“You guys ready for a joke?” poses frontman Michael Olivares while glancing over his shoulder at the rest of the band as if to say, “See I told you I’d do it.” A few whistles and yeahs from the crowd greet what feels more like a dare than a joke. “I am not a robot!” Olivares answers with a guilty looking grin. Well, it made me smile and that wasn’t the only time during The Mantles substantial but efficient set of 11 songs and an encore.
If you’re not yet familiar with the guys and gals from the Bay Area (San Francisco and Oakland) you need not look any further than their record label pedigree for a reason to seek them out. Having grown up in the 90’s, a ton of my favorite bands were releasing records on Siltbreeze and Slumberland, who released The Mantles debut and most recent albums respectively.
Touring in support of their June 18th release of “Long Enough to Leave” The Mantles set out for the east coast touring with Juan Wauters of The Beets. I couldn’t help but think of mid to late 60’s references as I watched The Mantles swing and sway through their first few cuts. The visual references were there, the Epiphone semi-hollow body and Gibson SG guitars, the mop tops, and the understated performance, but somehow it felt all too contrived, or perhaps more accurately, disconnected. I realized as I continued to absorb the sundrenched pop songs, it wasn’t 60’s at all, no not the neo-garage rock I kept reading about, but rather the 80’s believe it or not. No, not the American 80’s saccharine pop, or even the C86 sound of Britain and the UK, but something much closer to the Dunedin Sound emerging out of Aukland, New Zealand in the late 70’s and early 80’s. In particular, I hear wonderful hints from The Chills, especially their first two albums, as well as The Clean. Although not officially a part of the Dunedin Sound, Australian jangle pop outfit The Go-Betweens offer what I believe to be the closest comparison to The Mantles of 2013.
I apologize for even beginning this endless game of comparisons, but you see, one of my favorite bands of all time is The Go-Betweens, and I just couldn’t resist. I’ll leave it up to you to decide, but in the end I feel that I’m bestowing great praise upon this very talented and anything but derivative west coast quartet. Their set was built around 7 tracks off of their latest album with notable mention going to Raspberry Thighs, Brown Balloon, Marbled Birds, and the title track Long Enough To Leave. They added an encore of Hello and graciously thanked the crowd who they’d clearly won over, despite the opening joke. If you haven’t been won over by The Mantles, I highly encourage you to seek them out.
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1. Happy Island
2. Marbled Birds
3. Reason’s Run
4. Brown Balloon
5. Don’t Lie
6. What We Do
7. Shadow Of Your Step
8. Summer Read
9. Long Enough To Leave
10. Raspberry Thighs