A Perfect Solution fails to equal Mesh’s past albums

Mesh - A Perfect SolutionSome albums just grab hold of you the first time you listen to them. With other albums, it takes repeated listening sessions for the songs to grow on you. And some albums you “connect” with only in a limited way, no matter how long you listen to them. I’m afraid to say that the latter is the case with Mesh’s new album, A Perfect Solution.

I had high expectations for this album, especially because their last release, We Collide, is an absolute masterpiece.¬† Mesh set the bar very high for themselves with this stellar album. In comparison, A Perfect Solution just doesn’t measure up.

I waited for weeks to write this review, waiting and wondering if perhaps I was jumping to conclusions too quickly. Maybe if I gave it more time, it would start to grow on me, I reasoned. But that never quite happened.

To be fair, A Perfect Solution does contain some excellent songs, such as Only Better, If We Stay Here, It’s Gone and Who Says. But the rest of the album seems to be populated with fairly mediocre songs that just didn’t resonate with me.

Here are some highlights:

If We Stay Here – A very strong opening track, with a rocking beat.

Only Better – A great choice for the first single from this album. Only Better has that signature Mesh sound – Mark Hockings’ distinctive vocals, angst-tinged lyrics, guitar for underpinning and soaring synths. The outro on this song feels bolted onto the song, and doesn’t quite seem to fit. Still, an excellent track overall. Be sure to check out the Alien 6 Mix of this song, which gives it a driving clubby beat and contains numerous neat little touches. It can be found on the Only Better EP, which was released a month before A Perfect Solution.

Everything I Made – Another solid mid-tempo Mesh song; just not very memorable.

Is It So Hard – A ballad; just doesn’t do anything for me.

Hold It Together – Another mid-tempo song that feels a little bit like filler.

The middle of the album is where Mesh seems to run out of steam. It’s not that they’re badly-written songs; they just don’t meet the usual standard that Mesh fans have become accustomed to.

It’s Gone – I like this pop-styled ballad, which is supported by a sweet-sounding acoustic guitar. Synths are used sparingly, mainly in the bridge of the song.

How Long – Another forgettable mid- tempo song, with somewhat inane lyrics: “If we’d ever write the play/We’d never need rehearse/Cause everything we say/Someone’s said it first.”

Who Says – What makes this song really stand out is the duet between Mesh frontman Mark Hockings and Julia Beyer of Technoir.

Hope.Dreams – Very much a classic Mesh mid-tempo song, with percussive synthesizers and Hockings’ minor key vocals. This is one of those songs that took a while to grow on me.

Want You – Not one of Mesh’s more memorable ballads.

The Bitter End – The closing song on A Perfect Solution starts out with an echoey synthsizer riff that sounds like an homage to VNV Nation, and transitions into a driving, industrial beat with Hockings’ punchy lyrics proving the counterpoint. This is a strong end to an otherwise average album.

A Perfect Solution marks the return of a former Mesh staple, the instrumental outro. They work well on a few songs, such as Who Says and Hope.Dreams but they seem randomly bolted on to other songs, such as Only Better and Hold It Together.

My verdict: A Perfect Solution is a pretty good album, but as a follow-up to their last album, We Collide, it’s not of the same caliber. Die-hard Mesh fans will want to pick it up to complete their collection. But if you’re new to the Mesh camp and are looking for an entry point into their extensive catalog, We Collide is still your best bet.

4 comments

  1. Afront - December 8, 2009 4:42 pm

    I couldn’t get into this or indeed anything else by Mesh. I’ll follow your advice and give We Collide another go though…

  2. ModeMan101 - December 8, 2009 11:58 pm

    Mesh fan since 1993 here, first time reading your blog. Good job!

    Have to say that I disagree with your overall review of “A Perfect Solution” though. I think it’s arguably their strongest collection of songs since “The Point At Which It Falls Apart”.

    I was also hesitant over how this album would fare on my ears, but mainly because I was somewhat disappointed with “We Collide”. The production on that album seemed lacking in depth and polish (especially considering the much-lauded Gareth Jones on mixing duties for half the album), and a handful of the songs felt more like ideas that hadn’t been fleshed out enough. It was still Mesh, all the hallmarks were there, but it didn’t have the edge that had always drawn me to their earlier releases.

    On the latest record, however, from the very first track I was hooked. Olaf Wollschl√§ger’s co-production has added the cohesion that I felt “We Collide” lacked, and there are so many stand-out tracks. The only songs I’m not so fond of are “It’s Gone” and “Want You.” As for the instrumentals, although I’m glad they’re back – they always were a cool addition to the past albums – I agree that there are a few too many, and some of them detract from the full length songs they’re attached to.

    The two other recently released tracks “Shattered Glass” and “Hold And Restrain” are also gems. All in all, I’m really pleased with the new record. Definitely up there with the best material Mesh have ever produced.

  3. Brian - December 13, 2009 1:55 am

    I agree with Modeman101.
    As a fellow longtime Mesh fan, I think A Perfect Solution contains some of the best SONGWRITING that Mark and Rich have come up with (however I still think We Collide is their best PRODUCED album overall). This album contains very little flaws, one of them being the guitar is a little too loud in the final mix, and I agree, too many instrumental interludes throughout the album this time. But Olaf Wollschlager currently in my opinion is the best synthpop producer out there (used to be Jose Alvarez-Brill) and with the exception of the overuse of guitar, he did a great job polishing these already tremendously strong songs.
    Every song has at least some merit, although Is It So Hard? and Want You are probably the weaker tracks on the album, so I agree with you about that…but how did Hold And Restrain NOT make it to the album proper???
    This cut is GOLD! I absolutely love every other track on the album, even though It’s Gone and Hopes.Dreams took some time to grow on me. And Mark’s vocals are as good as they’ve ever been. This was my favorite album of 2009.

  4. Ethan - January 10, 2010 10:22 pm

    Mesh magnetism pulls another willing (former) Wisconsinite to your blog…well done, Chuck, and thank you.

    I’d agree that APS isn’t quite as good as WWOM or We Collide, but I’d still take Mesh on their day off over today’s Camouflage, De/Vision, VNV, Iris, and DM themselves put together if forced to choose. There, I said it.

    And yeah, ModeMan101, Brian…”Hold and Restrain” and “Shattered Glass” clearly join “Soul,” “Document,” “From This Height,” “Let Them Crush Us,” “In the Light of Day,” et al. with respect to being just too good to wind up on an album.

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