The Mayfair Set: Young One

[2 March 2010]

By Matthew Collins

Times New Viking’s Born Again Revisited dropped last year to a surprisingly small amount of popular notice; well, as popular as a noisy punk band gets. Before their Matador debut, just over two years ago, “noise” was either outdated or saved for the avant-garde. In that short time-span, however, we’ve seen an explosion of the “shitgaze” scene. Siltbreeze and Woodsist are practically household names, at least to people who live in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) or Fishtown (Philadelphia). Bands are taking all kinds of styles and scuzzing them up, from the rootsy stylings of Woods to Vibes’ fuzzed-out funk.

The Mayfair Set is two of shitgaze’s most unique members – Dum Dum Girls’ main woman Dee Dee (nee Kristen Dundred) and Blank Dog Mike Sniper.  They are some of the biggest names within their respective subgenres of that subgenre itself (those being, fuzzed-out girl-pop and noisy new wave, respectively). The pairing is especially interesting because of its uniqueness. This isn’t a “supergroup” of any sort. Dum Dum Girls have yet to release a full album (expect their Sub Pop debut later this year), and Blank Dogs aren’t exactly selling out the Market Hotel. Even compared to the Almighty Defenders, this really feels like a project of two similarly minded artists collaborating in the purest sense.

Given the extreme differences in their style, sound-quality aside, this collaboration works out surprisingly well. A common complaint lobbed at supergroups is that the work comes out more like stew than porridge. This problem actually works to the group’s advantage on Young One. It’s remarkably interesting to watch these two styles sit next to each other as opposed to meld together. Much like how covers are interesting as genre exercises, picking up on similarities between genres usually not mentioned in the same breath (a hardcore version of Britney Spears!?), it is fascinating to see girl-pop and gothic new wave find common ground.

The most obvious example of this is “Desert Fun”. Its motorik beat is either pulled from a rock n’ roll drumming how-to or played on a drum machine, its staccato rhythm guitar jacked from Orange Juice or the Monks, its spiky guitar lines either referencing Gang of Four or hypothesizing what a lo-fi Roy Orbison would have sounded like. By the time the chorus rolls around, colliding Sniper’s gothic baritone and Dundred’s shouty girl-pop vox, we’re already at the most singable genre-fuck since some country singer covered pop-industrial.

The rest of the EP isn’t quite as tuneful as this track or the fantastic “Dark Horse”. Despite some catchy moments (the Blondie-esque chorus on “Three for Me,” the souful bridge on “Let It Melt”), the songs tend to come and go, a fleetingly interesting composite of genres and melodies. This probably speaks more to the nature of the project than anything else. Young One, is, after all, just an EP, one recorded during a time when at least one of the members had far bigger things on her plate. As a quick collaboration, though, it works surprisingly well, far better than it should have. It’s good to know that they’ll be taking this project further.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/119961-the-mayfair-set-young-one/