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Mongrel - Better Than Heavy


Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

INDIE rock/hip-hop crossover collective Mongrel made history recently when they became the first UK act to give their debut album Better Than Heavy away for free exclusively with The Independent daily newspaper.

According to vocalist Jon McClure, the move was done to “give the widest possible platform to artists whose voices could otherwise be ignored and gets the music onto CD players across the land”.

The experiment certainly helped to put Mongrel on the map and raise interest in what they have to offer. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will backfire in record sales now that the LP finally debuts in stores.

Certainly, Mongrel can boast some intriguing credentials. Consisting of rapper Lowkey, original Arctic Monkey’s bassist Andy Nicholson, Babyshambles guitarist Drew McConnell, Reverend and the Makers members McClure and Joe Moskow, as well as Matt Helder, from the Arctic Monkeys, it’s a hit-and-miss mixture of styles that eventually falls into the category of noble failure.

Album opener Barcode, for instance, is a real mess – a mish-mash of urban rap and indie rock that never really gets it right and just plain irritates.

While political rant Lies doesn’t quite convince with a similar mix of styles that’s made slightly more notable by a fierce rap from Gorillaz mainstay Lowkey.

Indeed, the first proper success is The Menace, a smoother mash-up of indie and hip-hop that contains some similarly pointed political commentary. The chorus is one of the album’s more appealing efforts… even though the hard-hitting lyrics tend to feel a little too in your face.

Julian, meanwhile, contains a nice guitar intro, a likeable back-beat and a vocal that really does channel the memory of acts like Gorillaz, Reverend & The Makers and even the Happy Mondays in a good way. It’s more of an indie effort and evidence of Mongrel at their best.

The Happy Mondays vibe is continued on Better Than Heavy, which also draws on a reggae-style rhythm and a rapped lyric. But the vocals ruin it – much like they do on the dub-heavy Better Them Than Us.

Admittedly, the album closes on another highlight in the form of All Your Ever Afters, but by then the overall impression is one of disappointment.

Mongrel are trying to do something different and Better Than Heavy isn’t without moments of merit, but it smacks of being the type of album that craves notoriety more than lasting quality. It should be intriguing to see where they go from here.

Download picks: The Menace, Julian, All Your Ever Afters

Track listing:

  1. Barcode
  2. Lies
  3. Hit From The Morning Sun
  4. Off The Leash
  5. Menace, The
  6. Act Like That
  7. Julian
  8. Better Than Heavy
  9. Better Them Than Us
  10. Alphabet Assassins
  11. All Your Ever Afters

Disc 2

  1. Guess Who’s Coming Home
  2. Gun Dub
  3. Mr.20%
  4. Better Than Dub
  5. Mesopotamia
  6. Alphabet Vs Brother Culture
  7. 45681950
  8. Brainwashing
  9. Hit From The Morning Dub