MESH – Automation Baby

The Way I Feel

Having been a fan since they first appeared on a music technology magazine cover CD in the early 1990s, I lost sight of Mesh a bit after a few years… more down to my tastes changing than any decrease in quality on their part. The new single released recently ‘Born To Lie’ was very much a statement of intent… “we’re back now and THIS is how to write a single” and has had me scuttling back to catch up on the last couple of albums. And now arrives the new album, the first since 2009.

Opening track ‘Just Leave Us Alone’ surprises a little with its rock guitar lead line…but the pulsing synths and chorus remind you who you’re listening to. Otherwise, it’s aggressive synths, heavy drums, mixed in with a fewer slower songs, all with epic chord changes…all the things you expect from a Mesh album. In fact the first few tracks are all “bang bang” – catchy hooks grabbing you by the collar and head butting the melodies into your brain, daring you to try and forget them. Takes some skill to write great melodies, never mind get the best from them. Finally on ‘This Is The Time’, the verse starts and you think… finally, this isn’t quite so immediate…then the chorus comes in and there you go, singing along again straight away… Perhaps Richard Silverthorn and Mark Hockings, who formed Mesh in 1991, have sold their souls to the devil in return for such a skill…

‘Born To Lie’ is here of course, with its harking back to the tribal, catchy Glitter Band drums and “heys” and in-yer-face synths. But of course, an album full of that would get a bit wearing and while ‘You Want What’s Owed to You’ ploughs a similar furrow to no little reward, there’s enough variety on Automation Baby to bring you back for many listens. Production values are incredibly high… pads shimmer, drums pound, lead synths squeal and squawk when they need to, Hockings’ vocals rise above everything… each sound has its space. ‘AB Incidental No.1’ is an instrumental and acts as a much needed come down after the opening salvo of energy before it. There is also ‘AB Incidental No.2’ later on, which, while more energetic, is far shorter and more like the little instrumental sketches Mesh have used in between songs before. The title track is everything a title track should be… catchy, epic, pounding… one of several instances where I was lost in the chorus, nodding away in time with the music…much to the bemusement of my fellow commuters on the train. Oh well… 🙂

I won’t mention every track by name but a stand out track is ‘You Couldn’t See This Coming’. An epic, beautiful slowie, accompanied by sparse, pulsing arpeggios, Hockings is on great form on lines such as “I need more time…to cross the ‘T’s and dry your eyes” …emotional and beautiful. The song builds until what sounds like the kitchen sink and a Morricone-conducted orchestra are thrown in on the next chorus to tug at those heart strings. Cliché? Maybe. But not one you find in synth-pop very often and certainly not done this well. To their credit, a 6 minute ballad could have been a disaster… this is a mature, masterpiece arrangement.

Many bands peter out after one or two albums… Mesh’s material seems to get stronger. Once upon a time, they were seen as DM soundalikes. Hard to believe now – those days are very much long gone, as they developed their sound and matured as songwriters. If there is any justice at ALL, Mesh will eventually be rewarded for their perseverance and dogged determination to keep going over what is, by most standards, an extraordinarily long career. It would be nice to think Rich and Mark would be able to semi-retire to country piles and swimming pools in between the occasional album and Mesh would be a household name. Mesh are very much back and taking their place on the upper steps in the synth-pop Pantheon once again.

Automation Baby is released by Dependent on CD, limited edition 2CD and download formats

Mesh play an extensive UK and European tour between March and April 2013.

Berlin Columbia Club (22 March), Erfurt HSD (23 March), Warsaw Progresja (24 March), Bristol The Fleece (30 March), Hamburg Markthalle (05 April), Gothenburg Brewhouse (6 April), Rostock M.A.U. Club (7 April), Hannover Musikzentrum (9 April), Cologne Live Music Hall (10 April), Bochum Matrix (12 April), Leipzig Werk II Festival (13 April), Munich Backstage (14 April), Vienna Szene (15 April), Strasbourg La Laiterie (16 April), Frankfurt Main Batschkapp (17 April), Newcastle Legends (19 April), Manchester Sound Control (20 April), London Islington O2 Academy (21 April)

Bristol date supported by Inertia.

Munich, Vienna and Frankfurt dates supported by Sinestar.

Newcastle, Manchester and London dates supported by De/Vision.

Flip Martian presents his Monday evening ’Selection Box’ show and a fortnightly Tuesday evening in concert programme ‘Live and Loud!’, both at 20:00 GMT on .

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