The Leeds trio deliver a bold, bizarre and ultimately cataclysmic second album.
Words: Adam Davidson | Photo: James Brown
Lines Redacted is a delightful cavalcade of tumultuous noise. Every song invites head-nodding approval, as Mush barrel through the tracklist in their angular but charming way. Satirical, cynical and downright surreal, the lyrical craziness on this album is what jumps out at first. Observing the upside-down madness of life in the UK, Lines Redacted doesn’t offer any solutions, preferring to express exasperation at what we’ve become.
It’s impossible to ignore Dan Hyndman’s vocals. They are the keystone of this band’s aesthetic. He sways with raw punk orthodoxy. The sheer misanthropy and sarcasm dripping messily from phrases like, “Clap clap clap, positivity/Happy clappy monkey/Happy clappy country,” is a sledgehammer of social commentary, and why not? We’re way beyond subtly in 2021. With song like Drink The Bleach and Bots! Mush delineate the difference between them and their subject matter. They are observers of a decaying, broken world.
The opening half of Lines Redacted is bewilderingly relentlessness. The mad vocals and whacked-out guitars are a seasick headrush; the songs lurch around like they’re about to fall apart at any moment. What underpins all this is the pleasingly simple drumming from Phil Porter, which makes sure it doesn’t all spill over the side in a messy heap. Dusting For Prints is the early highlight in this run of tunes. It serves as the blueprint from which this element of Mush’s sound is formed. They are at their most comfortable when delivering sonic assaults like this, Hyndman repeating, “Dusting for prints, what the fuck happened?” This song represents what Mush are all about – weird, whacky, but ultimately, a lot of fun.
What makes this album a bit more entertaining is the exploration in the second half. By the time the title track is done, Mush allow themselves to open up to broader ideas. Seven Trumpets messes with the established formula; the tempo shift after the first chorus is a sweet surprise. As the latter half of Lines Redacted wears on, an alternative rock influence comes to the fore. Morf is just begging for a screechy, Lee Ranaldo-esque guitar solo, but maybe that’s not Mush’s style. Hazmat Suits is probably the best song on the album, and has been rightfully selected as the first single. Hyndman’s vocals are markedly different here, evoking memories of Suede and Elastica, while the music takes a cue from 80s indie-slacker bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement. Hazmat Suits is a switch-up in style, a lynchpin which extends the longevity of the album.
Mush choose to end this cataclysmic album with Lines Discontinued, a dual suite of jams welded together – it starts as a lo-fi garage rock banger, before dropping to a gentler, folk-infused sound, and then back again via a mid-song breakdown that eschews the stressy-riffs for a measured finale. This song is much longer than anything else on Lines Redacted, asking more questions than it answers. In that way, it’s a fitting closer for a record that sometimes struggles to settle on it’s preferred mood.
There’s a distinct lack of musical peaks on Lines Redacted, peaks that would elevate this album to something really special. This is a bold and bizarre record, one that ultimately favours predictability over compositional depth, but nevertheless is a blistering hot listen from front to back. Mush have the anarchic fervour of a vodka-drunk office worker, who’s been in the bar since 2pm after being sacked from a job they hate. They’re the kind of band you stumble upon at a festival and think “Am I dreaming this or is it actually happening?” It’s not for everyone, but if you like this kind of thing, Lines Redacted has plenty to offer, and their social commentary is something sorely needed in the era of populism and crumbling, late-stage capitalism. Find the band on Spotify here.