Mull Historical Society - Us

Colin MacIntyre aka Mull Historical Society has always bucked the trends and with "Us" he's done the opposite of exactly what everyone expected. When MHS first arrived on the scene their embracing of pop music was a relief from the whole Radiohead "slit your wrists" epidemic and there was a naivety in the production which meant literally everything was chucked into the mix. The resulting album "Loss" was one of the most refreshing pop albums of recent years and only the likes of the Super Furry Animals and Dawn Of The Replicants could fuse songs which mixed melody's with the mind of a mad scientist. In fact the worse thing the band ever did was to take themselves too seriously and replace the backing tapes with the addition of a session musician on keyboards which forced them to start stripping away all the gentle intricacies which made them special.

"Us" does indeed follow the pattern of the bands recent live shows, but what is truly upsetting that the brooding comeback single "The Final Arrears" is the most upbeat track on the album. "Am I Wrong" is a song so weak that not even Embrace would use it as a B-Side and the production sound cluttered. Despite the fact that in terms of instrumentation this album actually strips things back to the very basics the whole album sound muggy and at times is just a tuneless dirge and pale imitation of "Loss". Out of the mire there are genuinely touching moments such as "Asylum" which builds on a simple piano arrangement and benefits from the new sound. "Live Like The Automatics" veers between the genius of Elvis Costello and something MacIntyre banged out in 5 minutes. "The Supermarket Strikes Back" is MHS crystallized and condensed to four and half minutes and is the small town tale which MacIntyre and Kelly Jones do so well.

At times "Us" is a painful album to listen to and it's hard to see exactly what Colin MacIntyre will do next. In terms of commercial success there's no potential singles jumping out as "I Tried" and "Xanadu" did on "Loss" and yet at the same it doesn't have the depth to truly drag you in as an album. If he can regain that experimental mindset that he had on the first album rather than trying to make the mature album then maybe the Mull Historical can gain the fanbase they're inevitably going to lose as result of this album.

Alex McCann

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