Capturing the spirit of the moment was integral to Leeds art-rockers Mush during the recording of their third record, Down Tools. The stream-of-consciousness flow, ad-libbing lyrics and improvisational playing result in a record which often feels like it’s trying to keep up with itself, but loses steam and gets stuck down musical cul-de-sacs.
Since their 2020 debut 3D Routine, the quartet have released music with the frenetic pace of their instrumental arrangements. While a frenzied rhythm section and raucous guitar solos can bring a great sense of euphoria to the listener, the application here is mostly overwhelming. In the case of the closing title track, in particular, it is completely impenetrable. ‘Interlude’, perhaps the most impressive and commanding composition on the record progresses at a comfortable pace; weaving affecting textures together that anyone would gladly become enveloped in. More of this considered instrumentation would have given vocalist Dan Hyndman a better foundation for his abstract lyricism to shine through. Admittedly, his throaty delivery is an acquired taste, but on ‘Group of Death’, his softer cadence compliments the prettier soundscape leaving us wanting more of this from Mush on this record.
Musically, Mush are indebted to Pavement (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, specifically) and Malkmus’ Wig Out at Jagbags record with The Jicks for Down Tools. Notably, ‘Dense Traffic’, ‘Inkblot and The Wedge’ (which crams in Pixies melodies and guitar drenched in distortion MBV style) and ‘Karoshi Karaoke’. Parquet Courts, too, are a huge reference point for Mush across their material. Their distinct style is felt most acutely on ‘Burn, Suffering!’, the chugging guitar melody on the aforementioned ‘Dense Traffic’ and ‘Get On Yer Soapbox’. While these are great influences, the striking melodic similarities dominate Down Tools and ultimately distract from the moments where something good is cooking.
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