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THE MOCK HEROIC – Dignified Exits (CD, Super-Fi Records)

Posted: June 7th, 2007, by Dave Stockwell

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you wonder if you’re finally losing touch with youth. For me, it came about 30 seconds into this debut album from crack post-emo/screamo-power-violence outfit The Mock Heroic. This album delivers 11 songs in the space of 23 minutes, which may not be much on the likes of The Locust, but these 4 lads from Norwich deliver some incredibly intricate music that splatters all over the place but is also amazingly technical. And I’m glad it’s not any longer, because I feel wholly inadequate to appreciate it fully.

Personally, my ears find it heard to deal with this kind of music. With so many rhythm and tempo changes and not so much in the way of a melodic hook, repetition or any kind of inviting texture to the lean, punchy sound, the music feels like a purely technical workout of quickfire bouts of aggression. I can just imagine the drummer counting off the amount of times he plays one riff before he goes to the next, and because there’s no groove, no grace, no goofing off, no solos, no humour – absolutely no letting up in any way – to me it becomes like a lesson in pure musicianship rather than an enjoyable experience. And where’s the fun in that?

But it’s a remarkably assured and aggressive debut for a young band, and if you have any interest in where the trails blazed by post-hardcore and screamo have reached in this day and age, you should really check them out. Similarly, the fuss around people like “underground” band Enter Shikari or even “technical metal” bands like Sikth (or even Eden Maine) makes me laugh when you compare them to The Mock Heroic. For me, the closest musical equivalent to this band I can think of (outside of 31G bands) would probably be Orthrelm – stunning in terms of individual musicianship, but punishing to such an extent that it can leave you dazed. As someone who counts himself as a Kevin Drumm fan, I thought I knew all about finding pleasure in pain in music, but – like Mick Barr’s outfit – The Mock Heroic’s approach to songwriting just gives me a headache.

It would also be very easy to joke about or dismiss the earnestness behind this music. There’s no so much of a whiff of humour in the full set of lyrics and explanatory notes for each song printed in the jacket, but it would be missing the point to expect any, or to accuse the band of being preachy (even if there is a song about the horror of vivisection). The Mock Heroic’s music is all about teenage angst winding up so tight that you explode with anger and outrage, and it is their musical precision and technicality that is the devastating blow. With such controlled bursts of aggression, there’s no catharsis, which just makes you tighter and tighter. And this is why I feel old – kids go nuts for this stuff these days, and The Mock Heroic are as good as any band of this ilk that I’ve heard. In fact, for me they blow people like Orthrelm or latter-day Hella out of the water in terms of sheer listenability and the idea of playing as a band. There are certainly no discernable egos on display here, which must be praised in a band so obviously full of talented musicians. But I struggle to find pleasure in music devoid of any catharsis – Morton Feldman would struggle to ratchet up more tension than is on ‘Dignified Exits’ – and chock-full of angst about things like the importance of being true to yourself and not subsuming your personality with excessive admiration of others (this is all spelled out in the liner notes in case you don’t follow the incoherent screaming). For me, listening to this album is exhausting. You young pups may well enjoy it a lot more.

One last aside: as a nice addition to the crisp recording and mastering, the CD’s gatefold slipcover features some nice artwork of a naked man courtesy Brighton-based artist Karen Constance (who also plays in Blood Stereo), whose artwork was last seen on the cover of [Thurston Moore/Paul Flaherty/Chris Corsano/etc project] Dream Aktion Unit’s debut album. Good work!


Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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