The early '80s were an interesting time in underground music. The musical culture had assimilated the energy and possibility of punk rock, a return to the primal fury of early rock n’ roll. Very quickly, however, people grew tired of punk's restrictive anti-chops, longing for the accessibility and musicality of pop. New wave and synthpop quickly grew to replace punk, kicking off a new age of futurist pop, blending the arty experimentalism of the avant-garde with punk's edge and new wave/synthpop's catchiness and polished production.
Sadly, new wave and synthpop quickly steamrolled any edge punk might've brought to the table, and pop music was smooth as synthetic silk, yet again.
The Mirrors self-titled debut The Mirrors, originally released in 1987, imagines what might've been had the experimentalism and edginess of punk continued unabated, while still incorporating classic songwriting and top-shelf production.
The Mirrors were a SoCal quintet, trading in muscular guitar riffs, romantic reverbed vocals and powerful percussion in a kind of stripped-down, blue-collar new wave pop. If Southern Death Cult, early The Cure, and Bruce Springsteen were to have a safety-pinned stepchild, it might sound like The Mirrors.
The Mirrors was recorded at a handful of small LA studios and produced by Mark Christian, an LA session guitarist best known for working with the Village People. There's not a trace of disco to be heard, on The Mirrors, however - just sharp, tight songwriting and pro production. Melodic guitars glisten with that distinctive '80s chorus, a la The Cure or The Teardrop Explodes - a particular Paisley psychedelia. Too often, however, new wave-indebted sounds such as these were thin as skinny ties, favoring a dry production style. The Mirrors, however, pack a powerful punch, particularly with the rhythm section; which, while understated, still kicks like a cotton-swaddled Howitzer. It's the first clue there's more going on beneath the hood, with The Mirrors. Check out album opener "One More Kiss" for a great example of what might've happened had new wave, punk, hard rock and metal were to collaborate instead of war.
For the longest time, it was tempting to label all re-issues and reformations as pure, prime nostalgia with music fans longing for simpler times and familiar sounds. There's the other aspect to it, however, with musical tastes catching up, offering up a chance for re-appraisal.
With a couple of decades of ardent power pop worship under our belt, now that the war between intellectual, experimentalism and raw energy has been laid to rest, the time is right to hear The Mirrors. It's easy to imagine a popular re-issue label like Sacred Bones or Captured Tracks coming across The Mirrors' self-titled debut The Mirrors in a bin and losing their shit. Thankfully, you get to hear it in glowing, restored fidelity and imagine what might've been.
Take note, The Mirrors are not trying to relive former glories. All of the members have been musically active in the interim. If you like the blend, make sure to check out The Big F, Sonic River, and Disappointment, Inc. You won't be disappointed!
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