Mary and the Giant - Music for a Nervous BreakdownEP
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: August 2010
Mary and the Giant (MATG) are an acoustic quartet from Columbia, MO. Music for a Nervous Breakdown, a six-song EP, is their debut album. Self-described as "colonial pop," the group does not employ a rhythm section and instead relies on the contributions of electric bassist John Marino and violinist Michael Schembre.
How is it?
Promising, but that's it. While the band probably wants to highlight Schembre's inspired violin playing, the real crown jewel is vocalist Zac Fiddes. His impassioned vocals and full-throated crooning is a true treasure and definitely something to behold. But even the most gifted of vocalists cannot save a band from damnation. While the quartet is far from damnation there are an array of holes still to fill before the next offering. Album opener "Summary of a Beginning" features plaintive acoustic guitar, mournful violin and the confession "Why do you hide from your insecurities?" While the group is definitely trying to display pop harmonics, they unfortunately let the violin take the foreground and the end result is an awkward mess. Fiddes' vocals are drowned out and the exercise just comes across as green. While their intentions are definitely noble, one has to think the band is probably better in a live setting. It doesn't help that the song
is a minute longer than it really needs to be.
On second track "I'm No Different" MATG packs an emotional wallop, admitting "I loved you more when we were starting out." There's more of a country strut in the exuection and the entire thing feels far more confident. Anchored by a hip-shaking chorus and Fiddes' crystalline vocals, "I'm No Different," is probably the EP's best song. Its successor "Beg Me Please," is another pop song with ample amounts of swagger and conviction and it's apparent that Fiddes and his bandmates do know their way around a song. Once again though the violin takes the forefront and leaves the verses limp and underutilized. Even an inspired Celtic fiddle outro can't save the song from coming across as awkward and clumsy.
Fourth song "It Must Be The High Life," opens with just an acoustic and vocals and for once Mary and the Giant have put their best foot forward. Sadly that ends shortly after the 40-second mark when the violin reappears and the song moves into the same landscape as its three predecessors. While it is certainly commendable to utilize fiddler Michael Schembre's talent, there is no shame in going without said instrument for one song. The hallmark of a lasting band is diversity and choosing to employ the violin once again fails to reach these goals. By the time fifth track "Texas Lexus," rolls around the listener is left weary and possessing complete violin fatigue. This is most unfortunate because album closer "Happy For You," is a wrenching and emotional rollercoaster that soars, dips and swells with anger, anxiety and hope. In essence, it's everything the band should capitalize on going forward.
However, before the band goes forward, one has to wonder, how commercially viable is a violin? Is the band going to rest its laurels on Schembre's inspired fiddling? The truth of the matter is Fiddes is the band's ticket to paradise and until he takes complete control of the band's output, they aren't going to leave the Show Me State. This is all the more important because Fiddes (or whoever it is that writes the songs) have written some insightful and ruminative expositions about love, loss and how to cope. These aren't trite, banal or derivative compositions. These are definitely songs that need to be heard. In addition to these decisions, one has to think the use of pianos, mandolins or an accordion might helped these songs stand out. While chaking it up to youth is probably excusable this time around, the same can't be said for album number two.
CoMo represent! I'm personally a fan of the violin, but it is a bit overpowering on record. As Greg alluded to, it works better live IMO. They've got some new songs that are killer. They have some live songs from a radio station performance, which includes a new one called "Freeze" on their facebook fan page. http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Mar...7632775?ref=ts If you are a fan of Old Crow Medicine Show or The Format - Interventions and Lullabies, I'd recommend checking them out. Their myspace had their whole EP streaming.
This band is very, very good live. They are still evolving as a band, but Fiddes is definitely their meal ticket. There is no reason they aren't signed and on the radio. Nervous breakdown would be enjoyed by a lot of people, if they just had access to this gem of a band. Keep up the good work boys, you've got the talent.