Tropicália, highlife and flamenco styles combine on Mice Parade’s latest LP.
Rich Hanscomb 2010
Chief, er, Mouse, Adam Pierce, has impeccable credentials within the post-rock pantheon. From his early dalliance with Dub Narcotic Sound System-indebted The Dylan Group to his pan-global collaborative project Mice Parade, Pierce has rarely sat upon his indie-rock laurels. This might account for Mice Parade’s evergreen status as the expanding cast of musicians Pierce utilises daub his sound design with eclectic colours, suffusing his output with a freshness rarely found in a band in its second decade of existence.
What It Means to Be Left-Handed encompasses Pierce’s interest in tropicália, highlife and flamenco as well as his very own folk music: American indie-rock. Proceedings kick off with Kupanda, its use of West African kora underpinning a sprightly and joyous melody before In Between Times, a crash-cymbal-heavy rush of leftfield rock featuring Caroline Lufkin on vocals, sets the album’s early template. Lufkin crops up regularly, her elfin vocal inflection sweetening Pierce’s deadpan delivery as they compete with a maelstrom of percussion and rasgueado guitars. It often works, as in the aforementioned track, and on Do Your Eyes See Sparks, which stutters with muted, autumnal melancholy. But it grates on Couches and Carpets, which no amount of intricate time signatures can save from blandness.
Pierce is at his most immediate when he strips it back as exemplified by the Buffalo Tom-style power-pop of Mallo Cup. Disciplined moments are exceptional here and recent converts to Mice Parade might find the second half of the album a more challenging prospect. The undeniably pretty but structurally un-tethered likes of Tokyo Late Night or Mary Ann assuage rather than genuinely affect one’s cranium. Even is hampered the most by this apparent lack of purpose, its initially strident groove tailing off into a meandering shuffle and long fade.
Still, What It Means to Be Left-Handed contains more ideas than most guitar bands muster in their entire careers and will certainly consolidate Pierce’s core cult audience. One could argue that Pierce has earned the right to roam wherever his muse takes him. Luckily for us the results are, for the most part, compelling and inventive.
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