Betrayed expectations, dashed promises. Mantoloking, the third album from The Sexy Accident due out on August 21, 2009, addresses the noticeable failings of leaders, family, friendship, and love.
The album takes its name from an affluent seaside town in New Jersey. "It also happened to be chosen as namesake for some of the junkiest of junk collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that precipitated the mortgage and financial crisis; investment bankers dubbed a steaming pile of financial refuse ‘Mantoloking' to lure unsuspecting investors into a false sense of classist security," explains Jesse Kates, guitarist and lead singer
Recorded at Black Lodge in Eudora, Kansas by accomplished Seattle-based producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, The Wedding Present), the forthcoming album exhibits a darker edge lyrically and musically than its predecessor, Kinda Like Fireworks. While Fireworks pops with catchy hooks and unusual time signatures, Mantoloking bulls ahead with a driving sound full of urgency or alternately pauses to brood with piercing insight.
The band picked up guitarist Chad Toney in May 2008, joining Kates, bassist Pat Padgett (replacing Pat Fent, who moved to Florida), and drummer Daniel Torrence. As a quartet, they rock hard without sacrificing melody or lyricism.
Lead track "I Tried Again" is about being drawn to a person with an addictive personality that needs an audience for attention. You know the type – someone that's attractive because of outrageous behavior but remains elusive as a love interest. The craziness becomes disturbing when it's time for accountability. The lyrics play tug-of-war between the poles of letting go and sitting tight. The adrenaline of self-induced drama for entertainment and the lull of boredom become a vicious cycle.
"I Just Need My Car" is an all-out dismissal, a parting of the ways with no tolerance for bullshit even if love leaves a residue. The band plays with a laser focus. A ringing guitar works next to firecracker drums as Kates sings with exasperation. A round of handclaps breaks the pace for a moment until the band drives the song home.
A wildcat guitar yowls and snarls with a psychedelic bite to open "Buy Me Out." Padgett's bass line creates tension as crunchy guitar riffs clear a path.
The songwriting also shows a sense of humor with "I'm Just Trying to Help (Me Like You). Some women might recognize the jerk in this song full of dictates about how to look, eat, and act. Kates says, "It's written from the point of view of the douchiest of ex-boyfriends. One of his parting suggestions is that his girlfriend consider a spray-on tan."
"Failing to Play Nice" examines the emotional perspective of a boy dealing the departure of his father, the breakup of a marriage, and the succession of men that follow into his mother's life. The words in the final stanza hint at the strength of the writing:
and then came the succession
of more unwanted men
and I made it my task
to tear away their masks
‘cuz the way they'd dupe my mom
with money and aplomb
Kates shows a sensitivity not often seen among male lead vocalists in town. He proffers raw lyrics and bitter memories with aching honesty. It's the plaintive hurt in his singing that makes it feel so pure.
By the time "A Merry Christmas To You" rolls around, there's no doubt that The Sexy Accident have reached higher, worked harder, and dreamed bigger than they have previously. Seven songs into Mantoloking, the quality of the song craft still doesn't relent. "Merry Christmas" drops into the middle of a surprised lover's betrayal. The brisk guitar work inserts an element of suspense into a moment fraught with tension. The backing female vocal of Michelle Plaitis, a friend of producer Steve Fisk's from Seattle, trading lines with Kates adds another chilling layer to the coldness of the situation. Plaitis also contributes backing vocals on the final track, "Won't You Be Mine."
"The Chatty Bandit" is a more upbeat number that could have been a hidden track from the previous album. Nonetheless, it fits nicely here as an enthusiastic pop song that rocks with jubilation.
"All Surface" swings the mood back to introspection with a mid-tempo pace that slowly builds. The lyrics stem from Kates' state of mind at the time.
"It was the first song I wrote after we got back to Kansas City from recording Kinda Like Fireworks," says Kates. "I wrote it in early April. Winter was hanging on way too long, which is where the ‘float away winter' opening line comes from. I found myself floundering in a number of ways, both personal and professional. I felt I was stuck in a dead-end job. I was feeling old. I felt crippled by responsibility. I was experiencing the postpartum blues that follow the completion of any major art project."
Feeling isolated and adrift, he attempted to "turn the feelings of hopelessness into useful angst. Angst and frustration can be powerful feelings if you take action in response to them," he says.
While tough to share this song with the public, Kates decided to loosen the reins. "I've always tried to make The Sexy Accident an upbeat band, and so I've censored songs that were too gloomy or serious in the past. This time I just let them out. I can't tell if it's led to a better result to do that, but it's an experiment. You gotta take chances."
For a record due this autumn, the spirit of the recording feels like the last hot embers of a bonfire fending off the penetrating cold of winter, fingertips still stinging from life's raw handshake. The album artwork visually conveys this faint sense of resilience in the midst of hardship.
"The cover image has been selected to convey tenuousness, isolation and tension," Kates says. "Two individuals stand on a bridge in the middle of winter, their faces turned away from the camera. Their embrace is awkward and stilted, but they hold on to each other just the same. They are alone surrounded by the blur of the city, facing out into the unknown, trying to steel each other against some sort of wave, bracing for impact as children against a rough sea. By and large, this is the stuff Mantoloking is made of."
Indeed, brace for an impact after listening to Mantoloking. This cohesive set of songs is built on lyrics that strike true with meaning beyond catchy phrases and refrains. Fisk's solid production boosts the power of this gutsy music. With these eleven songs, the band draws more attention to storm clouds than to hidden silver linings. The Sexy Accident is actually quite deliberate in their intentions, willing to weather the storm and shake off the chill. While the album's theme reflects the dour outlook and off-kilter momentum of the times externally, the music's sheer energy also serves as an internal catalyst to keep the fire burning and keep biding time until better days cycle around.
