Johnny Mafia: Sentimental
LP | CD | DL
Out 21st May 2021
Johnny Mafia return with an album of tightly-wound sonic blasts and infectious hooks on Sentimental.
The French quartet Johnny Mafia first hit our radar in 2018 with the release of their second album, Princes de l’Amour. The album was full of dense angular post-punk garage and was a sign of the strength of the French scene, alongside bands like Escobar. In their own ways, these bands were harnessing the drive of early grunge, bypassing the muscular form to hit straight into the bloodstream. On their new album, Sentimental, they’ve doubled down and ramped up the adrenalin to produce an album of great pop hooks buried within their sound, rearing their heads throughout to really grab you and throw you into the record.
They kick it off with that riotous intensity on the chaotic Split Tongue, paranoic swirling and pounding rhythms that bring them close to Bristol fuzz-psych merchants Turbowolf, brimming with bombastic energy. Recent single I’m Sentimental drips in early Sonic Youth fervour, more spacious reverb-drenched guitars giving way to forceful choruses that really rage. The video is a perfect representation of their Sugar Kane horrorshow.
Songs such as Phone Booth continue in that mould, but the band know full well the power they hold to shift up a few gears and let their poppier sensibilities take hold. New single Trevor Philippe is the perfect example and one of the highlights of the record. By letting the guitars chime instead of engulf, they allow the bass throughout the verses to dance and dictate the pace. The choruses hit and the band have a song that Rivers Cuomo still wishes he could write. Refused keeps it going, the band bouncing effortlessly between light and dark, marrying heaviness with crystalline sonics, the vocals always sliding over the top.
The band know exactly how and when to let up off the gas to stay on track. They drop back on Problem and let the song sway more without losing any of the vehemence. Love Me Love Me adds a perfect dose of the classic quiet-loud dynamic in pure Pixies style and No More Toes brings a slacker vibe to the melodies, but they refuse to pull any of their punches and ensure that they don’t brake too much. It’s something that they don’t employ fully until they reach the end of the record with On My Knees, signing off with a respite from the pandemonium.
Sentimental is an authentic rollercoaster of a record. It twists and turns, rises and drops you flailing into the next breakneck curve. Johnny Mafia are a band going from strength to strength, a pure joy to see and listen to. If the success they’re enjoying in France can spread, and they really deserve it to, they could hit some dizzying heights.
Sentimental is available now on pre-order from Howlin’ Banana Records.
Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.