The Mavericks spontaneously decided to release the band's new album "Mono" (Valory) in, well, mono, instead of stereo sound.
"We thought we can't get away with that," said drummer Paul Deakin. "So, of course, we had to."
Well, maybe they shouldn't have. "Mono" may actually be the sound of a gimmick gone too far.
There are plenty of great new songs on the album, ranging from the gorgeously aching country ballad "Pardon Me" to the good-time, horn-driven party anthem "(Waiting for) the World to End."
However, mixing them in mono makes them sound a little murky. The production effect does lend a certain classic feel to the album, but it also keeps some of the best parts of the performances from popping as much as they should.
Raul Malo is in fine voice throughout, but -- especially on the stunning ballad "Fascinate Me," where he sings poignantly at the top of his range -- some of that gets lost.
That's not to say the mono treatment doesn't work at times. "What Am I Supposed to Do" sounds like a sweet AM-radio classic from the '60s, with its rhythm-and-blues guitar work. "Summertime (When I'm With You)" amps up the energy even more, mixing a bit of ska with the classic country delivery of Malo to show how the band can pretty much find a groove in whatever musical genre they decide to tackle.
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After all, the Mavericks really are a bar band at heart, mixing everything from punk to classic country for years, and "Mono" really does capture that energy well, recording the album essentially live with minimal overdubs.
They really should be congratulated for trying something different, something that fits so well with their artistic influences. However, "Mono" really could have been so much more -- which we may find on a remastered version that is sure to be in the works.
THE GRADE B