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Mascot's Distance - Music is such sardonic sorrow

At last an original sound in that spiny, sparkling streak of sardonic American music occupied by Steely Dan. Like that sinuously sardonic duo, Mascot's Distance have pinned their barbs, bitter but somehow optimistic, on the sacred donkey of popular music. There's more than one sting in those tales. Over the pond, the use of seductive hooks and jazz influenced energy featured in the great work of the Style Council.

The characteristics I am identifying in this triumvirate (Steely Dan, Style Council, Mascot's distance) which to some people might sound like a triumvirate of Paris (yes), New York (yes) and Muswellbrook (huh?) is a synthesis of jazzy, poppy melody hooks with lyrics like acid-etched fingernails across the blackboard of the brain. Never without humour, but always with a glittering glimpse of the darker side of apple-pie and picket-fence America. The use of sweet chords and rhythms combined with bitter lyrics, a hallmark of Steely Dan and Style Council, is a pervasive thread in the efforts of Mascot's Distance. The USA, thought by many to be an irony-free zone, has once again been proven otherwise.

I write this on the occasion of Mascot Distance's second release simply known as "The New EP".

Mascot's Distance is a three piece outfit from New York City led by songwriter/producer Jordon Rothstein (keys and vocals), Yutaka Uchida (drums and backing vocals) and Joe Burcaw (bass and backing vocals.

Talk Show Circuit is a rollicking ditty taking a swipe at that most evil of cultural phenomenon, the tell-all talk show. It starts with a keyboard intro reminiscent of the "music box" intro from King Harvest's one and only hit, "Dancin' in the Moonlight". Jordon plays harmonica and fuses that skipping, breathy sound with keys.

All Man's Land has telling echoes of Donald Fagen's 1950s "future" evoking those spandex (Brand X) jackets in IGY. Hammond XB2 organ through a rotating Leslie speaker, combines with bass and drums and piano somewhat reminiscent of Nicky Hopkins when he played with Quicksilver Messenger Service. The song is fashioned from one of those lazy, rising, spiralling progressions, seeming to climb higher and higher, giving it a strange, pervasive exuberance.

Chesterville, is more like the piano/vocal tunes featuring on the previous album, a full length CD just called Mascot's Distance. The band comes in after the first verse, and the instrumentation builds. The bass resonates with a doubled vocal and a nice choir of ooh aah backing vocals.

Avenue B. There is a very strange idea in this Randy Newman-esque song with a hint of the circus about it. Jordon sings: "saving up for weekend morning weather" and proposes that if you were to spend time in the cellar during the week, relinquishing your weekday sunshine, you could get that stored sunshine on to the weekends. Quiet interludes of strange observations lead to thumping chordal choruses, filled with shimmering high hats. Hand claps start the song (gotta love hand claps).

All in all a very fine effort with much to recommend keeping a watch on this band for future offerings.

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