Release Date: Mar 24, 2015
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
On their ’60s-pop influenced self-titled 2010 debut, Los Angeles trio Mini Mansions combined the druggy whimsy of ‘White Album’-era Beatles and The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ with meandering melodies and surreal lyrics about things like ”Monkey vampires, mini shampoos and paranormal preachers”. Five years on, it’s all change for the follow-up. The trio (singer and drummer Michael Shuman, singer and keyboardist Tyler Parkford, bassist and multi instrumentalist Zachary Dawes) have swapped dreamlike symbolism for deep and dark emotion on ‘The Great Pretenders’ – a record Shuman says is about “love, death and existentialism”.Opener ‘Freakout!’ sets the tone.
Given that they've had releases on labels run by Josh Homme and Mike Patton, it's no secret that Mini Mansions have friends in high places. Still, the amount of star power surrounding the band's third album is notable: not only is The Great Pretenders on T-Bone Burnett's Electromagnetic imprint, it features collaborations with Brian Wilson and Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner. However, the band is never overshadowed by these connections, largely because this is their strongest work yet.
Should time-travel ever make the quantum leap from fantasy to reality, California’s Mini Mansions have earned themselves a ticket back to the birth of psychedelic pop with their dreamy second album, ‘The Great Pretenders’. Playing like a soundtrack of the future as imagined by a baby-boomer brain, Mini Mansions repay their debt to pop with a release that brings as much to the table as it borrows, exploring a brave new world without remaining tied to history. On first listen, it’s easy to hear the common interests shared between the three Mini Mansioners – the theatricality of Electric Light Orchestra; the Beatles at their most trippy; 80s new wave – and like them, ‘The Great Pretenders’ doesn’t bury its cinematic tendencies subtly, but embraces it.
Featuring a Queen of the Stone Age on bass; having Alex Turner and Brian Wilson guesting on their new album; supporting Royal Blood on tour; these are all things could raise expectations too high for any band. A lesser band would buckle under the strain. Not Mini Mansions. All of these headline-grabbing elements pale in to insignificance next the sheer weight of downright brilliant songs which abound on The Great Pretenders.
Mini Mansions‘ roots stretch all the way back to 2005, when the Californian trio – Michael Shuman, Zach Dawes and Tyler Parkford – pooled their song ideas and made grand plans for the future. Yet their self-titled debut didn’t see light of day for another five years; in part, perhaps, because Shuman became the full-time bass player in Queens Of The Stone Age, touring in support of Era Vulgaris and contributing his multi-instrumentalism to the production of …Like Clockwork. With QOTSA now on hiatus, the stage is set for Mini Mansions’ sophomore, The Great Pretenders.