These Things Move in Threes
ello. I live under a rock, and as such I’ve managed to avoid the Marmite carnival of love and hate that the Internet informs me has been following Mumm-Ra since their recent emergence. I don’t know if this debut lacks the promise of the early demos of that deleted potential B-side found in the singer’s non-recyclable household waste, and by extension I don’t give a fuck. As such, I’m coming at them with no preconceptions save for the eternal signifiers of the music critic—skill, originality, and CHOONS.
Mumm-Ra are like Marmite, in that the usual closed-option paradigm is constrictive and inapplicable. Out of the three things just listed, Mumm-Ra rate fair-to-middling on each aspect. I don’t love or hate them—I wouldn’t bother to buy this record, but if I saw you sliding it into your hi-fi at your house party it wouldn’t incite me to piss in your sink either. I’d just get drunk until it sounded good, and then I wouldn’t remember it. The problem is that the same applies to listening to Mumm-Ra sober.
About halfway through each song on These Things Move in Threes, you start thinking: this is a nice song. This is a good chorus. That’s a pretty bit, that is. And eleven songs later, you suddenly think: what just happened? Out of 44 minutes and 20 seconds of music (7:21 of which is one epic song that Mumm-Ra haven’t really attained the chops to write yet), you seem to have gained nothing. And since most of said songs seem ostensibly to be melody-driven, that fact is slightly worrying.
Frustratingly, there are still one or two moments where Mumm-Ra impress. After a minute or so of gentle acoustic foreplay, “Now Or Never” shoots off a stream of ringing guitars. It’s unexpected and thrilling, so much so that James “Noo” New seems to run out of breath halfway through a good deal of the following lines. One good hook aside, he may as well have not bothered—after the explosion, the song does nothing to justify its existence. It just lights a fag and puts its clothes on.
Then there’s the end of “Song B,” where the instruments finally scratch their itches and get out of the way, leaving “Noo” and his crew to barber-shop it up while a trumpet shaves through the middle. Since their rhymes are pretty irritating, Mumm-Ra work best repeating a single line—in this case, “I cannot believe your cowardice.” They nail that line. They’ve really got that line. They’ve managed to make it sound just like the Futureheads. In fact, it’s a shame for Mumm-Ra that the Futureheads already exist, seeing as they do it so well. And at these times, you realize that the problem is not that they can’t cut it; it’s more that with the likes of Air Traffic, the Maccabees, and Cajun Dance Party rocking the “modern-life-is-shit” shtick already, there’s not a lot of it left to cut.
In Noo’s own words, the prevailing sentiment one retains from These Things Move in Threes is one of “Oh God, it’s happening again.” Until their sound acquires any prominent distinguishing features, it will remain on radios in the background of high street coffee shops, bought by people who listen to the radios in the background of high street coffee shops.
Mumm-Ra might hit the charts, but they won’t strike deeply into the hearts of millions, and as with anything so facile they’re more than likely to end up on the scrapheap. As an appointed advisor, I feel I ought to offer a recommended course of action when it comes to this record. And in that capacity, I’d suggest you spend your money on something that will leave a longer-lasting impact on you, like a sturdy flannel shirt or a strong LSD tab. But as a Catholic, I don’t want the guilt of looking James New in the eye when he’s making my mochaccino.
Reviewed by: Richard O’Brien
Reviewed on: 2007-06-25