Mary Kelly is the musical equivalent of stir-fried udon noodles. But it is definitely not your normal stir-fry noodle. It is one that has a unique twist. Sort of like putting udon noodles on a sandwich or pairing them with Indian curry for a bit of Asian fusion. For my Modus Operandi experience, I chose the latter.
Mary Kelly has dubbed their style of music “grunge-core trash.” It resides in a bowl that is a long way from the electro-pop, indie jazz and alternative hip-hop that normally litter the pages of this blog. The backbone for the band’s sound is the grungy machine gun like guitars that start and stop in rapid succession. Like the varied peppers in a curried stir-fry, you never quite know what will come next. Are they mild and sweet hiding beneath an angry camouflaged skin? Or are they the brutal
burning ones that make you regret your decisions both on admittance and while exiting?
Following closely behind the guitars is Mary Kelly’s rhythm section. While the bass is certainly there, check out the beginning of “I’m Not a Buddhist (I’m Just Weak)” if you don’t believe me, the main player in the rhythm section is the drums. These guys range from slower down tempo movements to mile a minute bursts of blunt force trauma. I liken them to a good curry powder roux. It is the kind of thing that you don’t realize is there until it simultaneously hits your taste buds like a charging rhino and thickens that shit to a creamy sauce.
As a debut full length Modus Operandi offers quite a few unlikely gems. The starting point (or udon
noodles if you will) is the third track “Mushroom Soup”. From the first chord Simon Gibbins belts out lyrical screams at an alarming pace. These are offset by some samples of what sounds like astronauts corresponding over an intercom. Things slow down for a few seconds about two and a half
minutes in, just long enough for Simon to tell you about 600 horses he knows. After building up to an appropriate crescendo, he takes you out the way you came in, full speed ahead.
The next song worthy of a mention is the album’s first single “I’m Not a Buddhist (I’m Just Weak).” This track has everything I mentioned earlier: scathing guitars, pounding drums, breakneck speed, snarling lyrics and…a harmonica. Wait, what? You heard me right, a darling little harmonica solo magically transitions the guitar solo back into the catchy chorus. Imagine if Bob Dylan was abducted, sent to the nether regions of Canada and forced to perform with I Hate Sally. That is the only thing I can think of that is even remotely close to what takes place in this track. As far as the curry goes, “I’m Not a Buddhist (I’m Just Weak)” is like your pan-fried seitan cutlets, all meaty and fake and ready to be seared to hell by your pan. Unless, of course, you perform the ol’ switcheroo and use tempeh instead (like I did). In that case, it becomes less glutenous and more nutty.
Speaking of nutty, if the radio ever decided that it wanted to hold a contest to see how fast it could
piss off your Aunt Ethel, there is no doubt in my mind that they would choose “Penny Dreadful” first. This song has just enough pop and catch to it, that I could see it fitting nicely between Nickelback and Creed. Oh, Aunt Ethel likes country? No matter, throw it between Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw. “Penny Dreadful” can build a home anywhere. It is straight ahead, don’t stop until we reach the end, power grunge. Well, except for that one spot near the end where the band samples some sort of weird ghost like creature. Or is that just the sound broccoli makes when it is cut from the stalk?
Lastly important (and of lasting importance) is “Stained Glass Weirdo.” This is where the drums and lyrics really play lead fiddle. The song is about a bad relationship that constantly brings you pain on the same day every year. You’d be hard pressed to find any lyrics that resonate as much as these on the album. “Stained Glass Weirdo” nicely packages the contents of Modus Operandi together. It is sort of like the shoyu, ginger and vegetable broth of the album.
Mary Kelly’s debut full length, Modus Operandi, is certainly not for the faint of heart. It is hot, abusive and downright painful on your sensitive eardrums. But like anyone who chows down on a good curry knows, to experience pleasure, one must first navigate through the perils of pain. There is certainly pleasure to be had. Just take a moment to wipe those indie rock smirks from your blog's face and you’ll quickly see what the world of “grunge core trash” has to offer.
“I’m Not A Buddhist (I’m Just Weak)”:
“Stained Glass Weirdo”: