Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Mon Frere-Blood, Sweat, and Swords

May 1, 2006

Band Name: Mon Frere

Album Name: Blood, Sweat, and Swords
Best Element: Hooky danceability
Genre: Dance-rock
Website: www.monfrere.net
Label Name: Cake Records www.cakerecords.com

Band E-mail: dave@cakerecords.com

Mon Frere is good. Just how good? Let’s take a look at standout track “You Don’t Mind” and see. The track starts off with a cascading, intertwined guitar and synth riff. Once that 9-second intro is done, Mon Frere unleashes the catchiest guitar riff this side of the white stri“Seven Nation Army” and Nouela Johnston’s passionate, yet contained vocals. Her tunefulness tames her bite in the verses- but not so in the chorus, as the pipes are thrown wide open and the soaring, searing vocals attack throughout the rest of the song. The guitars and keys reprise their intro for the chorus, reminding you of just how good that riff was, before launching back into the verses, anchored by solid drum beats and augmented by cheerful handclaps, ironically placed in this sludgy, punchy, dark environment. A ripping solo section comes next- and it’s fist-pumpingly cool.

Yes, the members of Monn Frere have grown into their self-proclaimed motto of “We’re dirty, we’re pop, and we just can’t stop!” In their first EP Real Vampires, the members of Mon Frere were extremely polar, delivering manic dance-rock freak-outs right up against jazzy semi-ballads. While I do miss the panic and vitriol of songs like “R.V.D.G.S.F (Fighting Mad)”, the songs on Blood, Sweat, and Swords form a much more cohesive unit, and cultivate a sound that Mon Frere can call their own.

The three-piece that is Mon Frere has a pretty distinct sound- huge distorted guitars, booty-shaking drums, and quirky keyboards that alternately turn the band into a dance-rock powerhouse (“Bigshot”) and a hook-laden power-pop outfit (“Y.M.M.W.D.S.B.”). But they even blur the polarity of those genres, as they often make poppy dance tunes (“Drain”), and dancy pop tunes (“Clever Boi”). That sounds like splitting hairs, but when you listen to the tracks, you’ll hear the difference- it’s all in how the drums lead. Despite the subtle differences between tracks, all these songs pound with an almost otherworldly passion- as if Nouela Johnston and co. are delivering the gospel according to Mon Frere.

As you would expect with any near-religious revelation, there aren’t very many tracks that drag, although there are some. As mentioned earlier, there’s no really fast, heavy, keynote track here other than “You Don’t Mind”, and that definitely sticks out when you’re listening to songs like “Bullition” and “Harsh Winds”- tracks that aren’t bad, but just not as good as you want Mon Frere to be. The setup of “Bullition” prepares the listener for an explosion of a track, but the build-up leads nowhere, unfortunately. “Harsh Winds” follows in the jazzy footsteps of “Orcs Don’t Know It” from Real Vampires, but “Harsh Winds” isn’t as sultry or pulsating as the original track.

But these are minor disagreements with an otherwise brilliant album. When looking at this album as a whole, it’s hard to deny that Blood, Sweat, and Swords is one face-meltingly good album. If you’re a fan of the current dance-rock trend, you’ll definitely want to add this to your ‘buy now’ list- if you’re a fan of good pop music, you’ll want to do the same. Mon Frere has jumped up a couple spots on my ‘bands that will be big soon’ list with this release.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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