Do you remember when back in grade school there was always the group of cool kids that everyone wanted to be? Well, nearly everyone? While most people were transfixed by what the cool kids were doing, there was another group who, unnoticed and unremarked, were having a whale of a time doing their own thing, their own way, oblivious to what was cool. Sometimes a bit naughty, sometimes a bit weird, but always completely themselves and always off in search of fun. I bet the guys from Philadelphia-based band Mock Suns were those kids. And if their new album Stay True is anything to go by, they are staying true to their fun-loving, experimental and – yes, slightly naughty – selves.
Front man Greg Puglese explains that the album was inspired by his recollection of childhood: “Where the anticipation of a sleepover at my best friend’s house…was enough to make the two hours I had to wait for a ride over there feel like a year. There’s no doubt that time moved much slower back then. After all, one full year was a tenth of my entire life at that point. This was a joyous time that I’d always reflected upon fondly, before puberty gave way to teenage angst, and riding bikes was replaced by chasing girls.”
Perfectly timed with a spring release, Stay True is an album that will remind you how much you enjoyed climbing trees and hanging out with your best mates before grown-up-ness snuck up on you.
Opening track “Friday Night” kicks off with an uplifting, feel-good, driving beat that demands attention and ought to be opening every live show. This is going to sound strange, but it’s not the music on the album that stands out for me. It’s the cheeky little interludes that pop up between the tracks. “1.52am” with whispers, fireworks and car alarms is the perfect intro to “Nothing Good Comes About Being Out At This Hour”. If you were in any doubt that this is a prank in the making, the video to this track fills in the storyline. With April Fool’s Day on the horizon, I’m pretty sure this will inspire a few jolly japes. It’s a catchy tune, too, with a laid-back vibe reminiscent of 70s soft-rock. The band, however, claims Stay True was influenced by 90s pop – there’s definitely a bit more musical archaeology being explored! Either way, this song has a hook that repeats in the brain long after the needle has moved on to the next track, “This time we’ll light it up, we’ll make a scene. This town’s was never bright enough, we’ll make it beam.”
The second quirky interlude reminds us all to get to the beach sometime and “…stay cool this summer”, moving us into “Don’t Wanna Miss You” which, with its retro synth sounds, took me back to the 1970s again, landing slap bang into Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (newly revived on the West End this season). My inner musical-theatre geek is well satisfied!
“Paris via PA” is probably my favourite interlude – spooky, gothic blending into a chaotic soundscape. For lovers of the avant-garde, this deserves to be extended into a full-length track.
Choosing between the main tracks is more difficult, but “Who’s Watching You” is definitely a stand-out song. More stripped-back than the rest of the album, this needs no tricks or gimmicks to get its message across. All it requires is a simple piano line to what must be the first reverse lullaby I’ve ever heard. It’s the song of a young child, safe in the knowledge that their grown up is nearby “I can’t see you still I know you’re there…”
The final interlude “Just the Beginning” and final track “Here from your Rooftop” drip with nostalgia for simpler times when the whole world could be seen from the top of your house – if you had the courage to climb up there. This is musically the most complex track, with space to experiment with guitar and percussion that proves the band’s technical capability as well as their capacity to write a song that draws you into its story. If lyrics are prophetic, maybe “I don’t know why everything from here seems so clear, but if I know anything, this must be real” suggests that Mock Suns is a band on the way forward, finding its mood and the confidence to share more of its story.
Mock Suns are Philadelphia musicians Greg Puglese, Tom Magliaro, Steve DiRomualdo and Matt Giordano.
Why not add Stay True to your music collection? You can purchase a download or treat yourself (or someone you like very much!) to a limited edition white vinyl copy here.
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