The Mysterines live are like a punch in the mouth. In a good way. Well, I suppose punches to the mouth are rarely, if ever, positive. So they’re nothing like an actual fist in the kisser, but the energy that exuberates off them on stage leaves you feeling like someone has definitely tampered with your countenance, if not outright assaulted it.
The Liverpudlian four-piece have been broadly covered with reference to their obvious influences. Anything you read about them will no doubt have referred to PJ Harvey and listed various grunge artists. The Harvey influence is, perhaps, the most audible in the phrasing and attitude of Lia Metcalfe’s vocal delivery.
All of the chat comparing them to acts from the last century’s final decade does them a disservice, to be honest. Along with the aforementioned Metcalfe, Callum Thompson (guitar), George Favager (bass), and Paul Crilly (drums) belong firmly in the current moment. Plus, they do occasionally give off the occasional Banshees or Cramps vibe, as well as there being a distinct dollop of glam stomping.
Opening track ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)’ starts with a rasping, mildly overdriven riff before gyrating viciously straight into your ear. The chorus is, on first listen, almost too anthemic and feels slightly unwieldy when compared to the main riff. However, on repeated listens, it acts more as a structural, soaring relief than a traditional refrain.
‘…Hung Up’ was released as a single in October and is already a fan favourite. It has enough rhythmic energy to move a permanently berthed burger van but the overlapping coda and chorus in the last minute elevates it with harmonic pop sensibilities to balance the raw scuzz of the guitar track.
‘Reeling’ strays slightly from the bombastic trend set by the opening two tracks, with a slinkier tempo, a moodier, more yearning tone, and the album’s best guitar solo.
My lowkey favourite on the album, ‘Old Friends / Die Hard,’ has all the sleazy, air-humping energy of a Jon Spencer side project, while ‘Dangerous’ is disappointingly not a cover of the Michael Jackson song but the most recent single release. You’ll have heard it – it’s the one with the piano out of I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges over the chorus.
‘On The Run’ is one of only two songs on the whole record that were obviously written on an acoustic guitar at some point. The lead guitars really take centre stage, flitting between blues-rock pentatonic runs and big country slides.
‘Under Your Skin’ is a slow, swelling tale of mutual infatuation and seeming annoyance. A dream- destroying relationship suffering from being too sexually charged. If ever a song suggested a rainswept, shady city street, this is it.
One of four singles already released, ‘The Bad Thing’ is probably their best single so far, moving from a greasy riff with tonnes of bend into a chopping thrash of emotion.
The lyrics to ‘In My Head’ blur the line between the idea of a former relationship and whether that idea can be classified as a ghost or a phantom, and play with occult imagery in a sweeping gust of the darker side of desire.
‘Means To Bleed’ is where, I think, the band show their raw, roaring chutzpah in its neatest form. The riff, when played clean, is not a million miles away from a certain Metallica song about Sandmen and struggling to nod off but when the whole band open up on it and Lia’s room-filling yelp reaches its peak, it’s hard not to feel the uncooked nature of their energy, even in a studio-recorded format.
‘All These Things’ changes the guitar tones up a good bit with an intro on a satisfyingly treble- heavy pick-up. If earlier songs conjure images of rainy streets in Gotham, this is the sound of an open road, albeit one tinged with a sense of regret so palpable that it aids singing along in empathy.
A chopping acoustic guitar not unreminiscent of ‘C’mon Billy’ by PJ Harvey forms the backbone to ‘Still Call You Home’ while the flesh, brain, and consciousness of the song come directly from Metcalfe’s vocals building and reacting to everything around her.
Almost a perfect closing track, ‘The Confession Song’ adds backwards samples and droning noises over the slow toms or bongos that form most of the rhythm track, while a demonically double- tracked vocal exudes an emotional nudity not many peers could approach.
In terms of a debut album, Reeling is that rarest of artefacts – a debut where the band feel like they’ve landed on their own perfectly formed plinth with no half measures in terms of their identity. They’re not creating a new genre by any means (not that anyone singularly does, ever) but they are in such a naturally matured state already that they could easily spin into any musical direction they fancy. I’m sure most of their already numerous devotees would want them to stay firmly on the dark, anguished, yet sexy path they’ve firmly set out on.