The Mayflies USA

Walking in a Straight Line

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The Mayflies USA are one of a horde of bands who are influenced by the sounds of '70s power pop. Unlike a great many of these bands, the Mayflies USA can write songs that go beyond the mere aping of an old-school sound. While the songs they play sound like they would be right at home blasting out of car radios in the parking lot at Ridgemont High, they also sound great in the present day as well. Especially on Walking in a Straight Line, as this record is an improvement on their previous releases. In the past the songs all began to blend together a short way into the record, the production was unimaginative, and the songs were too reliant on chord changes. Here the production by Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev co-hort Keith Cleversley adds a new element of sonic diversity to the band's sound. The tracks don't sound like they were recorded one after the next without adjusting any knobs or dials; they sound like some care was put into their construction. Nice little touches like wheezy synths, fake strings, and distorted vocals keep the listener guessing. They also vary the tone of the guitars from song to song (it is amazing how many bands neglect to attempt this fairly easy technique). Most important of all, the songs are catchier and more varied than ever. Tracks like "Walking in a Straight Line" and "Can't Stop Watching" are sugar-sweet tunes that are power pop-friendly, but "Ready to Go" has a slow, dramatic feeling that is new for the band; "You Won't Find Me" is a nice acoustic-guitar-and-piano campfire ballad that features the Mayflies' sweet and ringing vocal harmonies (it should be noted that the singers in the group have wonderful rock voices, rich and smooth with no histrionics or excessive emotion); and the record's last track, "Sweet 16," is the group's most ambitious song yet. It begins with about two minutes of barely audible organ, then shifts into a loping beat driven by a guitar that sounds like it is being played by someone with casts on both hands while the drummer pounds on trashcans two studios over. By the time the backwards harmony guitar lead kicks in you will be shaking your head in delight, hoping that the Mayflies continue to explore ways to make their nice pop songs even better. This is the sound of a band breaking free of the constraints of a style and discovering new ways to say the same old thing. And it sounds great blasting on a car radio.

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