Mention the name Ringo Deathstarr and it's fair to say the words 'My', 'Bloody' and 'Valentine' won't be far behind. When early singles compilation Sparkler first appeared three years ago such comparisons were rife, and last year's first full long player, Colour Trip, only served to inflame such accusations that maybe the Austin trio wore their influences a little too closely to their chests. Unfair perhaps, given that in 2012 there's very little which passes for being wholly original. Predictable also, as any band aligning themselves to such a storied genre will always have to live with being compared to what's gone beforehand.
It's to their credit, then, that against such adversity they've discovered something approaching a signature sound, but also in doing so created an identity all of their own. The dual vocals of Elliott Frazier and Alex Gehring now instantly recognisable, coupled with a guitar sound that while not being a million miles away from the Creation sound of '91 (because what we'd rather call it than shoegaze) confirms the band's suggestion when quizzed by DiS last summer that they're a punk rock band at heart. With over half the 13 songs that make up Mauve clocking in at the two-and-a-half minutes mark or under, anyone expecting a tremelo heavy collection of lengthy monologues may be slightly disappointed. And rightly so, because Ringo Deathstarr have never been that kind of band.
Where the Ringo Deathstarr EP that much of Sparkler was comprised of - and to a lesser extent Colour Trip - conveyed the sound of a band literally finding its feet; indeed the personnel that recorded the former being an entirely different line-up bar Frazier; Mauve feels like a stark realization in the band's development. It's easy to look back now and attempt to pinpoint the exact moment where Ringo Deathstarr's embryonic vision became reality but last November's collaboration with Jason Reece from And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead seems as good a place as any. Freed of the customary feedback and distortion we'd come to expect, it heralded a brave, new, altogether more direct approach instead. And more importantly, welcomed the structural diatribe of why-say-it-in-five-minutes-when-you-can-say-it-in-two?
And so onto Mauve, as with its predecessor produced by Frazier, himself becoming more established as a producer-cum-engineer in his own right if his recent work with fellow Austin dwellers Galpals is anything indication. Opener and lead single 'Rip' takes its cue from Adam And The Ants' 'Feed Me To The Lions' (seriously), Gehring's distinctive yet seductive vocal taking it into more pastoral waters. It's the brutally eloquent 'Burn' and Wipers-esque 'Drain' that ably demonstrate Ringo Deathstarr's new found fervour. Neither hangs around long enough to outstay their welcome. Both aim for and penetrate the jugular to maximum effect. Similarly the Frazier-led 'Slack' could best be described as punk rock played through distortion pedals, yet fragile on the inside summed up best by its "Do you feel what I feel?" refrain.
The dreamy 'Brightest Star' is Mauve's curveball. Processed beats collide with floaty atmospherics and Gehring's choral coos. Clocking in at just 13 seconds short of six minutes, it's a radiant interval from the full-on excess of the rest of Mauve. While the eastern-tinged 'Drag' treads a similar woozy path, the potent mix of 'Fifteen' and 'Waste' continue Mauve's fast and furious vein, each kicking and screaming where previously its creators would have laid back waiting in a state of relaxation.
"Sometimes I know right from wrong" declares Frazier on the Dinosaur Jr meets The Wedding Present 'Do You Wanna', while the intuitive 'Please Don't Kill Yourself' is as heartfelt a plea as its title suggests. Of course there is a possibility that at 13 tracks, Mauve is maybe just a little too long to be digested in one sitting. However, with nothing masking itself as filler here, it would be difficult to trim anything off without Mauve losing any of its impetus or impact.
Indeed there's very little negative to say about Mauve, other than Ringo Deathstarr may have created a monster - in a good way of course - for themselves. The challenging part is where they go next.
8Dom Gourlay's Score