red lights


Sublime sounds that lack passion

Mellowdrone - Box
(3 Entertainment/Red Ink/Columbia)
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 9, 2006

Review by Andy Argyrakis

If there's ever an award to be given to an unsigned act that's opened for some of the coolest bands, it's hands down - Mellowdrone. Aside from touring with The Smiths' iconic Johnny Marr and his group The Healers (both in Europe and America) this Jonathan Bates- led project has also logged stage time with The Killers, Secret Machines, Elbow and Fire Theft. Along the way, the enigmatic entity also inked a major label deal and readied the official national debut disc Box by recording at various Los Angeles studios with producer Tony Berg (Beck, X). The results are a hodgepodge of all the aforementioned road mates, plus a lot of laptop derived electronics that move from melancholy to dreaminess to downright pulsating in one instance.

The most upbeat track on the record "Oh My" is the direction this disc should've taken, falling somewhere between the Manchester birthed briskness of The Smiths and the modern day dance revival perpetuated by The Killers. But the outcome for the most part is Bates diving so deep into his computer for sublime sounds that the album comes across insular and lacks the connection of the aforementioned track and the atmospheric live experience. Cuts like "Four Leaf Clover" and "Beautiful Day" sound like demos in their uncompleted format, and in that sense hold promise of what could possibly develop. But considering they are indeed on the final product makes one wonder why they weren't fleshed out to include more passion, energy and production value, especially considering Berg's previous clients.

That's not to say artists like Beck don't have their fair share of sparse moments, but there's a difference between stripped down and incomplete, which is exactly how "And Repeat" and "Amazing" also come across. Though Mellowdrone comes a bit closer to hitting the mark on the ethereal "Whatever the Deal" and "C'Mon Try a Little Bit" (falling somewhere between Radiohead and Elbow) it still fails to genuinely stir to the point of purchase. If anything, Box points out that there are plenty of bands with the same intentions as Mellowdrone, but most of them come across much better and bolder.

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