After all the bedroom pop to come out of quarantine, we finally have a band doing something new that sounds like a real record, not an experiment. The Mimes features Maura Weaver, John Hoffman, and Megan Schroer, who played together in Boys long ago, and more recently in separate projects such as Homeless Gospel Choir, Ogikubo Station, and Vacation.
Fittingly, The Mimes sound a bit like all three of those bands. But it’s far more experimental in nature, even if they mask it well by layering melodic guitars, vocals, and synthesizer up front and mixing the weird bangs, clangs, vocal effects underneath.
This record feels like a journey -- or more accurately, a trip. It starts out upbeat and peppy: hopeful but cynical, then it turns into a mind trip with cyclical patterns, spaced-out effects and a feeling of despair. Toward the end, it’s just weird--with an upbeat twist. In other words, it’s the experience of being stuck inside with your toys taken away for too long. There are elements of insecurity, boredom, anger, frustration and more. The vibe is generally positive, with forward-pushing rhythms and tones to counteract those harsher emotions, but there is an underlying tension with some real downer moments that you feel more than you hear. At times it’s playful punk with some danceable beats. At others it’s warped carousel music and, in the title track and album closer, it’s almost anthemic singalong absurdity in homage to a Plastic Pompeii.
While the band themselves call this experimental, it’s not hard to listen to or to find the melodies. It doesn’t sound like three people playing with Casios. Instead they mixed the additional elements, whether it’s synthesizer, spoken word bits, drum machines or sound effects underneath the primary melodies. It’s texture rather than ambient tones or field recordings.
Plastic Pompeii is a grower. I was relatively indifferent on first listen but, now, it grabs me more on each play-through and it keeps circling through my head each time the record stops. It’s unique enough that it’s hard to pigeonhole for a specific scene or listener. I enjoy it as a fan of the aforementioned bands quite a bit, so that’s a starting point. Of their other bands, I personally hear the most similarity to Vacation’s less straight-forward songs. On a broader level, it’s DIY pop-punk with a lot of weird elements that might hit a mark for fans of spacerock or synth-y punk like the Spits -- but at times I get some No Wave tones and, at others, hints of groups like B-52’s or Le Tigre too. The Mimes debut shows that it’s often a good thing to buck convention and do something new.