Mock Orange – Mind Is Not Brain – Review

mockorange200Mock Orange

Mind Is Not Brain (Silverthree)
by Tim Den

Mock Orange are, in my opinion, the best band around today. Can you blame my bias? After having booked their first East Coast tour (’99), played and slept floors alongside them for years, helped them search for booking and PR agents, written about them repeatedly in Lollipop, and eventually put them in touch with the good folks at Silverthree, I’m more convinced than ever that this quartet of ever-evolving, talented men can do no wrong. As the band morphed from a hyper-math combo into the unique creature that they are today, I’ve witnessed frustration and confusion on their part as the outside world continued to barrage them with insensitive, blind criticism regarding their progress. Here they were, four guys who’ve known each other all their lives, struggling year after year not only to find their own identity but to make ends meet, having to deal with “kids” telling them that their best work was behind them. Well I’ve got news for ya, you pip squeaks: FUCK YOUR SELFISH OPINIONS. Mock Orange do not exist to satisfy your nostalgia, nor to further stagnate what is considered “indie rock” and “punk.” Ryan, Joe, Heath, and Zack (and previously Brandon) are living, breathing musical entities who’ve fought mislabeling, mismatched tours, failed record contracts, and creative droughts (The Record Play, as admitted by the band members, was only 60% written when they entered the studio, meaning the other 40% was written on the spot and thus barely worthy of listening) to emerge as an animal all their own. Mind Is Not Brain (and First EP before it) is Mock Orange’s past and present, personality and essence, distilled into a brew without parallel. It is a glorious victory over YEARS and YEARS of toiling, soul searching, and living-in-limbo. It’s exactly what they’ve wanted to be, and exactly what they deserve to be.

mockorangephotoWithin Mind Is Not Brain, traces of Nines and Sixes‘ guitar wizardry and The Record Play‘s emo-esque melodies shed their straitjackets and are absorbed by Ryan and Joe’s bluesy, Country-by-way-of-Evansville pluckings (anyone who knows these guys personally can attest to their knowledge and ability as blues players). Guided by the ghosts of Built To Spill, Modest Mouse, and Jeremy Enigk, songs like “Payroll,” “Do You Want Out,” and the title track finally streamline the convergence of technical prowess and quirky pop sensibilities. And on “East Side Song,” they all but ascend to a new level of understanding: That their Indiana upbringing can contribute immensely to their vision. Amongst banjos and steel-string acoustics, Ryan croons as if the open Midwest is singing through him. It’s hard not to close your eyes and envision the Heartland when the chorus hits and the cello swells. Magnificent.

Mind Is Not Brain deserves universal praise and jaws dropped at its feet. It has taken, what, four releases for the fickle underground to finally respect what these guys are doing? I say it’s never too late. Take Mind Is Not Brain in and feel it for yourself. Forward-thinking, original music still lives today, and its name is Mock Orange.