Mirror Mirror’s promo shots are decidedly transparent, in that their depictions of ’80s mullets, Freddie Mercury facial hair and flashes of theatrical silver tell truthful tales of what the band actually sound like on record.
Interiors – the follow up to 2009 debut The Society For The Advancement Of Inflammatory Consciousness – is topsy turvy in its success. Half of the tracks have been crafted by beat protagonists David Riley and Ryan Lucero, exuding camp ’80s and experimental psychadelica that, at times, feels over-stylised and full of copycat influences. But when Josh da Costa’s drum kit is introduced and Mirror Mirror become a trio, the sound gets a much-needed dose of substance that makes their music feel more intuitive.
Interiors’ title track gave an early indication on what madness might lie within its ranks; the video featuring a picture of black-dressed, pointy-metal finger nailed androgyny, punctuating its quirky, jagged trumpets and atmospheric off-beats.
Decidedly dubstep rhythms underpin much of the record, without straying completely into that territory. This strain is audible even above Dot Dot Dot’s early ’90s rave notes and Sublime Objective’s din of stuttering synths and ’80s tom-tommed exterior. Odd Fellows’ grinding bassline is one of Interiors’ best examples of those same rhythms, morphing seemlessly into UNKLE breakbeats with sinister synth undertones that mesmerise.
But from the outset, the record’s disjoints and textures are channelled through volume-heavy harmonies, sometimes clumsily bolted onto the more manufactured sounds from other parts of the album. At their most organic, Mirror Mirror resembled Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in both their instrumental and distinctive vocal styles. Echo and space describe the escapism of romance on Under The Sun, but this is concocted with menacing western rhythms and post-rockish spoken musings that say, “It’s funny, it’s the easiest money I’ve ever made”. The Tribal ’80s drums of Open Wide make more sense, creating dense layers with female-voiced cries and fluttering violins that fall into orchestral crashes.
Amid the drum machines there are flashes of sad, ringing guitars whose notes Glasvegas might hit upon. These contrast with strong Bowie theatrics, pushing tracks like Dot Dot Dot, Interiors and Sick City over the creativity line into confusion; the sort of confusion that takes several listens to unravel. In fact, Sick City’s ska-synth-cheese might require even more time for mulling, with its bellowing cries of “I’m so low”, bemoaning a decay in societal values. Starseed is also a bridge too far – a track whose boxy ’80s beats have been badly hit by Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.
That said, with Interiors Mirror Mirror have managed to both shroud themselves in curiosity, while whetting the appetite for their material – key ingredients that attract cult followings. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that listening to the album in its entirety is a bit of an uphill struggle. Its moments of creative excitement are dampened by chronic confusion – perhaps due to a nagging sense that the band suffers with a problem of style over substance.
If only their sound evolution felt more organic, like that of some of the artists they resemble, the overall impression Mirror Mirror present might have been one of cohesion. As it is, some of Interiors feels as though it has been retro-fitted to match a pre-conceived idea of what their art-house music should sound like. But where Josh da Costa’s drums make their appearances, the band gains a touch of believability that is devoid of posing and vast swathes of comparison. And it’s in these moments of originality that Interiors becomes a more exciting prospect.