Album review: Mumble Tide – ‘Everything Ugly’: a short, sweet-as mini-album burst from the insouciant Bristolians on their way to massive things

The Breakdown

Mumble Tide, now there's lovely. This mini-album has got me completely fizzing. And by rights it shouldn't; I'm far too cynical and eye-rolling and chronically folded of arm and all that to be seduced by mere indie pop. Yet I'm smitten; that's cos they don't care and they totally do, and the record is silly and wonky and lo-fi and stupendous and excellent and knocked out and well honed and it's pop, the kind of pop people used to theorise about, and it's noisy and it's glorious and it kicks your arse and maybe buys you a pint afterwards. Ummm .... swoon?

MUMBLE TIDE have a sweet and unusual back story: the Bristol bedroom pop duo of Gina Leonard and Ryan Rogers first met through a Gumtree ad which singer Gina had placed, looking for a bassist.

But there was a proper meeting of minds, they saw that the musical thing they had going on was more than a little good – and pretty soon the set-up became a romantic situation, too.

“The boyfriend part was a bonus,” says Gina, maybe with a cheeky grin.

It’s all done in-house, the Mumble Tide project – quite literally, put together at home under the approving eye of their mascot Furbs the Furby. They write and produce the songs, design the artwork and make the videos. And what they really, really have is a proper devil-may-care spirit and an accompanying knack of a great, great tune – in fact, as this mini-album proves, they just seem to spill out of them.

The sound they achieve goes way beyond the lo-fi introversion you might expect from a bedroom band, and comes out swinging with scuffed-up DMs on and a satchel full of Sherbet Dib-Dabs. All’s fish to their recording vibe, and they get some amazing sonics from the most unlikely sources: witness the vintage walkie-talkies that they somehow make sound like My Bloody Valentine of “Noodle”; the confessedly “crap Casio keyboards” bought from a dentist’s on Facebook Marketplace of “Good 4 Me”, and the phone recordings of squabbling swans as featured on “Breakfast”.

There’s plenty of bite in there too, lyrically – the way Gina bares her soul and sings it up and out is so addictive. You’ll find the one-room frustrations of “Everything Ugly”, the kicking to the kerb of the howlin’ “Sucker”. On “Too Far Back” Gina sings: “Art is meant to offend you but I’ll keep it sweet like cinnamon.” And she offends you in the sweetest, spiciest way. “Everyone’s an arsehole” as she insouciantly declares in the first line of “Breakfast”.

In short: They’re not precious, but still so punchy; avoid the pose and the disappearance up the fundament, yet are a band to get totally serious about. Fall for this record? You’d have a hard time trying not to.

Ryan Rogers and Gina Leonard, aka Mumble Tide

“Good 4 Me” as an opening gambit is just perfick, really; eases you into the Mumbletide world on an effortless glide of sun-kissed guitar, Gina double-tracked in harmony – and it’s proper, proper indie pop, none of this bloody Pigeon Detectives nonsense – call that indie, pah! fetch my blunderbuss; nopes, it’s proper woozy indiepop like Alvvays or Joy Zipper or the Shop Assistants or someone. In short: very, very classy. And do you know what, the point at which I’m sold for ever and a day? It’s when Gina spools out this brilliantly declamatory and complex line out in one breath with the confidence and utter disregard for scansion of Mark E Smith: “I miss the traffic in the rain in the city walking home lights up the tarmac catching eyes through the car’s black windows TV screens switching channels too fast I drop the colours drop the glances are always for the puddles for the drains.” What. A. Moment though – a kinda Marilyn singing “Happy Birthday Mr President” type thing, dials red-lining in all my feels.

“Sucker” was the absolute tune which burst into the homes of everyone with consummate taste back in May time: guitars to the fore, lightly choppy on the verse and then completely kicking out the fuckin’ jams on the choruses and middle break, all barking, ropey tuning like Thurston Moore or World Domination Enterprises, letting the fire and catharsis and righteousness of saying “so long, sucker” to that pain in your arse burst through. But it’s also light and carefree and has that kinda combination of the buzzsaw and the summery you get with Heavenly and Talulah Gosh; the lyrical fist in a dance-your-docs-off glove. I mean, it even has the audacity to skronk a little bit.

“This one is just a super fun track we threw together, says Gina. “It’s about feeling confident and free and moving on (or at least trying to). It’s about throwing the baggage off your shoulders and strutting away … but also accepting that it’s not that easy.”

