Photo Credit: Steve Gullick
To paraphrase Fyodor Dostoevsky’s observation in Anna Karenina, bad music is always bad in its own unique way, and good music is always alike. The Mysterines’ debut album Reeling proves this repurposed aphorism beyond a shadow of a doubt, but we’ll explain what we mean. The Mysterines formed in Merseyside in 2017 and the trio released their debut titled Reeling, brilliantly produced by Catherine Marks, in March of this year. And if this first effort is a sign of what’s to come, The Mysterines have a brilliant career to look forward to. Loud, power-chord heavy, and driving, Reeling is an album for long drives on empty highways.
It is a weak and predictable mistake of male music critics to compare female artists to other female artists, whether or not the comparisons are warranted. However, The Mysterines singer and lyricist Lia Metcalfe evokes early PJ Harvey throughout Reeling and this is meant as the most sincere of compliments. The dark, earthy qualities of Ms. Metcalfe’s voice echo Polly Harvey’s in a haunting fashion and the album, recorded in a starkly sparse ’90s fashion suggests PJ’s Dry period. Although influences and comparisons aside, The Mysterines bring refreshingly noisy and visceral rock to the table.
Speaking of “noisy” and visceral,” a debut album’s sound is almost as important as its songs and we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the production work of Catherine Marks (production credits include Foals, Wolf Alice, The Killers, and Frank Carter) on this effort. Her gritty production on Reeling allows the power of the chords and the candor of Metcalfe’s lyrics to hit the listener full force. And the album has force in spades.
Good music, across genres and through the ages, moves the listener. The Mysterines debut does exactly that in an uncomplicated and uncompromising style. The album’s opener “Life’s A B*tch (But I Like It So Much)” is a darkly joyful ode to the chaotic and fickle witch we call existence. With the album’s finale “The Confession Song”, the listener is treated to a Nick Cave-esque lament about our sins and their consequences.
“Hung Up” is a grooving rocker that has more than a hint of Queens of the Stone Age while nicely featuring Lia Metcalfe’s throaty voice. “Old Friends/Die Hard” has the sexy spookiness of an early period Gun Club joint. “All These Things” is a plaintive hard-driver with its simplicity and honesty. This Liverpool trio gives us noisy rock music that hearkens back to the early days of what we used to know as “alternative” while remaining new and relevant.
Bad music is bad for a million reasons: awful production, poor lyrics, generic musicianship, etc. Good music only has to do one thing, the hardest thing, which is to grab the listener by the ears and make them feel that every song was written just for them. With Reeling, The Mysterines have succeeded in doing exactly that and beautifully so.