Back from a voyage into the world of the concept album with the excellent John Doe, Mammoth Penguins have stepped back into slightly more familiar territory. There’s No Fight We Can’t both win is another slice of their grown-up guitar pop. Which might sound a bit grim to the uninitiated. Is there really a place for grown-up pop?
Luckily this shows there is, at least that in the exceptionally accomplished songwriting hands of Emma Kupa, there is. I remember it being said of her former band, Standard Fare, that they had no idea they were writing indie pop when they started out, they were just writing what made sense to them. Much as Kupa has responded to being embraced by the indie community – to the extent of getting involved with setting up Indietracks – there’s still not a sense of her songs trying to fit that particular mould. Plenty does, those melodies and fuzzed up jangle clearly come naturally. Closure and I Wanna are terrific examples. But there’s plenty more going on, especially on the slower-paced songs. There Is So Much More has a pleasing laid-back West Coast noodling vibe. Elsewhere, some of the space and restraint used to such good effect on John Doe is given proper rein again. Songs like Let Yourself Be and You Just Carry On dip and surge in a way that manages to be both uplifting and reflective at the same time.
And lyrically there’s few can match Kupa’s feel for the nuances and mixed emotions of relationships – all recounted with a weary wisdom that her voice matches perfectly.
There Is No Fight We Can’t Both Win is another great collection of universally empathetic songs from a great songwriter that really ought to get a hearing beyond the indie world that is its home.