THE MARY ONETTES Hit The Waves CD/LP

A few different music scenes co-existed in the 1980s, and the first couple records by the Jönköping-based Mary Onettes sparked a number of comparisons, most notably to the happier side of The Cure, and with a strange amount of accuracy, to a-ha. But there was a certain authenticity that kept the Mary Onettes from sounding kitschy or ironic. The band’s 2007 eponymous debut in particular, wrapped in a booklet of dark, glossy nature shots, found its influences bouncing from song to song, drawing inspiration from glum, generic 90s post-Britpop (“Pleasure Songs”), Echo and the Bunnymen (“Lost”), and Pornography-era Cure (“Void”), all within the first twelve minutes of the album.

Much like their first two records, Hit the Waves bears all the weight of England, but the lush string and piano arrangements (and their keyboard simulations) have given way to a wall of synths, and the record plays out like the soundtrack to a tastefully choreographed love scene from any James Spader movie, whatever that may mean. “Black Sunset,” led by the exact same drum pattern used in “Slow,” off their debut, has got some prominent bass lines that bring them into the tacky territory of the 80s, but this is a lone low point.

The album's intro strongly reminds of “Waking the Witch,” off Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, and I'd dare to say that Bush's influence is written all over here, most certainly audible via the whimsy that carries the record's title track. The potential is there, to walk the line between gaudy and beautiful, but Hit the Waves consistently tips toward the latter, making it clear that the band has put a great deal of strategy and precision into their music.

The Mary Onettes seem to have such a thorough love of what they’re emulating that they desire to fully recreate it. I’d normally be wont to generalize and call Hit the Waves a trend follower, a record that too closely latches onto a fad that just won’t die, but the band is too elegant in their execution, too genuine in their appreciation. There is a real plea of desperation coming from frontman Philip Ekström and a romantic quality to the songs that tends to lack in the [countless] imitations of all that was born thirty years ago. [Labrador]

-China Bialos

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