Review of Mongrel's debut album 'Better Than Heavy' released through Wall Of Sound on 2nd March 09.
The phrase 'Indie Super-group' conjures up images of self indulgent side projects, and you might think that Mongrel are no different. The band is made up from some pretty well known indie faces, including former Arctic Monkey bassist Andy Nicholson, Jon McClure (Reverend And The Makers), Drew McConnell (Babyshambles) and the London based rapper Lowkey from Passion Poets. Yes, they all come from quite diverse musical backgrounds but the material they produce is wildly different from their 'day jobs' and is by no means mainstream.
At a time when the news says the country is falling apart, Mongrel are here to say what we are all thinking, or at least are trying not to think. And these guys clearly have a lot to say; Mongrel is their political platform and Better Than Heavy gives you no option but to sit up and listen, indeed the title track even repeatedly screams 'You listening?'
Musically it is a slickly produced, base heavy combination of indie, rock and hip hop. But really, it's the lyrics that set this group apart. They address pertinent issues, such as crime, race and religion. While leaving no political stone unturned, they deftly confront the establishment. The opener, 'Barcode' chants '45681950, you're a number, you're a barcode, got your details all on file', a clear dig at the Government's proposed 'Big Brother' style ID cards.
The album is dominated by the lyrics and the heavy rap throughout. I'd like to see more of the musical influence gained from their respective bands. It shines through on a couple of tracks, notably 'Julian' and 'Better Them Than Us', but is generally lacking. The political message is important but it seems the music sometimes suffers in order to get it across.