My thoughts on “UNFINISHED”, the first mini-album from Malcolm Mask McLaren.
Release Date: March 4th 2020
4. the power of…
5. The idiot’s song
I write about a lot of different groups over the course of a year on this site. It’s kind of crazy if I stop to think about it honestly and I’m usually pretty good at keeping up with all of the new releases heading our way. Sometimes things do slip through the cracks though, nobody’s perfect after all, but then there are times where I just straight up fumble the ball on the goal line. Or to put it in layman’s terms; I thought I reviewed something that I hadn’t.
Apparently its been a while since I last checked in on Idol’s resident Easycore 3-piece Malcolm Mask McLaren. Even longer than I thought as it turns out, because I was sure I reviewed their “Darlin'” single when it came out back in November. Looks like I didn’t and we have to go all the way back to June’s “The Idiot’s Song” (review here) for the last time one of their releases graced this website. I’m going to chalk it up to being in/coming home from Japan, take my lumps and try to do better in the future. I am but a humble Idol beat reporter after all.
Joking aside, turns out it didn’t really matter in the end that I blanked on MMM’s last single. They’ve ever so helpfully packaged it up (along with “The Idiot’s Song”) into the group’s first mini-album “UNFINISHED”. It looks like we’re only getting 2 truly new tracks on this release but anyone wishing to check out the group for the first time or hear what they’ve been getting up to recently look to be well served by this release. As for me, I guess you could say that I’ve got some…unfinished business here so let’s cut to the chase and check this thing out.
I have to admit, it’s a little weird to title anything “UNFINISHED” when it comes to music and…well, most things I suppose. I’m happy to report that the mini-album’s lead and title track is anything but that however, kicking things off on a very familiar Pop Punk sound which makes me rather happy as that’s a genre that I’m particularly fond of. A blasting drumbeat and some crunchy guitar riffs give the opening instrumental much of its drive, with a brighter, cleaner guitar riff providing the song with a more melodic component as Malcolm Mask McLaren get things set up for us. There’s then a rather unexpected but pretty interesting synthesizer transition and in comes the opening verses of the track. Clean, melodic vocals are the order of the day here which is very in keeping with the genre this song is being pulled from though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more bite to them personally. It would have tied things in with the instrumental a bit better in my view is all. The chorus is even more bright from a vocal standpoint too, which makes the disconnect between the instrumental and the lyrics that much more apparent and just how high pitched and ethereal sounding some of the parts are just isn’t something that really works with a grittier Pop Punk instrumental. Though by the time we reach the climax the song has almost changed into something completely unrecognizable anyway so perhaps I’m putting too much thought into this. They had me for a good chunk of the song but kinda lost me at the end, unfortunate.
“faith” is the second and final all new song to feature on the mini-album and once again things get off to a pretty promising start with another chuggy Pop Punk/Easycore inspired instrumental. The vocals that eventually get brought in are fairly genre appropriate, assuming the intention is for this to be a bit more like a Ballad which seems to be the case on first impression here. Nice, natural vocal tones offer the main melodic element of the track as the accompanying instrumental keeps on doing what it had already been doing previously. It works pretty well until things head off into a kind of Rap direction which again, not something you really expect to hear from this sort of style of music but it does happen very rarely. It’s not really my thing as you guys probably already know by now and I’m not sure this instrumental was the right vehicle to deliver it either. It only happens for a brief moment or two throughout the song though so it’s whatever I guess. We’re back to normal and building towards the chorus before we know it. Said chorus is very Idol Pop in style when it comes to the vocals, again not something you really expect and not the most enjoyable thing for me when I’m expecting to hear a Punk/Easycore song but in a vacuum it’s a nice vocal performance with a couple of catchy hooks for good measure. Again though, much like the previous track there’s a lot going on here and I’m not sure that this song really knows what it’s trying to be.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, “Darlin'” did actually get its own single release back in November but I just never got around/forgot to review it for some reason. It’s alright though because I’m getting a chance to do it now so it’s all good. The opening of the track is the most synthesizer heavy that we’ve heard thus far, with a mild Chiptune vibe to it, and said synthesizer remains a prominent feature even after the more typical guitars and drums are brought in. I can’t say I enjoy the sound that it all results in a great deal, as it’s very muddy to my ear and I don’t even think it needed to be. Underneath all of that distortion sounds like a super bright and energetic Pop Punk instrumental, something that pretty much almost always benefits from the guitar tone being bright and clean but there’s a bunch of bass and synth getting in the way here. The vocals are really great though and don’t get too bogged down by the instrumental, with a bunch of really catchy hooks in both the verses and the chorus and they pretty much nailed both the Pop Punk style and lyrical structure too. This song gets so close to being really awesome but falls ever so slightly short due to how busy they made the instrumental. Less is more in this particular genre and I feel like they tried to get a bit too cute with the synthesizers. Strip that out and I bet the song will sound twice as good as it already does.
Following on from that is “the power of…”, the b-side from the single that we were just talking about previously. We’re once again starting things off in a fairly typical Pop Pun/Easycore style, with an instrumental that manages to balance being both very crunchy as well as very melodic at the same time. The vocals when they come in are also very melodic and bright but I can’t help but feel that they’re a little bit too low tension in comparison to the instrumental that is accompanying them. I dunno, I guess I was just expecting something more energetic to better pair with the instrumental but what we did end up getting is perfectly alright too. I definitely liked the groove that the chorus took on though, adding a bit more of a Pop element to the song but not to the point where it felt like I’d somehow hit skip on my media player like other examples on this release. The track maintains a fair amount of this additional pep for the rest of its duration after its initial introduction, which maybe was a little bit too much of a good thing by the end there but I still found myself enjoying the time I spent listening to it. Probably my favorite of the batch of songs I hadn’t heard from this release already, mainly because it doesn’t try to think too outside the box and is mostly what I’d expect from a group who cite Pop Punk and Easycore as their main influences.
Rounding out the release is some material that I have actually managed cover before on the site. First up is “The idiot’s song” which is of course the title track of Malcolm Mask McLaren’s single before last, and you can read my initial thoughts on it here if you wish. Kind of interesting looking back as this song actually has a few of the issues that I had with the “new” material from this mini-album too. It starts off pretty cool with the whole fat, distorted Easycore guitar riffs and such, with a touch of synthesizer and a guitar melody to give it a hook. Then the vocals come in and there’s a bit of disconnect with how light and melodic they are in comparison to the instrumental, which is something that I feel like I’ve said before in this review. If you take each half of the track and evaluate it in a vacuum then you get some nice vocal melodies and a strong lyrical hook or two and a pretty awesome Easycore-style instrumental but when you put both of those things together it just ends up lacking that cutting edge, well except for the bridge where they did manage to get it “right” in my opinion. That almost makes the song more disappointing than it actually is, because outside of my elitest tastes in the genres Malcolm Mask McLaren are drawing inspiration from, this song is perfectly fine for what it is.
Bringing us home is “MOMENT”, the b-side from the “The idiot’s song” single and once again you can read all about my initial impressions of that release here if you should so choose to do so. It starts out a bit heavier than the previous track, with a bit more of a Hardcore influence involved, but we’re still very much in that Punk/Core sort of space on this one. One thing I can definitely say about Malcolm Mask McLaren is that they do their instrumentals very well. The vocals on this one on the other hand are kind of all over the map and I mostly mean that in terms of the styles incorporated. You get some nice Pop Punk moments, then some more melodic Ballad-y bits and even a little bit of Rap sprinkled in for good measure because why not I suppose. The punkier bits are my favorite parts obviously and the other stuff is cool too but not really what I’m here for if you haven’t figured that out yet. Again, it’s hard not to feel like they’re trying to do too much in one song which seems to be a recurring theme I’m noticing over these past couple of releases. The lyrical content on the whole is great though, so if you’re alright with going through several different styles over the course of one song you’ll probably fare a little better than I did. Nothing overly bad about how they’ve gone about it, I just would prefer something a bit more focused I guess.
“UNFINISHED” is a bit of a mixed bag for me personally, and I suppose that’s a good way to describe my general feeling towards Malcolm Mask McLaren as a group too. They have some really great moments where they’re pretty close to being the Easycore Idol group that they tout themselves as like on track “the power of…” but then on other tracks they’re throwing in Rap, synthesizers and what have you and things get really watered down. It’s kinda frustrating at times I won’t lie.
I’m not really sure where Malcolm Mask McLaren should go next honestly. I’d prefer for them to “commit to the bit” as the kids say, but that doesn’t seem likely so I guess I’ll just take their next release (whenever that ends up being now) as it comes. I don’t think my expectations have been set inappropriately high before now, but I guess maybe I listen to too many western bands in this genre that it subconsciously sets my standards higher than they should be. I’ll try to do better for next time, promise.