The Mono LPs
Christmas Time is available at:
RELEASED: 28th November, 2015
GENRES: Alternative; Indie
© 2015 The Mono LPs. The Mono LPs have teamed up with Pancreatic Cancer U.K. to raise funds and awareness for the charity. All profits of the single go to Pancreatic Cancer U.K.
FOR today only it is time to look at a Christmas song…
albeit one with a difference. There are a lot of different Christmas songs coming out at the moment- mainly from the music underground- and it raises an interesting point. Historically, we always think of Christmas tracks as cheesy and quite offputting. Having been hearing them for the last few weeks- they seem to be piped constantly in every shop- we have all had enough exposure to the songs we have heard for years. I understand shops/businesses want to get people ‘in the spirit’; yet it seems to be overkill at the moment. It is nice to hear the old favourites closer to the day but most people have had their fill already. That said, when a new Christmas song comes along, it not only provides a chance to hear a new song- it allows you to still feel Christmas-y at the same time. Before I mentioned my featured act, it is worth looking at the nature of Christmas songs. Most of the tried-and-tested classics relate to togetherness this time of year. Whether someone is driving home for Christmas (Chris Rea) or just celebrating the day in all its fun and frivolity (Slade; Wizard etc.) there seems to be a range of emotions and possibilities. The Christmas songs I have always loathed are those without a message or true meaning behind it. It is all very well producing something uplifting and embracing: if it does not interest you with its lyrics and themes then its appeal is going to be short-lived. The likes of Wham! and The Pogues remain seasonal favourites; not only because of the quality of the song but what it says. It seems like a strange point to labour yet the best and most memorable songs have a key message and something universal to them. When it comes to Christmas songs, too few actually dig deep and put their mind to it. I think we all get a little tired (of Christmas songs) because of those cheesy and rather obnoxious numbers that do not do anything but cloy and irk. My featured act have not only produced a great Chritmas song- it is one with a great message that is modern and relevant- but the music and vocals are memorable too. So many Christmas tracks suffer in one department- overly-emotive vocals or a stupid composition- yet the Liverpool band have taken great care to ensure their latest track possess quality in each department. The Mono LPs consist of:
Ste Reid - Vox - Songwriter - Guitar
Vicky Mutch - Cello - Backing Vox
Chris Barlow - Bass
Daniel Beech – Drums
Before I raise a new point- and get down to the music itself- it is worth noting the band is raising funds for Pancreatic Cancer U.K. - no pressure to buy! It is impressive and note-worthy finding musicians that generate music to help charities- it is something that does not happen too often. This time of year is synonymous with giving and kindness so perhaps it is fitting that something like this has happened. Perhaps The Mono LPs’ altruistic approach to music will rub off on fellow bands- we can only hope so. Not just a commendable move, the song in question- which I shall get down to shortly- is one of the best they have produced. The band market is busy and hectic at the moment- as I keep mentioning in reviews- and I always love seeing the variation and types coming through. Liverpool is one of the most interesting areas for music at the moment. Recently I have mentioned cities like Leeds and London- when it has to come to my reviews- and it seems like the north is hotting-up right now. Liverpool has always been at the musical heart and produced some of our finest acts. I have never visited the city but I know a lot of bands and act up there. Everyone really says the same thing about the city: the heritage and communities there inspire great music. I cannot speak for other areas; it seems Liverpool has a lot of great and supportive acts that is helping to inspire a great scene. Vibing off the history and legacy of the city, many young bands are stepping to the plate and putting out some wonderful music. The Mono LPs have had quite a busy time lately and are planning moves for 2016. I love the sound of the band as they are one of the most original and immediate acts out there. The direct and passionate vocals sit inside stunningly addictive and tight compositions. The entire band has a great connection and sound that has seen them invigorate critics and draw in a lot of fans. A few days ago the band put out Die a Little Death (Deluxe): a collection of live/studio recordings that drew in some of their past recordings. A chance for fans to see the guys in a different light/setting; it is a collection that new fans should get hold of. Bristling with memorable songs and wonderful moments it is clear the band is going to be a name to watch. I put a lot of recommendations out there- when it comes to the bands who will hit the big leagues- yet it seems apt and appropriate with regards the Liverpool clan. It is not just their consistency and quality that amazes me but the attention they put into their music. Few other groups spend so much time to ensure their music differs from the competition. It will be great to see the guys come up with a new E.P. in 2016: a chance for fans to witness something new; what is on the band’s mind at the moment. As it is, it is well-worth checking out Christmas Time: one of the finest Christmas songs over the last few years; something that shows a lot of heart and spirit.
