The Aussie four-piece Ministry Of Plenty, consisting of Kieran Stubbs (guitar/vocals), Oliver Whelehan (drums/vocals), Harry Reid (bass/vocals) and Jim Monaghan Duong (synthesizers/guitar) definitely dig on psychedelia. It intravenously works its way into each and every track on their first EP Assertions put out by the newly minted Melbourne label Wigwam Records. Ministry of Plenty had been together in a slightly different incarnation before. They had then resided under the name Pallet Town, and played a variant of garage rock. Pallet Town played together for a little over two years before deciding to take a break. Some time after the band reunited, sans one member, and began to explore a new sound, an exploration that would take nearly a year and a half.
Ministry Of Plenty doesn’t play the new and overly done psychedelia of the day, nor do they play the psychedelia of the ‘60s, but rather a hazy lo-fi hybrid which also draws influences from Shields era Grizzly Bear as well as that “uncertain where to file under” feel of LCD Soundsystem. However these are just big name sounds one recognizes and can relate to. On a more musical and less band specific level, Assertions has tinges of reggae and rock but also jam band breakdowns, which lead into electronic meltdowns and multiple vocal harmonies.
With all of these different genres working together, it must mean there is a little something for everyone on Assertions, right? Well not exactly. As any kid who half assed his way through eighth grade science class could tell you not all experiments work out as planned.
Assertions opens with the nearly eight-minute “Leftovers” which begins spritely and pure and then builds like a storm raining down heavy guitar and bass riffs with crashing drums before turning into a Steve Miller interlude of jazzy guitars and synths mixed with heavily symphonic vocals. The transition is choppy at first but soon smooths out. Awhile later it ends awkwardly with everything but the synths dying away.
Next up “What I Gave You” begins with a groovy bass riff and some canyon echo reverb vocals. It is a very intriguing lead in and keeps you listening. The bass booms and bounces give the tune a funkadelic flair, which is further abetted by dual vocal harmonies. “Evan” is long and winding that is at times quiet and at others jumps out and scares you with its changes, though these changes are often harsh and at times feel pieced together. This is especially true on “Perfume” which from time to time is some of the best music on the record, yet near the end its beauty sadly becomes mauled by electronic effects.
Throughout listening to Assertions I could tell that Ministry Of Plenty is a band that has its shit together, which is to say they definitely know how to create a mood. The problem is that they try to squeeze too many such moods into a single track, and do not allow for a long and smooth enough transition from mood to mood. Though they are trying things, they are experimenting, which is something every band trying to gain footing must do. Their failed experiments speak to something greater to come, while their successful tracks make for momentary good listening, and a chance for the listener to say, “I knew them when…”
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