bandcalledMac’s latest release focuses – like the vast majority of posty, mathy, rock music – upon the compositional principal of theme and variation. A riff is played, and is then repeated a whole bunch of times in various states of undress or drama; more drums here, some distortion there, a restrained and prettified version tucked neatly in the middle. The problem – and it a problem with the genre as much as this release in particular – is that sufficient variation is quite difficult to achieve with the limited instrumentation available to a rock band. The riffs are all pleasant enough, with the typical rhythmic interplay between multiple guitars and drums common to the style, but there are only so many times you can cycle through a single dynamic process – loud bit, quiet bit, louder bit – before it gets a bit tiring.
Given the timbral sparsity, things work best for bandcalledMac in those moments when the band eschew theme and variation in favour of a more trashy, noise-rock aesthetic. The occasional brutish displays of youthful vigour are far more engaging than the nonplussed studies of wizened compositional temerity. Indeed, for all my gripes as to their basic structural narratives, bandcalledMac do have one thing going for them that many bands of their ilk do not; namely, fun. Whenever the band are audibly enjoying themselves – jumping between one slightly silly riff and another, rather than fixating on one suitably ‘clever’ section – things really kick off, as exemplified by the albums standout track ‘100 Stones, Three Times‘, a song that always feels on the verge of collapse and yet throws up some of the finest, most engaging moments on offer. In this respect the album is quite bottom-heavy, with most of the darker, heavier, and arguably better songs sitting together in the second half, while the first is propagated with a more pronounced nod to the tropes of the genre. If you’re already a big fan of this sort of thing you’ll likely find the whole thing wildly successful, but in truth it takes a good three or four tracks before the band start doing anything interesting beyond the genre’s strict confines – and when they do start tentatively testing the mould in the superbly titled ‘I’m Gonna Hurt Your Leg, I’m Gonna Break Your Leg‘, they are undeniably rewarded. Thrusting, macho, angular displays of bravado is where it’s at. There’s something captivatingly naive about throwing a bunch of riffs in a row just to see what happens, and it’s in these moments that bandcalledMac really start to develop their own voice. High art this ain’t, and things work best when it doesn’t try to be.
bandcalledMac’s strength lies in the fact that even the weakest points of the album – I’m looking at you, ‘The Future Mrs Him‘ – still maintain a certain hip-shaking quality. I suspect that as a live band, they could more than make up for any reservations I might have about the record as a whole. And if the band still has a way to go before they truly stand out from their peers, they should ultimately be applauded for creating a record that at least attempts, from time to time, to escape the confines of the genre by which it is clearly delineated.