Newest Industry Records appeared to be on a bit of a hiatus until this LP dropped earlier this year. To be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of the band, nor Max Bernstein or his previous band, the Actual, so this promised to be something totally new to me--which is always to be greeted with a healthy dose of expectancy balanced with the apprehension of “it could be awful.”
Well, from the first track “The Price of Vindication,” I knew that I was going to more than likely enjoy the album than not. It, initially, has the feel of a slightly less "mod-ish" Ted Leo, with a wonderfully melodic approach to songwriting whilst retaining a caustic element within the lyrics.
The third, and title, track of the album is the one that has had me humming at my desk the most and to me is the strongest out song on the record (I once read that the third track should always be the standout song and it seems to be the case here). The whole idea of “Museum of Mistakes” is both ridiculous but at the same time such an obvious way of ensuring we learn from the errors of our ways, and this could easily apply on a personal level as well as a global level. If these mistakes are there for all to see, surely we’d be foolish to repeat them?!
“Rope” has an undertow of Dillinger Four about it and with a fuzzed vocal effect that with a more straightforward punk rock approach, it's one of the more speedy tracks to be found here.
Side two kicks off with “The Lucky Ones,” a tale of how difficult it can be to return from war zones that the Western governments seem intent on sending soldiers to in the hope of taming "terror."
Next up is “When Dakota Goes South,” which has an element of the Posies to my ears and is one of the more relaxed tracks--but fear not. "Relaxed" doesn't mean it’s not any good. It fits in perfectly and doesn't stand out like a sore thumb.
“Proposition Hate” is another track that has a hint of Dillinger Four and again, it’s one of the faster, punkier songs on the album. With the target clearly being those of a homophobic nature, the line “Venom and malice dressed up as concern for the kids / Dress it up how you want, that’s all it is” identifies how people will use their own backward beliefs to attack people, and claim that they are doing it for the children.
Another target follows in “The Business of Disregard,” aiming the bullets at the health industry in the USA, which is like something you would expect to find in an underdeveloped country. The notion that only those with money can get easy access to care is outdated and that even with insurance it’s not guaranteed to be of a good standard makes this even worse.
The beauty of Museum of Mistakes as a piece of work is that it shows how anger and frustration at the "system," the government and a multitude of ills within the world can be vented, not only by shouting and screaming but by the use of well-crafted songs full of insightful lyrics that have the ability to make you think and also smile. To be able to write songs that not only sound good but also provide a rallying call for like-minded individuals to take up arms, take notice and "fight back" against injustices is a skill and one that Max Bernstein and his co-conspirators have in abundance.
There is a punk sensibility running through this album that doesn't feel stale or get boring unlike some of what I hear from that genre these days. I’d have to say that although musically I really like this record, it is the lyrics that have reeled me in. It’s been quite a while since I listened to an album and wanted to go straight to the lyric sheet to follow what is being sung. Imagine my joy when I saw songs chock full with words as opposed to a measly few lines and a chorus of little redeeming value.
There’s a good mix of tunes, laced with enough variety to keep you engrossed throughout the album. If you like Ted Leo, Dillinger Four, the Posies, Jawbreaker or even Burning Airlines then this is worth a listen. If you just like good music then you should also give this a chance. For me, this is one of the best releases of 2010 and has opened the door for me to investigate further, both this band plus Max Bernstein’s other band, the Actual.
The LP comes with a free download, which features two additional tracks, and both are worth listening to if you like what you have already heard. I surprisingly enjoyed “Hounds,” a reggae track which again reminds me of Ted Leo’s “The Unwanted Things” from Living with the Living album. “Lectures for the Dying” gives a nod towards Jawbreaker at times but without being a rip-off, and again, is a song that deserves to be on the LP itself.