Mind Is Not Brain
Hailing from Evansville, Indiana, Mock Orange seem to have capitalized on their central geographic location by assimilating and expanding on the music of bands from both American coasts and every place in between. On Mind Is Not Brain, the four-piece’s third album (and their first since “redefining” their sound with producer J. Robbins on 2002’s First EP), there are hints of Modest Mouse, Dinosaur, Jr., Sunny Day Real Estate, Superchunk, Afghan Whigs and Braid; but the resulting sound is a distinctive one, and proof that Mock Orange have something of their own to contribute instead of simply taking part in the all-too-common recycling exercise.
One of the most prominent characteristics of Mind Is Not Brain is the use of Eastern-sounding melodies amid the surge and retreat of the guitars and the whine of feedback. “Make Friends,” “Old Man,” “My God” and the opener “Payroll” all incorporate this exoticism to some extent as a means of maximizing the familiar post-punk/emo song structure that shaped (and in some cases restricted) much of the band’s previous output. Of these, “Payroll” is the album standout because of its continual shifts of force and style and texture.
Toward the second half of the disc, beginning with “Hawks Can Go” (on which J. Robbins plays piano), the songwriting tends to rely on more conventional methods, abandoning any unusual influence for straightforward — if occasionally too repetitive — guitar lines and a comfortable format with little of the rhythmic or harmonic surprises of “Payroll” and the title track. The album closer, “This Nation,” does reprise the band’s more sophisticated technique and wraps things up in appropriate fashion, with vocalist and guitarist Ryan Grisham encouraging the imagination-less citizens to “get outside at night/get all excited/put up a fight,” atop rolling vibes and start-stop guitar.
Mind Is Not Brain is an accomplished, inspired album from start to finish, and a real milestone in Mock Orange’s career. Four long developmental years passed between the release of The Record Play on the Lobster label and this disc, which surfaced in August of last year. All one can hope for now is that it doesn’t take the same length of time to see the follow-up.