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Hey Mercedes | Loses Control | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
Loses Control (Vagrant)
by Tim Den
When these (mostly) ex-Braid boys traded in their sudden changes, swerving vocal lines, and hectic open-stringed guitar work for the no-frills rock of Hey Mercedes, it seemed like a natural "maturation" with great possibilities. After all, guitarist/vocalist Bob Nanna's strength does lie in quirky melodies, so wouldn't the songs only be better with all the side detours removed?
Theoretically, yes. But after two albums and two EPs, this "new" approach is aging faster than you can say Very Emergency. On Loses Control - a self-professed "rock 'n' roll" record and nothing else - all the songs blend together in a blur of tempos (eight of the 12 songs share similar drum beats), power chords, and (YUCK) double-tracked vocals. Only when it veers a little off the formula ("Absolute Zero Drive"'s elegant opening) do Hey Mercedes remind you that they were once capable of variety and excitement.
That's not to say the rest of the album doesn't sink in a little more after repeated listens. "Quality Revenge at Last" has a great bridge (and is an overall solid tune), "Knowing When to Stop" is the band at their most sensitive without sacrificing muscle, and "The Switch" - however corny the verse riff is - offers up a titty-twister of a chorus. But how far can you get before the stacked guitars desensitize you to it all? Yes, producers Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie (Radiohead, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.) lend three dozen of their guitars to the band for a full-realization of their "attack," but what good is it when all you're thinking is "please stop hammering away at the power chords: I know you guys can do so much more!" Not to mention Nanna's penchant for smug, aren't-I-cute lyrics. Singing the refrain of "You Send Me" over the bridge of "Lashing Out" is one thing (hey Bob: It's not ironic/clever when there's no melodic similarity at all), crooning "we swear war" over a quiet break comes off as too precious, and hollering "stop the press/who is that mess" is just plain cheesy. "Police Police Me" might raise an eyebrow (hint: The Beatles' first album), but you really aren't that endearing.
So all in all, a mixed bag. New guitarist Michael Shumaker brings his share of sweet vocal harmonies and AC/DC worshipping to the proceedings, and some of the hooks do stay with you after a while... but another album like this and Hey Mercedes risk becoming a band with an interchangeable catalog.
(2118 Wilshire Blvd. #361 Santa Monica, CA 90403)