WATER COOLER TALK
If The Stone Roses had released Second Coming — which contained some fabulous and innovative music and, in ‘Ten Storey Love Song’, one of the greatest pop songs ever — before their eponymous album, the course of their career may have been very different. The media probably would have been something along the lines of, “An opener full of promise followed up by an album for the ages, this band goes from strength to strength. As it was, Second Coming’s failure to live up to the hype created by that first album, along with a whole bunch of contractual stupidity and all the other elements of the rock and roll tragedy, conspired to make The Stone Roses one hit (album) wonders.
Why is that relevant here? Well, Scream Mountain have invoked a bit of the curse of the Stone Roses by releasing single, ‘Lovesick’, a moshpit/dancefloor friendly slice of snappy surbrban pop that reaches heights most bands could only ever dream of, prior to their latest EP, Water Cooler Talk.
‘Lovesick’ is a bona fide hit. It’s just about perfect, achingly beautiful; the sort of pop song most writers would sell their souls to have written. Whereas the other three tracks on Water Cooler Talk, good though they are, will always stand in the shadow of their sonic sibling.
Listening to opener, ‘Vices’, initially made me wonder whether the band had sent me the unmastered track or some early mix that the drummer’s partner had been playing around with in the kitchen one night, ably assisted by the family cat. It opens with that far away vibe which returns when the vocals kick in and goes on long enough that you begin to wonder whether they actually meant it. It works, but it’s a bit of an each-way bet for a while. The song itself is a slice of poppy melancholy that will resonate with anyone into their third beer on a sunny Sunday afternoon wondering whether their mates are actually going to turn up to the party. Don’t worry, it’ll be OK and it’s nice to know that Scream Mountain have your back.
‘Sentimantal’ is a slow burn of a song that features layered vocals and a guitar motif that somehow leans on Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ without being in any way derivative. Featuring Hayley Mengel on vocals, this is a nice slice of dream pop that, in places, almost touches the sky despite tending towards feet of clay. It’s a gorgeous song, but I’m greedy and I want more from it.
They’ve probably never been face down in any gutter — individually, collectively, metaphorically or actually — but that doesn’t stop Scream Mountain singing about it on ‘Mirrors’, the last track on their EP, Water Cooler Talk. Driven by a funky bass line and just enough cowbell, ‘Mirrors’ prevaricates between being a dancefloor groover and a dangerous diatribe with guitars that don’t know whether they’re aiming for Nile Rodgers or Mick Jones and, as a consequence, never quite land in either spot.
(You can listen to Water Cooler Talk on Spotify, here.)
In a feature on Scream Mountain last year, Around The Sound said: “…if you’re looking for a band with the esoteric indie-cred of The Strokes and the universal appeal of Elton John, you’d better check out Scream Mountain, because they’ve got it all going on.” (Read the full article here.).
I don’t back away from that one bit. I think Scream Mountain are a band with a massive upside and I stand by Strokes/Elton John comparison. I just think they’ve unwittingly strayed slightly into Stone Roses territory, but I know that, for them it will result in bigger and better things. After all, Scream Mountain are yet to have their proper first coming, let alone the rest.