If you live in Chicago, chances are you’ve heard of the M’s. True, it’s not a universal for the city, like the address of Wrigley Field (1060 West Addison, for the record), but walk around the city for a while and chances are you’d wind up seeing the Hancock Building, panhandlers begging on State Street, and a flyer for an M’s show.
My relocating to Chicago coincided with the release of their self-titled first album, which dove in under my (and most everyone else’s) radar. Nevertheless, almost a year and a half later, in anticipation of their follow-up record, Future Women, they finally appeared on my radar screen. In the span of one week, I received three enthusiastic endorsements from three people whose musical tastes I respected:
“You should check them out—you like The Kinks and The Beatles.”
“You’ll probably like them. You’re a T. Rex fan.”
“It’s good stuff—kinda like Teenage Fanclub, circa Bandwagonesque.”
Now while each of those three bands grew from the same British musical tree, they certainly didn’t fall off the same branch. A group that could cause such wildly different comparisons (albeit form the same bloodline) raised my unibrow.
After listening to Future Women, there are actually now a hundred comparisons I could render, about the album and the group—it’s the album everyone wanted to see from Anton Newcombe and the Brian Jonestown Massacre but had given up hope for; it’s what you get when you feed Electric Warrior-era Marc Bolan through the Strokes; and so forth.
Of course, if I said any of that, I would be exaggerating a lot of things. And none of them would do such a quality album any justice.
Nor would any of those comparisons be original, for that matter. Any comparisons that I could give you have likely been written by Spin, the All Music Guide and the rest. So if you were to believe my friends or the band’s coverage, you’d be pressed to think The M’s are some kind of British Invasion revival act, sort of like Nic Armstrong and his mid-‘60s Stones channeling, or The Darkness and our embarrassing decade of hair metal.
It would be more accurate, however, to say that the M’s are actually torch carriers for the art of Noise Pop—and the accent is decidedly on Pop. True, they carry a love of the finer British pop-rock mainstays from the brooding of the Kinks’ “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” to the overdrive of Bolan’s “Twentieth Century Boy;” but while they’ve taken the same musical route traveled by the Jonestown Massacre, the M’s have stopped along the way to see the sights—like The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth.
In fact, The M’s have Thurston Moore and company to thank just as much as they do Ray Davies, though perhaps more in production than in songwriting. But while there is no shortage of feedback and distortion to be found in songs on Future Women, there also an abundance of hooks, riffs, and yes, even handclaps.
In truth, those songs are just as likely to dissected for comparison as the band itself is. Future Women is the kind of album that going to draw arguments between music geeks about whether “Never Do This Again” is Ray Davies processed through the Stooges’ Raw Power or if the M’s pinched Jack White’s riff from “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me” for the album closer “Darling Lucia”. These are all valid points of discussion, but they unfortunately cloud the bigger, more important picture: whatever the roots and the genealogy of the record may be, the outcome is far more important than where it came from. Such a mix of musical influences has produced one hell of a catchy album that gets better and better with each successive listening.
In fact, the only cruel thing I could say about the album is that compared to their first release, Future Women is really just more of the same with an extra layer of production icing on the top. Of course, if I said that, I would be exaggerating a lot of things. But even if I did, you wouldn’t see me complaining.
// Notes from the Road
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