Knoxville, Tennessee is probably not the first place one would look for melodic, melancholy ‘80s influenced rock in the vein of groups like The Smiths, Depeche Mode and The Cure. Yet against the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, Angel and the Love Mongers have recorded an album that brings the UK to mind. The band imbues their music both with the charcoal gray hues of overcast English skies and with a bit of bounce and vigor that keeps their sound from completely dominated by ominous tones (“Speak Straight to Me or Die” is a perfect example of this synthesis). Led by frontman Angel Zuniga, the band draws on their influences without sounding unoriginal; Zuniga’s versatile vocals recall Dave Gahan (“Let It Be Done”) and Morrissey (“Sideways”) while exhibiting his own charisma. The album’s best tracks include “Sideways” and “What Do I Know” with its delightfully retro brand of guitar pop and call-and-response vocals from Zuniga. The band’s lyrical commentary on social and religious behaviors adds an interesting dimension to what is an already attention-worthy project.
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