The initial progression of most bands is pretty simple -- musicians get together, decide on an approach, start playing some songs, and then make a record. But Mark Ryan, formerly of the Marked Men, tried a different strategy with his latest project, the Mind Spiders. The first Mind Spiders' album appeared in 2011, but wasn't the work of a group; those recordings featured just Ryan overdubbing himself into an approximation of an ensemble. Since then, the Mind Spiders have grown from one man to six, and Meltdown reveals the wisdom behind Ryan's curious approach. Fusing buzzy electronics with a tight, no-frills garage punk band anchored by a pair of drummers playing in tight formation, Meltdown recalls a more evolved but less refined version of what Jay Reatard was doing in his later synth-based work, and Ryan's songwriting chops are a stone's throw from Reatard's best stuff. Meltdown's songs often seem eccentric and just a little bit sinister in the sharp focus of their energy and their relentless rhythmic pulse, but Ryan also knows how to write melodies that fearlessly put their hooks into your brain, and they rock with a streamlined ferocity that's cool but also joyous. And Ryan got a great band out of this deal -- drummers Gregory Rutherford and Mike Throneberry play so tightly you might think there's just one man behind the traps but for their muscle and force, Peter Salisbury's keyboards bring this music the proper personality and melodic weight, and the guitar work from Ryan and Stephen Svacina helps this music sound organic but guided by the soul of a mean new machine. As good as the Mind Spiders were on Ryan's first go-round with the concept, Meltdown is a forceful reminder that there really is strength in numbers, and these six guys generate a powerful sound Ryan could never come up with all by himself.
by Mark Deming