- Pete Dulin, presentmagazine.com
- Jonathan Aird, Americana U.K.
Chunky guitars crunch with crackling melodic vocals humming bars of harmonies underneath an engulfing wave of oceanic delight and power pop saltiness. Neat and organized indie pop from Kansas City's The Sexy Accident.
Kansas City's The Sexy Accident make music that falls somewhere between the power pop of Teenage Fanclub and the upbeat indie rock of Nada Surf. Lead singer Jesse Kates' voice may bring to mind Magnolia Electric Co.'s Jason Molina. Check out "I Tried Again."
- Jeremy, WLUR
To say that music should have no monetary value is a little silly. After all, release a pirate copy of an album people are supposed to pay for, people flock.
Release an album free-of-charge, people give it the wide-birth of a sneezing Mexican.
They can't all be bad though, right? Well, time for another test case: meet The Sexy Accident. Now download this album by heading to their music download page.
Now read along.
We're somewhere in the territory between Teenage Fanclub and Mull Historical Society here with a greater onus on those "driving rhythms" so beloved of press departments.
Front-man Jesse Kates throws an impressive amount of gusto at the vocals. Hearing his voice strain, run dry of air and gasp for breath between and during notes adds a huge amount of energy and humanity to what could have been a typically lifeless performance.
Retro stylings may place them beyond the focus of the typically narrow-sighted indie-kids, but it's very much their loss. Although we must take time to rue the somewhat sagging nature of the mid-section of Mantoloking, we'd still consider it a home-run/six/whatever sports analogy you wish to use.
First song on the album "I Tried Again" scores major points for never losing its momentum throughout a giant swing of a chorus and the cleverly structured guitar riffs. Taking the baton from that song, "I Just Need My Car" quickly solidifies The Sexy Accident as a band adept at those trickiest of rock conceits: melodies. The background vocals feel exactly as if they emanate from the back of the room, rather than the right side of the mix.
"Buy Me Out" may be a little too pub-rock at its initiation, but the sweeping bass-line soon takes us back to the land of the epic rock band. The rather audacious use of counter-pointed vocals at the end really does warm the heart as well.
Seven-point-five minute opus "All Surface" is anything but and "Merry Christmas To You" brings a Coral vibe to a downbeat Christmas anthem.
We'd not recommend that the band start building an awards shelf just yet, but this is one we'd likely hold as being worth its price at HMV, that it's completely free-of-charge makes it an essential download.
- Aidan Williamson, Strangeglue
Named after one of the wealthiest communities in New Jersey, Mantoloking, the third release from local group the Sexy Accident, is rich in pop intricacies and full of rhyming nuggets. Froggy-voiced frontman Jesse Kates' heartfelt and slightly gooey lyrics are complemented by jangly guitars and chugging low end, in the vein of '90s alt-pop acts like Toad the Wet Sprocket or the Barenaked Ladies ... Mantoloking is more seasoned than the Sexy Accident's previous recordings. It's not as upbeat or cheerful as one would expect from catchy Midwestern guitar pop, but its multilayered stylings and more mature approach make for good background music during a personal introspection session.
- Berrry Anderson, The Pitch
Kansas City's The Sexy Accident is going through an identity crisis. That, or the band has come into its own with its third full-length album, Mantoloking.
Gone are the simple power-pop chord progressions and fast rhythms of last year's release, Kinda Like Fireworks. Instead, the quartet offers a slowed down, more mature sound reminiscent of '90s college rock. Think Toad the Wet Sprocket or R.E.M.
The tracks are longer and more brooding, and the sound is more full and dynamic, thanks to the addition of a second guitarist.
Jesse Kates' dry, top-of the-throat, nasally voice has a tendency to sound too muffled during some songs, such as in the opener, "I Tried Again." But there are times when his voice rings out clear, and he conjures up R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, just minus the twang, most notably in the "Everybody Hurts"-esque "Failing to Play Nice."
The ghost of the band's power-pop past speaks up here and there. For instance, the album's opener, "I Tried Again," is a punchy, uplifting number … musically, anyway. The melody steps up the scales to a marchlike beat, and there are even a few power-pop stops. However, the lyrics are tragic, dealing with the cat-and-mouse chase of a lover who is impossible to pin down.
Mantoloking — named after a type of junk collateralized debt obligation, which was named after a high-class seaside town in New Jersey — deals with betrayal of all kinds. Like the credit meltdown caused by bad business practices, Kates writes tales of personal meltdowns caused by touchy subjects such as obsession, infidelity and divorce.
In fact, The Sexy Accident addresses corporate greed head on with "Buy Me Out." The track starts out with sleazy '70s acid-rock guitar licks that represent the glitzy, shiny money world and the smarmy, two-dimensional people who inhabit its fast track.
Kates sounds bitter as he spits out the lyrics "A grinding halt? It's not my fault/Just ‘can' my assistant." Toward the end, the song breaks down as it switches gears and heads back into power-pop territory. The move makes for a jarring end to a jarring song.
Overall, the band has grown in its songwriting. Tracks such as "A Merry Christmas to You" and "The Chatty Bandit" stand out.
The former, an intricate and soul-crushing number, makes use of tinkly, chimelike guitars and female background vocals that ooze "Carol of the Bells."
The lyrics performed by Michelle Platis are interspersed throughout the heavily layered song as she realizes she's been spotted with another lover.
And "The Chatty Bandit" is as fun and rambling as the IM flirtations Kates sings of. However, the melody gets clunky during the chorus as the tempo downshifts.
Most bands mature, and The Sexy Accident seems to be headed in the right direction with Mantoloking. The group took a risk in adjusting its sound, but it may have been a risk worth taking.
- Liz Garcia, ink