Mazes Ores & Minerals (FatCat Records)
Manchester trio Mazes release their album of 80s and 90s influenced pop. Paul Scott-Bates had a listen and predicts better things.
As my Louder Than War bio says – “Everything deserves one listen, but, not necessarily a second”. This album almost fell into that category. It’s not that I dislike it as such, it’s just that there are a few very fundamental flaws that make it an ‘Ok’ album.
The Mazes sound is pretty original, and there are some good tunes on this album, but, it suffers from some very poor production. It’s a shame, as the band have done it themselves. Several of the songs sound like live demo versions – if the group intended this, then congratulations to them on succeeding. If they didn’t, then they need to maybe consider getting themselves a producer. The second thing that becomes apparent is that Mazes sometimes don’t know when a track could lose its appeal. Opener, Bodies, is case in point. It has a nice catchy feel and a great little melody, though the chorus is sometimes difficult to pick out, but, the problem comes in the length at almost seven minutes. To be honest, it’s maybe three minutes too much and it becomes a little pretentious, which is a shame.
I’m aware that I may come across as having a real jab at this album, but bear with me please. The wonderfully titled Dan Higgs Particle has a line that makes me squirm – “Please I wanna go home, I will not cry, I will not moan”, a Country-style guitar and a decent enough track, but it sounds flat. A track in desperate needs of mixing, but there’s something slightly amiss. Significant Bullet is barely a minute long, an instrumental that only serves to hold its predecessor into Ores & Minerals with an initial drumbeat not dissimilar to Enola Gay. Some addictive guitar work and a good hook. I played this album without looking at the track listing and it makes sense that this is the title track. A cohesive piece, very catchy and one that grows and grows – moments of Visage (Fade To Grey) perhaps but a second guitar solo that again is a little too long. All in all, a good track and probably one of the album highlights.
The opening to Sucker Punched whilst similar to Slight Return by The Bluenotes begins yet another pretty good pop song with some good vocals and a great melody, which, like Bodies, you’ll find yourself singing over and over. This is potentially one of those tracks you could look back at in a few years and regale the people you’re with with how good it was.
Delancey Essex has a folksy feel, it’s not overcomplicated and the length of the song is just right. The Rocky movie bassline goes through Bite which again is nice enough but doesn’t seem to move on, again it’s a little bit too much and could do with cropping by a minute or so.
I was reminded of several acts whilst listening to the album – The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Lennon and even Rush who seemed to have an influential presence on Jaki, not only with a Geddy Lee esque vocal but also with some guitars akin to the 2112 album. Unfortunately, I was never a big fan of Rush but there’s something about this track that’s pretty endearing. Leominster is like a piano outtake, but has a really original and interesting recording of a female voice at the end which lifts the track again.
The album ends with probably the best two tracks on the album – Skulking and Slice. Brilliant guitar solo on the former and cracking guitar sound towards the end. I really enjoyed Skulking, and to be honest, it’s probably why I gave the album more listening. Slice has a line that made me smile – “The USA isn’t great, it’s ok”. Almost waiting for a chorus to kick in, it’s a perfect album closer.
In short, Mazes show significant promise. They write some very addictive tunes and the album has the potential to be very good. For me, though, there’s that little something missing somewhere that makes it feel as though it’s still incomplete. Sorry lads, but the production really does let this down. However I’m sticking with you because I think there’s something very special coming.
Songs 8/10 – Production 6/10.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.