It’s all too convenient for artists from the 1980s to trade off on their established reputations and recorded output. Too few bother with new material and leave the creative cue permanently in the rack. Thank your lucky stars that Mick Medew doesn’t subscribe to such a theory, for Open Season stands as one of the best albums he has released, and quite possibly, his piece de resistance. Being acquainted with Mick Medew’s music for some 35 years now, that’s not a statement that’s made lightly.
Whilst 2009’s album with The Rumours was a welcome return to the garage rock fray (and make no mistake, that is a record that stacks up next to any in the Screaming Tribesmen catalogue), it was 2013’s self-titled album with the Mesmerisers, with its prevalence of powerpop / alt-country leanings (ie: ‘Bloodsucking A Small Town, Falling Down Again, On Fire), that hinted at what was to come.
Six years later, and a long time in the making, Open Season is the outcome. Simply put, this is a superb collection of finely crafted powerpop / country tunes with an abundance of melody that shows a band brimming with confidence. And as they should, for with Open Season, they have delivered 10 super catchy songs with masterly arrangements and plenty of pop hooks. And while there is enough garage-rockisms to satisfy the purists, it’s the country propensities on Open Season that really shine through.
From guitar effects to multiple harmonies, use of instrumentation and construction of the melodies – the arrangements on this album are incredible. No wonder it took so long for this sophomore Mesmerisers album to see the light of day. Pop perfection, and make no mistake, that’s what we have here, takes time to craft. It’s truly a collective too, with all band members playing out of their skins. Brian Mann (guitar), and Michael Charles (drums) both ex-Tribesmen, never sounded better on their respective instruments, and with the prodigious bass of Lois Andrews there is no chance of any slack. Andrews also adds further flavour to the mix with her appealing harmony vocals. In fact a key ingredient to most of the material on this album is the well placed use of harmony vocals that really do add additional polish to each tune.
Let’s take a look at some of the songs on Open Season. ‘Imaginary Friend’ is expansive powerpop of the highest order. This is a monster. Upbeat, memorable chorus and the arrangement of the jangly guitars is first rate. Peter Perrett eat your heart out. I find it hard to single out certain songs on this record over others, when as a collective they are all top shelf, but it’s hard not to go past ‘Why Did I Fall In Love With You’ as a standout. If this isn’t pop perfection of epic proportions then I don’t know what is. Flush with achingly gorgeous harmonies, sing along chorus and a lush arrangement, this is one hell of a sweet pop song with a late 60’s country edge. Think Badfinger, the Raspberries and Chris Hillman. Tall reference points yes, but in this instance, completely justified.
If more trad. 60’s powerpop be your thing, ‘Thin Line’ more than suffices. With its chiming McGuinn-like guitar, striking harmonies and singalong chorus, this is irresistible pop of the highest order. ‘Something Going On’ is again, stellar garage rock with a liberal supply of harmony vocals and a killer riff that underscores the whole thing.
History has shown that Medew can rock hard, yet he always had subtleties in his song writing arsenal, and a penchant for pop. Take a listen to ‘(I Want To) Mess With You’ or ‘Dreaming Of You’ from 1986’s Top Of The Town EP as notable examples of this. Fast forward to 2019 and he has delivered the quintessential summer road trip/holiday radio anthem in ‘Sun’. This is killer pop with a feel-good vibe, a singalong chorus and harmony vocals –what’s not to like ? This has hit single written all over it. Surf’s up! With its energetic vibe, the frenetic, fun and totally danceable ‘No More Monkey’ is also hard to resist. Primates-a go-go.
Yet it’s the country infused tunes on Open Season that really hit the mark. With its slide guitar subtleties, super catchy chorus and expansive qualities, ‘Exile On Boundary Street’ is simply sublime. There’s a legitimate early 70’s Stones/Flying Burrito sway going on here, as there is with much of the other material, and that can only be a good thing. Super catchy tune. With its low-down guitar and pop-edge, Sweet Dreams’, is yet another winner. I absolutely love the rollicking ‘Deep River’ which is a total Fogerty/Faces romp complete with harmonica and piano and a ripping solo to boot. I for infectious and then some.
Take a bow Mick Medew, Brian Mann, Michael Charles and Lois Andrews. With Open Season, you have created one hell of a country infused powerpop album that doesn’t forsake the garage rock origins one iota. This is compelling listening – and one of the albums of the year. Radio programmers are you listening? Forget the overhyped Greta Van Fleets of this world and get mesmerised. 9 out of 10. (review by Colin Gray)
Open Season is out 1st of June on I-94 Bar Records
Mick Medew & The Mesmerisers – Facebook