Review Summary: Forgotten power-emo that perhaps arrived a bit too late to be fully appreciated.
Hey Mercedes. Right, who? Most people aren't really that savvy when it comes to golden-age turn of the millennium punk-fueled emo. If anything, your average emo aficionado will more likely tell you why The Get Up Kids and Cap'n Jazz are Jesus and Guy Piccioto the lord. They'd be right, but they may have missed one band that made consistently well-written emo-punk for a newer generation of listeners.
HM arose from the ashes of the now-legendary emo stalwart band, Braid. The year 1998 saw both the release of Braid's swansong, "Frame & Canvas", along with, sadly, the dissolution of the band itself. Vocalist/guitarist Bob Nanna, bassist Todd Bell, and drummer Damon Atkinson, now found themselves at a crossroads: keep writing amazing music, or go do something else. A year later, they would choose the former and would start again under the new name, Hey Mercedes. This time, along with guitarist Mark Dawursk (and later Mike Schumaker), the former Braid chaps took to their sound with a bit more melody and overall mass-appeal. This would compliment the budding emo-punk scene (circa 1999) to almost a perfect T, with the rise of bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids, and Further Seems Forever. In 2000, the band inked a deal with Vagrant. How startlingly appropriate.
6 years, 300+ shows, 3 EPs, and 2 LPs would pass before the four fellows from Champaign, Illinois, would cease operations in 2005, making the Hey Mercedes lifetime a painfully short one.
But back to business. While the band was still a band, their second LP, "Loses Control", was released on Vagrant in 2003. A video for the lead-off track, Quality Revenge At Last
, was made. What a great song it is too, I might add. Listening to it may have you question how you've never heard the song before in your entire life. It almost reaches out of the speakers and dances with you, putting you in your place. Bob Nanna has such a soothing tone, only made exponentially more eerie with the double-tracked vocals utilized throughout the album. Say what you will about the genre, but this album is at no point desperate, screeching, nor whiny. It's just fun, hook-laden power pop, almost fooling everyone looking for any trace of a familiar emo acclimation.
This is Bob Nanna at his absolute most digestible. With Loses Control, he proves to everyone that his once rough and sloppy vocal approach in Braid could transform over time into a perfect breathy resonance over shockingly well-produced power-pop tunes. For examples of Nanna's vocal prowess, see It's Been A Blast
, and Police Police Me
One thing I noticed about this band is their odd ability to make not the first, but the second half of their albums, the highlight of the experience. With their 2001 debut, "Everynight Fireworks", it seems the standout songs lie on the flipside as opposed to Side A. The same is applied to Loses Control. While lackluster songs like Playing Your Song
and Knowing When To Stop
are presented in the first few tracks, wonderful gems like Oh Penny
and Absolute Zero Drive
are found at the very end of the album. When stacked up against most albums in the emo-punk genre, this dynamic, or dare I say, strategy, is pretty elusive. Nonetheless, the record is chock-ful of hidden gems and perfect moments that you've probably been missing from your collection of lovable and nostalgic way-back-when emo.
In conclusion, I found this band pretty late in the game. Needless to say, I'm a little regretful for the sentiment, as I've become completely infatuated with the approach Hey Mercedes took to their sound and how elusive they became once they became inactive. While most of their catalogue is completely worth the listen, 2003's Loses Control is a forgotten emo-punk opus that may have arrived a bit too late for a scene gravitating towards other avenues of various and countless sub-genres, and will most likely never be fully appreciated.
Quality Revenge At Last
It's Been A Blast
Police Police Me