Before I get down to investigating Christmas Time, it is worth looking back at the band’s back catalogue. Last week the band released live/acoustic versions of some of their biggest songs- including The Flame and Emilia. 6 a.m., Die a Little Death, Giving It Up and Emilia are the songs that stick in mind with regards The Mono LPs.
6 a.m. is a tender and calming number that begins with hypnotic acoustic strings. Our lead arrives at the microphone to produce an aching and evocative story. Speaking to a lover, there is declaration and passion in spades. Backed by an aching and romantic cello line the song is one of the tenderest and pure I have heard in a while. Putting me in mind of Crowded House- and their Woodface period- the track boasts a hugely evocative and effective chorus. Building and exploding in time, our man will “try to believe”. You know there is some history and backstory to proceedings and are fascinated to know its origins. A heartrending and shimmering love song; it is not just the lyrics and vocals that impress. The entire band come together beautifully to create plenty of passion and drama- it is one of the most committed and compelling performances they have put to tape.
Having been released two years after 6 a.m. (which itself was released four years back); Die a Little Death saw the Liverpool group alter their sound slightly. Keeping that lyrical fascination and depth intact, the abiding sound is more Blues-Rock and Alternative. Rampant and rollicking, there is even a touch of Flamenco/Latin music to be heard- the percussion and rums flourish and dance. A catchy and sing-along chorus is only the start of things. Drawing in vocals from Vicky Mutch, it is a fully-rounded and nuanced song that shows how adept and malleable the band is. The song looks at our hero feeling lonely- when he is with his girl; she says he is “good for nothing”- and there is a lot of anxiety and recrimination in the song. Vacant eyes and hollow souls are looking in the mirror; a sense of loneliness and loss pervades the track and is hard to extricate one’s self from. That catchy and rousing chorus is hard to ignore and Die a Little Death ranks as one of the finest tracks from The Mono LPs.
Giving It Up- recorded a year ago- saw the band carry on from Die a Little’ and its sound. Perhaps more taut and menacing than that track; we see Mutch join in the vocal work and the entire band produce something exhilarating. The most spiked and swaggering track they have produced it is a song with layers and huge depth. Those Blues-soaked guitars swing and strut around as our man lets his voice do his work. There is sexuality, submission and false economy being surveyed. Straying away from the pure aesthetics of love and relationships the band take in modern-life concerns and fairness- a rallying cry of sorts for those disaffected and underfoot. The composition stands out on Giving It Up: one of the most memorable they have produced, the entire band sound completely in-step and focused. One of the shorter songs in the band’s cannon- it clocks in at 2:30- the band shows their concision and economy. Unlike previous numbers, this is one of the most Rock-driven and Alternative-themed tracks they have produced.
Emilia is another granite-sliced and hard-hitting song. With a shivering and quivering cello line running in the introduction, the vocal duo come together for something exhilarating. Our man was left in the “pouring rain”- with no money for a bus or train- so is hitching a ride. I get slices of The Black Keys, Led Zeppelin and legendary bands within the track. The composition shows real emotional depth and intelligence. The guitar lines and riffs mix beautifully with the classic elements- that quivered and spine-tingling cello keeps coming back. An hot-bloodied and stunning track, it shows a natural development and confidence. Perhaps the band’s finest-ever song; Emilia should be a staple of the airwaves. Once heard it is impossible to forget and it seems like a song that would be a live favourite. Over the months the band has gained confidence and get better with each new release.
It will be fascinating to see where this improvement takes them. Christmas Time embraces their earliest days- and the softer elements of 6 a.m. - and injects some of their more recent Rock elements in too. With such a staggering sound- and a great diversity and authority- I am sure 2016 will see something truly special come through.
