Album Review: Mt. Desolation – Mt. Desolation

By on Tuesday, 10th August 2010 at 12:00 pm

There’s so many so called ‘super groups’ around these days. So much so we’re going to have to start dividing said super groups into yet further labels themselves, ala, super and, erm, not so super, super group. Are you still with me? Anyway. We have Josh Homme’s Them Crooked Vultures, Jack White’s Dead Weather, Thom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace. Oh, and er…Keane’s Mt. Desolation

Hey, hey, where are you going? Don’t run away just yet! I know Keane don’t exactly have the coolest reputation in rock and roll, but one shouldn’t judge pre-hearing, right? So I was very intrigued when Mt. Desolation’s album arrived in my inbox this week. The alt-country group was a project initially hatched by Keane pianist Tim Rice-Oxly and his fellow bassist Jesse Quin while “sipping Guinness by a fire in a nice old pub ” in Dublin. Quite a modest beginning for a band which ultimately landed the likes of Ronnie Vannucci Jr of The Killers on drums, Tom Hobden of Noah and the Whale on fiddle and Winston Marshall of Mumford and Sons on banjo (to name but a few). Bet you’re interested now, right?

Well. I don’t want you getting too excited. Despite this coming together of talent, Mt. Desolation’s self-titled debut really isn’t all that earth shattering (sorry if I burst your musical bubble). I think it would be fair to say this record is just a product from a bunch of fellows who are spinning some country tunes in their spare time. Hey, the official biography even states that Mt. Desolation was “without any motive other than just doing what they loved”. But in a way, this lack of world-domination sprinkles the record with an element of welcomed freshness. This is not a hard-going, serious record which you are meant to sit, study and ponder over. No, it’s a record merely meant for listening to and enjoying – just like the obvious enjoyment experienced by those who recorded it.

Tracks worth name-checking amid the album include opener ‘The Departure’, a gloriously upbeat number with a skippy piano and a chorus that Gram Parsons’ Flying Burrito Brothers would be proud of. ‘Annie Ford’s’ strong vocal and epic-poppy rhythm is pure Springsteen – just with a nice added injection of indie guitar – while the gloriously fun ‘Platform 7’s’ pacey percussion and boy-girl vocals make you want to hike up your skirt to reveal your cowboy boots nestled nicely beneath.

There are expected fillers – ‘Bitter Pill’, for example, sounds like an average indie-rock track, while the stripped back acoustic tracks like ‘My My My’ are somewhat hard to take seriously as emotionally-charged authentic country tunes, especially when the lyrics are a bit, well, cliché and rubbish – “I won’t lie, but sometime’s it’s hard to talk when you’re an old-fashioned guy. And all my life I fixed my blues with a glass of whiskey and ice. My my my, is all I’d say. Your heart died. But you remain.”. Ahem.

But still. There are some wonderful tracks on here. ‘Bridal Gown’ reveals itself to be a truly haunting number, with it’s sombre vox and weeping strings, while the slow-paced highlight ‘Midnight Ghost’s’ rich slide-guitar and swelling harmonies are smokily Southern – the country sound achieved at it’s purest by the band (despite those cliché lyrics making a return as the band make use of that old trick of name checking states – “I came from Carolina….through Virginia…West through Arizona, Texas and New Mexico”.).

So, for those of you who tread in fear around anything that mentions the word Keane, seriously, do not let their name put you off this record. If you like toasty Southern sounds, well, there is a decent collection of ditties to be found here. Admittedly, it does go off kilter every now and then, and hey, it won’t ever be up there with the country super groups of Crosby, Stills and Nash, but it’s still a nice record for turning the lights down to and just enjoying.

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5 Responses

3:45 pm
10th August 2010

I’m a huge fan of both Keane and The Killers. I’m also a fan of Mt. Desolation. I don’t like how the media exaggerate Ronnie Vannucci’s role in Mt. Desolation. Sure, among everyone in this group, he may be the more famous one. But that doesn’t mean that he was involved greatly in recording this album! For starters, he is NOT the drummer. He probably only played some additional percussion in one or two songs, as suggested in their official website:

And this review failed to mention the song “State of Our Affairs”, which was available for free download from their official website not so long ago. I think it’s a brilliant track, I absolutely love it. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s really good IMHO.

4:31 pm
10th August 2010

I can only second what Steffi said. Get your facts straight! Mr. Vanucci is not the motor of this project and I highly doubt he will play with them on tour or anywhere else. This name dropping is just so cheap.
And I’m really tired of critics playing with the R’n’R sissy image Keane has apparently still to fight with.
Not that they’re bothered by it really, cos they do what they love and if that includes some members starting an alt./country band, then be it.
I really don’t mind you not praising Mt. Desolation’s album, don’t get me wrong, there. But it sounds like you would be more fond of it, if the band wasn’t related to Keane. Who you can’t officially like of course, cos that would be “uncool”. To write something only to please a certain readership is quite poor, me thinks. All the comparisons and cross links and relations shouldn’t matter that much, when you review a new album, to quote you here: “one shouldn’t judge pre-hearing, right?”. Well, that, you didn’t accomplish very well.

2:29 am
13th August 2010

No, I don’t mind Keane, actually. Do I say I don’t like Keane in this review? Hey, I’m not the biggest fan, alas. But I am stating the known fact that a lot of people look down on Keane. As soon as they see their name is mentioned, they would run off from this album. So I put a fight up for them in this review don’t I? I tell people to NOT be put off – something very easy to do when an ‘uncool’ band name is dropped. And I apologise about what you said was overstating Vancunni’s role, but alas, everywhere I looked, people were beyond keen to state his part in this band, so I went with it, too.

2:38 am
13th August 2010

I only mentioned The Killers dude once?!

I had predicted Keane fans vs me. You must understand I judged this in the context of alt-country, not in the context of Keane/Killers/whoever was in the band. To be honest I couldn’t care less who were the musicians – I just focused on the music itself when listening to this record. And I give my opinion as much as I can on that music here. I personally can’t boast of it’s brillance as I do not think this is a mindblowing record in the context of the genre – Keane involved or not. But I certainly think it’s a good one.

12:59 pm
13th August 2010

Music is a widely populated species, we are ALL entitled to our OWN OPINION, there is never a right or wrong (alot of music I like gets slated, but I don’t care, I accept that is their opinion – as long as I can listen to it and like it, is all that matters). The writer does NOT slated Keane, you have just misinterpretated what has been put here. To be fair, alot of people DO dislike Keane, so that would put them off getting this record. I think they put up a good fight.

Just go and enjoy the album for yourselves and make your OWN OPINION!!!

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