[sic] Magazine

The Mary Onettes – Hit The Waves

The Mary Onettes (a nice play on words) may well be new to my ears but Hit The Waves , scheduled for release in March, is actually the band’s third album. Hailing from Sweden, they’ve been together for the best part of 13 years.

The overall sound of Hit The Waves is like a combination of 80s synth bands – but less Depeche Mode and more China Crisis , Icehouse & Mr Mister . In fact, China Crisis’s third album Flaunt The Imperfection could almost be the template for this album, with Philip Ekström’s vocals proving more than similar to Gary Daly’s , despite the two bands being based several countries apart. Like China Crisis, however, there’s a wonderfully lush production and lots of layered harmonies in place.

We kick things off with ‘Intro’, a dream-like track which introduces the album nicely. There’s a rather reflective feel to the track. Rather than all guns blazing, The Mary Onettes have chosen to wear shorts, dark sunglasses and beach sandals. It’s a nice down-tempo ‘ease-you-in’ opener.

‘Evil Coast’ has been receiving a fair share of interest in the blogosphere. It’s easy to see why. The China Crisis influence is prominent on this track. I am even reminded of Toto’s ‘Africa’ in terms of the harmonies and overall production.

The title track contains some nice chord changes and an uplifting “I’ll meet you in the waves” chorus.

‘Years’ kicks off in the same way that Foreigner’s ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ kicks off. Quite literally. There are synths with digital delay, lush layered harmonies and sultry vocals. The chorus, though, never really takes off as it should – instead it sounds like an extension of the same two-chord sequence used during the verse with “Stay Away! Stay Away!” vocals over the top.

I had to check my player during ‘Don’t Forget (To Forget About Me)’ to see whether the track count had moved actually moved on. Another two-chord verse, it could almost be an extension of the previous track. And no, it’s not a Simple Minds cover! However, where the chorus could have soared to the heights of Talk Talk or A-Ha , instead we’re presented with something akin to Hue & Cry or Johnny Hates Jazz .

The second-half of the album kicks off with the more promising ‘Black Sunset’. An upbeat track, it wears its influences on its sleeve and contains just the right amount of ingredients to lift the album. There’s an uplifting chorus and even elements of ‘Forbidden Colours’-era Ryuichi Sakamoto in the synth department.

With ‘Blues’ there’s suddenly a different energy. It’s like we’re treated to a different change of pace. For me, it’s the standout track on the album. It’s the track which I’ve found myself revisiting several times.

I seriously had to check that I was still playing the same album when ‘Can’t Stop The Aching’ arrived. The guitar and drum machine intro is reminiscent of The Cure’s ‘In Between Days’ – only with perhaps a more polished production. Unfortunately, the chorus failed to take off as it should have and the track feels like it’s run out of steam.

‘Unblessed’ unfortunately fails to deliver and eventually the reflective ‘How It All Ends’ brings the album to a gentle close.

There’s an overall feeling while listening to this album that it kind of washes over you, like a summer breeze. In fact, I can’t help thinking that a March release seems a little too early for what seems like a warm, Summery album.

I might be being overly harsh but Hit The Waves feels distinctly out of place in 2013. Where bands such as The Naked & Famous have taken the 80s sound as a template, chewed it up, ripped it up and spat out something contemporary and exciting, the same cannot be said for The Mary Onettes. It’s the sound of a band who has listened to lots of 80s LPs and delivered more of the same.

Lovers of 80s music such as China Crisis or summery pop may well be drawn under its spell, but I don’t think this album is going to set the world alight.

The Mary Onettes