focus of having just the two primary songwriters. The record has a delicious swagger and confidence that wasn’t always evident in the earlier records – Shannon McCardle’s honeyed twang has never sounded better and Tim Bracy’s nasal delivery sounds less like a poor Dylan impersonation and more like his own voice. It’s really a superb record that deserves to be revisited if you overlooked it the first time around. And if you’re in the UK, you’re in luck – it’s being released there in September so you can make up for the colonies’ mistakes and put it on your best of 2006 lists.
McCardle and Bracy also have a second band in Slow Dazzle that in their own words, is an “urbanization of their previous band’s pastoral tendencies”. While there’s definitely less down-home, front-porch grinning and picking on their only release so far, The View From The Floor, and more programmed beats and loops, the distinctiveness of the couple’s voices – both singing and writing – makes it sound very much like another Mendoza Line record, which, for the record, is a good thing. And they know it, happily performing Slow Dazzle material in Mendoza Line live shows.
I caught them live at SxSW after having to bail on their Toronto show last December, but have to admit was a bit disappointed in their performance. It was their fourth or fifth performance of the festival, though, so they were allowed to be a little lethargic. This live set available for download at Southern Shelter from last month sounds better, though. While the band is now off the road, they’re working on new material for an EP release either this Fall or next Winter. There’s a sample from each of their last three albums below, with more MP3s to be had here.
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “Catch A Collapsing Star”
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “Let’s Not Talk About It”
MP3: The Mendoza Line – “What Ever Happened To You?”
MP3: Slow Dazzle – “Fleur De Lis”
MySpace: The Mendoza Line
MySpace: Slow Dazzle
Nina Persson of The Cardigans explains to Pitchfork why the band’s North American tour was cancelled and why it’s taken a year for Super Extra Gravity to find a domestic release in the US. It comes out there September 19 courtesy of Nettwerk, no bonuses for the latecomers to the party, and they may make up the cancelled tour next Summer. Here’s hoping. And The Times offers a top-ten list why The Cardigans are awesome.