Mantooth – ‘Everybody’s Ashtray’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this evening’s Independent Spotlight, we dig deeply into the music of Mantooth, a rising band hailing from Boise, Idaho. Their new record is an extensive rock and roll debut, ‘Everybody’s Ashtray.’ Clocking in at a hefty dozen tracks, the album isn’t timid in its demand for your attention. It’s hard hitting rock and roll with a defiant vintage flair. Let’s delve straight into it.

The opening tracks, ‘I’m a Mummy’ and ‘Is It Alright Here’ make bold statements out of the gate. They also set the tone for the whole collection. Right, so what is the sound of Mantooth? There’s a couple things at play. They’re a straight up hard rock outfit, right out of the 1980s. (Yeah, we’re talking Poison, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick.) One quick at the band’s social networking also hints that they know this: vocalist John F. Edsall embraces the look full heartedly.

There’s more than just 80s hard rock here, though. While I dig the rocking pastures of ‘I’m a Mummy,’ and the excellent backing vocals, the band really kicked off for me on ‘Is It Alright Here.’ That tune is actually a bit punky as well, smearing in some early 80s power punk. ‘Strip Jack Naked’ is an even harder tune, really drawing inspiration from heavier acts. Above all, it’s fun music. You can immediately tell that Mantooth doesn’t take this overly seriously. It’s party rock music with a vocalist akin to Axl Rose.

The next highlight of ‘Everybody’s Ashtray’ is ‘Isn’t This Nice,’ if not only due to the introduction of a sparse but effective synthesizer section. Also, the song is catchy and has some great harmonies. ‘My Dog Smells Bad’ is also a decent number, perhaps if not just due to its guitar riffs. If it wasn’t for that riff, the song would be mostly forgettable.

Okay, so at this point in the review, it is worth touching on the good and bad of ‘Ashtray.’ The good: incredible production that accents the instrumentation and vocals beautifully. Seriously, nothing in these mixes is out of place or poorly mastered. Everything is solid and professional as can be. The bad: too many songs for what ‘Ashtray’ is. While these songs are, for the most part, quite good, there are too many of them and they don’t deviate enough from their own formula to create a consistently interesting album listening experience. The band would have been much better served throwing four or five tracks on the backburner for a shorter, sharper experience.

‘Take It Out’ would have been a good pick for that burner. It’s also forgettable. ‘We’re Gas’ is refreshingly exciting, however, as is ‘The Ballad of Jimmy the Rodeo Clown.’ In fact, that latter track is particularly good because it provides a much needed reprieve from the in-your-face rock and roll. This soft crooner even has a very, very brief brass section. Absolutely fantastic.

‘Git You Where You Breathe’ feels more than a bit meandering, though I actually dig the Crazy Horse-esque nature of the distorted electric guitar pacing. Edsall’s vocals are way too exaggerated in this tune. His drawn out slurs sound more like a drunken Gene Simmons who can’t seem to find the proper note than anything. It’s not a pretty sound and the vocals completely ruin the track. The closer, ‘I Don’t Even Like You,’ suffers from a similar case of drunken-like tone deafness.

Thus, let’s find a verdict for Mantooth’s debut, ‘Everybody’s Ashtray.’ Instrumentally, the album is top notch. It blends excellent nostalgia with quality production for some killer rock and roll. Lyrically, there isn’t anything special, but the album is a good time. Vocally, it’s strong throughout with the exception of tracks like ‘Git You Where You Breathe’ and ‘I Don’t Even Like You.’ Those two songs pretty terrible, unfortunately. As I previously mentioned, the band would have done well to shorten up the album. Had this been a five or six song EP, it would have been a solid four star effect. In its current state, it’s a solid three. (Again – Don’t listen to the last two tracks.)

Check out the band for an interesting enough rock and roll experience. You don’t hear this stuff very much anymore, so if it’s your speed, than it’ll be right up your alley. Check out the album below.

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