2004-06-04 08:52:14 ET

to be alive
you must begin
to look closer,
dig deeper,
find beauty everywhere;
revel in each find.
Find the goodness
each thing has.
It's easy
you just
keep in mind
the littlest
of the "nothing"
you look over
each passing day.
The simple, quiet
of sitting
under a tree,
under a blue sky,
being very still,
wrapped up
in an X-Men
Summer at it's zenith.

Review - "Mistress and Men"
2004-06-04 04:01:57 ET

band: Mass Hysteria
label: Primary Voltage
album: Mistress and Men

It's been a little over a year since the first outing of Mass Hysteria, "Waiting For the Day," and boy have they come far. Starting out years ago as a pop-punk-ska band in the vein of No Doubt, Mass. Hysteria has slowly and deliberatly shed that image for the more sophisticated, almost throw-back-ish feel of their now mix of indy-rock and reggae.
To describe their feel is almost impossible, but I'll try. Mass. Hysteria brings enough skank and groove to keep you dancing, but if you take a second to listen to the words and the vocals, there's enough there to interest those of us who like meaning to their songs. The sound comes from tight pop melodies backed by jazzy horns, and a soft, dare I say sultry female lead.
To the Review! Mistress and Men is a tighter album than "Wating" due simply to the consistancy of style present in all 12 tracks. The previous album tried various styles from reggae to jazz to salsa... which is fine for your first time out - you're showing your chops, proving you're capable. Fine. But the second album should show purpose, some sort of plan or design for your band. And Mistress does that well. Opening up with two similar tunes, "Wear and Tear" and "Simple Life," both featuring Alex Sterns "Lit-Class" style poetry-for-lyrics, both are ska songs about the loss of innocence one feels after entering the "real world."
Lead singer Rachel Eliot pens the next song, and obviously as it hits ranges vocally that the men in the band wouldn't have thought to bring up. "No Longer Blue" reminds me of some 40's movie cabaret show, where there'd be just one lady up on stage singing to a crowd full of men wishing she'd shut up and take her clothes off. Totally self-impowering.
"Smear Campaign" (which I believe is available on the web-page), is a great election year song, though not about politics. This pop-influenced song is fueled by the animosity and lies two people feed others after a break up. The horns really "pop" this song into motion. Speaking of horns...
The next song is written by saxaphonist Chris Brunelle, formerly of Westbound Train, now part of Mass Hysteria (obviously). "Decide" is unique on this album, sadly, as it's the only song that trades vocals between Rachel and a male singer. I liked that effect on the first album, and hoped to hear more on the second, but Chris' soft alto mixes wonderfully with Rachel and just melts the song into your brain. Also, the trumpet intro into this song is just inspired. Hopefully we'll hear more writing from Chris, as it seems more atuned to Mass Hysteria than Westbound.
"I Won't Tell" is another very poppy, catchy song. If they needed a single, I'd probably suggest this, or "Song for You." Both are ear-worms, meaning they will have you whistling the rest of the day, and both are fun dance numbers.
"Cheap Thrills" and "The Insecure One" almost feel like "throw-away songs" (which every album is allowed.)
"Zombie in Memphis" what a great song! First off, I couldn't believe we'd gone this long without an instrumental, secondly, this one is simply fun. One of those instrumentals that tells a story, it's a romping horn-driving ska song about a zombie terrorizing Memphis, with maybe a dance sequence ala Thriller in the middle.
maybe not.
If you can't say anything else from their last two albums, you can say that Mass. Hysteria knows how to end an album. From the soaring horns of "Untitled" on Waiting for the Day to the, umm... soaring horns and jazzy melodies of "Let Myself Out" and "Mistress and Men." The first is a dramatic, again, self-empowering song that leads directly into "Mistress," which is a soft jazz instrumental. I'd love to hear more songs like this in the ska world - dramatic, moving, having one or more sections or movements... It simply shows more of a attention paid to the structure and emotional feel of your songs.
Lastly, two things -
1) The one criticism I have about this album is that the songs are two short. This, I belive comes from the pop side of the band's style - quick, upbeat, catchy. But both the indy-rock and the ska/jazz stylings are begging to be let free to roam and wander. Even the last tune, and instrumental song which is aching to be let free, is killed by the fade out (as happens with a number of songs on this album.)
2) You can't talk about this album without mentioning Vic Rice. He produced the album down in San Paulo, Brazil, and it's got his fingerprints all over it. From Rachel's haunting vocals in "Decide" to the killer horns in "Song for You," it's just an example of how a killer mix to talented musicians produces a solid album. Also on the CD are two bonus Dub tracks from Mr. Rice. While I think it's odd to put bonus tracks on a first release of a CD... what the hell.

So all in all an improvement over their first album, and a must-have for anyone who enjoys intelligent writing, talented musicianship and pop melodies.

4 out of 5 stars

2004-06-02 02:48:48 ET

I really need to stop reading the theological and philisophical/ethical debates on DCSka.com.

It really makes me loose faith in humanity.

2004-06-02 02:09:35 ET

you ever get that feeling
like you're right on the tip
of the greatest thing
you ever did?

It's in your heart
it's in your soul
all you have to do is take control

2004-06-01 19:37:48 ET

Because the world is round it turns me on
Because the world is round...aaaaaahhhhhh

Because the wind is high it blows my mind
Because the wind is high......aaaaaaaahhhh

Love is all, love is new
Love is all, love is you

Because the sky is blue, it makes me cry
Because the sky is blue.......aaaaaaaahhhh


- Lennon/McCartney

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