Music Reviews
Bring it Back

Mates of State Bring it Back

(Barsuk) Buy it from Insound Rating - 9/10

Ecstatic; that's the only word that comes to mind. If you're not familiar with Mates of State and their new album, Bring it Back, think about those special moments with the New Pornographers when Carl and Neko are right in the pocket and going for broke, like on the chorus of Mass Romantic. OK, maybe not that ecstatic, but pretty damn close. The exuberance on display on virtually every track here is palpable and infectious. Listening to it, you would never suspect this is the band's fourth album. It sounds more like a rookie band simply glad to get a contract and putting everything they've been storing up trying to get a break right out there as if it was their one and only chance. This in itself is rather remarkable. Even more remarkable is that upon exploring their previous releases, as I had to do for this review, we find that this level of eagerness and excitement is standard operating procedure.

Much has been made of the sparse instrumentation; drums, keyboards, uh, that's pretty much it. As the White Stripes have made abundantly clear, what every teenage musician practicing with his buddy in his basement with a guitar and trumpet knows, and what Mates of State vigorously reinforce, is that it doesn't take a 10 piece horn section to blow people away. All you need is a good song, a healthy dose of confidence, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Better yet, write yourself eleven good songs and play the crap out of them to a producer like Bill Racine, who's knows how to capture the sound of pure adrenalin. Racine's work her cannot be overpraised. The vocals are right up front, the drums are loud and alive, and the organ textures, which could be cheesy in some contexts, here cover you like a warm blanket, or make your stomach flutter with anticipation.

There's no point running through the highlights as there are none - the quality never sags. The beats never lose their punch and the harmonies never fail to thrill. Just try not to get caught up in the distorted keyboard riffs and driving rhythm of For the Actor, right up through the slowed tempo of the middle break. Ditto for Punchlines. Or how about the delirious counterpoint on So Many Ways, releasing into "oh ohs" of sheer joy? No, I'm sorry, there is just too much here that is simply fantastic, and cataloguing it all is a pointless exercise.

Perhaps best of all is the cocky assurance of the lines "you will surely find this pleasing to you ears, you could surely try to be more alive" on Fraud in the 80's. This pronouncement, this dare, this taunt, is surely a better summation of Brink it Back then I could hope to conjure.