Stop. In The Name of Love.
In your mind’s eye, imagine two mildly attractive people who have fallen deeply in love with one another. Imagine that these people have built a healthy relationship over a number of years based on mutual respect and overlapping personal interests, have lived out their young adulthood in each other’s blissful company and now spend their days sitting across from each other in a small room writing each poetry about how every personal sacrifice and fleeting hardship was ultimately worth it. Whether or not you find that image life-affirming or completely nauseating is a fair indicator of the degree to which you will enjoy You’re Going To Make It by Mates of State, a duo that is also married.
Mates of State are no spring chickens, and this time they have pulled up to the spot with a shiny new set of electronic toys. Gone are the acoustic guitars (at least audibly) of previous days to make way for gleaming synthesizers and more computerized percussion claps. It seems the duo have all but abandoned the indie singer/songwriting piano aesthetic… the thing that marked [2008’s] Re-Arrange Us, an album featuring songs like “My Only Offer” and “You Are Free” which sound like a combination of Fleetwood Mac’s production aesthetic and Ben Folds Five lyrics.
The clattering intro of “Staring Contest” sounds like a plethora of one-man electronic projects at first – the initial twenty seconds might go anywhere from Washed Out’s brand of chillwave to the enchantingly subdued house music of College to ghetto fabulous trip-hop in the style of Pretty Lights. Disappointingly, guided by the winds of Kori Gardner’s prominently mixed voice, the track lands somewhere in the realm of the dub and house-infused pop of Charlie XCX and FKA Twigs. Likewise, “Beautiful Kids” kicks off with a consciously retro synth melody (that kind of sounds like the Terminator theme) but again, descends into melodramatic mid-pace before it has a chance to unfold and realize itself. While the lyrics about how us young’uns are “always staring into cracked screens,” is kind of clever, the delivery of the quip sounds like it’s coming straight from the lips of your doting, out-of-touch mother. The highlight of the EP’s second track is the synthesized marimba sound that makes an appearance in the bridge.
“Gonna Get It” is built on a jangly rhythm that suggests it was written on a guitar despite the instrument’s conspicuous absence. The imitation 60s Hammond organ is a welcome call back Mates of State’s (slightly) earlier work, but the distracting electronic trappings and general overproduction sounds like someone took a Neil Young song and gave it the Eliza Doolittle treatment, scrubbing all the dirt off it and dolling it up like some kind of high-class whore when it would have been best left on the streets to fend for itself. The same is true of “Sides of Boxes.” A little bit of Stevie Nicks-inspired soul is almost certainly buried in there somewhere under all the crowded arrangements, but digging through the skittering percussion and slowly oscillating kaos pad tones hardly seem worth it.
Things don’t exactly gain any momentum from there. “I Want to Run” features what must be the cheesiest string section ever included in a work of art that earnestly, unironically tries to appeal to young adults. The fireworks and arcade sound effects dotting the bland work sound tailor made for a jeans commercial. Maybe Mates of State and GAP could go in on a joint comeback venture (SO TOPICAL). On top of the textureless blob of a song rest lyrics that are sickeningly detached in their hopefulness and naïvete, like the content of a Nicholas Sparks novel (“Let’s see what we can do” is a major motif).
In the case of certain groups like Cults and Sonic Youth, the creative chemistry between respective romantic couples can lay the bedrock of truly inspiring music. Art made by pairs of lovers lend a unique perspective to a genre like rock’n’roll – so predicated on internal conflict and base desires. But, Mates of State don’t do any of that. They’re like an indie rock Carpenters. Or maybe the Cardigans. Was anyone married in either of those bands? I don’t know. Anyway, worse than that, they can’t even commit to a genre to sap up. The gradual shift into the realm of electronica over the course of Mountaintops and their latest EP kind of frames these mates as mere trend-chasers, trying out mediums into which they might potentially pour their already overflowing affection for one another before moving on to the next sound of the moment. Remind me to never get married, ever.