Mammoth Penguins’ debut is full of loud thrashy guitar riffs, soaring vocals and a lyrical exploration of being in your late 20s/early 30s. Features Editor Sarah Lay reviews.
There’s a strong indie heritage at play with Mammoth Penguins – made up of former members of Standard Fare, Puncture Repair Kit and The Pony Collaboration – and with Hide and Seek they give us a great thrashy indiepop record telling the tales of the bittersweet end of your 20s.
These are songs from and for your second coming of age – the point at which the thrill has burnt off being old enough to choose your own way, the nearing-thirty moment at which the lightness of independence starts to see-saw toward the weights of responsibility. There’s still a lot to work out but you start to feel the expectation that you should have got your life and love in hand by now.
Mammoth Penguins explore all of this with the lyrical honesty and some big echoing drum rolls and doo-wop harmonies. There are solid sonics; big chunky riffs that give way to delicate flourishes; heartbeat bass changing tempo with the emotion flowing through the record paired with the tickle of percussion and some super-tight drum beats; Kupa’s distinctive and unguarded vocals sit atop it all.
The first run of songs showcase all of this and introduce the theme well. First single Propped Up has a high-strung riff that leads to sparsity quickly overtaken by rushes of scuzz-fuelled repeating lines about regrets and mistakes. It’s followed by Cries At The Movies, a swaying song once again taking us through the rise and fall of emotion, the high and the low. Lyrically there are wonderful lines in this song about being emotionally reserved or open that confirm that in Mammoth Penguins we have some special songsmiths levelling up through working together.
We Won’t Go There encapsulates the mixed feelings of sadness and excitement that ride in with the possibility of infidelity. Kupa’s gentle vocals give us the vulnerability of making yourself available in that situation, of designing the moment to fulfil the need but it is the outro of the track which lifts it into something really special. From the bass-bumping and harmonies, the laid-bare lyric of making the offer while trying to hold a part of yourself safe we get to the raging guitars, the spiralling keys and crash of drums as full on as the rush of passion through you before collapsing to nothing, climax made.
The juxtaposition of Kupa’s light vocal with the depth of bass and drums works perfectly across the record but especially on tracks like Played.
Here it creates the feeling of inner thoughts rumbling through and uncontainable, of something that just has to be sung. With this track the up-tempo harmonies and bouncing beat give an extra dimension to the lyrical call for honesty in courting.
The record ends with When I Was Your Age, the perfect conclusion to this album. The sniping of older relatives is shrugged off with an escalating list of successes they had under their belts at the same age the band now find themselves. This comparison between generations has probably pecked all our heads at some point and so creating a shield of ever-fuzzier guitars and dodging the bullets with wilder dance moves is a brilliantly executed defence.
Loud, thrashy heart-on-sleeve feet-on-the-dancefloor anthems giving modern life a wonderfully sharp once over lyrically while walls of warm and crunchy melody hit you head on. An infectiously catchy record and brilliant debut.