Mini Mansions hinted they were getting more serious -- or, at least, more confessional -- with the title track of their 2018 EP Works Every Time. As it turns out, that was just a glimpse of the musical and emotional territory they cover on Guy Walks into a Bar…. The band's third album presents singer/multi-instrumentalist Michael Shuman's ill-fated, whirlwind relationship with his ex-fiancée as a joke with a giddy setup -- and a painful punch line. The steep rise and fall of this romance honed Mini Mansions' already sharp songwriting, and the first half of Guy Walks into a Bar… is as immediate and irresistible as love at first sight. From the slow-motion, disco-tinged prologue of "We Should Be Dancing" to the fizzy piano pop of "I'm in Love," these songs are made out of the addictive adrenaline and endorphin rush of a new relationship. At times, Mini Mansions sound like they might be even more in love with love (or lust) itself than with an actual woman: "Don't Even Know You" is a rose-tinted montage of romantic images with helium-laced vocals that would do Marc Bolan proud, while "Bad Things (That Make You Feel Good)" -- which sounds like Devo on the prowl -- and "Forgot Your Name"'s chrome-plated new wave get carried away by their own head-over-heels momentum. Since Guy Walks into a Bar… begins on such a high, its inevitable lows hit all the harder. On the album's second half, Mini Mansions don't just fall out of love; they fall in love in reverse. In a neat mirror image, the disco and new wave thrills of the album's first half curdle on the sullenly slinky "GummyBear" and "Living in the Future," a glittery yet bitter piece of synth-rock that could be a face-off between Supertramp and Sparks. The band manages to make heartache almost as appealing as falling in love on "Works Every Time," where lyrics like "sky's flashing like a zoetrope as the stars fall apart on the floor," reflect Shuman's longing with fittingly glam-rock imagery. They also flip the script with "Hey Lover," a duet that sounds like a soft-focus love song until the Kills' Alison Mosshart responds to Shuman with a tender "hey, f*cker" before the song builds to climactic harmonies. Moments like these prove that even when they're heartbroken, Mini Mansions are remarkably witty, and the way they combine their cleverness with newfound emotional depth makes Guy Walks into a Bar… their most satisfying album yet.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
feat: Alison Mosshart