Mice Parade – What It Means to Be Left-Handed

January 01, 1970






The percussion up-front outfit Mice Parade began as a solo
vehicle for Adam Pierce (the moniker is an anagram of his name), and though his
band has steadily expanded and the music has veered all over the world map, the
joy of Mice Parade albums always begins behind the kit. Pierce is often joined
by former Rex/Codeine/HiM skinsman extraordinaire Doug Scharin, and they give Mice
Parade songs an almost uniform forward propulsion, blended here with splashes
of West African Highlife, Flamenco, Brazilian samba and even Far East accents.
Luckily, the music is free from any Putumayo tourist feel or Epcot Center
nationalism, and that’s largely because of the strong underpinning that
Pierce’s late-80s’ indie rock roots provide. No surprise then that one of the
two covers on this record is a pretty straightforward take on the Lemonheads’
“Mallo Cup,” while label mate Tom Brosseau’s “Mary Anne” is reconstituted as
something that could’ve come off the Pixies Bossanova.
Those indie roots, and some avant garde/post rock tendencies, also keep
Pierce’s songs largely hook and chorus-free, which probably explains why the
band isn’t better known. That’s a shame, too, because the combination,
especially when the world flavors share the spotlight, forms a marvelous blend
of instrumentation, influences and arrangements.


Disc-opener “Kupanda” is a great example, acoustic guitars (by
classical guitarist Dan Lippel) and benga-flavored electric lines coiled
together with hammered dulcimer over rich polyrhythms, all forming a foundation
for Swahili vocalist Simo’s beautiful voice. “Couches & Carpets” might be
your average indie rock tune but for the Flamenco guitar that fills the spaces
left between the percussion – that is until the song explodes into a furious
outro with Scharin and Pierce really dropping the hammers. Rich beats suffuse
these (and, frankly, all other) Mice Parade songs, even when the music takes a
Far Eastern twist as it does on the tape-loop-and-processed-beats of “Tokyo
Late Night,” which features members of the Japanese band Clammbon. “In Between
Times” is a hybrid that opens as a rock song and ends in West African Highlife,
and though Lippel’s classical guitar introduces “Recover,” it’s soon joined by
ferocious electric riffs before the song unfurls into spacious chromatic


If Pierce has an Achilles’ heel, it’s his fondness for
ethereal-voiced female singers; 2007’s Mice
suffered an annoying duet with Mum’s mewling kitten Kristin Anna
Valtysdottir. Here, Caroline Lufkin and Gregory & the Hawk’s Meredith
Godreau play that waify role, and though the contrast with Pierce’s baritone
plays well enough when the voices duet, by themselves these lighter-than-air-voices
can on occasion – mostly on “Do Your Eyes See Sparks” — threaten to let the
songs drift away. But this is by no means a deal-breaker, because Pierce’s
marvelously inventive songs reflect the rich imaginative world that, as the
title suggests, the left-handed (read left-brained) live in. This is a band
whose music always reward further listens, and that’s never a bad thing.


DOWNLOAD: “Kupanda” “Mary Anne” JOHN SCHACHT


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