Hear it you, say? My, the cheek of it. Ah go on then, yer tis:

“Breakfast” cools yer boots a little, just you know they’re soppy buggers, really (until you cross em, at which point: mogwai becomes gremlin) presents as sleepily devil-may-care, unbuttoned shirt and mussed-up hair, combining disarming lyrics and a blurry, wonky guitar just so, cheap chorus pedal pitching the Skylark through the waves. I mean c’mon, how can you not fall for a song which opens: “Everyone’s an arsehole”?

Singer Gina says: “We’ve experienced a lot of disharmony in the past few years and at times, I’ve been pretty upset by how people have treated each other. I don’t deal well with conflict and this song is about accepting that you aren’t always going to see eye to eye with people and that it’s OK to be on different pages sometimes, like it doesn’t make you a bad person.” 

“Too Far Back” slides the band towards a rose-quartz kinda pure country pop, the warmth of slide guitars and powerchords chuggin’ away like Transvision Vamp maybe, y’know, had actual talent, and it sits exactly astride indie brilliance and crossover smash. And so it should be: a smash, that is. Bittersweet and bruised, Gina lays out in a voice to swoon for: “I’ve just given up the ghosts are free to haunt the trees / Are full of nests the birds left a long time ago / I crack like bones, I’m still here.”

“Everything Ugly” is another glittering pure pop fizzbomb, bright and breezy and maybe music to jump in huge puddles too, in which Gina articulates a lovely truth: “Isn’t it nice / How we love, how we love despite / Everything ugly?” It has a middle break with the sorta gloriously woozy electronics as employed by The Flaming Lip at their creative height. At about a nillionth of the cost, betcha.

Soft sugary centre thus consumed, it’s time to noisy it up again, fellas. “Noodle” was the most recent single of the three included herein and has got genuine scrappy, shreddy guitars and fuzz and dirty excellence, like Dino Jr or Swervedriver or something, all overlaid with a classy falsetto pop chorus. It sounds like it could be a song about the rush of love in a fatal attraction; actually, the noodle is, on first reading, Ryan’s nickname for Gina’s “abnormally long neck”. Umm … ok … Studio trickery your bag? We’re told that swampy ‘guitar’ sound was actually achieved by “feedbacking a couple of 90s’ toy walkie-talkies off of each other”. 

Gina says of the song: “During the last string of gigs we played, I told the audiences that this song was solely written and inspired by my neck (which Ryan reckons is abnormally long and has adopted ‘Noodle’ as a kind of pet name) but really there’s a bit more going on.

“I think in life, I have a tendency to pick things apart until they’re a bit of a mess and ‘Noodle’ paints an accurate picture of my heavily conflicted and rather ridiculous thought patterns. I guess it’s for people that don’t find it easy to relax and just be happy in themselves and where they’re at. There’s still a good dose of fun and silliness in there though, and a healthy awareness of the fact I tend to twist things way out of shape.”

Ooh though and “Bulls Eye” is hushed, really hushed, cos they can do brittle folksy confessional too; of course they can. Gina gives a vocal star turn, cracking and mebs a little teary, but never employing eleven notes when one deftly evoked will do admirably.

The last track sounds really ominous – “On My Deathbed There’s A Full Page (And You Don’t Get To Read It)” – but breezes in, a totally lovely pop confection that St Etienne would be happy to call their own.

Awww man, Mumble Tide, now there’s lovely. This mini-album (and actually guys, in this more compact day and age, you can easily say eight tracks is an album proper) has got me completely fizzing. And by rights it shouldn’t; I’m far too cynical and eye-rolling and chronically folded of arm and all that to be seduced by mere indie pop. Been there, got the (incredibly rare, expensive) T-shirt, mate. Whatevs.

Yet I’m smitten; that’s cos they don’t care and they totally do, and the record is silly and wonky and lo-fi and stupendous and excellent and knocked out and well honed and it’s pop, the kind of pop people used to theorise about, and it’s noisy and it’s glorious and it kicks your arse and maybe buys you a pint afterwards. Ummm …. swoon?

Is Gina Bristol’s Debbie Harry, Ryan her Chris Stein? I think maybe. And oi, wait, bear with me – you know “One Way Or Another”, the way it’s breezy and fun and sassy and cheeky and way, waay cleverer than you could ever hope to be?

That. That is shot through Mumble Tide like a stick of freakin’ rock. Buy.

Mumble Tide’s mini-album Everything Ugly will be released by Nothing Fancy digitally and on limited edition orange vinyl on December 3rd; there’s also an ultimate merch bundle including a lucky dip cassette with a randomised tracklist. You can order your chosen version right now over at their Bandcamp page.

Follow Mumble Tide on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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