Mae - (M)orning
Record Label: Cell Records
Release Date: April 19, 2009
What a strange two years it's been. In the early part of 2007, Tidewater-based quintet Mae had reached the pinnacle of their career. Newly minted to Capitol Records, the band was set to release their major-label debut Singularity, after six years as emo-indie favorites and three records that sold more than a quarter-million copies. While preparing for the release of Singularity, the band also toured amphitheaters and arenas supporting The Fray on their How to Save a Life tour. And then suddenly, rather unexpectedly the bottom dropped out. A month after Singularity's release, longtime keyboardist Rob Sweitzer and founding bassist Mark Padgett left the band and a few months later, the band parted ways with Capitol Records, despite having one album left on their contract. How had it all come apart?
Ever resilient, lead singer, founding member and chief songwriter Dave Elkins holed away at home in the Tidewater and spent time refocusing and reworking the direction of Mae. With the help of drummer Jacob Marshall and guitarist Zach Gehring the trio put together what would become a year-long songwriting project with proceeds benefitting a Habitat for Humanity project in Norfolk. Using the DIY, pay-what-you want formula, the project took shape in January of 2009. The end result is their eight-song EP (M)orning, the first of three EPs to be released this year. And while it feels wrong to say this, if this truly is the best music Mae has to offer, the future is decidedly bleak.
Beginning with the jazzy improvisational instrumental "Good (M)orning," the disc begins rather awkwardly and airy. That tempo shifts quickly on "The Fisherman Song (All We Need is Love)," a nine-minute opus about love, faith, devotion and doubt that begins with just Elkins and his acoustic guitar and builds up to cacophonous, prog-rock heights. The firestorm of sound is both unexpected and impressive, but a near nine-minute opener, seriously? Third track, "The House That Fire Built," sounds like a combination of their last two studio efforts and while it has a strong vocal hook, inspired guitar lines and uplifting lyrics, it meanders into near seven-minute territory and again begs the question, what exactly is going on here? Since when did Mae become Rush?
The return to their comfort zone on fourth track "Boomerang," sounds an awful lot like a Singularity b-side and is probably the most catchy of the first three songs offered. "Boomerang" biggest problem though is the lackluster lyrics ("In the back of mind, I could always feel you push and pull away"). Plus, who wants to hear another song from Singularity. Wasn't twelve enough? Another jazzy instrumental, "Two Birds" follows and it's replete with horns, flutes, guitars and a healthy dose of loops. Sure enough it's one of the album's brightest spots. Completely daring, unconventional and unexpected, "Two Birds" is the kind of endeavor one should expect from Mae by now and exactly the kind of direction one hopes the band pursues going forward.
"A Melody, A Memory," is a tepid offering with more overly romantic and peace-endorsing words from Elkins that has all the right intentions but just fails to deliver. Penultimate track, "Night/Day," is a slow lamentation that's forlorn and pensive and finds Elkins, Padgett and Gehring at their absolute best. To be quite honest, it just may be the band's best work since The Everglow. That it comes at the end of the album though is a bit too upsetting. (M)orning ends with the disc's third instrumental, "(M)orning Drive," another inspired effort that's commendable but not entirely the stuff of legends.
The main problem with (M)orning is that it feels shallow and tinny. Whereas the band's last three studio efforts featured layers and dense compositions that provided meaty, sonic textures, (M)orning sounds hollow, thin and awkward. With the exception of "The Fisherman's Song," there's never any pomp and substance offered here. In essence, it feels more like a Dave Elkins solo album than it does a collaborative effort. And while this lack of sonic texture is due in part to Sweitzer and Padgett's absence, plenty of trios are able to convey a wall of sound with only three members.
Mae certainly deserves credit for sticking through a large chunk of adversity. Such problems have often led to the demise of many bands, and that Marshall, Gehring and Elkins weathered it all is worth embracing. And while the band continues to show an incessant ability to mix benevolence with musicianship, nothing can take away from the fact that (M)orning is an absolute letdown. The second offering, (A)fternoon is due out later this year and one can only hope it's far better than this.
Disagree with this review. this ep is fantastic. more than fantastic actually. And they can pull it off even better live. I saw them in chicago a couple weeks ago and it was the tightest and most emotional shiow ive ever seen. MAE is better now than ever
This review seems to be the opposite of what other AP users think of the EP. I think that it is close to the Everglow in greatness and I couldn't be happier with the fresh start that the band has taken. Personally, I was delighted that the songs were as long as they were because it made the EP worth the money and never once do I think that the band is just wasting around in their musical interludes. The Fisherman Song had a lengthy story to tell and if it was shorter, it would have been robbed of its quality and depth. All in all, the epic sound of this EP could not be possible without the extensive song lengths. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this again.
Honestly I think this is tiers above Singularity. Maybe I have to give Singularity another chance cause I didn't enjoy it at all, but that was on about 3 or 4 total listens. This EP grabbed me right away.