Album Review: Mere Women - 'Big Skies'

18 June 2017 | 1:55 am | Staff Writer
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Thinking music for the those who really think.

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I will never forget the day that I was introduced to Brand New’s The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Of Me'. It was the first time that I had been exposed to punk-rock that didn’t just sit you down and yell in your face for half an hour, before stomping out of the room like a petulant child. It was like a girlfriend sitting you down and telling you slowly, heartbreakingly through tears, that she loves you but that she cannot be with you. It's that kind of agonised self-loathing and emotion that creates such powerful art. I felt like I had found something special and powerful amongst a shrieking discourse of anger and anarchy.

If Brand New’s bonafide masterpiece was my entry level exam to a new landscape of sounds, then the newest LP from Sydney quartet Mere Women - ‘Big Skies - is an academic reading on that topic, one that you always wanted to study. It’s a lot of work, and you need to head back over certain sections to properly figure them out, but the overall content is both thought-provoking and fascinating; the subject matter swirling around in your brain afterwards, niggling away at that sense of curiosity that tells you to listen to it just one more time.

I’m the first to admit that on my first listen, tracks like ‘Eternally’ and ‘Is This Real’ took me by surprise. All the fundamentals were there - the grainy guitars, aggressive vocals and the driving bass-lines. Yet there are things there that are centimetres off-center, giving the entire thing a pleasingly uncomfortable feeling. The guitars refrain from bar chords, opting for more lush arpeggios and cascading lines, with cuts such as ‘Come Back’ circling and weaving in and out between the jerky grooves of the drums. And speaking of the drums, the only other band that I’ve personally heard with rhythmic parts such as this are the fine lads over in mewithoutyou. Here, for instance, ‘Numb’ builds around a flurry of hi-hats and rim clicks, using this clutch to create dynamic movement; countering the steady volume of the rest of the arrangement. Showing that all it takes is a little bit of thought and the results can be quite incredible.

Mere Women

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Like most other bands in the further alternate realm of the ever-widening alternative genre, Mere Women are fantastic with creating a sense of tension and urgency in the ominous atmosphere of their songs. ‘Birthday’ starts as a steady march, slowly building but never quite reaching the full climax you'd expect; coldly building the tension before suddenly ending things just as they seem to be really developing. The titular track, on the other hand, descends into a dark storm of post-punk layers, with vocalist Amy Wilson ominously grumbling over this deep musical storm, “Get a dog, you better lock your door”. It’s both uncomfortable and utterly addictive at the same time; a broad statement that could easily define this entire record!

Stylistically, it’s hard to nail this LP down. This is a record with dashes of pop, shoegaze, post-punk and post-rock and even hints of doom all thrown into one muddy sculpture, stamped with operatic vocals and just the perfect amount of 80’s synths. 'Big Skies' keeps listeners on their toes for all twelve tracks, with brooding interludes breaking into upbeat tales of anxiety and loneliness, echoing the feelings of women trapped in isolated communities and tough family situations across Australia. These songs have a steady undercurrent of panic, composed with a grand depth rarely found at a grassroots level in the Australian alternative music scene.

Things never really feel fully complete or explained on 'Big Skies', but one gets the idea that’s been the band's goal all along. But let's listen to it once more. You know, just to make sure.

'Big Skies' is easily one of the most intriguing releases of the year! Sydney's Mere Women capture a sound that's essentially unique, layering up the guitars and ominous vocals over disjointed percussion and 80's synths to create a collection of sonically varied and interesting songs that keep you guessing every step of the way. It's unnerving stuff, but it all works gloriously.

1. Eternally

2. Silver and Gold

3. Birthday

4. Big Skies

5. Curse

6. Drive

7. Visitor

8. Is This Real?

9. Come Back

10. Numb

11. Tin Rooves

12. Wanderer

'Big Skies' is out now. Stream it here!