Back in the halcyon days of the late Eighties/early Nineties when independently-released music was thriving, the EP was a bastion of quality. The sign of an artist's ambitions. Not to mention demonstrating the wealth of quality material at said artist's disposal. If that's the right word to use when highlighting one's wares. Then of course, the digital age took hold and things changed.
So it's quite refreshing and incredibly heartwarming to see some bands reversing the trend right now. One of those just happens to be Mannequin, a Nottingham based three-piece who've been making considerable progress within their local scene over the past couple of years. Having amassed a burgeoning live following over that period of time, they've also honed their songwriting somewhat, as the giant leap forwards from 2014's self-titled, self-released debut to Nobody's Listening, their first release on Nottingham label Louder City Records ably demonstrates.
Having initially started out playing a hybrid of thrash and grunge as most punk bands do in their embryonic stage, Mannequin have progressed and developed into an incisive fusion of melodic lo-fi rock and what can only be described as thinking man's punk as previously administered by the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Buffalo Tom and Fugazi. Nevertheless, what's most apparent across the six songs here is that rather than emulate any of their peers, Mannequin have stuck to a template purely of their own making and in doing so, delivered an EP that's instantly recognisable as being solely theirs.
The noise-driven melancholia of opener 'Bones' might be eerily reminiscent of Cheatahs or Swervedriver's belligerent shoegrunge. However, Sid Ratcliffe's unmistakable (and heartfelt) vocals punctuate this and the other five tracks here, providing a distinctive backbone for Mannequin's sound. While not exactly moving away from their original metallic grunge roots - neither the title track nor former single '1708' hold back in the riffs department - its when Mannequin play the refined card that they really come up trumps.
'Shark Eyes' takes a more insular approach, its lyrical content seemingly about self-loathing and deprecation which suits Ben Healey's downward spiralling guitar bursts and the awkward rhythms conveyed by bass player Ratcliffe and drummer Joe Hague, while twisted love song 'Skull Deep' leaves no stone untouched both in musical or sentimental content.
Closing number 'Colour', also lifted from last year's split seven-inch with The Hip Priests alongside the aforementioned '1708' represents Mannequin's aggressive side, albeit in the most controlled, intrinsic sense. Ratcliffe's vocals blending in cohesively with the sonic maelstrom around him. It provides a fitting end to an EP that contains no filler whatsoever and therefore demands one's full, undivided attention. Just like the good old days then... Mannequin. A name to watch out for in the months ahead.
8Dom Gourlay's Score