January 27, 2006

The Mendoza Line "Full of Light and Full of Fire'

The Mendoza Line has been around for a few years, but it’s not until now that the band has released a record that’s really, truly impressive. Call it my own lack of experience with this Austin-slash-New York band, but it’s really hard not to be taken in by the grooves and the ominous melodies found on Full of Light and Full of Fire. The duo of Timothy Bracy and Shannon McArdle is a creative relationship that allows them to play off of each other, and the results are simply breathtaking.

But what to make of this band’s creative blending of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and The Velvet Underground? Yes, that’s as unlikely a description as you could possibly expect, but damn it if it isn’t the case. Bracy, on songs like “Rats Alley” and “Catch a Collapsing Star,” sounds like he’s running down a dream and getting blood on the tracks in the process. His country-rock/Americana styling is not only quite obviously indebted to the masters—it’s also as good as you could possibly get. On “Morbid Cravings,” his twangy accent comes across as terribly affected, but other than that slip-up, he sounds like the real deal.

Then there’s McArdle. Her style is softer, a bit more psychedelic, and it’s accentuated by her singing voice; it’s sultry and it’s sexy and it’s hard to resist her charms. Don’t think she’s all soft, though; on “Golden Boy,” she plays the rocker, and she plays it quite well, and “Mysterious in Black” is a haunting yet grooving rock number that’s offset by a Cure-like melody. But when she’s turning down the tempo, such as on “The Lethal Temptress” and the drop-dead gorgeous opening “Water Surrounds,” she challenges Paula Frazier for the queen of the miserable country weeper. When the two come together for the final “Our Love Is like a Wire,” the results are simply wonderful, as their duet is heartbreaking and impressive. Pure sadness has never sounded so wonderful.

The Mendoza Line’s style may be simple, but they’re quite good at what they do. I’m definitely impressed—and regretful that I’ve missed out on this lovely band until now. Full of Light and Full of Fire is a great record—one that will stay beautiful and fresh with each successive listen.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.mendozaline.com
Label Website: http://www.misrarecords.com

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