Mechanical Canine - Good Photography Review


Perhaps the funniest endorsement you might see for Mechanical Canine’s new album, Good Photography, is the email they received from a reviewer who turned them down because of their “anti-boomer” content, presumably on the stellar opener “The Deacon”. But behind that amusing brush-off is a tight and effective fusion of emo, indie punk, shoegaze, and more. In a moment where it’s hard not to despair, Mechanical Canine has given us 36 minutes of impressive music that explores that feeling.

The songs range in length from just over a minute to almost five and half, and the emotion builds and ebbs, but the feeling of absence is constant. What that absence is, exactly, remains vague; absences of joy, of good company, of purpose, and of memory all appear throughout, but the lack comes through as a sentiment above all. On songs such as “The Most Important Thing in the World”, the instrumentals seem to recede into the distance, playing in a dirge-like trance from behind a fog of separation. As the guitars fade away, James Walsh (the singer and guitarist) muses that “in theory, we're all still learning about empathy”, his voice hidden behind several effects.

The band doesn’t sacrifice power for the sake of that distance, though - their voices and instruments climb and climb on songs like “It’s Not That Hot Anymore” and “Absent”, punching through the haze left behind by the softer tracks. This contrast works in the band’s favor; their dynamics on this album bring to mind some of the grunge rock of the ‘90s, especially the way Nirvana would explode from a soft strum into a powerful riff.

There are a few moments that feel slightly out of place on the record - the more upbeat-sounding “On Hold”, for example, splits abruptly from “Absent” and “Souter”, the tracks that sandwich it. Its lyrics echo the yearning of the album as a whole, but the oddly light rhythm of the song feels jarring when listening to the tracks straight through. Even in moments like these, though, the members of the band display a clear talent - Walsh, bassist Jonathon Herroon, and guitarist Eric Kholenstein work together to ensure that every song feels vivid and deep.

Jokes about anti-Boomer rhetoric aside, this is a compelling and punchy record front to back, and the minor hiccups in tone do little to detract from the enjoyment of the whole. At 36 minutes, it’s lean and thoughtfully composed, and there are details that reward multiple relistens throughout. Mechanical Canine’s debut record has both passion and skill on full display - well worth the listen for anyone on the lookout for an exciting new band.

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