Five years after their inception in Leeds, Mama Scuba‘s debut album, the rather morbidly titled You’re A Long Time Dead So What’s The Hurry?, is finally seeing the light of day. Within this period, the five-piece have flirted with the independent chart (their single Snow reached the dizzy heights of the top 30) and have won plaudits from Steve Lamacq.
Their sound is a mix of manic guitars and dark synths, combined with lead vocalist Wes Dale’s curious falsetto, which draws comparisons to JJ72‘s Mark Greaney, Greg Gilbert of Delays, Frank Black, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness and even Matt Bellamy of Muse.
Indeed, on many of the tracks the likeness to some of his more well-known counterparts is a bit too close for comfort. The songs often sound like something that’s been re-hashed off the cutting room floor of these other bands. Snow sounds like JJ72’s demo for their track of the same name. White Siberian Lines sounds like a Darkness B-side. Squeaky Clean and The Untouchable is Muse without the production. Who Are, You Are? is Debaser by Pixies through and through, re-recorded for an unsuspecting audience. You get the idea – what this album lacks in spades is originality.
Obviously there’s no problem being influenced by certain bands, but when it gets to the point where the resemblance is this uncanny, you may as well listen to the original source. The thing is, the songs don’t even grab you – at least Jet made plagiarism sound fun, Mama Scuba’s songs are often without melody and are dominated by Dale’s nasal whine.
What’s more, many of the tracks are hindered by a disturbing psychedelic feel, which makes listening a tad uncomfortable. Make A Stance is a prime example, in fact it’s a song that verges on the unlistenable. Sunshine pop this certainly isn’t. It’s hard to imagine a situation where you would listen to this record in its entirety.
Having said that, there are a handful of promising moments that Mama Scuba can build on if they ever manage to record a follow-up. Infinite Bleak, the album opener, more than lives up to its name. An insistent riff presides over Wes Dale’s apocalyptic message to his audience: “Stand By/Watch Yourself Die”, wailed in a typically sinister fashion.
Freak Accident is equally haunting – crisp, crunching guitars and Dale’s echoing vocals create a rather entertaining three minutes. Single Pouche is the most accessible thing on here; it’s a catchy rock and roll number that goes some way to redeeming things.
All in all it’s a pretty average album. If you’re licking your lips at the prospect of another ‘art rock’ band in the same vein as Franz Ferdinand or The Killers, you’re going to be disappointed. Apart from its unoriginality, there’s nothing on here that has the immediacy of Take Me Out or Mr Brightside. Nothing that will make you stop what you’re doing and demand your attention. At no point should you feel the need to get up and move your hips and sing along aimlessly. Debut LPs have set a high standard of late, and Mama Scuba’s just can’t compete.