Is this a new era for Mallory Knox?
Nice guys, as Billie Joe Armstrong once pointed out, finish last.
Sure, Mallory Knox are hardly at the back of the pack right now, but there does seem to have been an acknowledgment in their camp, in recent times, that maybe they’re a bit too sweet and middle-of-the road for their own good.
“I want to prove that Mallory Knox are more than just nice guys,” bassist / vocalist Sam Douglas exclaimed to Rock Sound recently, hinting that ‘Wired’, the band’s third album, would be a departure both sonically and in terms of attitude. So we can expect something full of musical left turns, innovations and the dawn of Mallory 2.0, right?
Things start off decently enough. Lead single ‘Giving It Up’ sees the quintet on more aggressive, confrontational form than ever before, frontman Mikey Chapman’s vocals rising into a crackling rasp amidst squalls of falsetto.
Indeed, Mallory are at their best here when they’re truly throwing caution to the wind, whether instrumentally or lyrically. ‘For You’, for example, reads as an open letter confession about the shame, anxiety and medical malaise that struggles with mental health can bring (“I’m sorry but it won’t work / These pills that make my head hurt” leaves little to the imagination). That it isn’t the only song on the album to make reference to antidepressants – track six, entitled ‘Better Off Without You’, is inspired from a medication Sam was offered by a doctor to patch up his anxiety – tells you a lot about the depth of the well Mallory are drawing from in places.
Elsewhere, ‘Falling In Love’ sees the five-piece playing around with sonic light and shade to outstanding effect, magicking up a fittingly heart-on-sleeve centerpiece to these 11 tracks. Some of the best moments the band have ever produced are lurking on this album.
But while they should be applauded for the risk-taking and focus they demonstrate across large parts of ‘Wired’, if anything, there’s a niggling feeling that they haven’t quite gone far enough. The likes of ‘Midnight’ see the Cambridgeshire lads falling back into the habits they apparently want to escape: catchy, neatly written and extremely nice, but not exactly pulse-raising.
The reality is that ‘Wired’ is at its strongest when the people who penned are cracking themselves open and letting what’s inside spill out, regardless of the consequences. It’s when they forget about the expectations people have of a band in the British rock scene and go their own way.
These songs might not be the complete, finished product yet, but as signals of intent go, they’re a crystal clear demonstration that Mallory have what it takes to break through the glass ceiling – to make truly exceptional music of soul-stirring quality.
Though not quite frontrunners yet, Mallory Knox aren’t prepared to just run with the nice guys any more.