[25 June 2008]
With the M’s, there’s never any mystery. After three albums now under their respective belt, with each LP you can pretty much take comfort in the fact that you’ll be getting what’s expected. And there is comfort in that.
The M’s brand of neo-soul/Britpop is as authentic and simultaneously derivative as anything riding the indie circuit right now, and that makes them incredibly safe. Not safe in a boring way, but in a palatable way. Their music isn’t particularly exciting, but it’s not exactly run of the mill either.
On Real Close Ones, the M’s employ an almost damning method of over-layering their sound that reaches every corner of its existence, drowning each song in a sonic blanket of glowing fuzz. This is not to say that they are trying for some sort of cheap shoegaze aesthetic, though. The M’s use of this method seems to be bred more from a place of comfort and anonymity than one of homage. The finished sound, as always, falls on the side of “psychedelic” rock more than anything else. And this works for them. The M’s never try to fool you or themselves.
The disc starts somewhat obviously with “Big Sound”—a track that has been floating around for a couple of months—brandishing a sleek production that somehow still comes off just as cloudy as anything they’ve ever done. The “BIG” part comes into play in the track’s coda, as the horn section takes flight, bringing that pseudo-epic rock quality to it all without going too over the top. Nonetheless, it helps introduce the premise that the M’s are about to present on the rest of the disc.
While there is no great arc to the story lying beneath the surface of Real Close Ones, no hidden method that hasn’t already been seen before, this doesn’t take anything away from the enjoyment of the album. In fact, it probably adds to it. The M’s embrace this idea and are able to stay true to the breezy, bruising rock and roll style that they’ve been able to continuously propagate so seamlessly through out their young career.
As the album unfolds, the M’s are careful with their mixture of flash and focus. There is a delicate quality to Real Close Ones that gives the feeling that things can trail off at any moment. However, that feeling is accompanied by the idea that there isn’t all that much to lose in the process. The M’s have this way of alleviating the pressure from a situation that really shouldn’t be overlooked. Tracks like “Get Your Shit Together” and “How Could You” provide thoughtful promises of depth that don’t get bogged down by needless conceptuality or pretension. They give Real Close Ones a distinct sense of personality as well as ease, which speaks to the M’s reputation of lo-fi posturing.
With four years passed and three albums to show for it, the M’s possess a no-nonsense approach to rock music that is both refreshing and welcome in ways that would seem silly if they weren’t so on the mark. What Real Close Ones accomplishes, more successfully than one would expect, is to aid in solidifying the M’s as a more than reliable staple of the “indie” rock community. Seldom does this come off as seemingly uncomplicated and effortless as it does here.