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Mundy: 24 Star Hotel

REVIEW: Mundy: 24 Star Hotel
8.29.2002 by Sean

Mundy: 24 Star Hotel [Road Records, 2002]

Three words? Tries to dazzle.

Have you ever leaned back on your chaise longue and thought to yourself, "Wouldn't it be great if Oasis teamed up with Pete Yorn?"

Me neither.

But apparently somewhere in Ireland, Mundy Enright did, and as a follow-up to the quieter Jelly Legs comes 24 Star Hotel, a noisy muddle of rock-folk that leaves Mundy sneering when he's not crooning, getting all hot and bothered when he's not winkin' at the ladies.

24 Star Hotel is a strange beast. Mundy's not the leather-pants-wearing rockstar nor the doe-eyed folk singer, but his music walks the path somewhere in between. He's a singer-songwriter with swagger, Ryan Adams after a binge of early 90s britpop records. The "That Thing You Do" drum-beat of "Mexico" is drenched in high-hats, shootin' out high kicks instead of summery Beach Boys handclaps. Just as Sloan's Navy Blues tried to reunite Beatles harmonies with AC/DC headbanging, Mundy shoots for a sensitive Suede record -- an Irish Edwin.

The disc opens with "Rainbow", where a tropical, Coldplay-like electric guitar-line comes to life over strummed acoustic and a leisurely drum beat. "Rainbow, I love you / flirts with me / just this last time," sings Mundy, like a lounge singer at the rocker retirement-home. Like the tide coming in, there's a lovely shift in resonance at the chorus, but the voice stays vicious - as sweetly as he may be trying to sing (and I'm not convinced he's trying very hard), Mundy's vocals maintain that steely, metallic tang.

Things improve on "Drive", where the amps get completely unplugged, and Mundy sings rather than sneering into the microphone. Electroscrunches pop under alt.rock finger-picking, fostered by Beat lyrics, a genuinely lovely melody flourishes... but once the "oohs" and tambourine join in, it's a little too much. This is the arena-style, U2 approach to balladry, a "Kokomo" for 2002.

On "Addicted" and "Anchor the Sun", fat guitars and subtle, ticklish riffs decorate midtempo binges. Then come the disc's only concessions to real intimacy. "June" shows Mundy's voice - more modest than usual - over surprisingly fine guitarplay. "Oh my my my, oh my my my July," he sings like a peppy David Gray... but the poetry isn't enough to carry his stripped-raw vocals. "Baby sucks its thumb / to the sound of our steel drum / and fountain water gush / through the thick bullruuuuush."

"Linchpin" succeeds better. Doubletracked vocals soften Mundy's voice, and it's the acoustic guitar not the vox that drives the melody. "Pull the linchpin," he repeats again and again, wince-free save for the echoing breakdown in the song's third quarter.

Elsewhere there's the full-on rock of "Rescue Remedy", where a chewy hook bounces over commanding drums before sprinting up the hill to a chunky, static-voiced climax. "The Last Time" is maybe the disc's best song - June pop over crisp percussion and a deep-throated guitar. The Blind Melon comparisons won't last, however, as 24 Star Hotel heads into the atrocious vocoder antics of "Mayday", pedestrian crooning over a grey buzz of noise. "Birdseed and Trash" closes the album with an attempt at a heartthrob anthem, the surge of Mundy's earnesty over the swell of organ and finger-picking. It fails, of course, by the sheer weight of Mundy's effort - absent is any shading or subtlety... I feel smacked over the head by the vigour of Mundy's sentiment.

Though 24 Star Hotel would make a fine compliment to some of rock radio's usual suspects, it never presents any depth. Whether rocking out or quietly murmuring, Mundy's attempts feel empty, exertions without any motivating soul - a forest without trees.

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