Mercy Mercedes - 1.21 Gigawatts
Record Label: The Militia Group
Release Date: September 30, 2008
I've got a weakness for vocalists with fairly unique voices, no matter what genre they belong to. It's even more pronounced in pop albums, which are usually more vocally driven than albums from other genres. Along with the pure catchiness and vivacity of the album, that's why I think I've taken a liking to Mercy Mercedes' 1.21 Gigawatts EP.
Their vocalist Nate Smith may not be a pioneer exactly, and he doesn't have as unique of a voice as someone like Michael Shepard (Lovedrug), but Smith's is different enough for me to take notice. For this type of straight-up sugary pop, his voice fits perfectly; they give the album a different feel, but aren't different enough to make it inaccessible. It was almost a turn off on the first listen through, but once I got accustomed to it, I savored every minute. They're the real highlight of the album, from the super upbeat "Dr. Huxtable" to the slower (but far from ballad-like) "The Perfect Scene," Smith's vocals work well.
This pop is close to as sugary as it gets, but I wouldn't call it immature. They're not reinventing the wheel in any way, but it's some of the best, honest pop I've heard in a long time. That is, it doesn't seem like they're trying to dress up their sound and make it something it's not. They've also avoided something that a lot of newer pop bands seem to beat to death: the overuse of electronics and vocoders. While the electronics are there for some of it, they're kept at a level that isn't annoying, and Smith rarely uses a vocoder. A few of the songs are done with little or no electronics at all, which fortunately adds a bit of variety. The instrumentation and lyrics are what you'd expect from a pop band, but their guitarist does have a few impressive solos throughout the EP. The lyrics seem to follow the same pattern. They're like most other pop lyrics; they may be a little under-developed, but catchy and heartwarming.
I can see why a label as revered as The Militia Group would pick up this band that, on the surface, seems like every other pop band. Even though they may be a dime-a-dozen pop band, they're out there doing it better than the hundreds of other groups trying to. Their songs are catchy, entertaining, and fun, and when they're doing it this well, that's all they need. I'll anxiously be awaiting a full length from these guys, and as long as it contains the same energy and wonderful charm as 1.21 Gigawatts, I'm sure I'll love it.
Your review was pretty spot-on. I actually root for this band because of who they are as human beings. There are no pretenses here. No arrogance, they just play music and that's all. The songs don't exactly provoke thought, nor do they do anything overly artistic or avant-garde. It's clean and safe, and gets the job done. To be a contrarian though, I actually think their live show is something pretty special.