Friday, March 6, 2009

album review: Office - Mecca

This album is ripe with conviction. A hard-fought, sweaty-browed, hoarse-voiced exasperation translated into the most pristine and shake-able pop and swinging fuzz rock. It only follows that after the nauseating ‘biz’-battling (through line-up shifts, shady label interactions and watching the quality and presentation of your work muddied by the ignorance of suits focused on sellability), that Office singer/guitarist Scott Masson would be, first, a bit exasperated, but thus, evermore resilient in the presentation of his latest release, “Mecca.” Eleven songs of soft-to-booming pop, from delicate to confrontational, feels like a subtly celebratory cast away from the tethers that suffocated the band’s previous release, the sort-of ball-o’-confusion feeling “A Night at the Ritz.” “Mecca” is unadulterated, free-to-be-me vibe where the pop-sage is able to wind himself up for tight, acrobatic kartwheels across the soundscape.

Now, ‘regrettable’ might be too strong a word for the compromises made to last year’s “Ritz” (but it still fits that package’s beefed up/altered demos from their minor-masterpiece “Q & A” lit up by fluorescent dressings next to some decent but still lacking glitzy new-wave fare. And ‘vindication’ may be too strong a word for the propulsive pump and wispy cooed choruses of the pure-passion pop presented on “Mecca,” but it still fits – especially considering it herolds the band’s strategic free digital release online as well as Massons own re-transplantation from longtime homebase of hustle-bustle Chicago, back to the quieter suburbs of his hometown, metro Detroit. But, enough philosophic over-idealistic drivel.

Mecca sets an ever-bobbing rhythm, swaggering with big fiery guitar riffs that surf along the tide or cruise along the boardwalk, blended with pleasant, cherubic charming synths and Brit-pop-bent melodies that love to pour out over a disarming, waltz-like stateliness. At times its thick with shimmering synth heavy new wave and surreptitiously pounds a hustle-ready nigh-disco-y danceability, under its crunchy alt-rock guitars, but there’s plenty of bite to it…since the deceptively sweet and sunny sides of Massons hooky overtures coats a musical upbringing in punk and hardcore – which will shine through with plenty rock grit on some tunes.

Listeners who’ve been along for the ride and tasted the sweet bottle of wine and piano-pounded let-go of “Q&A” will still find “Mecca” to be a rejuvenating gem, but still might not live up to the wonder and glory spurned by the baffling bedroom bred piece-de-resistance of Big Star meets Beach Boys on Northern Soul digging dance floors, (though these beatific-pop influences still shine on “Mecca”). It’ll still be a marvel of pop/rock potential set against the milieu of schmaltzy, heartless, auto-tuned shells of pop clogging up the mainstream, and the all-buzz/no-action bands distracting the blogosphere. What else can I say? If you don’t know by now…

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