It doesn’t take an expert to recognise that brilliant music has always hailed from Merseyside, and The Mysterines are no exception. The indie-rock four-piece have forced themselves into the conversation over recent years. Highlights feature extensive festival billings (including headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds), high profile support slots with bands such as Royal Blood and The Amazons, and sold out 2020 and 2021 tours. It’s without a doubt that they’ve made up for lost time, given the stumbling block of a global pandemic, having released the raw and exciting debut album Reeling on Fiction Records. In fact, once you hear the potent opening riff to the opening track ‘Life’s a Bitch (But I Like it So Much)’, you know that you’re in for a good one.
The album was recorded live at Assault & Battery studios in London in order to maintain the band’s raw, explosive, venue-filling sound. Produced by Catherine Marks, who’s worked with the likes of Wolf Alice, The Big Moon, and PJ Harvey, Reeling was recorded in less than a month between lockdowns.
It is clear that The Mysterines have honed an alt-rock, guitar-driven sound, and the record never strays too far away from it. Yet, the band are creative and show range; they carry their expansive sound throughout the record while touching on many different genres. From the distorted bangers of singles ‘Hung Up’ and ‘In My Head’, to The-Black-Keys-sounding “grunged up country” of ‘Old Friends / Die Hard’, the “creepy, cultish” ‘Under Your Skin’ and even an acoustic ballad towards the end of the album (‘Still Call You Home’).
Lead singer Lia Metcalfe’s vocals are front and centre for the duration of the record as the standout element. She delivers a powerful and exceptional vocal performance that matches and often raises the energy of the instrumentals.
There would be plenty of room to hide lazy lyrics in the intensity of the mix, but the words are well written. The easy to pick up and catchy repeated choruses are designed to be shouted back from a mosh pit and will be for years to come. The lyrics carry “the blackest of humour”, drawing on “grief, self-destruction and heartbreak”. Nestled in the middle of the album “Stooges-Esque” is the third single ‘The Bad Thing’, with a bassline that progresses in tempo, again designed for an up-for-it live crowd. As Metcalfe explains, the lyrics are funny to her, as she is “digging someone up from the grave that I used to love”. Although it is an odd and deeply intense ride from catharsis to heartbreak, it works. And I would love to be in the mosh pit for it.
While not seeing a drop in quality, some songs towards the end of the album feel a little less polished than their outstanding neighbours. Tracks like ‘Means to Bleed’ and ‘The Confession Song’ lack some of the potency of the rest of the record, and it does mean the album doesn’t have a wholly satisfying conclusion. Having said that, to have produced an album so distinct this early on in their career is nothing short of remarkable. They’ve band has laid everything out and it’s clear that they have plenty still left in the tank.
Overall, Reeling is a potent and great debut album, but this isn’t a surprise. The band have forced themselves into the limelight and Reeling acts as a confirmation of their status; The Mysterines are a true force to be reckoned with. They have little in their way.