Mull Historical Society
XL / Blanco y Negro
I didn’t know I was supposed to hate this album until after I started to love it. Had I read some of the other reviews floating out there, I would have been convinced that Colin MacIntyre was an awful whingey man with a weak voice and no place in today’s music world. But I was doing something important that week, so I forgot to be influenced by haters. They suck, anyway, and they’re horribly horribly wrong. MacIntyre — who is, for all intents and purposes synonymous with the Mull Historical Society — is knocking on genius’ door.
I’m not saying he’s unfamiliar with the whinge; he’s not above singing out stuff like “Only I / Know how hard I try / To get nowhere” or repeating “Hold on to loneliness” on the song “Instead” like a personal mantra. And no, I wouldn’t give you a fig for his chances on American Idol as a vocal stylist — he sounds like a guy who learned to sing by listening to records. But that’s the beauty part: no other record I’ve heard this year has been made by a more passionate fan of pop music.
His reference points are many and cool. Phil Spector is an important one: bells and drums punctuate several of these perfect songs, including “Watching Xanadu,” an early high point not just for this album but for music in general. I’m also hearing a great love for the sainted and dearly departed Boo Radleys — I’d love to hear Sice Rowbottom sing some of these songs — and trippier bands like Love, whose signature is all over the propulsive acoustic-hippie-dance song “Mull Historical Society.” (Naming a song after your band, especially when you’re the only real member, is some kind of ballsy genius indeed.) And here’s the best part: just when I was thinking “Gee, this kinda sounds like Tears for Fears,” the next song explicitly nicks the na-na-na-na-na-na/na-na-na-na-na-na hook from “Head Over Heels.” Anyone brave enough to love Tears for Fears is o-damn-kay in Cibula’s book.
Shit, this record is good. I could tell you all about how MacIntyre’s lyrics aren’t really as sad-sack as a lazyass music press would have you believe; I could rave on and on about the multi-part concertos that are “Public Service Announcer” and “Barcode Bypass,” and about how even though those sound like Radiohead titles the songs themselves really don’t sound anything like Radiohead except in a good non-stealing sort of way… but critics have talked way too much about MHS already. I think I’ll just reiterate that you need Loss in your life because it’s one of the year’s best releases.
Mull Historical Society: http://www.mullhistoricalsociety.com