Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 21/4
Written by: TL on 17/04/2017 12:43:17
To have a career trajectory like UK's Mallory Knox, that's pretty much the dream. Emerging with a "Pilot" EP jam-packed with potential in 2011, the Cambridge quintet marched straight onto the BBC radio playlists with their first two albums, 2013's "Signals" and 2014's "Asymmetry", and coming back, now releasing through mighty RCA, it's probably no wonder that the band's new album "Wired" sounds positively - often ridiculously - larger than life. Just the opening drum of "Giving It Up", and their echoing crash, make it sound like you're in for an album recorded in an aircraft hangar with just "too much" written all over it.
What you come to realise as you listen through the record is, though, is that "too much" is exactly what's on the agenda, as the wide-eyed pop-rockers have now grown up and set their sights on hard-rocking like icons of rock greatness past. Borrowing guitar twang from Soundgarden, "Wired" soon establishes itself as a slugfest between urges to be as hard, dirty and groovy as a Guns N' Roses track, and as blazing and outlandishly excited as a Journey classic.
The band chugs back and forth between those two poles without relent in the back, with the out of control power levels of a freight train with the break handle broken off, which could arguably run the risk of growing a bit derivative, if it wasn't brought home by some inhuman feats of vocal weight lifting from lead singer Mikey Chapman. Already from the stretched out and quivering croons of "Giving It Up" 's verses you're clued into the fact that Chapman has been in frightening form in the vocal booth, and this really is the least of it.
Obvious highlight tracks are "California" and "Falling In Love", and the former in particular jumps right off the playlist as a banger for the ages. It's a song that races towards sunlit beaches with an excitement that's irresistibly contagious, swooning and falling over as if with joyous laughter just as it makes it into the waves. Later on "Falling In Love" gets going with some admittedly corny sentimentality, yet soon arrives at one of the band's devilishly infectious pre-choruses, that etches itself into your memory in spite of all resistance, and when you actually pay attention to the song, the progression is awesome, steadily building towards the third verse, where Chapman performs a herculean, blow-out-your-voice type of controlled roaring that should instill inferiority complexes in any budding singers taking a listen.
Then there's "Midnight", which offers one of those positively transcendent, adventurously surging bridge sections in the second half that you imagine taking concert settings from 'anxious' to 'off the chain' in one deft swoop. There's "Lucky Me", which settles down to a slobberknocker of a rollicking hard-rock breakdown, there's the careening climax of "Saviour", where Chapman reaches a wavering pinnacle as he demands "Stop waiting for Jesus to save us all, it's up to us now!", and there's the unifying, choir-centric, family-bonding finale of "Mother", which rounds off the album rather nicely.
There are only two obvious flaws on "Wired", specifically "For You" and "Come Back Around", which show that the band has chinks in its armour when trying to mellow things out and take a more calmly sentimental tone. "For You" in particular breaks up the early album annoyingly, like a song guest-written by Train mainly for the fans' mothers in the back or something, while "Come Back Around" feels like one of the Thirty Seconds To Mars songs from their latest album, where they got a bit ahead of their audience in their starry-eyedness, losing the listener on the way.
Omit those two and you have an almost flawless demonstration of power from Mallory Knox, despite the fact that it sounds almost too big and is characterised by that slight sense of being in a rush that young rock bands commonly have about them. Critical music fans might feel like writing it off based on glance value, deeming it a too obvious bid at contemporary radio rock without much depth, but that would be missing the point, which isn't actually lyrical or emotional severity in this case. It's more the idea of rock as an awesome force that lifts the listener out of everyday life and out of ironic distance, over into evenings of all out gleeful partying and exuberance, the way sleaze and glam rock has classically done when at their best. That's what's snuck into the edge of Mallory Knox's sound on this one, and that's what they do with as deft a touch as they've done pretty much anything so far.
Download: California, Falling In Love, Saviour, Midnight
For The Fans Of: Twin Atlantic, You Me At Six, The Marmozets
Release date 10.03.2017
RCA / Sony Music Entertainment