Monday, 10 October 2016

Album Review: Expectations by Mudhill (by Omar Ramlugon)

As is so often the case with pleasant discoveries, my introduction to Mudhill happened completely by accident. I was watching Hot Water Music’s ‘Live In Chicago’ on Youtube when a brightly coloured album appeared on the right hand side in the section for similar or related videos, labelled ‘Mudhill – Expectations – FULL ALBUM STREAM’. On a whim, I clicked the link, and within minutes found myself with my preconceptions thoroughly busted.

A family member once told me that you should always try to listen to music as though you were fourteen. Now at face value that appears to be questionable advice, but to fully elaborate, the sentiment is more that you should allow yourself to get giddily excited, passionate about and even obsessed with music. It’s a sentiment I hold particularly close to my heart, and it very much applies here.

Hailing from Brazil, Mudhill are an example of how music of all genres transcends borders, language and cultures better than almost anything. This foursome kick out a brawny, powerful sound but with a real knack for strong hooks that could rival any Punknews luminary, blending some of the heart-swollen melodies of the Menzingers with an ear for a ripping guitar solo. Often the songs on Expectations reside in mid-tempo, a decision that allows the songs more room to grow and breathe, digging into the dual guitar parts in a fashion similar to Leatherface. Furthermore, it means that when the quartet do kick up the tempo, it comes as an invigorating blast rather than a dull retread.

Vocally, Mudhill present even more of a refreshing change from the orgcore drill sergeants, with singer/guitarist Zeek Underwood deciding to eschew the rote punk rock spit-drenched, raw throated bark in favour of his own surprisingly warm and inviting take alternative rock singing, which lends a really plaintive edge to the lyrics – which are sung in English, fortunately for me, as my grip on Portuguese is about as sound as Donald Trump’s grasp of foreign policy. The content of them delves into topics such as personal insecurity, the interpersonal and the human condition, topics which simply don’t go out of style, so long as your approach them with a deftness of touch, which Mudhill luckily do.

The album opens with the quietly recriminatory “What You And Your Friends Said About Me”, with a speedy clean guitar arpeggios setting a backdrop to Underwood’s lyrics before surging guitars burst through in the chorus; a well worn trick, sure, but still a great one when done well. Things only get better from there, with the one-two punch of “Not About Survival” and “Decisions Bring Collisions”, the former’s simple chorus lyric of ‘Cause it’s not about survival / It’s only about feeling alive’ being a sure-fire earworm while the latter’s stomping riff could make a corpse bob it’s head in approval. Elsewhere, ‘So Far Gone’ simply explodes out of the gate like Copper Blue-era sugar, with more killer riffs in one song than All Time Low have managed in their entire miserable career.

Expectations pulls off the admirable feat of having one consistent sound throughout the album which makes it feel cohesive and complete, while having variations within that winning ‘sound’ to make it consistently engaging and easy to pick out favourites. It’s a hard thing to do, but they pull it off without question; ‘You Dare Me To Feel Anything’ is another highlight, while the short sharp burst of ‘It Might’ careens into the slower ‘Dust Me Off’ with consummate ease, with soaring guitar figures doodled throughout both tracks. Finally, ‘To Get Back At Us’ draws things to a close, with a touch of acoustic guitar at its start before pulling back into the classic sound that makes the whole record such a pleasure to listen to. It should be mentioned that the album’s production is excellent, polished without being glossy while making sure every instrument is clearly heard in the mix.

Expectations was an absolutely wonderful surprise. I was so impressed that within half an hour I’d bought the record off of Mudhill’s bandcamp – and if you like what you hear in the stream posted below, you should too. This is simply a cracking album. Miss it at your peril.

Stream and download Expectations here:

Like Mudhill here: