Review Summary: Mini Mansions debuts its experimental rock/pop sound with alluring results
When Queens of the Stone Age went on hiatus in 2009, the wealth of talent possessed by each band member was spread across four side projects. Of the band’s spawns, The Dead Weather (ft. Jack White) and Them Crooked Vultures (ft. Dave Grohl) have accumulated the largest following, leaving bassist Michael Shuman’s Mini Mansions in the relative unknown corners of the rock genre spectrum. With the release of Mini Mansion’s 2010 self-titled full-length debut, expect that to change.
harkens back to the Beatles’ hay day, only with a heavier emphasis on the band’s experimental and psychedelic qualities. On more than one occasion, Shuman’s vocals are also reminiscent of a darker, more sinister sounding Elliott Smith. This isn’t meant to raise your expectations too high, because the album is definitely not perfect…but Mini Mansions
offers a glimpse into the group’s flavor for genre experimentation. The results aren’t always there, but when they are at their best, Mini Mansions resuscitate 1960’s psych-pop and inject it with the brooding, dark elements of twentieth century alt-rock.
The album starts off promising enough, with a haunting ambiance that is driven by a buzzing bass line and sinister sounding piano keys. Michael Shuman’s vocals are just ominous enough to perfect the atmosphere, creating a chilling introduction in “Vignette #1.” As a complete work, Mini Mansions
has a peculiar, almost ghostly air about it that the band sells extremely well. The first track exemplifies this, although it hardly covers the record’s expansive sound. “The Room Outside”, with its organ-like synthesizers and lush vocal harmonies, further contributes to the psych-pop nature that remains a fixture throughout the twelve track LP. Whether Shuman is chanting, humming, or singing gleefully, the “spirit of the album” is never broken. In fact, the greatest strength here might be Mini Mansions’ ability to incorporate so many different sounds and styles into one steady, unwavering atmosphere.
While this consistency is commendable, it also tends to make Mini Mansions
drag on. The music’s tempo rarely changes from what might be described as a brisk jog, always on the verge of breaking out into a full sprint, but never quite getting there. At the same time, it never slows down to walk for a few minutes either. In other words, the album simply lacks spontaneity. Over the latter half of the album, many of the song structures start to become repetitive, and the new ideas brought to the table lose their luster within the all-too similar surroundings. This isn’t to say that the music becomes predictable
, per se, but it gradually loses its ability to hold 100% of the listener’s focus. At times, this flaw actually gives the album a cool cyclical feel…but more often than not, it simply detracts from the album’s listenable qualities.
is a difficult album to pin down. From a technical standpoint, the album is quite good. It is catchy and memorable because of the rock/pop qualities retained from the band’s Queens of the Stone Age background. However, it also shows artistic ambition stemming from the gloomy psychedelic influences that bassist Michael Shuman injects into that original formula. These results are evident primarily through the consistent atmospheric elements; although the lack of variation in tempo and structure end up damaging their effect. For the most part, though, listeners will be pleased with the creepy, accessible, and most importantly new
sound. Mini Mansions
is a debut full of intriguing musical ideas, and if nothing else, that will earn the band at least a portion of the side-project spotlight. If Mini Mansions continue to refine their sound, and if they make their individual songs more distinguishable, the band just might steal that spotlight completely.