DANCING MICE are a four-piece from Edinburgh who have previously released four collections of song, two of which were albums, all of which completely passed me by!
The first thing that strikes me about DANCING MICE, even before I press the ‘play’ button, is that these guys really know how to present themselves; how to create an immediately positive impression. Firstly the CD itself is beautifully packaged, and like Cuddly Shark before them features a dog on the cover – this one is named Bernardo for anyone interested. (Running my own Pet Professional business – dog walker – for my ‘proper’ job, this scores big Brownie points right from the off!)
But also have a look at their website. Nice one. It’s all very professional and I’m thinking to myself that this is not simply your run-of-the-mill, ‘straight outta college’ type of band.
So I play the CD, since that’s what I’m meant to do rather than pontificate about the composition of the band, and I’m immediately impressed by the ‘mature’ sound of the music on offer. I’ve said this before about other bands, but this is like a ‘thinking man’s’ rock outfit.
Well, maybe ‘rock’ creates the wrong impression – these thirteen tracks (fifty-four minutes) are not downbeat by any means, but are more of a melodious and gentle nature, while generally carrying a foot-tapping rhythm and catchy chorus.
There are also many different styles at play here. Opening song ‘The Tall Blonde’ for instance reminds me, because of the percussion, of a John Kongos (who?) track from years ago called ‘Impi.’ Or some of Jaluka’s stuff? OK – basically music originating / inspired by the sounds of South Africa.
‘Cool’ is the first track to hint at what I feel to be the overriding impression of DANCING MICE – that they mix clever lyrics with an ocassional hint of humour and the integration of many instruments to the same effect as the likes of Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy. And actually, with its Sixties feel and title, ‘Cool’ makes me think of early Viv Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
‘The Red Shadow’ takes the form of some Seventies Prog Rock number with the dramatic Hammond organ whining in the background. ‘Arizona’ then pares back on the rather frenetic pace of the previous number, and with some nice little slide guitar and harmonised vocals over a plodding beat drops the listener off somewhere in the depths of the Grand Canyon. (That’s in Arizona, right?)
‘Assembly’ has a slight waltz feel before ‘Land And Sea’ thumps in with a rather robotic vocal delivery over a steadfast beat. ‘The Man In The Islands’ has shards of discordant guitar flying off in a sort of spazz-jazz fashion with the deep-sounding vocals sounding more stereo-typically ‘Eighties’ – almost Bowie-esque in parts. ‘Scarred By Love’ is the longest track at over six minutes and features what sounds like an alto-sax (like as in the Hazel O’Connor ‘Breaking Glass’ soundtrack), but is showcased perfectly with some nicely impressive guitar work. Again, the vocals and bass-line are redolent of a sort of Eighties Goth style in places.
‘Four Times On The Floor’ starts off on the sax route again but quickly morphs into something akin to the sounds of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, for those who remember. Then there is ‘Time Alone’ which reminds me of Jeff Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’ project, but with some added Spanish guitar. Then, wait for it, penultimate track ‘Fathers and Sons’ is so full of little chimes and smooth rhythms that I’m put in mind of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells!’
(Maybe I’m just weird!)
I think however, that DANCING MICE have saved the best for last. ‘The Dance Of The Black Mouse’ is immediately infectious, what with the beat sounding like a clock ticking or a metronome that’s been wound up too far. After a few key-change transitions a la Special A.K.A. it then seamlessly changes into a hybrid Sixties psychedelic / surf guitar fest for the final three minutes of the six.
Overall, ’13 Difficult Lessons’ may be just a little on the tame side for me personally, but it will still be getting plenty of plays on my I-Pod.
I really like it when bands seem to have a rather unassuming presence, and produce quality, thoughtful music such as this. DANCING MICE are well worth checking out!
(Released through Squeak Records on 14th May 2012)
(8.5 / 10)