For Fans Of
Acoustic re-releases are usually undertaken by bands as a thinly-disguised ploy to milk more money from their rabid fanbases, often amounting to little more than the same songs recorded with all but one or two members removed and the amplifiers switched off. The antithesis to these purely commercial motivations are the works of artistically-minded bands like Connecticut’s Make Do And Mend, who have always offered a forward-thinking approach in their music by interweaving the traditional components of post-hardcore with a collage of varying stylistic influences. On their newest EP ‘Part And Parcel’, the band channels an acoustic aesthetic laced with the sensibilities of folk and indie rock, revealing the versatility of their songwriting and the wide-reaching scope of their musical prowess.
‘Part And Parcel’ takes several forms across its six tracks. On the one hand, it is a celebration of the band’s widely acclaimed debut full-length ‘End Measured Mile’, with half of the EP devoted to indie-enthused reimaginings of three songs from the album. There are other rewarding surprises in store for listeners as well, but the record’s unifying motif is the band’s desire to explore the true depths of their musicianship by exercising a style that they are largely unfamiliar with. The EP is entirely acoustic, anchored by a threadbare guitar that strums engaging, dynamic chord progressions and emotional riffs that occasionally delve into sombre, affecting phrases on tracks like ‘Transparent Seas’. While the guitar work is seldom as accomplished as Chicago singer-songwriter Owen’s intricate, flutteringly beautiful finger-picked melodies, it rarely fails to be musically interesting.
The stripped-down acoustic guitar lays a firm foundation for the EP’s supporting instrumentation, channelling a style which is extremely reminiscent of indie rock. ‘End Measured Mile’ fan favourite ‘Unknowingly Strong’ is given a stark but pleasing makeover that reveals the adaptability of the band’s songwriting, trading in the original version’s breakneck, pounding punk beat for a skittery, syncopated snare drum and soft, washed-down cymbal strikes that drive the track without compromising the EP’s holistically mellow sound. The reduction in intensity is compensated wonderfully by a surprising depth of instrumentation, utilising calmingly beautiful piano melodies and swirling, orchestral string notes that are similar to those heavily utilised within Owen’s recordings. Tracks like new song ‘Untitled’ are laced with brief, punctuating guitar phrases rinsed with jangly, tremolo effects that add to the indie vibe of the release.
Despite the strength of the EP’s underlying instrumentation, most of its emotionality is conveyed through the impassioned vocal technique of frontman James Carroll. Due to the overarching context of the release, Carroll displays a much more contained style of singing this time around, sanding down the powerful, gruff harshness of his voice that usually characterises the band’s material. However, he gels to the band’s experimentation on the EP with ease, nestling into a mellow croon reminiscent of many indie-minded singer-songwriters on tracks like ‘Ghostal’. Carroll’s inability to allow himself to become overly reserved prevents the release from descending into an uninteresting monotone, aided heavily by moments of striking intensity like the soaring, driving chorus of ‘Unkowingly Strong’. This is also helped by several examples of surprising risk-taking in the band’s songwriting, most notably seen in the upbeat drumming and country-enthused guitar melodies of new song ‘Coats’.
With ‘Part And Parcel’, Make Do And Mend have engaged in an exploration of a musical style well outside their comfort zone, reworking three fan favourites from their critically acclaimed debut album ‘End Measured Mile’ with folk and indie rock sensibilities driven by acoustic guitar chords and diverse instrumentation. The EP is a pleasing display of both the versatility of their songs, and the ever-widening scope of the band’s musical prowess.
1. Unknowingly Strong
3. Home Away From Here
4. Transparent Seas