On Remission, the band's severe case of mad genius hasn't so much abated as mutated: there's an increase in madness and a slight decrease in genius. In the area of musicianship, however, both traits have spiked to an unprecedented degree. Guitarist Tuomas Laurila, in particular, exceeds his already dazzling levels of virtuosity, and the technicality of his playing is further enhanced by a cunning use of effects. At the same time, his performance and those of his bandmates are intense to the point of frenzy. In the case of frontmen Simo Järvinen and Ilmo Ylinärä, this isn't such a good thing. While the latter's adoption of a more aggressive role on this EP is welcome, he sounds a little too high-strung much of the time - more like popster Daryl Hall than Mike Patton-with-a-modicum-of-discrimination, as on Random Mullet's previous recordings. Järvinen's rough vocals are likewise more extreme yet less powerful and varied, as he limits himself mostly to strained, somewhat high shouting/singing.
Even in its less desirable forms, though, the omnipresent feeling of hysteria generated by the performances creates a dynamic counterpoint to the band's exhibition of supreme control and brilliant execution. But there are other, less advantageous juxtapositions on Remission. Offsetting the band's increased skill in musicianship is the flatter, less sculpted sound drummer Janne Riikola, who handled the recording, mixing, and mastering this time, gave the EP. In "Paradox Poetry," Random Mullet achieve new levels of creativity and technicality with some wildly original polyrhythmic outbursts, but their inventiveness deserts them in a very generic 70s pop-style interlude. And unlike this track's instrumental frenzy, its crazy-for-crazy's-sake manic yelps constitute a divergence from the organic nature of most of the band's choices. Even more gratuitously insane is the dopy simulation of a rowdy Latino bar at the end, which is in sharp contrast to the tasteful, well-integrated south-of-the-border-flavored guitar sounds just past the midpoint.
Although less whacky than the opener, the other two tracks are more wanting when it comes to innovation. Draping an overlay of Scandinavian-style synths over the "Kashmir"-like opening of "Asshats" isn't enough of a twist on Led Zeppelin, and the piano/sax interlude in this song sounds as though it could have come straight off a Billy Joel album. While the pop parts of "Remission" are more original, they're still not on the level of Random Mullet's earlier material, and the main riff is like a deliberately moronic version of the band's countrymen Stam1na. Granted, that's better (not to mention less redundant) than a simple-minded aping of, say, Bad Company, but it's not representative of their usual inventiveness in referencing their influences. The riff is, however, beautifully embellished by an orchestral build-up early in the song, transformed via some impressive variations, and temporarily banished from memory by intricate staccato rhythms and masterful guitar, keys, and sax soloing.
It is only in the context of such impeccable artistry that Remission's relatively venial sins are so glaring, and it is only because these guys have lived such blameless creative lives that anything short of unadulterated genius seems like a shocking lapse. Infection raised ridiculously high expectations, and although the new EP didn't fully meet those (even the title track's lyrics can be said to foil assumptions, albeit in a totally benign way, by using "remission" in the sense of forgiveness rather than abatement of symptoms), there's every reason to believe the follow-up will. Now, if only Random Mullet can avoid a sin of omission and not let another two-plus years pass before their next release, which will be entitled … Redemption?
Note: Remission was released as a digital download, with a different track sequence, in November 2009 but not in CD format until late-spring 2010.
|1. Paradox Poetry|
|Buy other Random Mullet albums|