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Hey Mercedes
Everynight Fire Works
Vagrant Records


Everynight Fire Works is the first full-length release from the Chicago/Milwaukee quartet Hey Mercedes. Three-fourths of Hey Mercedes were members of the 90s Chicago emo fixture, Braid, so the band labors in a sizable shadow. However, comparisons of the two bands are both shallow and unfair. Hey Mercedes has a style and sound all its own and deserves to be considered in its own right.

The line-up of the band is a conventional two-guitar rock ensemble, with Braid veterans Bob Nanna (guitars and vocals), Damon Atkinson (drums), and Todd Bell (bass), along with guitarist Mark Dawursk creating a rich full sound that is reminiscent of Shudder To Think circa Funeral At The Movies. An initial, casual listen left me with the feeling that this was generic emo rock, but closer listening yielded surprising results. There is so much going on in the interaction among these five musicians that itís difficult to decide what to focus on. Atkinsonís drumming is technically ambitious and, along with Bellís solid bass lines, drives the tunes with both urgency and subtlety. Nannaís vocals are confident and the lyrics are poetic enough to remain open to interpretation without seeming pretentious. The aggressive drive of the songs is tempered and augmented by perfectly hummable and memorable melodies (I have woken up on more than one morning with an Everynight track playing irresistibly in my head).

The interplay between Nannaís and Dawurskís guitars, however, may very well be the highlight of this record. Throughout most of the record, the two guitars appear in their conventional rhythm/lead roles. There are many moments, though, when each guitar takes on a different lead role and intertwines with the other in a beautifully noisy way (the standout "Que Shiraz" contains an excellent example of this, starting just before the three-minute mark). At other points on the record (check out the opening of "Eleven To Your Seven" or the ending of "Quit"), the guitars are overdubbed with multiple lead, rhythm, and noise parts that create a rich wall of sound (more like Public Enemy than Phil Spector).

And letís not forget the production work by none other than J. Robbins, whose amazing work with Government Issue, Jawbox, and Burning Airlines has almost been overshadowed in recent years by his immensely successful career as a producer for Braid (yes), Dismemberment Plan, and many others. Robbins has a fantastic ear for voices, melody, and rhythm that helps bring out some of the stronger nuances of the Hey Mercedes sound. Check out the fantastic vocal production on "The Frowning Of A Lifetime", the busy-but-beautiful toms on "Every Turn", or the aforementioned orgiastic layers of vocal parts and guitars at the end of "Quit" for the most potent examples of the contribution Robbins makes to this record.

Hey Mercedes emerges from the emo tradition, which means that they enjoy playing fast. However, some of the most successful tracks on this record are the slower numbers, in which the band allows itself to find honest-to-goodness grooves, hidden just beneath the surface of their softhearted punk esthetic. In fact, it is at these moments that Hey Mercedes reminds of those groovy emo godfathers, Fugazi. These sexy rhythms not only set the hips to wiggling, but they also serve to highlight the melodic and lyrical strengths of their associated songs. The half-time skank of "Que Shiraz", for example, gives you time to notice little poetic moments like: Youíre smiling like New Jersey on its side. The slow bop of "Havenít Been This Happy" makes the strong melody of the tune even stronger and harder to forget. And, on "Quit" (have I mentioned that track yet?), the easy-going rhythm that builds to a crescendo seduces you into singing along with the sing-a-long refrain: By the time you come to, youíll know just what to do, which, by the way, has to remind you of the refrain of "Frowning": When you come to, will you come true?.

At bottom, Hey Mercedes are just plain fun to listen to. Their spirit and ambition are definitely infectious, and I defy you to sit still while listening to this record. In fact, Iím listening to it as I write this, and Iím having a very difficult time hitting the right keys on the keyboard as I wiggle in my seat. This is not music that will change the world or change your life, but it just might change your day.

- Eryc Eyl

Track Listing:

  1. The Frowning Of A Lifetime
  2. Every Turn
  3. A-List Actress
  4. The Slightest Idea
  5. Eleven To Your Seven
  6. Que Shiraz
  7. Our Weekend Starts On Wednesday
  8. Havenít Been This Happy
  9. What Youíre Up Against
  10. Quit
  11. Letís Go Blue

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