Review Summary: Some of the best of the San Diego Sound that wasn't from San Diego
“No, you don’t know how I feel.” Could emo, or, hell, punk come up with a more clichéd lyric? The punks had been playing the misunderstood teenager card for more than fifteen years before Mohinder were conceived. Yet, Mohinder had something
that very few of their forefathers did. Placing an exact value on that elusive “something” is likely why Mohinder has carried the influence they have, even with less than thirty minutes of low-fi chaos (without repeats) to call a discography.
It appears that this review has been given a goal, and that would be to pin down this “something” mentioned above. The liner notes of this CD have a non band member saying that for Mohinder “tags like ‘punk,’ let alone ‘rock ’n roll,’ seem antiquated in comparison; ‘emo’ is redundant and, in this case, wholly insufficient.” While to a degree this is valid, it would be foolish to presume that they fall into none of those categories. All three of those simple tags capture an essence of what Mohinder were, but they fail to tell the whole story. There are obvious elements of powerviolence, just as there are blinks of mathy-serenity. There are sonic assaults of feedback right alongside passionate screams. The instrumentation for the album is generally based around simple hardcore, but with perhaps more emo “loud/soft” dynamics. The real seller for the instrumentation, however, is the bass. It manages to be the driving force for many of the songs on this compilation. From the first seconds of the first song you can hear it sinisterly take charge of any songs that the vocals fail to grab a hold of. The bass is certainly more audible on the first of the EPs, but within the broad context of hardcore it is extremely prevalent on all of the songs. This provides a depth, and a “groove” that that most similar bands fail to ever achieve.
The vocals throughout the career of the band generally match the speed of the instruments, but tend to be delivered in a sort of spastic scream with rare spoken word portions. Lyrically the album is what you would expect from a band in their position. They generally comprise the typical introspective thoughts of alienation along with personal identity, something that has been done millions of times since. Not that they should be ignored because of their semi-predictable nature. The only reason that a band that screams at the top of their lungs about their deepest emotions is not as relevant today is because we do not live in 1994. Within the context of their scene and time what they were doing was revolutionary, and the fact that they are influential for it is not as much wonderful as it is necessary
Even with all of the influence and history in this release there are still negative aspects with the music. Those negative aspects are few, and not particularly important within the original release format, however the discography format inevitably has its downsides. The first songs on each EP are all of a different recording quality than the song before them, which does admittedly detract from a cohesive release. There is also the issue of having 18 songs recorded within a four month period. It is rare that bands in that time frame grow into their own sound. Fortunately Mohinder did develop their own sound for those four months, but they only developed a single sound, as opposed to any expansion upon their typical song structures. Most of the songs on this album run at a standard velocity, have standard vocal delivery and fairly similar instrumentation. Coupled with the fact that the over half-hour of live tracks are almost all repeats of the studio songs can make listening to all of this straight through somewhat daunting. Fortunately though, Mohinder do not forsake us to horrible live tracks. In fact, the second of the live tracks, the 27 minute one, has fairly high quality recording, and is essentially the studio tracks in a different order. So, beyond the typical constraints of a discography release we have no reason to fault Mohinder.
It would appear I never identified the “something” that I said I was going to earlier in the review. Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe the fact that Mohinder have this evasive quality is why they are classic. Perhaps it’s somewhere in the schizophrenic bass, perhaps it’s somewhere in those bombastic vocals, or, perhaps it is within four passionate guys trying to make some passionate music.