Just Mustard – ‘Heart Under’ review: thrillingly untraditional noise rock

After being dubbed a shoegaze band on their 2018 debut album, its industrial yet dreamy follow-up ensures the Dundalk five-piece won’t be put in any boxes at all

Since the release of their debut album ‘Wednesday’ in 2018, Dundalk five-piece Just Mustard have been gradually shifting their sound towards something more uncategorisable. Through the singles ‘Frank’, ‘October’ and ‘Seven’ as well as tours with Fontaines D.C. and gigs alongside The Cure, the band’s sound has slowly shifted towards heavier, noisier tones and left behind the shoegaze tag that has followed them around since the release of their debut. On ‘Heart Under’, their second album and first for Partisan, they present themselves as a truly unique gem.

Across the whole of the new album, Just Mustard’s instruments are used inventively, finding new corners of untouched landscape. The scything sound that begins ‘Still’ sounds like industrial machinery firing up, rather than the noise of a guitar, and the dual attack of guitarists David Noonan and Mete Kalyoncuoglu is the album’s main focus throughout. The pair are constantly stretching their instruments to new levels, sounding like everything from wailing sirens (‘23’) to techno synths (‘Seed’), while also often providing watery, ambient beauty (‘Mirrors’). It contrasts beautifully with the warm melodies of Rob Clarke’s basslines and Katie Ball’s deeply atmospheric vocals.

Speaking to NME recently, guitarist David Noonan said that the band thrive when “finding ways of arranging songs with traditional rock band instrumentation, but trying to find ways of doing it that reflect other types of music that we are interested in, not just guitar-based music.” Many of the choices made on ‘Heart Under’ feel deliberately picked in order to avoid easy categorisation, but the conviction with which the band go through with them makes them feel purposeful, rather than purely an exercise in doing something different for the sake of it.

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After being self-produced by the band at Donegal’s Attica Studios and then finished at home once the pandemic hit, they enlisted David Wrench, one half freak-pop duo Audiobooks, whose production credits include The xx and Frank Ocean, to mix the record. As such, ‘Heart Under’ skews away from the traditional structures of rock music – there are no ‘choruses’ as such here – and seems to rise and fall on its own timeline, be it at the cacophonous end of single ‘I Am You’ or right out of the gate on the harsh, metallic ‘Seed’; this is music that keeps you guessing.

The band have said they want ‘Heart Under’ to feel like the experience of driving through a tunnel with the windows down. Through deliciously inventive musicianship they’ve created something even more thrilling.

Just Mustard

Release date: May 28
Record label: Partisan

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