Canadian rhetorical questioners Don’t You(,) Mean People? have released their first full length album ‘Who Cares?’, a record that explores math-rock whilst fusing it with a rather eclectic mix of varied genres. The trio, who are based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, have been around since 2011 and ‘Who Cares?’ will be their third release in that time after the award winning six-track record ‘EP!!’ was released in 2013 and a teaser demo ‘Comfy Onion’ in 2014.
Although inspired by popular bands of post-rock and math-rock, adopting techniques that would often be associated with such genres, Don’t You(,) Mean People? take a ‘raw acoustic’ route when they’re producing their music and perform without any distortion or special effects, something that is almost a staple to bands associated with such genres. When these experimentations come together, the combination of generally far off genres alongside a raw and stripped down sound then something very intriguing comes out of it.
The album starts out in a snappy and energetic manner with the short introduction track ‘Overture’. It’s an opening track that shows, when it comes to technical math-rock these guys do know what they’re doing. Frantic and intense, it is a good open to the album and sets everything off on in an eager and vigorous direction.
RELEASE DATE: 11 September 2015 LABEL: Self-released
The second track, ‘Sugar and Other Everyday Diamonds’, is another song that works primarily down the math-rock route, again showcasing the abilities of the band. It also demonstrates the ‘raw acoustic’ sound that the trio have aimed to achieve, and it is interesting to hear this in action as it leads to a much more laidback feel in a genre that can feel almost overwhelmingly intense at times. Since there is no external additions to the bands sound, the guitars and drums can take priority as the major focus of sound, this leads to songs that have a strong interplay and heavy groove between each of the members as the instruments work with each other more openly and have less to get lost in. The song has a lovely breakdown in the middle section before it builds back up into a funky and speedy segment to finish off.
‘Cherry Wine’ comes up next and this is where the album starts to move into a different territory as the experimentation with genres becomes blatantly apparent. ‘Cherry Wine’ is a song that keeps up the math-rock rhythm, the drums maintain a syncopated beat and the song itself has quite a stop start nature, breaking down completely a couple of times before coming back to life. The guitar and bass work however is like dancing round the campfire as the sun sets in the forest. It is as closely related to the sound of Dave Matthews Band as it is to that of Slint. ‘Cherry Wine’ presents to us a combination of genres, folk, country and math-rock, and it’s a combination that I never would have really expected to work, but somehow the song sounds right and gets on well with it.
A few tracks down the line ‘End, Pt. 1’ gives a different example of fusion, this time presenting a (potentially) more obvious mix of genres, bringing a jazzy kick to the album. Deep drums thump away to start off the song before being joined by piano and the guitars that all twiddle about in their own time throughout the song. It’s a moody and doomy song that works the genres nicely.
As we move to the back end of the album things start to slide back into the math-rock style a little more with longer songs that stop and start, changing up their pace and melody frequently. ‘Predecessor Predecessor’ and penultimate track ‘The Big Bubble and My Bendy Bones’ are both songs that move, chop and fidget throughout. Laid back, relaxing and smooth at times, and intense and full on at others, they’re the type of song that never give up, just as you think they’re over everything kicks back in again for one more go around.
The final song ‘Silver Daze’ is an interesting one, closing out the album with style. It switches up the rhythm, melodies and motifs a number of times, like a tester of sounds and ideas that fit together by their edges. There is also an introduction of some more instrumentation as violin, trumpet and piano come in to play along on the song. With the build throughout the song, the mellow and drawn out sounds that these new instruments bring sit wonderfully on top of the base that builds up.
‘Who Cares?’ is an album where everything is free to explore and free to go where it goes, with the main noticeable theme of the album being experimentation, be this through experimenting with different genres and slotting them together or by playing a stripped back variation on math-rock bare of pedals and effects; on top of this it must be remembered that a majority of the album consists of only three instrumentalists. You could forgive someone for being a little worried at the start of the album and the potential train wreck that they are embarking upon, but fortunately for us and for the lads of the band, everything works very well together and the experiment pays off.
It actually turns out to be a light and uplifting listen, something that I hadn’t really expected with the title ‘Who Cares?’. Math-rock is a genre that can turn into a very dark and difficult one to listen to at times, but with the fusion of the other genres, jazz, country, folk and funk for example that we find throughout the album, it is always lifted up and it all turns into a lot of fun and is very friendly. I’d like to hope that the closing track of the album is a sign of things for the future of the band and is the start of them branching out and experimenting with a little more instrumentation, but as it stands Don’t You(,) Mean People? have released a very intriguing and compelling album that should sit nicely amongst your record collection, provided your record collection isn’t arranged by genre.