PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

The Mendoza Line: Fortune

Michael Metivier

The Mendoza Line

Fortune

Label: Bar None
US Release Date: 2004-08-10
UK Release Date: 2004-05-03
Amazon
iTunes

Cyndi Lauper had it right (didn't she always?) when she sang, "Money changes everything." But the inverse is also true: everything changes money. The bills in your wallet have undergone considerable alterations in recent years, from rhinoplasty and hair implants to the controversial addition of non-green color. What haven't changed are the intricate webs of spirals and whorls that compose the edging and borders. The design is banded across the artwork for the Mendoza Line's new album, Fortune -- front, back, and inside. Its omnipresent, trestle-like pattern holds the album aloft, much the same way a greenback is (to some) the most basic building block of a nation. Fortune is an album where money, politics, and all that important stuff intertwine in gutsy, three-minute blasts of country-rock.

Fortune is not, however, OK Computer, Jerusalem, or even American Idiot (all radically different, radical musical statements in their own, um, rad right). The greater themes of the work are embedded in the personal narratives rather than announced straightaway, or thinly disguised agitprop. Plus, the multiple writers and voices in the band keep the listening experience fresh and in constant flux. Seriously, I think a cover of "Pass The Mic" is long overdue, guys, and more than appropriate at this point. How about it?

For now, I'm more than ecstatic just to have these originals, starting with "Fellow Travelers", which backs up lines like "Fellow travelers rushed the borders / You had your reasons you had your orders / From the mindless incrementalists" with barroom piano, casually off-key vocals, and a soul choir (Renee LoBue and the Sterling Heights Singers). Any message the lyrics offer is wisely kept in service of the overall song (notes/comments for each track are offered at the band's website). The most direct indictment of the current state of the union is "Let's Not Talk About It", and even that could be interpreted as a relationship song if you really love living in denial. "You make everybody feel like a guest / In the intermission of your broadcast / Telling anecdotes and stories all the day / While outside the windows rattle and shake." A song about disposable news media/pundits couldn't be timelier, but it's written timelessly -- no puns about Faux News et cetera. Plus, it wouldn't mean squat if it weren't a good song, which it is.

Many of the musical highlights on Fortune come thanks to the pen and voice of Shannon Mary McCardle. Her voice has a twang similar to Lucinda Williams's, but she brings her own character to the table in spades. If the band as a whole sounds like a fairly rowdy crew, I'd peg McCardle as the dangerous one. Even when she sings sweet she sounds sassy. Say that five times fast. "Faithful Brother (Scourge of the Land)" fairly kicks my ass in under two minutes. The chorus seems too wordy to be so catchy, and the lap steel embellishments topping off the Stones-y riffs sound perfect. "Flat Feet and Western Style" shifts between parts that are alternately chooglin' and woozy with deceptive ease, and features what I'll call the best couplet of the year: "Our sainted mother told you wrong / That old hag back in Seoul misread your palm."

That blend of fun, straight-up country-rock-soul and literary viability makes Fortune ceaselessly enjoyable. When you want to close your eyes, rock out, and sing along, it's there. When you want your music to be provocative and insightful without being pedantic, it's still there! Yee-haw! There are even a few lovely weepers to close out the album. "Will You Be Here Tomorrow?" features a simple vocal melody and shuffling gait, but never sounds pedestrian due to the earnest performance of all involved. "Throw It in the Fire" sounds like Mazzy Star with a sense of humor and a few gulps of moonshine. Toward the end she sings, "Should've known that you were on to me / Ain't got nothing you'd admire." Uh-uh, sister. Nope. Fortune might even be the kind of art that accrues admiration, and if the Mendoza Line are as fortunate as they are worthy, some dollars as well.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.