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Mock Orange | First EP | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
First EP (Dead Droid)
by Tim Den
Winner of the "Most Underrated Band. EVER" award, by far. Despite winning over Lollipopers and smart critics everywhere, Indiana's Mock Orange still languish in the shadows. Which almost makes First EP hurt that much more, cuz the band has never been better.
On this, their first release for Dead Droid, they've completed the ultimate metamorphosis. No more pop punk comparisons, no more Braid parallels, just the essence of smart rock distilled through a library of Superchunk sophistication and Sunny Day Real Estate melodies. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Grisham has really outdone himself here. No longer belting out emotional outbursts, he sounds like an indie veteran crooning on the front porch of his summer home: Experienced, relaxed, confident, and more in control than ever. His new, double vocal/falsetto approach coyly smiles upon the songs like a knowing thief, always ready to take the next turn at 60 miles per hour. And no one ever sees it coming. The fact that he's able to pull off such surprising twists yet still maintain an overall laid-back cool is an amazing feat, but wait 'til you hear how the vocals coalesce with everything around it. Fucking WOW.
The insanely technical playing of the past has been tailored into a more straightforward, 4/4 format (recalling more than just a little bit of Merge Records' catalog). And when "Stuck In" breaks into its mid-section romp - or the entirety of "Driving Day" - I can't help but wonder why the band didn't write "magically simple" songs like these before. The stunning vocal lines, the shimmering guitar hooks, Heath Metzger's impeccable drumming, all embracing each other like never before.
And while Grisham's stream-of-consciousness lyrics still need some work, First EP is a band at its pinnacle. After almost ten years playing together (and musically growing by leaps and bounds with each release), Mock Orange are finally the best thing indie rock has to offer, even if they're still just a secret.
(PO Box 68061 Grand Rapids, MI 49516)