[sic] Magazine

The Mary Onettes – Islands

When we were young we all had the same idea. Hugging our favourite records to our chests, we thought that being in a band would be the best. Equally, we dreamed that even better would be the chance to be in our favourite bands. The Ekström brothers at the heart The Mary Onettes made tentative steps along this very route, but instead of now standing side by side with their heroes they stuck with sounding like them.

Their home in Sweden must be like a time capsule, faded pictures of Ian Brown on the walls, aborted hairspray homages to Robert Smith fill the air. Naturally therefore, their Islands is full of anthemic indie. It swaggers, it glowers and happily it’s mostly all pre-Britpop. Laden with that late 80s-early 90s echo and ripe indie jangle, Islands houses killer tracks and dreamy filler that sound nostalgic in such a way as to seem always to have been a part of that era.

The opener “Puzzles” lunges into The Cure catalogue circa “Hanging Garden” with velvety ease, “The Disappearance Of My Youth” even witnesses lyrics about “pictures of you”. Just as Surfer Blood have been doing, and just like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart succeeded with, “Dare” is full of fragile, true indie optimism laced through with Morrissey ‘s dark pop heart. It’s warm results are pleasing enough to melt the harshest Swedish winter. “Once I Was Pretty” is sadly less effective, starting like a banking commercial and finishing in wallpaperish anonymity, it reminds us exactly why early Suede harmonies are no longer hot.

When “Cry For Love” breaks from wallowing in self-pity it borrows the twinkling swelling from Joy Division ‘s “Atmosphere”, whereas “God Knows I Had Plans” is a straight musical lift from the second Stone Roses album, the echo-y vocal somewhere closer to Brett Anderson . “Symmetry” is altogether beefier, driven by a determined synth-line and “Century” is back in cahoots with “Without You”-period Cure. Its soaring chorus pitches for and succeeds in hitting the then much-sought after indie anthem. “Bricks” repeats this same trick.

Islands is a melancholic collection without a knockout punch. It pleases, charms and beguiles throughout. Its melodies are a joy, its songcraft worth the entrance fee. But by being so squarely set in nostalgia, much of Islands unfortunately already feels forgotten.

Islands is out now on Labrador Records.