Banquets / Mayflower – Split cassette

Split coverFolks, I do love a good split. And I’ll skip the usual preamble and tell you that this is a good split. You should listen to it. You should even consider buying it. (That is the thing where you do not find music via Blogspot, you terrible freeloader.)

It’s maybe a bit redundant to go ahead and actually review something that I’ve just told you you should go and buy, but indulge me. It’s getting late and I have an urgent need to go and drink some wine.

I’ve reviewed Banquets before. They were a band who I really rather liked but felt the need to hedge my praise with some criticisms about how I felt they could do better than they did. Well, since then I’ve actually listened to that EP at least a dozen more times, probably more, over the past… year, shit, has it really been that long? But yeah, I really dig it. Now they’re back with this split cassette and a full-length record (to be reviewed in that indefinable Nostalgia For Infinity ‘soon’ style).

Mayflower I’ve not come across before but they’re suitable bedfellows on the strength of the songs they’ve contributed here. More on them later.

I think one of the things I like most about Banquets, aside from the fact that they like to write songs about historical personalities as a sort of metaphor for whatever a song is actually about, is that they’re an irrepressibly upbeat band. They’re not a one-dimensional outfit by any means, but so many bands rocking this style of melodic punk rock tend to pursue a melancholic/nostalgic direction and it’s cool to find someone walking another path.

Anyway. So. Banquets have probably grown to become among my favourites, at the very least out of ‘bands I’ve only heard via reviewing music’. And yet… and yet… and yet. They’re still missing something. And again I don’t know what it is. Possibly it’s just that for all that they’ve written some great songs which I enjoy a great deal, they’ve yet to write something that makes me want to punch the air and scream along, or that feels like it’s torn my heart out as though I were still a hormone-riddled teenager and not a man approaching thirty (fffffuuuuuu-). Perhaps it’s just that this style of music is one that I associate so strongly with passionate and personal responses and that’s one box that Banquets have yet to tick. But that’s cool, because it’ll come, or it won’t, if they keep writing songs as good as these. I’ll be sticking around regardless.

I warned you you’d have to indulge me.

The first of three tracks from Banquets is ‘Sexy Ghosts’, and what I wrote above pretty much applies to this tune. It’s fast-paced and upbeat, sounding optimistic but with an irrepressible whiff of nostalgia and commonality of experience; mentioning smoking cigarettes in the same line in which a woman leaves you breathless, oh yeah. Banquets have clever lyrics, and they’re even better because they couch that cleverness in everyday experience so well. Next track is ‘Unforgiven V’, and there’s more of a mid-paced start to this one, which is pretty much an opportunity to build up some vocal momentum, strip it back for a brief middle-8, and then swoop back in and pick up the pace. Here’s another thing Banquets do well: vocal lines. And finally there is ‘Versatility’, which in a teeny stroke of ironic titling is the song about which I can say the least, although I do love how the lyric “do you know / what kind of shape I’m in” has such lovely staccato chord progressions wrapped around it.

Mayflower are unfortunately going to get shorter shrift through no fault of their own; I’ve just not had the chance to hear them before. Although, well, I’m not sure they lead with their best either. ‘Cork High’ starts out with a big fat power chord riff and dual vocalists, and actually wouldn’t sound much out of place on a late-90s/early-00s Fat Wreck compilation. This is a bit of an unfair comparison; no band deserves to be tarred by association with Guttermouth. Ha ha! Punk rock jokes!

Still, ‘Cork High’ isn’t a song that really leaps out at you or sticks in the mind, but it’s a decent enough tune that entertains through its directness and simplicity and perhaps, in retrospect, that’s the best way to start a split; not with your best material but with your most obvious. After all, people may not have heard you before.

Their second song, ‘Archival’, starts out slow and steady, holding a single guitar note forever with loads of sustain beneath a mid-pace bassline and some simply-sung vocals, steadily building up to something a bit more punchy. Later it kicks into some simple but fast-paced octave vs. power chord progressions, with gang vocals too. Like ‘Cork High’ it’s simple and pretty effective, although as with so many steady-build songs you may find yourself getting antsy and over-eager for the juiciest bits that come halfway through. The third and final song is a cheeky cover of ‘Travelin’ Band’; it’s a decent cover in the punk rock style, not really doing so much with the source material except speeding it up and adding several fists’ worth of extra punch.

It should be pretty obvious that Banquets’ contributions get my biggest thumbs up, though Mayflower still get approval in the form of my second, slightly smaller thumb. The two bands complement each other well and, although this isn’t a record in which they really seem to explore it, they both have a sense of history about them. Perhaps it’s just knowing what I do about Banquets and the name Mayflower and that band’s choice in song titles, but if both bands really do dig writing songs about historical subjects it could be cool to see them collaborate again on that. Just a thought. In the meantime, dig these six cool songs. If you’re not already convinced, click the links below. They will take you to good things.

BanquetsOfficial Site | MySpace

Mayflower: MySpace | Bandcamp

Black Numbers Records | Shouting Street Cassettes | Stream most of the split here

 

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  1. […] It’s a little hard for me to write about Banquets. This–I will explain for the benefit of newcomers–is because a little over a year ago I reviewed an EP of theirs. Then, a few months ago, I reviewed a split that they released. […]