The Mary Onettes - Hit The Waves
The Mary Onettes had a schtick they stuck to: assimilate some of the most iconic new wave/indie noises of the 80s and repackage them into celestial soundscapes. It was pleasantly nostalgic, reserved and at times, forward-thinking. Islands, their previous record from 2007, was a patchwork record comprising a multitude of sounds that each inhabited an individual space. This fresh LP, Hit The Waves seems to take one idea and run with it for 39 minutes - and that idea is that Robert Smith is the shit. All too often this is a pastiche of The Cure, with vocalist Philip Ekström doing a brilliant impression the entire time. If you are a fan of The Cure, odds are you'll love pretending that this is a collection of lost tracks.
'Evil Coast' is a spangly beast, fed on nothing but legwarmers and Bonnie Tyler. It's gloriously cheesy, with shimmering synths and a chorus A-ha would gush over; it's actually pretty good as a combination of all the best moments from 80s pop. 'Years' trickles through your speakers with a lush undergrowth of reverb and melodic keys, driving sporadic 80s riffs into your brain with apathy. The hooks are there, it's got good pace and there are moments of technical brilliance – it's just a shame you constantly feel as if you've already heard this before. 'Blues' verges so closely to 'Lovecats' you'll forget that they're not the same song.
A lot of the album is spent focused on loss and the macabre. It seems they've discovered goth. There's a well of darkness within this album, and whereas their previous two records preached more grounded life-affirming topics, things have ventured down a saturnine route where stroppy teenagers and the swamp of self-pity lay. For a band thirteen years into their career, the lyrics often come across too adolescent, and while Robert Smith is an obvious inspiration, this love letter to the king of eyeliner often falls short of his innovative lyrical style.
'Dont Forget (To Forget About Me) is sublime dreampop, the kind Scandinavia is building a reputation for. Woozy synths and fading percussion back phantom vox and ethereal bass; the whole cut is effortless and subtly sinister. 'Black Sunset' allows us to relive (or experience for the first time, depending on how far over the hill you are) the overcooked emotion and soppiness of thirty-odd years ago. It's got a firm beat and pastel synths, the guitars streak through the chorus like a bolt of silver lightning – again, this is a track that takes some of the best moments of 80s pop and bundles them all together nice and concisely. It's just a tragedy that fangirled over The Cure on so much of the rest of the record.
Hit The Waves is definitely well produced; each effort slickly slinks into the next seamlessly, and before you know it, half the album has been vaporised before your very ears. This added production value is indicative of a grander cohesion - gone are the sprawling experiments with aged twangs, this third full-length welcomes a new dawn for The Mary Onettes, dawn formed of gloom and tears. The 80s is great in moderation, and in fact a ridiculous proportion of modern music is built on harking back to ye times of olde, but there needs to be a limit - subtle hints and a casual nod are fine, mimicry and doppelgängering is not so fine. The band clearly have the chops to do better, there are moments that prove that here, but they just need to move past this obsession with Robert Smith and go back to brandishing their own ideas.