The M’s
Future Women
Polyvinyl
2006
C



plan Of The Man” starts us off with the kind of cheerfully ramshackle sound that indicates we're in for something pitched between the retro and the achingly of the moment; it gurns frantically but doesn't really go anywhere, as if it hasn't earned its own frantic tempo. “Shawnee Dupree” sounds as if it thinks it's supposed to be sleazy but is too essentially good natured to manage anything edgier than “are they jealous because you're sleeping with me?” It's drowsy instead, but still fuzzy thanks to Steve Versaw's nicely scuzzy production grot.

It takes “Going Over It,” still a little sleepy but slimly compelling, to gets thing going properly with a memorably drawled refrain, and as much as it sounds like a prelude to something it's almost undercut by “Trucker Speed”—not the raucous, thickly droning first half (a distant cousin to a song like Beck's “Soul Suckin' Jerk”) as the not-quite-integrated marching band ending, where the guitars slowly fade out and the strings and horns take over; it's pretty enough, but after the grit and mud of the first half it feels out of place. Another few listens to Teenage Fanclub's sublime “Hang On” might have been useful. It also shows up all the “neo-garage” references in the M's press as the silliness that they are; some of the best things about Future Women are the energy and the artfully distressed sound, but that does not a garage band make (not a complaint, but filing these guys next to the White Stripes and the Hives or whoever is going to do them a lot less good rather than noting, say, Elephant 6 and anyone from the New Pornos to T. Rex).

“Light I Love” actually makes that end make a bit more sense, it being an unusually clean and spare mini-ballad that drafts the usual strings but succeeds by virtue of a swift running time and a Bolan-esque narcosis in the vocals. But it's only a brief refresher between the frantic first half of “Trucker Speed” and the even more ragged “My Gun,” sounding a bit like Sparklehorse's “King Of Nails” if Mark Linkous sung instead of whispered and cheered up a little (two things that, incidentally, wouldn't have improved “King Of Nails” but work fine here). Like “Trucker Speed” it lasts a little too long, and even occasionally seems to take a bite out of the chorus melody of “Going Over It,” but after an ending consisting entirely of tinkling bells (thus far the M's (sic) seem to approach marrying the rough and smooth less like peanut-butter-and-chocolate and more like lemon-juice-and-papercuts) we get the title track.

It's got the best chorus of the album so far and builds up to the customary dust storm of warm distortion from a slighter opening, which adds a bit of dynamic variation. It also stays aloof throughout, and considering most of the proceedings so far have been a bit like a puppy that keeps trying to jump up and lick your face (cute, but also a little annoying) it's easily the best sign that the M's can actually just deliver the songcraft that keeps occasionally shining through without weighting it down with bells and whistles (sometimes literally). Instead of trying to be fancy, “Future Women” just stomps to a satisfying ending.

“Never Do This Again” instead tries to borrow a little swagger, and like “Shawnee Dupree” never quite makes it. This is probably the worst part of the Rolling Stones' legacy (or would that be ripping off bluesmen?); Mick Jagger is still a bit unseemly even in his dotage, but when an essentially nice band like the M's tries to cop those moves it winds up hollow. The piano in the background during the end riffing is very well-placed, but it can’t make up for the song's lack of a chorus. “Mansion in the Valley” is a more successful stab at the same thing complete with “woo-hoo”s and the band singing along with the brass that comes into the second half. You're kind of wishing for another “Light I Love” to clear the air again, though.

Instead you get “Underground,” not a bad song (actually the best of the “rawk” ones on Future Women), but fuzz fatigue has set in. This is why those old garage bands who had this kind of sound via necessity are more fun to listen to for the length of an EP rather than a twenty-five track compilation. It's short, peppy, and the sort of thing that shouldn't feel like the tenth part of an endurance race. There's a great loopy keyboard and the vocals a bit yelpier than normal, and it would have made a great opener.

Finally we get “Darling Lucia,” which brings the Beatles into the mix; by sounding occasionally like some sort of “Helter Skelter” / ”All You Need Is Love” hybrid run through a fuzzbox. Which means it's great—even at nearly two minutes longer than anything else on the album. It also confirms that the M's (like a lot of other bands) are much more successful when they're not trying to rock out. In other words: They make a better Shins than a Stooges. For anyone looking for a relative of the former with an interestingly rough sound and loads of potential, the M's are good to go right now; but the rest of us are stuck mining gems from amidst muck, like normal.


Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2006-03-07
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