The Mary Onettes
“This makes me want to listen to Echo and the Bunnymen,” came the observation 30 seconds after I’d placed this album in the stereo. A lot of bands would be mortified with those sentiments, but the Mary Onettes would surely take it as a compliment. How many bands, just on their second album, could capture even a hint of the essence of the Bunnymen’s most perfect, heaven-scraping moment? How many debuts could so seamlessly evoke a gem like Ocean Rain? And let’s face it, vocalist Philip Ekström pulls off an amazing evocation of Ian McCullough’s star-crossed whoops. Guitars chime and shimmer, keyboards and strings wash over you in warm waves or stick in your brain like sharp icicles, drums and bass, a waltz, a shuffle.
Now it’s not as guitar-heroey as Echo was; in that respect it’s more along the lines of Eighties pop like Crowded House, New Order, or A-Ha. Islands is completely out of time, but perfect pop is perfect pop. Basically, the whole album sounds like that part at the end of “The Cutter” when the pace slows down and the keyboards kick in, and it gets ten million times more epic, with Ian McCullough intoning, “Am I the happy loss,” and you involuntarily exhale in wonder.
Opener “Puzzles” dazzles with its swooning strings, synth lines that fall like silvery snowflakes, a loping rhythm that recalls the Stone Roses at their most star-crossed, and a choirboy sigh of a vocal. “Cry For Love” is a weeper and a crowd pleaser; it’s an understated ballad, built around delicate synthesized strings and heavily echoed acoustic guitar with the vocalist singing into a crystal waterfall of reverb. “God Knows I Had Plans” and “Symmetry” are perfect New Order-esque pop wedded to the La’s Mersey-mystical-jangle. They’ve learned the tricks of their influences well and cut out all of the fat and experimental bits for pure melancholic rush. This would have been a college radio godlike sensation in 1989.
Shame about the name, though.