Rocket Records, 2018
Review by Kent Manthie
The members of MIEN are not fresh, greenhorn local faves, etc. but rather a quartet of veterans from various indie bands, some of whom you might be familiar. Let’s see now; you have Alex Maas, late, of The Black Angels (heh-heh…sounds like a motorcycle “club” – wink wink); Tom Furse, coming from The Horror; former Elephant’s Stone Rishi Dhir and, rounding out the four-piece, John-Mark Lapham, who came out of The Earlies. Also, with a group of people from such a variety of different bands, coming from various corners of, not just the US, but, in Furse’s case, The Horrors hailed from the UK and Dhir hails from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
This band, consisting of veteran indie stalwarts is, the members insist, not a “supergroup”. Rather, MIEN is the result of the coming together of a quartet of experienced musicians who happened to have played in various bands before landing in the same “box”, so to speak. Reading the bio I received along with this eponymous debut, I got an enlightening but concise insight into the circumstances in which they ended up together. From the enclosure that came with the album, I was able to chart the band members’ indie pedigree, as it were and learned an informative bit of stuff about the guys’s past projects, their functions, styles and the geographical distribution of the parties involved. Well, let me insert a tidbit from the second paragraph of said bio: “It was very random and unpredictable”, says John Mark Lapham, of MIEN’s beginnings”. OK, well let’s pursue that a moment: further into the same paragraph Lapham mentions some of the connections between what would become MIEN’s lineup and their (the members’) bands with which they’d had an affiliation. Rishi Dihir, late of Elephant Stone, contributed something to Lapham’s former band’s (The Earlies) second album
MIEN’s sound was not and, surely, still isn’t a box, rather this self-titled debut was stitched together with a potpourri of styles and sounds, not to mention varying influences, one of which is the recent past working from a vantage point of later Scott Walker stuff (i.e., the further away he got from The Walker Brothers sound, the more the melancholy introspective import of his songwriting began to unfold); as well as, re the industrial grays and London-style psychedelia.
So far, I’ve only seen one tour date posted: April 28 in Austin, TX at the “Levitation Festival” to be held at Stubb’s. But, as the information from which I was reading has, no doubt, by now, been updated, so, by all means, visit their website to keep current on concert information: https://mienband.com, where you’ll be able to find out any other stuff you may wish to find out as well as keeping track of their schedule.
As far as the music on MIEN, the description, “psychedelic” (one that I’ve seen applied) is not an erroneous or misapplied label. The tag “psychedelic” piqued my interest which, in a small way, gave me some sort of musical compass with which to use as a guide and I must say that when I got to “Hocus Pocus”, for one, I was impressed. “Hocus Pocus” does have a groovy kind of kaleidoscopic, amorphous nebula feel to it and I certainly sat up with attention. Then, next tune, it was “Ropes”, which turns the “psych” in psychedelia up a couple of notches, with its sitar tingling throughout, though not so heavy as to push aside other elements. Next, “Echolalia”, besides a couple points for a creative title, also, as the song title, shows to be aptly titled, in that, as “echolalia” refers to the meaningless repetition of another’s speech; but it isn’t merely a fancy-sounding term applied to that annoying, very juvenile habit of mockingly repeating everything someone says in a sarcastic or purposely annoying way, e.g., as when a child, being talked to by an adult, or older sibling, etc., to willfully piss them off, will, instead of quietly being attentive while the person is talking, keeps on reiterating everything that person says for either as long as the kid can do it before the older person picks up the kid and says to shut up or get locked in his room or until the child, after not getting the rise out of the person so desired finally gets tired of it and stops. No, echolalia is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder (disorders?). The term echolalia may also, for readers of William S. Burroughs, may sound familiar, e.g., the “latah” which Burroughs writes about in, I’m not sure how many books, but I’m pretty sure I first came across the phenomenon of the “latah” in Naked Lunch (1959, Grove Press, NY). But, the song “Echolalia”, far from being an annoying child’s ploy or the symptom of a mental disorder is an apt title for this fabulous, ethereal and, yes, “echo-y” song. “Odyssey” is another great song by which one can melt to on special occasions (other times, just sit and stare goggle-eyed at the wall or the carpet; or even one’s shoe). Very catchy. It’s become so common and almost hackneyed to talk about catchy hooks or head-bobbing, yet, when you boil it down, these tunes are thrilling to hear because of the catchiness of the riffs, the spaced-out bliss of the components which comprise the songs.
In addition, the opener, “Earth Moon” is a five-and-a-half minute attention-getter which, depending I on your mood, reels you in and holds you in thrall for as long as it can. “(I’m Tired of) Western Shouting” is about as close to what pop music types might call a “single”, a term for which I, for one, have no use, but which I can understand. There are a few albums out there that do have only one or two or maybe three songs worth listening to. But in many cases, for me, anyway, it’s more fulfilling to listen to the whole album.
Well, not to distract from MIEN, so, to conclude: having members who’ve been around the indie circuit for a while is a boon, which gives creditability to any possible hype, although hype is not necessarily, nor usually, a virtue, it can be justified in some rare cases as long as it isn’t overblown or mere ad copy; in those cases “hype” is worthless; just as insipid as any commercial jingle for consumer products being sold on TV. Though the constituent members of MIEN have come united from across an amalgam of various indie bands, their joining forces to form this band had yielded terrific results and in an age where the majority of pop music is banal, vacuous and purely business; a result of fiscal niceties, MIEN are a wonderul addition to the great underbelly of Western music that’s written and recorded because the members are real people, not corporate stooges who crank out meaningless, here today-gone tomorrowUnfo, wastebasket wallpaper pop-of-the-moment, “Top 40” stuff that merely serve as place holders until the next “big thing” comes along to displace it, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
So, by all means, check out the song currently making the rounds around indie music sites on the web or from going to Rocket Records website to see what you can hear and maybe locate any other Rocket City releases, brand new or any prevously released albums from past years as well as, no doubt, a selection of merchandise for sale. Unfortunately, the regular Rocket City website seems to be down at the moment, though there is a message which reads that it should be up and running eventually. Until that is settled, though, I found a website which seems to be (somewhat, at least) dedicated to RRC. Check it out, if you want: http://www.hostboard.com/forums/f213/rocket-city-records.html
Happy listening, for now. Keep checking back for more reviews soon as I’m back from some dreadfully busy times and can now spend more time devoted to Independent Review. -KM.
[below: MIEN band photo]