Power pop is a genre where innovation isn’t necessarily the name of the game. Badfinger and Big Star laid down the general parameters of the genre back in the 70s, and since then success has been a matter not so much of creativity as of craftsmanship. The questions anyone working in the idiom has to answer are: 1) How indelible are your melodies? 2) How clever are your lyrics? 3) How effectively can you invoke your venerable forebears without crossing the line into pastiche or, even worse, unintentional parody?
Bringing together Joe Pernice (the Pernice Brothers) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub)—who actually number among said “venerable forebears” for many contemporary power popsters—alongside drummer Mike Belitsky (the Sadies), the New Mendicants’ debut Into the Lime (2014) answers those questions as follows: 1) Very. 2) Very. 3) Very.
Pernice takes the lead here, both in terms of vocals and in terms of songwriting, meaning that this album hews closer to his wispy, melancholic brand of chamber pop the than the fuzzy guitar rock of Teenage Fanclub’s classic albums. The uptempo “Shouting Match” may sound like something that might’ve shown up on Bandwagonesque, and the compellingly bizarre “Lifelike Hair,” with its stomping percussion and swirling organ, is pure 60s psych. On the whole, though, gorgeous instrumental arrangements heavy on the glockenspiel and ringing guitars (“High on the Skyline,” “Out of the Lime”) and gentle, swooning harmonies worthy of the Left Banke (“If You Only Knew Her”) are the order of the day.
So saying, Into the Lime doesn’t wow you so much as woo you with the sound of master craftsmen doing what they love and doing it well. After all, it’s not as if Pernice and Blake have anything to prove at this point; mostly they’re just enjoying one another’s company. In doing so, they’ve given me the soundtrack to many a sunny summer’s afternoon, and there are few things I like better.
- Lush, Gorgeous Psychedelic Pop and Vintage Folk-Rock from the New Mendicants (newyorkmusicdaily.wordpress.com)
- The New Mendicants – Into the Lime (www.avoidingsilence.com)
- The Album List #3: Teenage Fanclub “Bandwagonesque” (fromamesstothemasses.wordpress.com)
- The New Mendicants – the indie supergroup that begs to differ (www.irishtimes.com)
- Powerpop CD Review: The New Mendicants’ Into The Lime (www.orangemen44.com)
- The New Mendicants – A Very Sorry Christmas 7″ (2013) (www.christmasunderground.com)
- The New Mendicants: Into the Lime (One Little Indian) (www.isthismusic.com)