Mates of State

Mates of State

Bring It Back

Barsuk Records

Sometimes, love makes people do strange things. Apparently, if you’re in Mates of State, it makes you write a song called “Like U Crazy.” Try a taste, it has all the syrup of a Shirley Temple film and then some: “I can’t wait to say all the things you can’t see/All the things that make you better/’Cause I can say/All the things you can’t see/All the things that make you/I like you crazy, You crazy…”

No kids, you crazy. In between the oo-oo’s and the oh-oh’s, my head is like whoa. If I spend too much time thinking about the lyrics from Mates of State’s latest effort Bring it Back, my brain might explode. The words to “Like U Crazy” are about half an intellectual step above whatever mind-bending abortion of thought Britney and K-Fed would come up if they put out a duet. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but it’s close.

The Mates have been married since 2001, and it seems that after five years they still can’t get over how much they’re into one another. But isn’t it slightly self-absorbed to devote almost an entire record to singing to each other? Maybe it’s just obnoxious. Or cute – I’m torn.

Isn’t music (or some of it, at least) supposed to be dreamy and love struck and all that John Hugghes/John Cusack stuff? I think it is – some of my favorite songs are love songs – but at what point do we get to say, “It’s fun, it’s cool, Cori and Jason are married – we get it”? For me, that moment is fast approaching. The me’s and you’s, we’s and our’s that stampede through Bring it Back pretty much saturates my we’re-married-and-singing-about-it threshold.

At the same time, the reason why the duo sounds so good together from harmonies to rhythm is the same reason they can be so obnoxious: they sound like they legitimately love each other. Their songs are the conversations that most couples have; the Mates just have that conversation with an organ and snare drum in the background. There’s no way you can record “Like U Crazy” for a contrived relationship. You can’t make that stuff up.

If you can forgive The Mates for their lyrics, you’ll find the musicianship is still sweet. Say what you want about their songwriting prowess, but they’ve nailed their sound down. They’re in their prime on piano-heavy songs “What it Means” and “Nature and the Wreck.” Anchored by the rare electric guitar that floats like Cori’s organ, “For the Actor” is the dance/pop highlight of the album. Bring it Back has all the head bobbing, dance-y vamps that Mates of State fans expect.

The flip side is that this record sounds like old Mates of State – most of these songs could have just as easily come off of their last record, Team Boo. Their sound is still keyboard-driven, and song structure is still wildly eccentric. The Mates of State seemed to achieve what they wanted to on Bring it Back: they brought back their sound, love songs and dueling harmonies that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. They’ve perfected the keyboard and drum combo, but they risk wearing it out.

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