Mess up the Mess You Remind Me of Summer Vacation

[Paroxysm Records; 2007]

Styles: Paroxysm Records
Others: Paroxysm Records

Well, lets start with the good news. Mess up the Mess are a clever bunch of young upstarts with a potent sense of humor and axes to grind. Said axes are justly directed against those social demons of patriarchy, racism, and neoconservative politics, and the lyrics hit these targets squarely and repeatedly throughout. "Crystal Pools" recalls a segregated summer vacation spot in a mock-nostalgic way that laments its closing upon forced integration. The alpha-male corporate raider gets his comeuppance in "You're Not My (Myers-Briggs) Type." There are also rallying cries, as in "F-bomb," where the group asserts that they're not spreading any obscenity when they promote the cause of "f"eminism. And for balance, there is the pleasant goofiness of "Lawn Chair Meet Balloon," "20 Questions," and "Ton of Bricks."

Given these noble intentions, it's hard not to wish that the music and production could be a bit more supportive. The DIY spirit is strong and the sound is definitely stripped-down, no-frills punk. Included in this "stripping-down" is the complete lack of bite in the guitar, as the mix has it buried somewhere underneath the drums, which are too low themselves. There are simple keyboard lines that are even more buried, and to be honest, the only thing the stands out are the vocals. Obviously, the lyrics are intended to be the focus of MutM, and for some listeners, they may be enough to make the record endearing. However, for my ears, I want such potentially incendiary and liberatory content accompanied by an appropriate level of enthusiasm in the music.

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