Everything has been leading up to the shining star in the musical sky: Christmas Time is the latest song from the marvelous people of The Mono LPs. The opening seconds are dedicated to some aching and seductive cello strings. Putting my mind towards the likes of The Cinematic Orchestra- and their most assured and compelling numbers- and you have something instantly gripping and memorable. Romantic and swooning, there is a lot of dignity and reverence in the opening moments. Evolving from that solo string work, the band elicits a slight percussive hiss before transcending into a gorgeous piano coda. Paced and elliptical; the sound augments that romantic edge and wistfulness. You start to picture yourself in Christmas climbs and surrounded with candles and lights- the music video shows the band performing in a room abound with candles. I instantly notice the production here which is among the most assured and captivating of the entire band’s work. The introduction is crisp and clean without being polished; the piano notes shine through and the cello strings sound utterly beautiful. The best representation of this production quality is in the vocal which gets straight to the heart. Our front-man is at piano and laying his heart on the line. The opening lines see his heroine breathe into the winter’s air- her cheeks are rouge and the scene is set. I get pictures of the heroine and central figure- each listener will have their own interpretation- and the scenery is instantly set. Perhaps snow-filled and silent, you get images of streetlights and a crisp night’s air. Our hero is certainly entranced in his thoughts and paying tribute to someone very special. Even though the sweetheart is being attested- and it is someone that seems very pure and loveable- she is “not around”. As I piece things together- including the reason the song is recorded (to support pancreatic cancer) and those words- it seems like the loved-one is lost. Instantly you may think of a lover or mother- someone very special to lead- and the fact that she is sadly departed. Perhaps it is me over-interpreting with gloom shades yet the song has that haunting and touching sound. Solemn and sensitive, you get enraptured in the words and cannot help but sympathise with our hero’s plight. Among those tender and stunning vocals there is a shimmering and standout cello sound that cannot be overlooked. Reminding me of Nick Drake- and his work across Five Leaves Left- you can compare it with Way to Blue and River Man. It is a perfect and sparse combination that says so much with a few notes. Were there a lot of guitars and percussion sounds in the fold then it might distill the beauty and intentions. The song never sounds mordant or overwhelming at this stage. Defined by its soulfulness and heart, you cannot escape the beauty that is emitted. Our man recalls moments when he (and his subject) climbed a hill on the way to the chapel. With that distinct accent coming through- The Mono LPs do not Americanise their vocals and retain their home-made sound- and the picturesque scenes; you get a very detailed and recognizable scene. As the duo walk, the brass band plays on- and my mind starts to re-project the scenery. It is quite a Christmas-y theme and tableaux that is unfolding- we can all imagine the sort of scene and images that are being presented- and it puts a smile on the face. My thoughts stray away from remembrance and post-mortem tribute- not sure why it went there to begin- and we have a scene that puts you in the Christmas mood. The Mono LPs have always been master of the chorus and there is no change here. Not too unctuous and sickly, instead we get a composed and passionate chorus. It is Christmas time- and we should sit and drink wine- as the song starts to get inside the mind. Finding yourself swaying along to the song- and captivated by its heart and sound- it is a track that never relents or slips at all. Such a gorgeous vocal and melody- Reid and Mutch combine in voice- as the lyrics look at remembering and the sun leaving the sky. As the night leaves the day (the duo) reminisce about all they “used to say”. Before you get too engrossed in that vocal, the cello comes back in to producing something gorgeous and wondrous. A brief bit of percussion- tied to some acoustic guitar strum- adds to the energy and passion of the song. As my mind drifted away from recollections of times past- and recalling someone who has passed sadly- I return to those themes once more. Maybe our hero has a particular person in mind that he has lost- either romantically or has departed- and you cannot help but to suppress a tear. Never succumbing to anything too heavy-handed or depressing, the song is nothing but beautiful and memorable. Whereas most Christmas songs let the sickly-sweet rule the roost- with subject matters that do not really dig that deep to be honest- it is refreshing to hear a song that is concerned with real issues and something human. Christmas Time is a song that can be appreciated and understood by all in its sentiments. Whatever the truth behind the lyrics; you cannot help but to pick the words apart and see where they emanate. Our lead looks at days when we “were all fine”. By the closing moment that chorus comes back in as you cannot help be entranced and hooked by that chorus. Having watched the music video- and seeing the band perform in a candle-lit room- it is a hugely touching and unforgettable song/video. As the closing notes play- the cello comes in to produce something appropriately conclusionary and ethereal- and you end a song that is truly special.
If it weren’t for the chorus- and perhaps a few of the lyrics in the verses- the song could easily be about romance or… well anything else. It is not a traditional Christmas song in any sense. It does not look at gifts under the tree and kids waking up excited and deals with something more mature and important. I mentioned the significance of messages and meaning in songs: Christmas Time pulls away from the cliché and shallow sentiments of the past to address something deeply personal and yet universal. Some mystery and obliqueness linger in the lines- as to the true meaning/significance behind the words- but that only adds to the beauty and weight of the track. Reid and Mutch are particular impressive on a track that has harder edged- the chorus is rousing and memorable as they come- but plays with something softer and more gentle. A track whose lyrics and images are pure and heartfelt, it is that vocal that perhaps resonates longest. One of the purest and most emotive the band has produced, you know how significant the song is to Reid. When Mutch lets her cello play, you get the most impactful hit of beauty and serenity. Able to conjure images, colours and soul; it is a tabluea that soothes the soul and is not easy to forget. If you want to a Christmas song that differs from the predictable mass of sugar-sweet then check out Christmas Time. A track that has deep meaning and relevance- and is raising money and awareness for a very serious cancer- you have to tip your hat to the guys (and gal) of The Mono LPs. One of the best bands coming out of the U.K., they are going to have a big future ahead of them. Constantly wonderful songwriters, they have produced a sensational song that could rank with any of their previous work.
