Shallow End of the Gene Pool

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It's a bit of a Philadelphia psych superstar project nineties style, this album, considering that Brian McTear and Jason Knight are the two lead singers and guitarists in the band. With connections to the Azusa Plane and Mazarin among other groups past and future, Mariner 9 found its own sweetly melancholic vibe on The Shallow End of the Gene Pool, creating a satisfying, enjoyable listen. Studio chatter and comments litter the album, and if it's not as slapdash as it might seem, it's still a record that sounded fairly comfortable to make. Both Knight and McTear have gentle but not indistinct or drowned out vocals that more than a few emo bands might kill for (occasional hoarseness aside - "Frozen Jack" in particular sounds notably flat). Though the better comparison might be a less wracked Doug Martsch from Built to Spill - certainly there's the same love for powerful but not oppressive guitar playing and atypical arrangements on display. Sometimes Mariner 9 comes across as an indie-rock relaxation for the two lead participants - there's no mistaking the hooky neuroses of "Shawn Power" or the slow-burn chime of "Wasting The Truth" for the Azusa Plane at its most frenetic, for one thing. "Reign of the One-Armed Man" is one of the album's most lovely efforts, acoustic guitar providing the bed for an intriguing lyrical portrait about somebody who can't quite escape the past. Other tracks like "She's the Bomb" and the especially strong "Hit the Bricks" capture a bit of a last gasp of early nineties alternative accessibility, surging singalong anthems that are never dumbed down. Still, one can't quite put a finger on Mariner 9 aiming for an obvious style - they want a bit of underground intensity on their more user-friendly terms, and they never forget that they can rock. Nothing wrong with that at all!

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