Master & The Mule - The View from Nowhere - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Master & The Mule - The View from Nowhere

by Amy Putman Rating:8 Release Date:2012-06-13

Imagine a very super-mega-mellow Pantera. It's tricky I know, but stick with these mind-bending, chew-my-own-cheek-off dynamics. Now add in the bastard offspring of Queens of the Stone Age and Motorhead, but with a touch of the musicality and melodic nature of Metallica circa 'Enter Sandman'. Now imagine them in a bouncy castle orgy - limbs and faces, voices and talents wobbling together in a glorious heap of abundant joy. The much coveted secret portfolio of black and white photos taken by the international artist voyeur who was also at that champagne-fountain spectacular of a party is this album, and so is his illegitimate, drug-taking model/actor son.

It's not just good. It's very good. It's sexy and robust, rhythmically interesting and full of spunk, but with a beautiful batwing vulnerability on the edge. If this band aren't touring massive stadiums across the world to apocalyptic hosts of sweating fans within a few years then there is no justice in the world. It's rock and, in places, it's the lighter end of metal while still being mood-evoking and the best end of contemporary prog.

It experiments with monotonous structural foundations to draw you into the songs before tearing it all away in a glory of nihilism and leaving you hanging delicately and full of precarious anticipation on the threat of a wavering note or skein of vocals. Then just as suddenly and unpredictably, it plunges you into the deep watery chasms of a bass chord.

Some parts may be a little slow for some rock fans - an experience substantially more Muse than Machinehead - but people who appreciate lilting, melodic rock, or just good music in general, will appreciate it nevertheless. It raises itself above ambience with a relentlessly bubbling deep effervescence, like a volcanic bubble in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which means even the slowest emotional moments are full of an energy that makes you want to sway to their beat, or at least offer them a drink of your neck.

You might not post them your firstborn but you'd send them your firstborn's pet kitten. Besides, the album knows exactly when to change pace. In fact, in everything from tune to the twisting levels of impact and force, Master and the Mule operate with pinprick precision. They have an almost preternatural ability to plait the listener into the skein of their storytelling; to manipulate mood and affections; your very sense of beauty. Just as you are dismissing them as too slow, too wailing, too thin, they reply in the exact moment with a lush riposte of vibrant, resonant vigour. Then, as you start to think you know them, sliding them into the stack of hard rock bands, they counter with a stab of soft Placebo, or a grungy riff.

'Camouflage' is a beautiful song which is at once epic and moody, soft, eerie and yet with a lasting impact. It's the aural equivalent of cold shivers. It's the song version of someone you can't see watching you across the room; almost not there, fading like mist and cobwebs in the breeze yet somehow producing prickles down your spine. I want to breathe it. I know it would taste sweet and crisp like a drop of dew on the grass you collapse into after a heavy night. 'Rudey Montgomery', which follows, is like a strong arm reaching towards a floating sylph - it grounds the listener with a steady, Queens of the Stone Age-style tune which grips on to you and reasserts the world of the living.

All in all, this is the most mature and able second album I have ever heard (though technically a first album, Master and the Mule have previously released an EP and album under the name Immune). This is the kind of extreme talent and application that reviewers write for; the kind of game-changing standard that is why people are excited by the music industry.

That's not to say that they are my new favourite band - there are flaws. They can be over-reliant on long-note vocal harmonies and sometimes their pared-down, raw backing track edges from beautiful simplicity to just being a bit plain simple. I also think that dabbling with something a bit heavier - the lighter end of metal, say - could push them to create something that goes beyond talented into truly original. They may even be capable of starting a genre with a bit more experimentation. While solid and professional, this album lacks spontaneity, playfulness and youth. That said, they are certainly one of my favourite new bands of the past few years and I look forward to following them for a long time yet to come.

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