Formed at Goldsmiths college in 2000, Mower created a minor industry buzz and signed to Graham Coxons‘ label Transcopic in 2001.This good fortune promptly imploded however and front man Matt Mower was left to promote their debut album on his own.
He did this admirably, and after packing out tents at both the Reading and Leeds festivals, he soon recruited some new band members. People Are Cruel, produced by Stephen Street, delivers a mix of interest.
It starts off beautifully with the ‘Punk meets The Kinks‘ stomp of After Dark. A catchy, punchy verse culminates in a shouted gem of a hook with the chorus of “I want to sleep with you after dark”. The guitar sound is glorious, and the tripped up time signature leading into the verse is enjoyable.
The Morning After offers less however. The ingredients are all there – blazing guitars, catchy riff, flippant vocals – but it just doesn’t catch. Mower’s voice is not a particularly interesting one, and his lack of rawness excludes rock n roll.
There is a definite theme throughout the album of drug taking and heavy drinking. Then The Drugs Came Out To Play, despite its appalling title, has a pretty chorus which induces a pleasantly numbing feeling of inertia. Dark Clouds though, with the “ounce of smack and the cold crack” play with words, is dull – far from Jane’s Addiction‘s cleverness with drug songs.
The single Rest In Peace presents a catchy snatch of depression with the line “sleep is what I need, give me something strong because I can’t pass out”. Although the sentiment is low and grindy, Mower’s voice isn’t, thus ruining the mood. He just doesn’t sound depressed, rather upbeat indie in fact.
The album does end on the right note though. Wake Up Mower is a brooding menance and you can at last hear his pain when he sings the line “when I wake it’s going to hurt”. Final track Its Going To Be A Long Night is a beautiful song and at last sets the intended mood of the album.
People Are Cruel is a mixed bag. There are no musical boundaries broken and although the themes of depressed London life are of interest, they could have been executed with more obvious musical pain. Maybe that’s the way Mower copes, by putting on a chirpy front – it will appeal to some, and so it should. Not me though, I like my misery more miserable.