REVIEW: MËTTLE – “27 Ghosts” [EP]
Reaching to the future through the past, Southern Californian, alt-rock outfit Mëttle, set out to explore their own sonic scope whilst showing an affinity for all things Pat Benatar. Formed in 2016 as an 80’s/90’s cover band, Megan Rice, Scott Gossett, Raul Ochoa and Anthony Gossett soon abandoned the ways of the tribute act for the bolder, more ambitious pastures of self actualisation. March 22nd sees Mëttle drop their debut five-track EP ’27 Ghosts’ and the results are part promise, part what could have been. While an admirable effort, heavily laced with a nostalgic, 80’s Rock, West Coast sound, with just a hint of country, there’s something of serious promise lurking behind the familiar trying desperately to get out. Surfacing occasionally, pepping through at moments, ’27 Ghosts’ shows Mëttle have the potential to go places.
Musically, 1980’s rock runs riot throughout ’27 Ghosts.’ Less a case of getting lost to their influences, Mëttle seem to have adopted the cut-up method, favored by the likes of William Burroughs and David Bowie. Cutting sounds, beats, and rhythms from the likes of Pat Benatar, Quarterflash, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Scandal, to name an obvious few, combinations of familiar sounds are juxtaposed in unique and fresh arrangements. The initial moments of “Dreams”, driven by the intermittent playing of bassist Anthony Gossett and drummer Raul Ochoa, shows a striking affinity with Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”, a song whose structure seems to act as a template for much of ’27 Ghosts’. Here a strong bass line precedes a head bopping, hair-flicking chorus that, by the time it all comes to an end, leaves you in a great mood.
When it comes to leading single “Red and Blue,” we’re in the presence of what some might consider a rare breed of song. A simple structure, filled out with an exceptional recurring main riff that would make The Cult’s Billy Duffy proud, “Red and Blue” injects a desire for life directly into your veins. Once the chorus hits, vocalist Megan Rice entices with engaging lyrics and a triumphant delivery, with Rice’s phrasing and harmonies working exceptionally well. Then they go and do it all again with another serious contender for outstanding track, “Warmer Weather”. Smooth, sultry, tender, and bridged with a solo that tips the hat to Gary Moore and Glenn Frey, “Warmer Weather” ends on a high note, with both these tracks propelling Mëttle straight into the list of “Ones to Watch”.
Yet if plenty of elements in ‘27 Ghosts’ work in its favor, there are some that just don’t add up. With a producer of the calibre of Grammy Award Winning engineer and producer Erich Talaba overseeing the construction of this EP, listeners may be surprised to pick up on some obvious anomalies, particularly in the solo sections. Moments, such as “Stuck” feature a fantastic solo suggesting Van Halen meeting Whitesnake played by Ritchie Blackmore on a thin Telecaster, with some beautiful individual flourishes that introduce a delicious hint of country. Yet, too often, Gossett’s solos rest on top of everything, coming across too harsh, with tracks like “Gavin” feeling weak in comparison to the rest of the EP. In the same respect, Rice’s vocal ability doesn’t feel exhibited to its full extent, often feeling buried beneath the music instead of being supported by it, confined within a narrow range she is clearly capable of exceeding. Add to this a dominance of basic metronomic simplicity, which constrains and holds everything back, and it soon begins to feel like an opportunity not fully taken.
This simplicity may be a trait of Talaba’s with artists like Yellowcard using sharp violins, or Fall Out Boy’s prominent guitars and straightjacket metronome, but it’s not a trait suited to these artists, whose inspirations operate from a richer, more diverse, musical canvas. All of which leads to the feeling that ’27 Ghosts’ doesn’t properly show all that Mëttle have to offer. For the less discerning listener, the almost basic production values could have them dismissing Mëttle before they’ve being given a proper chance to showcase themselves.
Which hopefully won’t happen. If ’27 Ghosts’ re-imagines the 80’s rock sound without trying to relive it, its look is to move it into the 21st century. Offering an infectious, if flawed, introduction to these promising newcomers, ’27 Ghosts’ isn’t the finished article. But when it’s good, it’s very, very good indeed. With Mëttle showing the potential to produce some strong work, and generating interest from some of the music industries highest alumni, the future might well be promising for these new kids on the block. Here’s hoping it does.