Album Review: Mangelwurzel ‘Gary’
Melbourne six-piece Mangelwurzel, dubbed Melbourne’s weirdest band by The Sydney Morning Herald, are proving that it is entirely possible to be so wrong that you’re right, and so weird that you’re kind of cool.
“Ironically, it’s the contrast and unexpected changes of direction in each number that give the album a consistent stylistic flow.”
The band’s debut album ‘Gary’ is a brilliant jumble of rhythms and melodies that somehow makes sense without a definitive style, rhythm or pitch. Each song on the album is a complex blend of jazz, punk, and rock with enough originality and quirkiness to confuse and fascinate the most discerning listener.
Ironically, it’s the contrast and unexpected changes of direction in each number that give the album a consistent stylistic flow. The band brings precision and panache to every number, while lead singer Cosima Jaala complements the instrumentation with her impressive vocal acrobatics.
Her sultry tones are perfectly suited to the sweet vocal harmonies and swinging rhythm that give the opening track Fishy Fry its 70s-pop style. The bright, eclectic combination of an amazing bass guitar line with a healthy dose of brass and drums make this the type of song you’ll be hearing in the back of your mind for hours.
Second track Hawaii thrives on the clashes of tone and texture between the organ and uneven drum rhythms. Hawaii is like a swimming pool in Summer: it might be a shock to the system, especially following its relatively tame sibling Fishy Fry, but once you jump in it’s easy to warm up to.
Everybody’s Friend is a catchy blend of rock and jazz that highlights Mangelwurzel’s love for the guitar and trombone – both are featured heavily during an amazing instrumental section in the middle of the song. The swing and syncopated rhythms are sure to get you in the mood for dancing around the house in your weirdest outfit.
“The swing and syncopated rhythms are sure to get you in the mood for dancing around the house in your weirdest outfit.”
The guitar has its moment in the spotlight when the band gets their rock ‘n’ roll on in Odyssey. The song is a melting pot of rhythmic and melodic changes, featuring a solid bass line and an electric guitar solo layered over the top of a whole lot of brass. Add this one to your rainy day playlist because when nothing else can get you out of bed, Jaala’s screech will do the trick.
If you’re looking for something with a touch of mainstream appeal, the fifth track has you covered. RA will have you slipping into a false sense of security, with its laid-back beginning and the infectious repeated bass line that keeps it pumping along. But be prepared for a few unexpected jolts towards the end as the band changes up the rhythm.
The just released single IOU is sixth track on the album, pulling off more unusual rhythmic and melodic changes than the tracks before it with style. Like many of the band’s other tunes, IOU breaks into very different sections and the moment you feel like you’ve got the song figured out, it changes, but no matter how confused you get, the smooth vocal performance and swung rhythm will have you tapping along right to the end.
“Mangelwurzel’s debut album ‘Gary’ showcases the band’s love for sudden endings, quick key changes, and unexpected movements, and does it all with a trademark style.”
Fast-paced stylistic changes make the seventh track, Baby Pie, as unusual as its name: this tune morphs from a march to a samba to a pop tune without pausing for breath. Baby Pie‘s continuous and unpredictable movement makes it a full-on auditory experience. Listening to it is like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded – and sort of loving it.
The eighth track, My House, is similarly disjointed, wandering through distinct sections with an unsteady swinging rhythm and an electric guitar as the only constants. The energy of the syncopated brass-dominated section is well-contrasted by a softer flowing guitar section. Like RA, My House will appeal to those who appreciate a delicate balance of alternative and mainstream.
Similar to IOU, the ninth track, Glorious, features repeating sections, almost like an academic construction of strange sound effects and syncopated rhythms. In the first section of the song each line is repeated twice or four times, which only exaggerates the uneasy feeling later created by out-of-place notes and rhythms. This one needs to be heard to be believed.
Finally, the title track Gary delivers the familiar quirks, charm, repetition and vocal harmonies heard throughout the album with a strong rock vibe. Heavy guitar rhythms, thrashing drums, and the occasional screech for good measure make this song a must for rock enthusiasts.
Mangelwurzel’s debut album ‘Gary’ showcases the band’s love for sudden endings, quick key changes, and unexpected movements, and does it all with a trademark style. Everything is done precisely and intentionally, and often at high speed. With their virtuosic instrumental and vocal ability and distinctive sound, it’s easy to see why these guys are expected to do big things for alternative music.
Read our interview with lead vocalist Cosima Jaala HERE
Mangelwurzel’s debut album ‘Gary’ comes out today.