This is a review of "Interstellar Rock'n'Roll" recorded by Mainline. The review was written by Paul Smerdyakov in 2013.
I could start this review by saying "this isn't the type of music I usually listen to", which would detract from the credibility of my criticisms and make it a nicer read for the Mainline lads. But since they describe themselves as pretty much all the genres I listen to the most - garage rock, blues, indie - I can't really offer that loophole.
I've seen Mainline live and at the points when I wasn't being stared at/through by a gurning Ian-Brown-alike crowd member, it wasn't terrible and they were well-rehearsed. Having listened to 'Interstellar Rock'n'Roll', I could use the same description for their album, adding "well-produced" in too. In terms of production it's a lovely sounding album, clear, sculpted and precise.
The album starts pretty well; 'Low Down' is a groovy, chugging blues number that puts me in mind of one of those Tom Waits-type tunes they put at the end of a series of The Wire, the American accent fits with the gritty blues feel in the same way Jagger's does. The harmonica playing is very capable; actually I'll say right now that the stand-out thing about the album is how nice the harmonica sounds.
Sadly, it's quickly downhill from there, the second song '5 More Minutes' is so instantly bad that you kind of forget the good start. It sounds like a totally different songwriter to Low Down and not in a good way. Maybe it is, in which case it's an easily solvable problem. Playing the same riff all the way through a song is a very bold move. This particular riff sounds like a million pub-rock band's first songs, it's a chant-a-long for touring LADS. It's the sound The Fratellis make when they snore.
High points on the album after Low Down are the Orwell-inspired 'Caught on Camera', with lyrics in the form of snarled warnings, and 'No Turning Back' is an almost acapella interlude that offers something aurally stimulating, it's a side of Mainline I wished they'd pushed more to the fore in this album.
I don't think Interstellar Rock'N'Roll is a terrible bunch of songs, I've heard worse, but the album is too long, the pace is plodding and it sags in the middle. In all honesty, I think a shorter EP would've been a better choice. At its best (Low Down) it's groovy and fun, at its worst it sounds like Richard Ashcroft having a drunken game of word association with himself over a Father's Day Dad-Rock compilation.
Essentially it's Britpop-Blues rock, songs about getting loaded up and having a great night (All The Way, Do It Again), interspersed with bits and bobs about encounters with women (5 More Minutes, Life Changer) or anti-establishment messages (Caught on Camera, No Free Will). I don't like to slate bands who clearly work hard so I'll say this: these lads have a faithful following and get regular gigs, they do what they do well, I'm just not a fan of what they've done with this album.