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The Mules - Save Your Face

The Mules, Save Your Face

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

THE Mules are a London-based outfit who operate in an utterly bonkers electrobilly style. They’re comprised of Ed Seed (vocals, drums, harmonica), James Lesslie (bass), Tim Burke (piano, moog), Duncan Brown (guitar) and Nico Beedle (fiddle) and their latest album Save Your Face is an entirely shambolic affair.

Occasionally, tracks hint at hidden brilliance – but mostly they just plain irritate.The music is brash and all over the place, sometimes even assuming a cartoon quality.

Live Feed, for instance, takes a trip into underwater territory, its guitars more subdued (and submerged) and its vocals possibly at their most accessible. Seed, for his part, shows that he can maintain a tempo and sounds genuinely heartbroken at times but such moments of restraint are few and far between.

Album opener is a weird explosion of angular guitars, shouty vocals and lyrics that talk of valium addiction, panic attacks and pretty sisters – it’s like Franz Ferdinand colliding with The Young Knives and coming over all rockabilly.

Title track Save Your Face is just a car-crash of a record, complete with yokel fiddling, scatter-gun drums and strained vocals that never rest in any one style. It’s lively but it’s also headache inducing.

At a few seconds over 37 minutes, the album doesn’t last long – but that’s one of its plus points. It’s all very well to inject manic energy into songwriting but you have to keep a lid on it, or else the overall effect is a mess.

Some tracks lull you into thinking the album is headed for better things. Straight A’s Vs Drills begins promisingly with some fine ragged guitars and loopy piano chords, but it quickly drifts towards a loud, all over the place chorus and some excessive vocal histrionics.

Later on, tracks like We’re Good People and Plenty Warning conform to a structure that’s more normal but there’s still something that frustrates about Seed’s edgy vocal style. Maybe it’s a little too ragged.

GQ Magazine has tipped The Mules to emerge as one of the bands of 2007. And while they’re debut album certainly plots its own course musically, there’s a very fine line between the inventive and the ill-conceived. Save Your Face falls mostly on the wrong side of that line.

Download picks: Polly-O, Live Feed, Tule Lake, Stamp Collecting, Ham Shank.

Track listing:

  1. Polly-O
  2. Save Your Face
  3. Straight A’s Vs Drills
  4. Picking In My Businesses
  5. Seasonticketholder
  6. Here To Help
  7. Live Feed
  8. Tule Lake
  9. & Then Again
  10. We’re Good People
  11. Plenty Warning
  12. Stamp Collecting
  13. Misprint
  14. The Catch
  15. Ham Shank