When a member of a band goes on to form another band or side project with a different group of musicians, often all the reviews and media attention focuses more or less exclusively on that member, their past bands and achievements and why it is bad because it is not what they wanted because it is not what they expected. While I will not criticise a band for not being a carbon copy of another band, I will only mention their other bands only once in this review in order to focus solely on what matters here: the music.
The New Mendicants feature members of Teenage Fanclub, The Pernice Brothers and The Sadies, artists you might associate with the world of indie, but with The New Mendicants they peddle a stripped back, acoustic take on power pop. The EP's opening song (and the only song available here to be featured on their forthcoming debut album) This Time is based around acoustic guitars and offers a pleasant, light feel. This is perhaps the most developed, expansive song on the album with electric guitars and a full drum kit added to the mix. Obvious influences to hand are The Beatles, Big Star and perhaps most notably, Big Star collaborators The Posies.
The other five songs on this EP are not quite as developed, mostly relying on acoustic guitars and sparse, minimal percussion. Follow You Down is an intricate, finger picked number, Amazing Glow showcases some interesting vocal melodies and High On the Skyline - the definite highlight of the EP - begins in a minor key before breaking to an incredibly euphoric chorus, not a million miles away from something a band like Suede might write. There is much to like about The New Mendicants.
That said, the Australia 2013 EP does have its flaws. The vocal performances across the board are pleasant, but not especially distinctive, some of the songs feel somewhat undeveloped and some songs suffer from cheesy, clichéd lyrics; the most notable victim of this is Follow You Down. You can see what they have tried to do but it is not quite coming off.
None of this is to say that what is on offer here is not of a good quality. When The New Mendicants get it right they can soar. On the Australia 2013 EP there are suggestions and hints of what this partnership could do and achieve. That the most developed song on this collection is also the only song from it that is going on the forthcoming LP tells us a great deal about where The New Mendicants are heading.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.