A walk down memory lane to the 50s, via the 90s – the Mavericks prove they have managed to stay still as we are all swept upstream with drum machines and more sound effects than BBC radio three disc set. We find here good, solid old-fashioned music to dance in the county hall to. Think sampling, but with skill.
The 1990s are very in right now and it’s not hard to see why- times were simpler then – you weren’t reachable any time, anywhere around the globe, the news was wall-to-wall coverage of a Spice Girl doing something unexpected and slightly cheeky to a Royal and your main concern was keeping your Tamagotchi alive. Of all things purely 90s the last thing I’d expect to have longevity and a surviving niche was The Mavericks, whose jolly, catchy ‘Dance the Night Away’ was known to appear on many a 90s hits compilation, as well as ‘Never Mind The Buzzcocks’ team captain Phill Jupitus merrily twisting away somewhere deep in the heart of the 90s. A flash in the pan. Wrong. Here, The Mavericks are basically the best cover band ever – and they’ve written the songs themselves. It’s like flipping through a filofax (remember those) of 1950s genres and sub-genres, little nods to great artists of the era all wrapped up in polka dot bow of actual legitimacy. Oh and it gets political too. No, really.
‘Brand New Day’ brims with so much optimism, glee and feel-good vibes it’s enough to make you forget the world, politics and that nasty stuff for ten solid tracks as you are twirled by your aunt or teaching your cousin how to twist. There’s something inherently wholesome about this album, which comes from the heart – but make no mistake – this is well-crafted stuff. Sure, it starts on a jolly two-chord bluegrass note in ‘Rolling Along’ but Raul Malo’s instantly recognizable vocal quells your 21st century cynicism and your foot just starts tappin. It’s seductive – so easy to let go as encouraged by the carefree, unworried mantra of ‘we’ll just keep rolling along’ much like the happiness of Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ – it’s catching. Track two, the title track, starts with a Roy Orbison style vocal before easily slipping into Motown territory complete with a strong female backing vocal evoking 60s girl group vibes. It’s more grown up than the last with moments reminiscent of Sam Cooke and the Phil Spector sound with a punchy chorus and bells for good measure. They’ve truly shed their gimmicky image, as twenty plus years on the gig circuit (one is coming up later this year) has made their sound tighter, more confident.
‘Easy as it Seems’ is their most streamed of the album: upbeat, rockabilly it drives a dancing beat – but it’s the lyrics to this track that are the most pointed -alluding to the current state of America: ‘Take a look around us/ it’s easy not to see/ building walls between us/ doesn’t fix a thing’. It two-steps on a minor chord formation which gives the track this sense of forewarning, whilst remaining difficult not to dance to. It’s not until exactly halfway through the album, ’Good Night Waltz’ that we get a new sound, the drums gently complimenting the lazy, sentimental saxophone and a chance for the vocal to really shine through. Again, the 50s are evoked with slow dances at the school gym of many a flick referenced here. It’s at this point however, without so much production and distraction that the lyrics are revealed to be a tad formulaic, simplistic perhaps – but in this age of say it quickly, effortlessly and savagely as possible this is a fine tonic – and it’s not about that for once, as once again, we are seduced by the romanticism, which just about holds back from being sickly sweet.
Another nod to music genres comes in the form of ‘Damned If You Do’ with The Mavericks getting a little bit sexy – there’s tango all over this rockabilly, Elvis inspired sultry track – once again with accurate, live and acoustic sound – a rarity achieved with style. Nearing the end of this tour down memory lane is ‘Ride with Me’ – their ska offering, with heavy horns and jazzy piano – and Raul relaxing a bit in his vocal. It’s another jazz track with a pretty fringe on top that leads into a strong finish, dipping toes into country sounds in ‘For The Ages’; ‘I’ve never seen a star twinkle in the sky/half as bright as the light in your eyes’ yes yes it’s a bit OTT, but it’s romantic too, and my cold, cynical 21st century gets a degree warmer. Swing, Rock n Roll and Ballads whoosh by in a pleasurable haze.
Ultimately, ‘Brand New Day’ doesn’t rock the foundations, but then not all music should have to – this album pure escapism, ten tracks of sunshine to distract from all the grey around us – these guys are true musicians, who actually play their instruments, and belong squarely to a genre – how rare is that these days? Proving they still got it, twenty plus years on. This is a modern vintage, an easy and carefree record to ease into summer. Sopluck up your courage, invite your friend’s sister to the dance, and get this album on. One for the true Easy Listener.
Brand New Day
Easy As It Seems
I Think Of You
Damned (If You Do)
I Will Be Yours
Ride With Me
I Wish You Well
For The Ages