Formed in Canada, but not entirely Canadian, The New Mendicants is a happy coming together of circumstance that found Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Joe Pernice and Mike Belisky (Pernice Brothers/The Sadies) within spitting distance of each other. For the mathematically minded, a mere 33% of the band is actually Canadian. Not that place really matters a jot in this particular instance, because musically The New Mendicants trade in the kind of jangly indie pop that could easily come from just about anywhere The Beatles‘ albums are freely available.
Into The Lime follows on from last year’s Australia EP and treads a familiar but rather welcoming path. There’s nothing here that’s going to surprise anyone, no forays into wild experimental territory, just a collection of whimsical and well crafted pop songs. It’s a little lightweight admittedly, but the lyrical approach often finds sweet melodies twisted by darkened lyrical nuggets.
The indie singalong of Shouting Match is a catchy depiction of an argument in a third floor flat that sees many a teapot meeting their maker. A Very Sorry Christmas misses a bid for a Christmas Number 1 by an entire month, but in reality this tale of regret would have little chance of conjuring up the required festive spirit, no matter how close to many people’s Christmas experiences it might be. “I hurt so many people on the way, some are dead and some they really hate me” for example takes The Beatles’ In My Life, re-evaluates it and delivers a damning yuletide message.
High On The Skyline looks to ’60s scouse pop too and borrows the main melody from Ferry Cross The Mersey. It’s a neat allusion which makes it one of the more memorable moments of the album. The cover of Sandy Denny‘s By The Time It Gets Dark doesn’t fare quite so well. Vocally, it is wonderfully performed but it just doesn’t have a hook to really grab the attention.
It is perhaps the vocal harmonies that make for the album’s finest moments as many of the arrangements and jangling guitar lines do little to truly inspire. Cruel Annette’s intro is purely vocal before launching into a jaunty swing that The Wonderstuff would be more than familiar with; it would almost have been better a capella. Out Of The Lime meanwhile mines ’60s Byrdsian influence whilst also managing to display a smart intelligence, referencing Killing Joke, Echo And The Bunnymen (The Killing Moon) and Roberta Flack. Once again, it’s the wonderful vocal interplay that works its magic and elevates what could be a flat strum-along into something quite magical.
At the end of the album is Lifelike Hair, which breaks with type and adopts a droning rock approach that could easily have been a Lou Reed cast off were it not for the lyrics about rugged men and toupé. Actually, it could easily be a Lou Reed cast off. Its inclusion at the end of the album is unfortunate, placed around the midpoint it would have provided a diversion from the Mendicants usual fare. As a complete anomaly it is actually the finest moment on the album, simply by dint of being different.
Ultimately Into The Lime is a fun, if rather unexciting album. It occasionally meanders (If Only You Knew Her is guilty of this) and sometimes the whimsical humour doesn’t quite register, but the standout moments of Out Of The Lime, Lifelike Hair and the wonderfully delicate Follow You Down make Into The Lime worthy of exploration.