Published Jan 28, 2014The New Mendicants' Into the Lime is one of those records that old New Wavers will end up wearing out. Which is to say that the guitar-based, harmony-driven pop on this full-length album, the follow-up to their well-received Australia 2013 EP, has something of a timeless feel. Think the Byrds and the Beatles meet Crowded House by way of Toronto's indie rock scene.
The grouping and the albums are side projects, but much has been made of the pairing of Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), and Mike Belitsky (the Sadies), the implication being that their output is in some way predictable, given the bands they call home, and wouldn't it have been funny had they come out with a metal or techno album? Well, no, and I don't really get the joke. Critics would have slammed the trio for not sticking with what they know and do best, and fans would have missed out on some pretty, well-crafted, niche-filling ruminations reminiscent of sloppier times.
The songs here were originally intended as a soundtrack for a movie adaptation of Nick Hornby novel A Long Way Down, but the music was perhaps too cheerful for a story about a bunch of strangers who were planning to kill themselves by jumping off a London high-rise. There's melancholy here, for sure, but it's not crushing: no one dies and neither lovers' disputes ("Shouting Match") nor one woman's choice between two men ("Cruel Annette") seem dire. And when the elusive object of their affection finally chooses none of the above and leaves ("Out of the Lime"), they simply pick up and rock out, Elvis Costello-style ("Lifelike Hair").
"A Very Sorry Christmas Eve" feels like the sober next-day apology after the Pogue's drunk-as-a-skunk "Fairy Tale of New York." Truth be told, it's hard not to be taken by all of the thoughtfulness here. When the album hits its stride with "High on the Skyline," "If You Only Knew Her" and the Sandy Denny cover "By The Time It Gets Dark," it's clear that these guys are just kind-hearted optimists. Speaking of which, here's to hoping that this happy coming together of pitch-perfect mendicants find a reason to work together again. (Ashmont)