Album Review: BEND SINISTER – On My Mind EP
With a lone piano playing out the lead riff of the chorus soon to follow, BEND SINISTER’s latest EP On My Mind begins with an upbeat swirl to the tune of “Give It A Rest”, easily setting the stage for a five-track offering that ranks among some of the most infectiously hooky songs in recent memory… and we listen to a lot of music here at The iM.
Produced by long-time BEND SINISTER collaborator Shawn Cole (You Say Party!; Yukon Blonde) at FaderMaster and Mushroom studios in Vancouver, On My Mind has a really tight production that even manages to surpass the bands’ previous efforts – most of which were also Cole productions. The bass is smooth and flows as the driving force beneath the record, the keys and guitar work are equally prominent and yet blend together with ease, and the drums – the snare in particular – seem to have the perfect amount of depth to escalate things just that extra step.
Aforementioned lead single “Give It A Rest” is a toe-tapping treat, and the recurring musical motif is the kind of riff you’ll likely find yourself humming out of the blue at the most random occasions. The song itself tends to have this escalating build towards the bridge, where things break down to frontman Dan Moxon’s vocals alongside drummer Jason Dana’s punchy snare hits. The song brings things back to the chorus and ultimately fades out with the opening riff, now with a muffled synth effect as opposed to the standard piano fare.
There’s a lot of depth to this record, as easily evidenced by the punchy Rhodes piano chording from Moxon in “Got You On My Mind” – harkening back to some of the great late-70s/early-80s arena rock acts: YES, BOSTON, JOURNEY, FOREIGNER, BILLY JOEL, SUPERTRAMP; they’re all easily apparent in this latest EP – and these days some of them even make appearances as covers in the band’s live set. Guitarist Joseph Blood has some fun lead riffs in this one, and paired with Dana’s speedy percussion work help to steer the ship as Moxon and bassist Matt Rhode (no relation to the piano, yet aptly rockstar-named) maintain that constant forward momentum.
“I’m The One Leaving You” pushes more of that muffled Rhodes to the forefront, but the track is much more laidback both in tempo and rhythmically than the typical Bend Sinister song – not that this is bad thing at all – if anything it shows the band really trying to push beyond those arena-rock inspirations.
Any of the originally referenced comparisons to BEND SINISTER contemporaries THE MARS VOLTA – which the band received many of back in mid-2000s when Through The Broken City dropped – are essentially gone by this point in their songwriting career save for Moxon’s high tenor melodic vocal range, as the quality pop-song prominence has truly taken hold with the quartet on this release.
Going more along the direct musical approach, “Please Say” harkens back to the storytelling lyrical motif that Moxon and company used on their 2008 sophomore LP Stories of Brothers, Tales Of Lovers for track “Jimmy Brown”. Featuring a straight-up piano, as opposed to the synth/key prominence throughout the rest of the EP, “Please Say” focuses more on the interplay of Blood’s guitar leads to counter Moxon’s vocal melodies and they play together marvelously – in part because Moxon can hit the same register as Blood’s guitar riffs.
“The Road Divided” closes things out with a much more drawn-out heavier rock affair – eerily reminiscent of “Under The Ground”, the closing track from their 2005 release Through The Broken City. Lyrically the track tells the story of a small store in Kelowna B.C. (where Moxon grew up) that was forced to close after being bypassed by a highway (methinks someone may also have been watching Cars). Musically though the song has just the right amount of unusual time signature play (in the not as common 6/8) that it doesn’t make it too off-putting from the typical top-40 fare, but it’s inventive enough to separate it distinctly from the rest of the record. Melodic guitar/key leads and percussion fills ensue in abundance.
Ultimately, this release is just a teaser for things to come on their upcoming July 2012 full-length release Small Fame – some tracks may carry over, while others will be left behind. If anything is clear – in particular by the performance of some of those upcoming songs at this past Saturday’s Toronto gig at Cherry Cola’s – it’s that BEND SINISTER keep reinventing the way their rock delivers, and it’s perhaps their most interesting stuff yet that’s just over the horizon.