Review: MESH – A Perfect Solution

When we review an album we are very careful not to do so too quickly after first listen. Some albums take a while to grow (see: VNV Nation – Of Faith Power and Glory)  or conversely, an album that sounds great out of the box can grow tired and dull after a few listens (see: Depeche Mode – Sounds of the Universe). Either way snap judgements don’t exactly serve the cause.

Had we reviewed MESH’s new album, A Perfect Solution a couple of weeks ago it would have been short and to the point: “We waited three years for THIS?!”. But a little patience has drawn out some interesting subtleties lost on this listener initially.

This album has a difficult task ahead of itself. The band’s last album, We Collide, was a masterpiece. For the soul-lifting “Step by Step” alone, it deserves an exalted place in electronic music history. A rich, full album that was electronic rock done to perfection.

So how does this one stand up?

Well, in many ways there’s an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethic at play here. In many ways this could be We Collide II: Still Colliding. The formula they reached on the last album – strip away the pure electronics of their earlier albums, ramp up the emotional power delivery in the vocals, add more guitar (and more, and more) and even some conventional drums and wrap it all up in a new sheen – is still there. For the talk of this being a more trad-alt-rock project (and this has some degree of truth) it hasn’t veered too much from what has come before.

So, the good. The songwriting remains ever-strong. Now a duo, the writing chops haven’t been comprised a bit from the slimming down of the line up. And there are some real gems here. The best of the lot include “The Bitter End”, a throbbing electro anthem (and a lot of this album aspires to an anthemic place), “Who Says”, an awesome, bitter, relationship-gone wrong call-and-response featuring Julia Beyer of Technoir (and let us just say that a band can do no wrong by using the captivating Beyer as a guest vocalist), and strong stompers like “Hold it Together” and “Everything I Made”. Many of these tracks would have fit nicely along-side any of the best songs on We Collide.

The less-good. There is a lot of filler here. Songs so forgettable (like the plodding “Want You” or the just boring “How Long?”) that they feel beneath a band so accomplished as MESH. And what was once a cute gimmick, one used by bands like Depeche Mode, Venus Hum on The Colours in the Wheel, and even MESH themselves in the past has become a distracting crutch – the little bonus instrumental following songs. Badly overused here and incredibly off-putting, especially for those listening to the songs out of order, say on shuffle function on an iPod. One asks, “why?” There are also tracks that feel too ordinary – too much like contemporary rock music and MESH are better than that. Guitar, fine. Drums, fine, we suppose. But on those occasions when you don’t hear much except for that, with a little rawk bombast thrown in for good measure, and one is hard pressed not to roll the eyes.

The album is not a memorable one, but we fully acknowledge that the bar is high for this band. There are few who do this stuff better. We apply a higher standard to MESH because they are so damn good and sometimes this one feels like it falls a little short. That said, a MESH album with some great, kick-ass songs is still better than 90% of the rest of what’s out there, and there are indeed some great, kick-ass songs on here. We just with there were a few more of them…


3 Responses to “Review: MESH – A Perfect Solution”

  1. I had the same impression of A Perfect Solution. It’s definitely taken a lot longer to grow on me than We Collide did (which, I agree, was a masterpiece!). I’m planning to review A Perfect Solution for my Modern Synthpop blog, but have held off, waiting for this album to grow on me. I want to like it as much as We Collide, because Mesh is so damned good. But it just isn’t happening. It’s not that the songs aren’t good – there are some excellent tracks here, like If We Stay Here and How Long. I just don’t get a sense that there has been any growth or evolution since the last album. Or perhaps there just isn’t enough variety in song styles compared to We Collide. In any case, something’s missing – I just can’t quite put my finger on it, but you’ve done an admirable job of highlighting some of the things that have been at the back of my mind…

    Chuck Frey
    Modern Synthpop

  2. Steve Ivory Says:

    Great review. I agree with most of it, other than the “just boring” statement regarding “How Long”, which is in my opinion one of the strongest tracks on the album if not the best of the bunch. Followed by the killer “Who Says”, this track combo completely sold me on the entire album, & allowed me to view other tracks in a more optimistic view when listening to them again. Mesh definitely still has “it”…

  3. LiquidxAngel Says:

    Wow – it’s strange how individual tastes (and thus reviews) can vary.

    While there were a few strong tracks on We Collide, I tend to view it as one of Mesh’s weaker albums. It just seems like it was trying too hard to push itself into more commercial territory and lost a lot in terms of the raw and base emotion that Mesh has really trademarked.

    With that being said, I thought “A Perfect Solution” really was going back to those brutal and open Mesh roots (akin to “The Point At Which It Falls Apart”). The heart-wrenching emotional layers really shine through this time around.

    From the intense opening of “If We Stay Here, to the aptly titled closure of “The Bitter End”, the cohesion really creates an entire audio story that never fails to move me (regardless to how many times I listen).

    … but that’s Mesh. 😉

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