Mice Parade: What It Means to Be Left-Handed (Fat Cat Records)
Almost every band hits a point where the members decide it’s time to start mixing things up a bit, and while this can sometimes lead to greatness, it can also lead to a giant mess. Generally, there seem to be a few common factors that influence the reaction of a band’s audience when a change is made to the overall sound it’s followers are used to. For example, if the change is too drastic, the fans tend to feel the band has lost what originally drew the listeners to it in the first place. This is understandable. People devote a lot of time to bands they like, whether it be listening to the music, going to shows, seeking out merch, etc., and many start to feel a very personal connection to the musicians and the music produced. If a drastic change takes place, it feels like getting stabbed in the back by a friend. (Am I right Hopesfall fans?)
But since the majority of good, long-lasting bands do end up shifting some things around throughout their lifetime and still manage to appease listeners, there must be a certain time when the fans have matured along with the music and understand why alterations are necessary. Mice Parade is hoping listeners are at the point, but the group is also taking things slow and easing listeners into it.
Mice Parade has undergone fairly large changes in the past, such as moving from the solo project of Adam Pierce to a full-fledged band, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone when new sounds start sneaking through the speakers as What It Means to Be Left-Handed is played the first time. Whether or not those changes will be welcome is another story. The album opener, “Kupanda,” might be one of the worst songs the Parade has ever pressed, and this obviously isn’t a good sign right off the bat. Filled with ethnic drums and vocals by Swahili singer Somi, the song is just out of place on an album put out by this band. Another time and place, it wouldn’t seem so strange and would probably be enjoyable. Luckily, as I said, the group is bringing the changes in a little bit at a time, so the next few songs are 100% Mice Parade, exhibiting the plucked guitars, technical percussion, and keen sense of melody the group is known for. Band member Caroline Lufkin, who also records solo as Caroline on Temporary Residence Records, offers prominent vocals on this release, and this adds an extremely pleasant dynamic as her voice bounces off of Pierce’s. More female vocals are given by Meredith Godreau of Gregory & The Hawk on “Do You See Sparks,” which is one of the best tracks on the record. There are other subtle changes besides the reliance on female vocals throughout the record. Some tracks carry a more downtempo feel, and some have a jangly pop sensibility, but these work, making most of the album quite good.
Notice I said most of the album. The album’s opener was already discussed, and anyone that might be hoping that track was the only miscue is going to be a little disappointed. For some reason, the band felt doing a few covers would be a good idea. It wasn’t. Again, it’s not that these songs are so terrible; it’s that they are completely out of place on the album, and they can kill the overall mood that was being set. It just doesn’t seem to make sense when a cover of The Lemonheads’ “Mallo Cup” suddenly shows up out of nowhere. It’s literally confusing, especially since the song isn’t covered in a “Mice Parade-esque” way. It’s just “Mallo Cup” played by another band. The final song on the album, as well as the second cover, is “Mary Anne” by Tom Brosseau, and while this song fits in with the record as a whole much better than The Lemonheads song, it doesn’t wrap up the record properly, which is just unfortunate, especially since the majority of this album was meticulously crafted.
So Mice Parade figured it was time to try some different things, and there is nothing wrong with that… ideally. The smaller changes are spot-on, but the big ones simply miss the mark. The tracks containing these almost seem auxiliary to the rest of the record, like they were afterthoughts. However, even though there are some songs the band should have left off the release, the bulk of this record is really good and deserves a listen.
Album drops September 14th.