Male Tears By Male Tears
Written by: Gbanas92 & IndyAdvant
While this new self-titled release may technically be the third album under Male Tears’ belt, it does in many ways represent a debut. What originally began as a solo act — under which the albums Endless Tears and Artism reside — is now a duo as Mister Mellow joins up, and the sound of the group has shifted and changed to reflect this new formula. While Male Tears remains at its core a synthpop outfit, there is now a greater representation of sounds, of styles, and most importantly, of personality.
Right out of the gate, the opening track, “Chained Up” is able to evoke the greatest acts of the new wave. If that’s a genre or sound you’ve grown up on or just grown fond of, the influence is immediately apparent. But this is no mere copy. The music doesn’t exist merely to pay homage to that which came before. The tandem has something of its own to say. Between the many music videos that have been released for tracks off this album, as well as the artwork itself, there is a cohesive vision at play. While sonically things scream New Order, visually we are met with something a bit more malleable. Think more along the lines of the chameleonic nature that helped define the career of David Bowie and you’re in the ballpark. The album elicits a fiercely androgynous sex appeal that permeates every layer of the release. The masks of these two personae –lipstick, eye shadow, hairstyling- are no better represented than on the album cover, with a version for each member of the group. Even the instruments contribute to this, as the tones and choices made culminate to help you peer at the world through the lens of Male Tears.
After the opener, things get even more energetic, with the intriguing “Let’s Pretend,” an uncannily catchy tune that revels in hypotheticals. In a world still reeling from the ongoing pandemic, the idea of viewing love or romance as an idea to be solely indulged in hypothetically is an especially intriguing concept. After the opener, it’s the first real moment where the album “locks eyes” with the listener as well. While the gaze may grow ever intense as the release wears on, here it’s teasing, playful.
But as we dive deeper into the release, the darker side of things starts to show up. While the tunes maintain their airiness thanks in large part to tinkling synths, the subject matter gets more concerning. Even the track titles themselves start to paint this picture. Playing pretend was fun and all, but “Good in the Dark” starts to take these fleeting fantasies further. While on the surface, this is the best Pat Benatar track in decades, the manifestations of those casual glances are getting more intense. Things are heating up, but what happens when the dark gives way to light?
“Creep Distance” is the answer to that question, which carries a far less peppy melody. The drums cut that extra bit harder, the vocals croon more, and the fantasy seems to be over. The most frequently uttered line in the track is “don’t stand so close to me.” A divide in the earlier dreams has formed. This is further reaffirmed by the lyrics explicity, saying “now that we’ve grown far apart.” If that doesn’t spell things out enough, the next track, “Human Errorz,” unbelievably gets more sinister. While the lyrical content is more pensive and less dramatic, the synths in this one are downright sinister. And that’s to say nothing of the punctuating, downright propulsive percussion.
But things can’t all be grim, can they? Surely you’ve got to be able to turn a corner eventually, right? Well what if we just fast-forwarded right to that? That’s what “Future X” decides to do, jumping forward past the dour ruminations of the last couple emotional tracks. We have a more peppy beat again, the synthesized strings are back, and the lyrics talk about not wanting to “think about any time but the future,” before repeating “take me to the future” in the chorus. A future where things are looking up perhaps?
But not so fast. “Adult Film” hasn’t had its say just yet. Opening with a solo bass line that sounds handmade for a keytar, this track probably has the most dramatic vocals of the release. The rigors of singing are more evident than ever, with the emotional strain of the subject matter being most evident. Really, the whole track feels off the rails. The dizzying arpeggiated xylophones represent the nucleus of the tune running through basically the whole song. But this manic pace was never going to last.
“She Lives in the Pipes” tones things back down a bit, bringing the tempo to a calmer, more controlled level. While the subject matter on the surface might sound, well, strange, sonically, this is one of the standouts on the album. While it’s a little trickier to find a place for this in the “story” we’ve crafted here, it’s got maybe the best chorus on the whole album. So let’s think of it as a narrative interlude or the infectiously catchy commercial that interrupted your regularly scheduled programming.
The respite doesn’t last long though, as the penultimate track brings an incredibly important revelation both in the context of the album, and more broadly, in everyday life. “I Should Feel How I Feel” may attempt to tackle the ability — or inability — to accept oneself for who they are. The song appears to deal with some pretty troubling subject matter, almost as if not being accepted is deserved for someone being the way that they are, and trying to come to grips with that revelation. After all of the events that had come before, this track may represent some kind of resigned acceptance to one’s role or purpose in the world. But understanding and acknowledging that is an important step in being able to move beyond it. It’s pretty bleak stuff, so what comes next is rather surprising.
Whatever you were expecting next, it’s probably not a brilliant Rick Astley-esque tune, is it? Well with “Take My Picture”, that’s what we get. The drums carry the expected crisp gated reverb that defined much of ‘80s drumming — and don’t get us started on the synth tones! Given how bleak some of the past few minutes have felt, it’s perhaps encouraging that the album ends so optimistically. It affords us some hope for the future. And it’s a wonderful closer on an album that has us as optimistic as ever for the future of Male Tears.
If you’re anxious to get your hands on the album you won’t need to wait long, as it will be dropping on Pacific Plaza Records Sunday, February 14th –yes, that’s Valentine’s Day- at 12PM PST.
gbanas92 Score: 4/5
Favorite Track: Good in the Dark
Indy Advant Score: 4/5
Favorite Track: Chained Up
Pacific Plaza Records