by Chris Hatch
Against a backdrop of internet politics, surging body counts, and melting ice caps, Mush deliver an inventive and incisive album that swerves past the restrictive, reductive label of ‘post-punk’, and instead encompasses everything that is at the heart of rock n roll
On Lines Redacted, Mush delve into so many pockets of alternative music that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were a band in search of an identity. On tracks like Blunt Instruments and B2BCDA, they lurch for the horizon – grabbing everything they can, as they run – and frantically telling anyone who’ll listen about the impending global collapse, while on the likes of Clean Living and Bots! they take a more experimental and playful approach – guitars waiver in and out of tune, verses stop and start, and choruses slowly fall away before rising again, while Morf and Hazmat Suits once again sees the Leeds’ band change their angle – strutting forward with the doomy confidence of late-90s, post-Britpop indie. But for all of these shifts in tone and attitude, Lines Redacted never feels out of step – Mush feel like a band who don’t rely on their influences, but instead use them to create a sound that is entirely their own.
Musically, Lines Redacted feels like a leap forward for Mush. The angular, staccato punk of last year’s 3D Routine still has a place in Mush’s sound, but everything feels more considered, more focused, and more thoughtful. It’s as though they grabbed the chance at their debut record with both hands and threw all they had at it, whereas, this time around they’ve taken a deep breath, and allowed their songs to grow.
Ideas leap about across Lines Redacted’s duration – guitars interplay in a way that is rarely heard in British music, swirling away to create a flowing, viscous, soupy sound. Guitarists like At The Drive-In’s Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus all have that uncanny knack of placing the wrong note in the right place, and, on the evidence of this record, Mush have it nailed down – the drunkenly staggering Dusting For Prints in particular is a pitch-shifting triumph; a track that has echoes of the work of jam band, Battles, and some of the strident experimentation of Talking Heads – woozily wobbling away in a disconcerting haze of melting guitars and pieced together lyrics.
Lead singer and lyricist, Dan Hyndman, has a distinct delivery that makes everything he sings sound like some mocking half-joke. There are elements of Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown’s lilt in Hyndman’s voice – it’s glottal and brattish – while at the same time feeling like Joey Ramone chewing a wad of gum as he sarcastically tells us how much we’ve screwed the world up. And that’s another one of Lines Redacted’s facets – Hyndman’s laser-guided societal critique. The frontman picks apart life in Britain in such a concise way, his observations coming from an imagined future that lurks just around the corner – snippets from his lyrics include references to ‘Hazmat suits on the high street,’ to ‘Machievlli action,’ and to ‘Oligarchs leaving empty husks’ – Hyndman doesn’t have much time for those in power.
Far from being a search for identity, Lines Redacted is a clearly defined record that sees Mush develop their sound in a way that now puts them up there with the best of current, British, alternative music. Their sound is such that even when they lament the state of society, they do it in a way that invigorates rather than infuriates; each song one-upping the next in terms of inventiveness and surefootedness. By the end of Lines Redacted, it seems that what Mush are searching for is a solution: an answer to all of these problems.
Much like the rest of us, they are clawing for a way towards fairness and happiness. Album closer, Lines Discontinued, rounds things off perfectly – Hyndman’s Lou Reed-esque verses dreamily float in and out between frenetic rips of guitar. ‘Discontinue the line!’ he repeats – a plea to take power from those that have it.
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