Skake me down EP by Mantra
Kesh Patel and Alex Routledge have modest ability and titanic self belief. Their self-produced CD arrives with a wallet full of expensive printed gubbins telling us about their astonishing talents, rising popularity and forthcoming tour.
They have two Leeds gigs coming up in a north of England tour that will be costing them real money to promote. I feel pretty churlish in telling anyone who reads this that on this evidence I won't be there. I think they might have auditioned for Pop Stars at some point.
The first track is a thrashing and rather lead-footed funk-rock "get on the dance floor" shout with repetitively frantic bass slightly reminiscent of Mark King from Level 42. It's brash and noisy and fast and I don't get it. Looking at the track listing I'm surprised to see it last less than two minutes. It seems a lot longer. Someone at the HiFi Club would tell me all about it, I'm sure. But I suspect they wouldn't really rate it either.
The second tune is a big-voiced yearning synth-packed "ballad" as we used to call them. I have played it through half a dozen times, but I can't remember the tune, and I really couldn't tell you what it's about. "Forget to Breathe" is an interesting title. Is it tragic? Is it comic? It starts with a simple and not very well-played piano that repeats a standard pattern without expression or dynamics. It continues: "when I'm with you, fur-get to breathe, fur-get to breathe, fur-get to breathe ..." lots and lots of times with a very nagging synth part. What happens? Well, he carries on fur-getting till the fade.
I really do believe that people like Mantra, with an obvious love of music and a basic fluency with the standard pop instruments should play cover versions and keep at least some people happy listening to good songs played well. Moving from there to doing all original material on the strength of your own charisma is such a huge leap that most fail utterly.
The publicity tells me that Mantra are "multitalented instrumentally", but this reviewer has to report that he knows plenty of ordinary people who can play more instruments more skilfully than this, and none of them are famous, or ever likely to be. Being able to knock out a standard tune on bass, guitar, keyboards and drums is not unusual. A creative and unique spark is what the audience craves. And that's the hard part.
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On 25th February 2004 at 13:47 Anonymous 1921
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