80s pop with a 'rake of slides' - Mec Lir Album Review
I’m a sucker for a synthesiser, it has to be said. 80s pop holds the cream of the crop, with the Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell and Eurythmics being a few prime suspects. Now just imagine, A-ha’s iconic ‘Take on Me’ synth lead and The Go-Go’s authentic 80’s dry drums, merged seamlessly with a ‘rake of slides’. A dream combination? I give you, Livewire.
With their first album release since their Not an EP in 2014, Mec Lir present an album that is packed to the brim with upbeat and dance-worthy tracks, each interspersed with electronic pop elements to entice even the most retro music lover (guilty as charged). The opening track, ‘Repeal the Union’, presents itself initially as a pretty standard set of reels, nothing out of the ordinary here, move along. However, as the track continues, moments of electric guitar and syncopated drum patterns tease the listener, with the final tune possessing that distinctive ‘four to the floor’ setting that screams ‘trisco’. The heavy production of percussion could feel out of place with the traditional instruments, but the whistle, fiddle and banjo are able to hold their own and fit snugly into the mix.
The drums absolutely make this album, particularly in ‘Väsen’ which shows off some serious chops. With the opening tune consisting of a brush-like, relaxed rhythm, and the second possessing echoes of psychedelic funk, Greg Barry’s ability to transform a musical setting is second to none. An electric guitar solo precedes the final statement of the tune, accompanied with synth stabs and cymbal crashes which demand a head bop. It would be criminal not to.
Although the majority of tracks are upbeat in nature, ‘Arrane Oie Vie’ creates a change of pace and dynamic in the album. Tomas Callister’s emotive presentation of this traditional Manx song taps into an expression of heritage, with every note perfectly placed and played with true discernment. The sparse accompaniment, consisting mainly of piano and synth pads, allows this gorgeous melody to float effortlessly and gracefully. In comparison to the remaining tracks, the arrangement is quite tame but extremely tasteful. Less is definitely more here, while also giving you a chance to catch your breath from the steering wheel drumming.
Now, I mentioned 80s pop and how there are evident influences throughout the album. With Phil Collins-esque drums and synthesiser intro which sounds like it was plucked right from a Kim Wilde song, you can’t get more 80s than ‘Flashback’, I promise you. Consisting of two slow reel pieces, the arrangement has everything but the kitchen sink in it (that’s a good thing). The second tune presents a synthesiser solo which contains elements of the traditional tune, happily marrying both styles before going on to play in unison with fiddle and whistle. Along with the unmistakable electronic descant figures, this track is everything great about cheesy 80s pop, topped with revitalised traditional melodies.
Regardless of how many 80s references I throw in, Mec Lir’s Livewire is a feel-good, lively, ‘dancing on the kitchen tiles’ kind of album, which is exactly what we need. Words cannot describe how excited I am to dance like an idiot to any of these tracks at a gig when it is safe to do so, which should be a sight to behold. If you’re like me and missing live trad gigs and festivals, this is the answer to all your ‘trisco’ needs. One thing it can’t give you is the drunken attempt at a half set, but something tells me one can live without that memory.