Mammoth Penguins' debut album, Hide & Seek, established the trio's formula with a bang -- Emma Kupa's rippling guitar, honest vocals, and cuttingly incisive vocals paired with the tightly wound rhythm section of bassist Mark Boxall and drummer Tom Barden -- then their second record blew it up. For the concept album John Doe, the trio added found sounds, samples, theremin, and other obscure sounds to their power trio. The experience showed them that they could expand their focus without losing any of their muscle, and on 2019's There's No Fight We Can't Both Win they invited Faith Taylor to add extra guitar and Joe Bear to add keys and sounds as he did on John Doe. The trio integrate the other players into their tight web with little growing pains. Taylor's playing adds to the six-string overload, and Bear's additions -- some organ here, a synth squiggle there -- are very subtle and give the record some extra texture. A great sound with no songs would be a hollow victory and Kupa makes good on her end of the bargain. She has an unerring eye for the foibles of modern romance and details the mechanics of love and loss as well as anyone since the Wedding Present's David Gedge, only with a more sensitive touch. "I Wanna" could easily be a Weddoes song; it spares no punches as it slices right to the bone. The rest of the album is just as unsparingly honest, and Kupa's winning drawl makes the lyrics sound like a story told by a best friend.
There's a warmth in the delivery that's reassuring even when the songs are sad, and a power and restraint in the music that helps the words sink in just that much deeper. Hide & Seek was a strong chunk of modern indie rock; the slight changes the trio made in the writing and recording of There's No Fight We Can't Both Win make it slightly better and one of the finest examples of simple and true indie rock around.