Opportunistic though it may seem to review an album hot off the tails of its nomination for the prestigious RTÉ Choice Music Prize, Just Mustard has been on GoldenPlec’s radar since our Lowdown on Dundalk’s music scene in late 2015, following the release of their sprightly debut single Lemon Smiles.
Soon came the release of their foamy self-titled EP, positioning the band as one of the most promising dream pop/shoegaze bands our Emerald Isle had to offer. It should then come as no small surprise that the Co. Louth quintet’s debut full-length effort ‘Wednesday’ more than delivers on that promise.
Recorded by guitarist/vocalist Dave Noonan at the band’s home studio, with additional recording from Robocobra Quartet’s Chris Ryan in Start Together Studios, Belfast, ‘Wednesday’ has a very live-in-your-front-room feel.
The LP begins with the aptly named Boo, bringing about the deaths of headphone users everywhere from the instant the listener presses play with its screech of distorted guitar before a tight groove punctuated by fat, damp snares underpins Noonan and fellow plank-wielder Mete Kalyon’s impressionistic guitar playing and spectral tandem vocals courtesy of Noonan and lead vocalist Katie Ball.
This gives way to Curtains, and already we see that the band owes as much to post-punk and electronica as it does to the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins. Kicking off with a low-to-hi tremolo guitar lick that one Kevin Shields himself could mistake for his own before an oddly danceable beat comes courtesy of drummer Shane Maguire. This sonically chaotic and raw foundation is deftly juxtaposed with sleepy vocals until the near climax, Noonan’s screams cutting through the noise like a dazzling headlight in the fog. Pigs is likewise indie-disco ready, its propelled by its percussive feel from all instruments.
The tension built in the opening tracks is present more often than not on ‘Wednesday’. Tainted seems to lurch forward constantly, while Tennis, aptly named after its minimal backbeat, is nothing if not an unsettling listen. With that said, there are moments of relief and release, too.
The hypnotic Feeded is a shimmering, silvery slice of ethereal bliss while Deaf offers the album’s biggest ear-worm thanks in no small part to Rob Clarke’s breezy bass-line. This is brought back to us again however by the time the menacing Pictures brings the album to a close.
Brooding and often challenging, ‘Wednesday’ is a slow-burning, increasingly revealing and textured album. Its soundscapes are inspired, its hooks deceptive and its performance bold. In maintaining its enveloping sound, the album lends itself a strong sense of replay value, worthy of its plaudits. Though we cannot predict what may win this year’s much coveted Album of the Year Choice Prize, we can guarantee that this is only the beginning for Just Mustard.