Mendoza Line Full of Light and Full of Fire

Seven albums into their career, the Mendoza Line have built a reputation as one of America’s most versatile and literate bands. Of course, this isn’t exactly the recipe for mainstream success, but as with any established cult figure, each new release (with any luck) builds upon the legend. Even this far into the game, the Mendoza Line may not quite be there yet, but it’s hard to find much fault with this latest effort. The alternating voices of Shannon McArdle and Timothy Bracy lead the band through a wide range of folk rock guises, from the moving opener "Water Surrounds,” to subtle political observations "Pipe Stories” and "Golden Boy,” to the world-weary country weeper "Settle Down Zelda.” While their biggest hindrance has probably been not being easily categorised as either folkies or rockers — they wind out pretty well on "Name Names,” for example — the high quality of their songwriting has always been undeniable. Fans of the Mekons especially should be all over this, but for anyone else, don’t let the band’s name deceive you. The Mendoza Line have always batted a thousand. (Misra)