Mellow Drunk's second full-length is so soused on guitar pop worship that it works as a makeshift shrine to every great guitar band of the last twenty years. That the band is able to do this while simultaneously creating its own shimmering, incandescent melodies is a testament to not only a tight record collection, but a band at ease with its muse and its talents.
The SF-based group creates pop in the classic Roger McGuinn style -- crystalline guitar leads that split into literary narratives, break into spectral choruses, return to the leads, and quickly fade away. But the band doesn't sound like West Coast revisionists. Instead, it draws from something darker and distinctly singular. It could be Leigh Gregory's voice -- gentle, slightly stripped, and breathy, recalling David J on the early Love and Rockets records (you know, the good ones). It could be the guitars, which sort of bend, spiral, gleam, and generally circumnavigate the airspace before leaving surreptitiously through the vent. More than anything, it's Never Sleep's brevity, generating two- or three-minute pop songs that function as little rock 'n' roll businessmen -- they get in, establish the theme, and get the hell out with very little time for nonsense.
The best tracks are the ones that carry the least amount of adornments, songs like "There for You," "Before and After Them," and "Very Strange Times" -- acoustic-led numbers that show the band at its simplest, most direct, and most affecting. When the band gathers its strengths, muscles up, and starts venturing into more amplified headspace, it works just as well, as Mellow Drunk places more emphasis on clarity and tune than just sonic overload. All in all, the band's pop excavations provide more than a glimmer of hope to anyone who fears the legacy of the paisley vest has been forgotten.
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