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Mini Mansions At Amoeba, Tuesday March 24th 2015

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Mini Mansions

 

Alex Turner of Artic Monkeys sings with them on ‘Vertigo’, Brian Wilson is a guest star on another of their songs, ‘Any Emotions’, so honestly what else do you want? Mini Mansion is a side project of Queens of the Stone Age’s bassist Michael Shuman, but I should not call them a side project, it seems so reductive, and? Oh I could go on and on with them! Keyboardist Tyler Parkford releases music under his solo moniker Mister Goodnite, and Zach Dawes has played bass on the recent all-star Dylan collection ‘Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes’, thanks to mentor T Bone Burnett, who is releasing Mini Mansions’ new and third album on his own record label Electromagnetic. This is an impressive resume and the trio was giving an in-store at Amoeba on Tuesday night followed by a signing of ‘The Great Pretenders’, and the crowd was quite large but not humongously large, which allowed me to get a bit closer than usual.

The band is a synth-guitar-drums trio with two-voice harmonies and if one third of them plays alongside Josh Homme’s and his very muscular riffs, Mini Mansions does not make tough and testosterone-charged music, it was rather delicate and multi layered, with high-pitched voices, at times dance-y, always multi-influenced, and sometimes venturing in a new psychedelia. ‘Death is a Girl’ had this very interesting pulse, fluid and eerie, inhabited by a weird feeling, with lyrics like ‘You gotta live in a world where there’s only one day
/So maybe death is a girl and she’s only one dance away’… ‘It’s a sound that lets you know things are not okay, but you can dance to it and hum the chorus,’ said Parkford in an interview to Amoeba while describing the new album. ‘It creates this awkward anxiety that you just want to revel in.’ And I thought it may well apply to this song.

‘Creeps’ had Beatles-que, even Harrison-esque crying guitars, sweeping your mind with sweet and trippy oooo-oooos, but I even thought that this one sounded like a Jon Brion’s song… oh and why wasn’t I totally surprised when I read that Parkford had declared in this same interview: ‘When we first got together, we agreed on things like late Beatles, Elliott Smith, early Big Star, and Electric Light Orchestra. But after spending three years playing together, other tastes come out.’ It may be true for all the songs I heard, a core of 60’s influences wrapped around layers of intertwined multi-genic sonic diversity.

Sure Alex Turner didn’t show up when they played ‘Vertigo’ – although I was hoping  for it – but New Zealander Kimbra came on stage to sing harmonies when they covered ‘Sparks’ ‘Sherlock Holmes’. They closed their short set with their super hooky ‘Freakout!’ which actually was not the song freaking out the most, ‘Mirror Mountain’ was, bringing a stop-and start, hard-hitting and deranged psychedelia with delicious falsettos, more strangeness and surprises than the rest while ending in bending distortion,… if there was any QOTSA shade in their set, it was there,… and I am not talking so much about the famous band’s bombastic side, rather about its cinematic and inventive side, at this moment, Mini Mansions almost sounded like some mini QOTSA.

Their set may have been short, as it is always the case at Amoeba, but the sonic diversity in the five songs they played (plus a cover) was impressive, it looked like a small glimpse in a complex and emotional universe,… the album is about ‘love, death and existentialism’, said Shuman in an interview,… aren’t these the only questions anyway?

Setlist:

1 Vertigo

2 Death is a Girl

3 Creeps

4 Mirror Mountain

5 Sherlock Holmes

6 Freakout!

More pictures of the show here.

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