Monday, May 18, 2015

New Mandates!

Summertime, for me, always starts with the arrival of the first "summer album" of the year. After a long, cold winter, nothing cleanses the soul like cranking some catchy, high-energy tunes in the car on a warm, sunny day. There is nothing better in life. Last year it was Mother's Children who ushered in my summer in the most awesome way imaginable. Now it's their pals Mandates doing the honors with the release of their sophomore LP. In The Back Of Your Heart, a split release between Hosehead and Taken By Surprise Records, was one of my most highly anticipated albums of 2015. And let me tell you: it doesn't disappoint! I'm sure my fist pumps out the car window have been amusing my fellow motorists.

I thought that Mandates' 2013 debut album was easily one of the most underrated punk records of recent years. But In The Back Of Your Heart totally blows it away. Building off of the '77 punk and early 2000s power pop influences of their first album, Mandates have fully come into their own on this exciting and totally rocking long player. The Calgary foursome takes a familiar powerpop/punk style and gives it a rock n' roll kick in the ass - confirming that the "Suspicion" single's nods to Cheap Trick and AC/DC were no fluke. Coming off of that single, In The Back Of Your Heart is every bit the hook-laden feelgood record I was expecting it to be. It's truly the perfect album for the summer - crackling with infectious melodies and youthful energy. Certain songs bring to mind label mates like Mother's Children ("Maryanne") and The Cry! ("Katie Katie Katie") - or fellow Canadian greats like the Steve Adamyk Band ("Not My Problem"). Yet Mandates have their own sound all the way - propelled by the ripping dual guitars of Brady K and Matt Sickens. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon with the legendary Pat Kearns - who elicited a tighter, beefier sound that suits these songs so well.

What I love about In The Back Of Your Heart is that it doesn't necessarily conform to what a punk record is "supposed" to be. You don't often hear of punk albums with long guitar solos or songs running 4-5 minutes. Yet Mandates totally pull that off here without it seeming cheesy or excessive. If you like three-minute pop songs, this record has some great ones ("Messin' Around", "Wastin' Time"). But I find it very cool that the five-minute "Phantasmagoria" is one of the highlights of the album. And knowing my fondness for epic album finales, you won't be surprised that I'm really digging the power ballad-ish closer "I Got Eyes (In The Back Of Your Heart)". This album takes so many things I like ('77 punk, glam, power pop, classic rock) and mashes them together into a singular rockin' sound. Clearly these guys had a game plan for In The Back Of Your Heart. And in collaboration with of one of the best producers in the business, they executed it to perfection. It's always a pleasure to hear a good band become great. And even in a Canadian scene stacked with amazing bands, Mandates stand out as one of the best.


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