Release Date: Jul 20, 2010
Record label: K Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock
The Long Shadow of the Paper Tiger is Mahjongg’s first album without founding guitarist Jeff Carillo, and rather than try to replace him, the band goes even further in a dance-oriented direction, emphasizing the “tronic” part of the sound it calls “Chicagotronics. ” While the group’s fusion of 8-bit, industrial, Afro-beat, and anything else that suits its fancy is always intelligent, Mahjongg sounds a lot less cerebral here than they did on 2008’s relatively restrained Kontpab; the band has gotten out of its collective head and straight onto the dancefloor. The Long Shadow feels like a party, and everyone’s invited -- literally, since every track features guest vocalists ranging from the 1900s’ Jeanine O’Toole to the Unauthorized Terrance Duke, who helps make “Devry” into a sludgy, and witty, funk monster.
As wide and eclectic as the K Records stable has become, from the almost Haiku-like splendor of founder Calvin Johnson’s barebones projects to the manifold unruliness of a group like Mahjongg, its bands have always retained a fixed stylistic presence. It’s not just the expression of weirdness presented without compunction or exaggeration, but a collective environment of bands joyfully free from the rules of rock stardom, never taking themselves, or nearly anything, very seriously. It’s worth noting that Kurt Cobain had the label’s logo tattooed on his arm to, as he put it, “try and remind me to stay a child.
If any of you happen to run into Mahjongg, tell those guys they just made my shit list. I requested this album thinking it was going to be a cake-walk. I mean, hello, I totally reviewed Raydoncong back in 2005 (for the now defunct Suburban Horror, may its soul rest in peace), and I think I pretty much had it nailed.
Mahjongg's third full-length, The Long Shadow of the Paper Tiger, is a more collaborative affair than their earlier work-- although without studiously poring over the liner notes, you may not notice. Almost every track here is labeled as having some sort of guest spot, though the identities of those guests are obscured, both in how they're credited and how they sound in the context of these songs. Many are from the band's hometown of Chicago, including Bobby ("Robert" here) Conn and Jeanine O'Toole from the 1900s, but nearly all of the guest vocals are heavily manipulated until they're indistinguishable from the rest of the band's strange sonic soup.
Mahjongg have taken up the dance torch with their third release. Makes sense, since they've lost guitarist Jeff Carillo. What they've gained is an impressive ability to fuse mechanical bleeps with organic tribal throbs. Gooble and Miami Knights, the first two tracks, give an idea of what Mahjongg are putting down, and the wacky indie-band factor is still evident in the drum work and vocals.
One might describe Mahjongg in two ways that are inverse possibilities. First, Mahjongg plays an aggressive style of dance music. Second, Mahjongg plays a dance-y and poppy style of noise music. On first listening to their third full-length album, The Long Shadow of the Paper Tiger, I would have gone with the latter description.