on 5 January 2003
Like me, you've probably read the reviews heralding the Mendoza Line as the "next big thing" in Americana. You may also have heard the stand-out track from "Lost In Revelry", "The Triple Bill of Shame", which was featured on a well known music and film magazine's "Best of 2002" CD. There's nothing on here to top that - admittedly brilliant - high point, but several of the other songs come very, very close.
Things are somewhat hampered by the three radically different songwriters that the band possess - over the course of the album they go from the Wilco-style melancholia and Magnetic Fields power-pop of Pete Hoffman and Timothy Bracy to relatively straight ahead country pop of Shannon McArdle. The guys' tracks are easily the strongest - "Whatever Happened To You" and "We're All In This Alone" have big old hooks and singalong choruses and, while at times they come off as a little too earnest (as on "Queen of England"), for the most part the songs are affecting and the arrangements accomplished.
McArdle's tracks are a bit of a let-down. The songs themselves are pleasant enough, but the songwriting and arrangements just can't compete with the stronger tracks on here (although the closing track, "Way of the Weak", shows promise).
All in all, "Lost in Revelry" is a bit of a mixed bag, with three distinct song styles and little deviation from those three styles, although the hints of experimentation bode well for the future. A handful of great tracks and some ambitious mis-fires, then - worth checking out if you enjoy stuff like Wilco, Grand Drive, Elliott Smith, the Magnetic Fields, etc, etc.
on 26 January 2006
I came across the Mendoza Line on a music magaizine compilation; the song was "triple bill of shame" and is possibly the best song on this album. However, thinking that the rest of the album will be the same as this extraordinary, bitter and drained dirge is a mistake, for two reasons. Firstly as much of the rest of the album is at least a bit brisker, but also as many of the songs have a different singer in Shannon McArdle. She adds a breezier dimenion to her songs that complements Tim's more morose style. Few bands these days are as interesting in their lyrical or musical content as the Line and having two contrasting fronts enriches this.