Mansions’ main man Christopher Browder decided to make a rock album called “Dig Up the Dead.” The best thing Browder could have done was make an acoustic album of the same songs called “Dig Up the Dead.”
I’m not just being petulant. His last release, “Best of the Bees,” was a collection of cast-off tracks that ostensibly weren’t fully developed. Most of them were stark acoustic pieces, no more than mere sketches. Some had electronics work in them, but mostly it was a spare affair.
It was an outstanding release, because Browder’s voice is the rare instrument that is instantly memorable and yet amorphous. His incredibly evocative voice can call up despair, elation, resignation, indignation and more, while remaining within his distinct tone. Pair that with his incisive lyrics, and you’ve got a combo that can’t be beat.
So why does he go and cover both of those things with electric guitar and drums on “Dig Up the Dead”? I don’t know. But I don’t like it near as much as I did that last thing he did, and I know it’s because I can’t hear what he’s saying or how he’s saying it.
The only times that Browder lets his voice dominate the sound are the title track, “Seven Years” and “You Got Cool.” It is unsurprising that these are the memorable tracks. The rest of the tunes aren’t bad; they’re just faceless. There’s nothing in them that sets them apart from other morose rockers.
Browder’s already got all he needs to be amazing; he just hasn’t embraced it here. I hope he comes around and lets his voice do the talking next time. Or throws us another B-sides disc. —Stephen Carradini