I've been wrestling with this album for some time now. I finally kicked my Post-Braid Depression [PBD for short] sometime around March of 2002, finally allowing myself to enjoy Hey Mercedes for what they were - a really catchy yet complex emotional rock band, that knows how to bring the pain.
Okay, so they don't really bring the pain, per se, but they've still become one of my favorite live bands in recent memory. I've seen them enough times over the past year or so to see a good chunk of this new material played live. It always came off as significantly darker, more straightforward, and just more rock than Hey Mercedes had ever been before. I couldn't wait to hear the new album so I could see how these soon-to-be live favorites translated to compact disc.
And at first few listens, something about Loses Control just didn't sit right with me. For starters, Bob Nanna's voice seems too polished for him. You can hear the multitracking going on in the vocals in almost every single song, reminiscent of labelmate Matt Skiba of the Alkaline Trio's Good Mourning LP [and we all know how annoying that became]. The thing is, with Skiba it was needed as his vocal chords are becoming shredded. But with Bob, the man has one of the purest tenor voices in all of indie rock - it just seems like his vocal delivery is being weighed down on otherwise wonderful tracks like Boy Destroyers and the album's secret weapon, Oh Penny.
But once I got past the production mistakes on an otherwise great voice, my attention moved onto the guitar work. For the second album in a row, I have to question the producer's recording techniques. Hey Mercedes does have two guitars that generally play different things, but one of them almost always gets buried in the mix behind mounds of distortion. Only earlier tonight as I listened to this album through headphones did I finally discover some of the surprises buried in the mix [listen to "Quality Revenge At Last" through a good set of headphones to see what I mean].
Ironically, I really wasn't enjoying the album to a huge extent until that one time listening via headphones. Then all of the sudden the songs just clicked. The intensity of "It's Been A Blast" and "Knowing When To Stop' [although the latter still sounds eons better live] leap out of the left and right channels and pummels your ear drums. "Playing Your Song," while bizarre in the fact that Bob say "Fuckin'" a number of times [and lemme tell you, that just sounds awkward] is a fun uptempo romp, and "Police Police Me" really kicks out the 3/4 jams. And let's not forget about the band's second killer album closer in a row, this time being called "Go On Drone." It's a fun singalong, and it ties up the album nicely.
This album definitely took more than a few spins to really get into, but if you have patience and a good pair of headphones, you'll find that this was the perfect summer album of 2003, albeit 3 months late.
Quality Revenge At Last
Knowing When To Stop
It's Been A Blast