I love what The Mono LPs have done with Christmas Time. The song is not just a one-off novelty that is meant to be loved in the moment and then discarded. It is not a track that is effortlessly cheesy and saccharine- like so many other Christmas songs- but a track that can be enjoyed every year and will endure the test of time. Let’s hope the band can raise lots of money for Pancreatic Cancer U.K.- I am sure they have already raised quite a bit already- as they are doing a great thing and should be commended. The song itself departs from the band’s existing sound to create something more Pop-orientated. Having lost none of their focus, identity and talent; the track is a catchy number that sees the band produce of their best works. I opened by looking at Christmas number and their appeal- in addition to the music of Liverpool- and will return to that arena. We have all had our fill of the Christmas classics- we are all being exposed to heavily right now- and know every word to every track. Let’s hope Christmas Time makes it into the roster of classics as it is a modern take on an old theme. There have been few great and credible Christmas number lately- it is not something many acts tackle- and most are content to just let the established songs do their work. Whether acts don’t particularly like Christmas songs- or feel they wouldn’t be able to write a decent one- it seems an area that can be exploited. I know it is a rather narrow subject topic but there is plenty of potential to create something stunning and solid. The song does not have to be cheesy and expound the virtues of togetherness or fond recollections. It can be quite broad in a sense and address anything from peace/unity to finding love (at this time of year). A side of music that has plenty of potential, The Mono LPs have opened up a floodgate that should see more bands follow in their footsteps. Whether they do is yet to be seen but I would love to hear some more original Christmas songs come out. The guys will be busy promoting the song and trying to raise as much money as they can. Popular and established in Liverpool, let’s hope 2016 sees the band embark on a U.K. tour. I know money is always a sore subject and issue for bands; the tour does not need to be an extensive thing- just a chance for different crowds to witness their music. It would be nice to see them come down to London- there are plenty of venues that would be hospitable- and seduce the faces down here. Christmas Time has received an overwhelming and staggering response from social media. The band has been posting tweets to say how thankful they are- there has been some great feedback- and it seems the song has hit a lot of people hard. A terrific track that conveys an important message; so many people have provided their comments to The Mono LPs. Liverpool is a city that has been vital in music’s development and progression. From The Beatles in the ‘60s through to the ‘Britpop’ band such as Cast and The La’s- via the ’80s Punk bands like Echo & the Bunnymen- Liverpool has been hugely influential and important. The city keeps on producing these great acts that can stamp their footprint on music’s landscape. The Mono LPs have a terrific sound that is not often heard in the modern climate. With some Pop sensibilities and melody, they inject plenty of hard-edged Rock and Alternative sounds into the mix. Those emphatic and passionate lead vocals and backed by wonderful compositions. The band is among the tightest I have heard and their back catalogue is hugely impressive. Few bands mix male and female members- a point I mentioned when reviewing FloodHounds- and fewer have a cello player in their midst. It may seem like a minor point yet a lot of bands are quite predictable and clichéd. Away from the four/five male bands- where there is your guitar-drum-bass-vocal line-up- and there is not a huge amount of variation. I would love to see more bands mix things up a bit and broaden their make-up. When you provide variation and a new dynamic then you have greater possibilities with regards your sound. The Mono LPs have proved how rich and vibrant their music is- due to the fact they do not do things like other acts. Before I wrap things up I wanted to congratulate the band on a great release. A song that is going to be gaining a lot more praise, Christmas Time is doing a great thing for a great charity. The coming year will be an interesting one for the band who are sure to be thinking about getting back into the studio. Having enjoyed their past singles/E.P.s, it is going to be exciting to see where they go from here. The music scene is packing lots of bands into the public attention and it is interesting to see which acts will endure and succeed. I hear too many bands with such an overly-familiar and uninspired sound- that has been done so many times before- so it is those original artists that will succeed. The Mono LPs are inspired by a few acts but never wear their influences on their sleeves. If they keep their passion, sound and quality firm then there is no telling how far they could go. I am sure they will want to see the year in without having to think about 2016. Make sure you check out the young band as they will be doing some great things next year. If you have not purchased/heard Christmas Time then rectify this. Not only supporting a great cause and raising awareness- the survival rate of those affected by pancreatic cancer has not changed in 40 years- we need to do something to change this. Raising money, awareness and support is the logical and most important first step to affecting change. The Mono LPs have created a great Christmas song that deserves to be heard, appreciated and supported- to ensure they can help Pancreatic Cancer U.K. continue their great work. Take time out of your day to hear a song (and band) that will remain in the memory. Unlike the schmaltzy and irritating Christmas ‘classics’, Christmas Time is guaranteed to…
GET into the mind in a very good way.
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