Mini Mansions – ‘Works Every Time’ EP review

The Arctic Monkeys' pals turn in a wild, unfettered four-track EP that strips away the mythology that they've built around themselves

People say when you turn 30 you stop giving as much of a fuck about the insignificant, little things in life and start to recognise what’s really important. Since releasing their second album ‘The Great Pretenders‘ three-and-a-half years ago, Mini Mansions have crossed that threshold into that rumoured wiser and more carefree decade. On the ‘Works Every Time’ EP – their first new music since 2015 – it shows.

In the past, the LA trio (singer/guitarist Michael Shuman, singer/keyboardist Tyler Parkford, and bassist Zach Dawes) who have collaborated with Alex Turner and toured with Arctic Monkeys, have surrounded themselves with a world that shields their private lives from listeners. Fictional characters reigned, some slightly more macabre than others, and gave the band vessels to express themselves without revealing too much. This time around, they’re tearing down those façades.

Take ‘Midnight In Tokyo’: a sleek, loping track that rides on the elastic snap of beats pulled from ’80s and ’90s hip-hop. It charts Shuman’s relationship with his ex-fiancée, from falling in love to everything falling apart. “All we’ve got to lose is a love that’ll never survive,” he sings early on, like a prescient narrator in a Shakespearean tragedy, or, perhaps, just somebody with the benefit of hindsight.

Parkford takes charge on the EP’s other two originals, both of which capture the band’s new sense of unselfconscious freedom. The title track – and record opener – is glossy, metallic synth-pop. Mini Mansions may have always had a pop edge to their psych bends, but here its placed front and centre. The track, a shimmering burst on which Parkford pines, “I need to know how you show me/Something that I’ve never seen before“, could also be transplanted into a discerning chart smash without sounding out of place.

‘This Bullet’, meanwhile, takes a different tact. Instead of languishing in heartbreak, he’s slightly menacing. Dawes’ bass throbs sinisterly and drum fills fly in and out at a-mile-a-minute as Parkford lowers his voice and almost threatens, “This bullet’s gonna make me love you.” There’s a sense of danger to it all, not least when he urges his target to “take off your vest“, but the kind that makes you want to go chasing after it – dark, a little mysterious, and a little sexy.

That’s a spirit shared by the EP’s final track, a Mini Mansions-ified version of Edwyn Collins‘ ‘ A Girl Like You’. Where the Scotsman served up class and elegance, the LA group are the opposite. It’s sleazy and gritty, Shuman’s vocals veering from deep purrs to unhinged howls and sneers. It’s wild and unfettered, and, like the rest of the record, strong justification as to why we need Mini Mansions back in the world.

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