Friday, October 24, 2008

Mustache | Le Probleme C'est Toi!


For the men of Mustache, the last great movement in rock n' roll was grunge. They continue that proud tradition with some modifications on their debut EP Le Probleme C'est Toi! ("You Are The Problem!"), crafting an altogether refreshing outlook on angst. Yes, the dual piston pumps of aggression and melodicism are there, but the cynicism is not. What, you ask, is sincere grunge? No, it isn't the antithesis to Seattle's best export. It's riff-crazy rock n' roll with an uncanny ability to nail down buoyant melodies that don't assault or shock the listener's sensibilities. If some of the melodies sail where the lyrics sink, it's a measure of the band's growth and potential.

"Deep in the Ocean" opens the album with a bit of feedback that bursts into two separate riffs, one hard as bricks, the other a spiral. Lead guitarist Rub
én Aybar plays multiple roles in the tune, from joint riffing with bassman Robert Fernández and rhythm guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Schmidt to a slide lead in the fabulous chorus. The various guitar layers are balanced by Rubén's brother, Carlos, on the drum kit, crashing cymbals with chord changes and changing textures with his brother’s licks. If only the lyrics matched the musical makeup. The chorus lyrics (“Deep in the ocean/no one can save you/it’s up to you/to survive”) resemble a survival show voiceover in the Discovery Channel. Schmidt’s vocal histrionics at the song’s end mimic Chris Cornell. And like Matthew Bellamy of Muse channeling Thom Yorke, it’s not a good thing.

The most successful songs of the bunch are and “Connect” and the album-closer, “So Bright.” “Connect” is a lilting ballad that partially suffers from the awkward song title-as-chorus. With hints of Incubus and early Live, the song leaves a lasting impact through Rubén’s stuttering lead and Fernández's spacious playing. Similarly, “So Bright” benefits from being at a slow tempo, which gives the band room to move and breathe, unlike the breakneck, riff-fests of the previous tunes. Schmidt’s voice sounds like his own on this song, too, a deep tenor with restrained emotion. Rubén and Carlos trade syncopated accents in the song’s middle breakdown, before the guitarist lets it fly and creates a synesthetic moment with his trusty slide.

Le Problem C’est Toi! has two phases: pre-“So Bright” and “So Bright.” The song represents the band’s ability to loosen the grip on their influences and take bold, independent steps forward without the use of a rearview mirror. Their next album should thoroughly explore that territory. For now though, with their strong debut EP, Mustache has established themselves as rock n’ roll disciples on a mission to restore order to a genre gone emo on our asses.

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