Album Review: Mike and the Mechanics – The Road

By on Tuesday, 5th April 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

After a 6-year dry spell, Mike Rutherford’s Mike and the Mechanics have released their seventh studio record, ‘The Road’. With new vocalists in the form of Andrew Roachford and Tim Hower, the change in musical genre will be a shock to some, but there remain some remnants of classic Mechanics deep within these 11 tracks.

Although starting out with such promise, the material admittedly wavers in the bulk of the record. Perhaps in trying to avoid the cliché of contemporary returns to ’80s music, Rutherford’s new posse have strayed back in time, dazzled the music with some current trends, and attempted to portray the tracks as original. The result is a rather plain, but nevertheless, softly intricate record.

The rash bass beats of ‘Oh No’ reminisce directly back to a past Rick Astley. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I am not sure. Clouded by the haze of bouncy synths and programmed drums, the majority of the songs result in the listener pondering why, for a guitarist of such calibre as Rutherford, a more centrally-guitar-based record is not delivered from ‘The Road.’ However, once the distortion kicks in for the guitar solo of title track ‘The Road’, dedicated fans will instantly be reminded of the elements of classic Mechanics. The only accusation one can conjure is why there are so few of these elegantly beautiful instrumental sections in Mike and the Mechanics’s latest release.

‘Background Noise’ is a subtle, serene track. Nonetheless, the sustained staccato guitar notes of Rutherford immediately grace the soft vocal textures. It’s the ’80s all over again, yet with a profound sense of melodious maturity. The fluentness of both the singers’ vocals is undeniable, but overall both Roachford and Hower lack the distinct fervour of the ‘Two Pauls.’ Although tracks such as ‘You Can Be’ and ‘Heaven Doesn’t Care’ strike the classic Mechanics ballad chord, you sadly won’t find anything comparable to ‘The Living Years’ on ‘The Road’.

For the more varied classic rock fan, ‘The Road’ has a striking resemblance to Boston’s ‘Corporate America’: the shared vocal sections, the occasional guitar solo, the artificial instrumentation. There are many similarities, except the former was released almost a decade ago. From what it seems, Mike and the Mechanics have taken a chronological step back with ‘The Road’. Perhaps the record needs a more guitar-influenced direction to distinguish them from any old ’80s revival band. It’s a gentle homage to the decade from which they thrived, but whether it remains valid for today’s generation is debatable. All the same, without trying to avoid cliché, the album is a long ‘Road’ indeed, but there are certainly a few gems along the way.

6/10

‘The Road’ by Mike and the Mechanics will be released on 11 April on Sony.

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