Review Summary: more of the same but far, far less.
So perhaps by now everyone should be used to Mono repeating the same bag of tricks ad nauseam. It comes as no surprise really, the last 3 albums have technically been the same story each time, but the big difference is that they were good. Complain all you like about Hymn to the Immortal Wind
dragging on at points, when that album hit its stride it damn well hit
. The sound was huge, gargantuan and blunt in all of the most pleasing ways because all of the original ideas and execution of those ideas was just so pleasing. The huge orchestra, and pulverizing post-rock climaxes we know and love, the dynamics between the beautiful sombre pieces and the crushing waves of guitars so heavy that Mono actually end up grinding the plectrums. Not to mention the stellar production work courtesy of Steve Albini expanding and infinitely improving the sound that is Mono, who were as of their last album one of the strongest post-rock bands going. Now perhaps that's still true, but like most great bands, missteps happen, and Mono have finally stumbled into their first and hopefully only one. That isn't to say this album is a complete disaster, nor is it even a change in direction, more a case of Mono abandoning what made their sound good enough to just keep re-using the same aesthetics over and over which was the sheer size and weight of the sound itself. Be it the fact that many of these songs are so much calmer than on the last two albums, or the really shoddy mixing/production work behind the album that turns everything into a tinny mess as soon as the album attempts to be loud, or something else entirely, For My Parents
is Mono's least enjoyable offering yet.
The reason Hymn to the Immortal Wind
was such a huge success was because it took everything on You Are There
, their previous album and multiplied every successful aspect of it. Even though there were some flaws on the album there isn't really any reason anyone could possibly disappointed, even if many (including me) consider You Are There
to be the stronger album overall due to the latter biting off a little bit more than it can chew in terms of the length. For My Parents
strips the sound down a few notches, the post-rock elements far more subdued, the orchestra often taking the limelight, and as such the album relies far too much on the melodies being good, which they are quite often, but with the lack of depth to the sound the fact that they re-use the same tricks over and over becomes almost infuriatingly apparent. Every track here follows at least vaguely the same structure, over half of the tracks on the album having the exact same introduction, the majority of them using the same guitar progression. Every track with no exception follows the 'start quiet, get kind of loud, get quiet again and then get really loud and die away' song structure and despite the previous Mono albums being repetitive, they never quite stooped that low. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if it was performed as well as the two previous albums, or even if they came close, but it never does thanks to a few things that really can't be overlooked.
It's true that this album does have climaxes, but there are many key things that are missing from them that make them fall so, so short of what Mono are capable of. Be it the drums being low in the mix, or the drummer being tired, it's almost as if he wasn't even considered as an important part. His drumbeats, even at the very loudest this album gets are just so basic and unimaginative that it barely even carries the sound along. He was never the most proficient drummer, but that was alright because the way he played was relatively unique, taking far more from how you'd play an orchestral drum hit as opposed to a traditional rock drumkit, and it helped make the music sound so massive and expansive. Here the drumbeats are far more traditional of a post-rock band but they never really hit their stride and stay boring throughout, which is an instant wrench in the works of what made it so good before. Another mind-boggling aspect of this album is just how terrible the mixing is, whoever was responsible has some questions to answer. Everything gets totally lost with each other in a wave of treble as soon as the album tries to pick up the pace, making all of the build-ups and payoffs so unsatisfying that it defies belief that Mono actually released the album in this state. The clean tremolo-style guitars still sound great, even when the distortion comes in it can be pleasing again but the sound itself is so messy that it's almost a lost cause to critique every intricacy because the album is slaughtered from the get-go due to something so overlooked yet so important.
This album instrumentally is an exercise in what Mono has been doing for years, and perhaps there aren't many people that will look into it quite as critically as this review but it can't be ignored that several aspects of this album cut it utterly short of what this band can do. It isn't a total loss, "Nostalgia", the strongest track is worth revisiting, the flaws aside. It's the only track here that really pays off, mostly because of how well composed and infectious the melodies are. Sadly the rest of the album doesn't really approach that, let alone the past two albums. Perhaps this was an important album for Mono to do, and one can only respect that, but there's several things that let it down so much that it's difficult to defend this album in the state it's in. Perhaps the parents will feel stronger about this album than the more critical fanbase do, in which case the album is near enough a success in its own right - but I can't say the same for me. It's worth hearing, but definitely not over the last two efforts.
But at least it has orchestra and climaxes. :]