A sensational debut record let down by average production.
The Manic Shine have managed that elusive beast: the fantastic debut which always justifies a critic’s penchant for savage criticism and declarations of how it could have been so much better.
There is so much to like about this record: interesting songs played with passion, practiced precision, and probably in pretty purple pride pants. Flash. Without relying on a formula the songs have the stop/start aesthetic that the kids are now calling a ‘drop’, which tethers this release firmly in 2013 and will mean that it’s completely antiquated by 2015.
However, right now it’s freakishly moreish in the same way that neck tattoos look good on young strippers. That is to say: “OK, box checked, proceed”.
Where this album lets itself down are in the following ways: the singer’s voice, while not bad, is annoying and desperately requires some production shine, perhaps even pitch control. The reliance on digital effects that aren’t warmed by a vacuum tube, reamped through a rode mic, or simply replaced by analogue equipment gives the album a tinny quality that grates in an instant.
The lyrics are dire; we know these kids are straight out of college, but for Christ’s sake pick up a paper, read the liner notes of a Rage Against The Machine album, Youtube some documentaries on the protest movement or, better yet, talk to your Middle Eastern parents.
Use music as reportage, conjure narrative, do something other than these self important pronouncements on alienation – which of course are great when they’re implied creatively, but do we need another song with a wall analogy? No we do not.
Yeah yeah, the album was “recorded live – without a click track, protools, or any other studio gimmicry” but what does that mean? A single take of each song? No overdubs? No EQing? No Mixing Desk? No monitoring?
Apparently it means that it was recorded without someone saying: “I think we have enough treble here, I really think this could use some compression, do you have an amp with valves? Can you roll back the treble a bit or even not use the bridge pick-up so much? If we’re making a live recording why not get a mobile studio and record a live gig with audience ambience, and never use an pitch pedal as a wah accent”
So why’s it so good?
The songs are strongly crafted and exciting, they build successfully and have the right mix of tech metal complexity with psychedelic passages that induce wide smiles (neck tattoo or not).
sink back into the mix
and the listener can let go
The guitar interplay is way above average fantastic, riffing off each other, pushing the music into stratospheric trippy heights and reminiscent of some tasty prog, it’s deliciousness itself.
So the final word is that this a brilliant record that lets itself down by poor production and a little inexperience vocally. Happily though, most stereos these days allow you to turn the treble down and push up the bass and mid frequencies. Once rectified, the vocals sink back into the mix and the listener can let go as musical bliss ensues.
The Manic Shine are: Ozzie Rogers, Orren Karp, James ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, and Tamir Karp.