Spread with liberal generosity across the British Isles, MASK are primarily based in Belfast – at least that’s where head honcho, Doug, resides. In his words, the band are defiantly “uncool”, though their press shots seem pretty swish to us. Sticking two fingers up to the cult of celebrity, their album, The Famous, has just been released and feeds off the current trend for real instruments played by people who actually communicate with each other, rather than dialing in their performances via Skype.
The album begins with the ominous stomp of “You Know I Know”, with a gentle howl of a vocal slowly being enveloped by fuzzy washes of groaning electric guitar. It’s an odd track to start an album with – more like a warning than a rallying cry but a statement of intent nonetheless. Lead single, “Celebrity” is a more rounded track, deliberately so, a pointed finger at the cult of what it means in 2018 to have made it in showbizzzzz. Rather like T-Rex’s Get it On but with the shiny stuff stripped away, the punchy drums are actually reminiscent of, and this is meant in a good way, prime Glitter Band.
Third track, So They Say is a more obviously bluesy number with some Rolling Stone’s-esque backing vocals and an American tone which jars a little against the overt Britishness of Celebrity. Rabid Dwag labours this line of enquiry to a lesser extent, feeling somewhat unfinished and playing by numbers – ironically the very thing they’re rebelling against. Hurricane helps to turn the corner, a two and a half minute steel clang which is far more plate-cleansing.
Let’s Talk About Me sees MASK hitting their stride, like Celebrity an obvious choice as a single and one which ripples with confidence and flexes its muscles without taking itself seriously – think the rockier end of Primal Scream but without the posing. Round the World (For a Shortcut) again showcases how in tune with each other the band are, the paddled drumming punctuating the sometimes one-tone buzzy guitars – any failings are immediately picked up by a band member ready to do the heavy lifting. Sadly, the final two tracks again fall between the tracks of trying to kick against the pricks whilst actually falling for tropes so old they’ve forgotten their own name. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the tracks, other than they conform completely to type, essentially demanding the listener hold their lighters aloft nod knowingly at their mock-epic nature.
MASK’s album is succulently played though offers the listener nothing too revelatory to go out of their way to experience. Regardless, it’s a lovely antidote to pro-tool outrages.