Mini Mansions Take On A Life Of Their Own With The Great Pretenders
If LA’s Mini Mansions wanted to become huge in today’s rock circuit they’ve been going about it the right way so far. They’re on tour with Royal Blood, have friends in Alex Turner and it doesn’t hurt their reputation that frontman Michael Shuman also plays bass in a small band called Queens of the Stone Age.
But now, with their second LP 'The Great Pretenders', the group’s ambitions to become huge is made more apparent as the band gracefully soar like the sun to new heights straight away with "Freakout", a song that sounds like a sonic fusing of The Turtles with Beach House that will make you want to head to the beach with your friends and bask in rays of sunlight, which is a nice concept to think of on a rainy day in rural Scotland.
Perhaps it’s because the last record that Shuman was involved in writing, QOTSA’s '…Like Clockwork' was sinister through and through, that the mellowness of tracks on this album feels refreshing. Synthesiser backdrops are used to create walls of gold-plated psychedelia, with melodies recalling White Album Beatles, and sublime backdrop details like Brian Wilson’s silky harmonies adding to the dreaminess of "Any Emotions".
Melodrama naturally lurks on the album though, whether it comes through subtle song details like the choir vocals that sneak into the backdrops of "Death is a Girl" or the adrenaline jabbed into "Fantasy", which could have been written with the same state of mind that Shuman had when "My God is the Sun" was penned. The pinnacle of this devil-may-care danger created on the record can be found on their friend Mr Turner’s appearance on "Vertigo", where the Arctic Monkeys mainman’s croons of “Since you’re such a stunner, send me something sunset coloured, let’s make love to one another, run for cover” are delivered with a spine-tingling dominance, with an effortlessness that makes it so chilling.
'The Great Pretenders' does have this two-sided coin attitude at times, although by the time you hear "Mirror Mountain" which has riffs that sound like if The Prodigy had composed the Austin Powers soundtrack, it’s clear the album’s lack of set boundaries makes it a melting pot of influences from the past and present. And while Mini Mansions have always been a QOTSA side project, this album sees the group make strides of their own path to being a well-established group on their own.
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Words by Andy Davidson