Anyone who’s been hanging around these blue-n-gray parts long enough knows I love the shit out of Evansville, Indiana’s Mock Orange. And it’s not just cause I live in Indiana; this love started long before I moved to the “Crossroads of America” (aka fly-over/drive-through country).
“Grow Your Soul Away” sets the tone for Disguised as Ghosts, the quartet’s fifth full-length (discounting the band's early efforts for Minus 7 Records). The rhythm section lays down a solid ostinato while the guitars sparkle over-top and mimic Ryan Grisham’s vocal melody. Ghosts is the most smoothed-out, consistent album we've heard from Mock Orange in many ways, both positive and negative. Start to finish the album has tasteful and creative arrangements and well-crafted melodies, but tempo and dynamically-speaking, the album tends to sit in the middle of the spectrum.
For the past 13 years Mock Orange has been honing their craft. They've grown as musicians and songwriters, but after 2004’s masterwork Mind Is Not Brain we've heard them lay off the aggression. Mind had its fuzzy, slippery noodle guitar leads and in-your-face moments like the gang vocals and metallic clanging in “Do You Want Out” and 2008’s Captain Love had speed from the get-go with its title track opener.
Here, “End of the World” ratchets the tempo up a notch, and alternating between segments of rapid-fire but tasteful guitar lines and more twinkly chords, the song builds nicely and culminates in high-speed handclaps leading to the chorus, which is among the catchiest on the album. “I Can Sing” sneaks in 7/4 without making a big deal about it and keeping it melodic. Some cool double-stroke hihat overdubs add a percussive element later in the song, panning across the speakers.
But then you have “My Car”, which just rubs me the wrong way. I don’t hate the track, but something about the over-reaching melody and faux-fi production at the beginning bugs me. This is the first time ever that I've had a beef like this with a Mock Orange song.
Sure, they’re real good at taking things down, as with “Going Away”, which showcases masterfully picked acoustic guitars melding surprisingly well with synths and gentle snare drumming. Acoustic guitars play a prominent role here, as featured on “Feel it Now”, which keeps peeling back the beat to reveal a riff the Tallest Man on Earth would be smart to steal. Then there’s “Silent Motion” and its kickass finger-picked banjo part. However, the guys don’t seem to care much anymore about outright rocking the fuck out, which is a shame because they were so good at it, from the punkier/emo tones of Nines & Sixes to the Modest Mouse-stomp of First EP and Mind.
Disguised as Ghosts is another enjoyable album from these Hoosiers and, like I said, consistent as hell. These guys have gotten so good at their respective instruments as they've grown up together as a band. But even in your 30s you've gotta let ‘er rip once in a while.