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The Mendoza Line - Full of Light and Full of Fire

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Artist: The Mendoza Line

Album: Full of Light and Full of Fire

Label: Misra

Review date: Nov. 8, 2005

For those who don’t follow baseball, the “Mendoza line” is something like the worst batting average a hitter can maintain without landing in the minors. The likewise-named neo-classicist guitar pop outfit (from Brooklyn, by way of Georgia) sings songs for those characters sitting one major trauma away from the nuthouse, the joint or the grave.

The new one, Full Of Light And Full Of Fire, still hosts the puns, put-downs and Paul Westerberg-sized ego of Timothy Bracy at stage center, but his populist wit has never had a broader scope. Like previous records, its straight-ahead score (nothing Tom Petty wouldn’t do) lets it play out like a collection of dry short stories, and this time they’re not all about sex and alcohol. By the end of track one, a woman has already contemplated drowning her infant; in classic Mendoza fashion, she collects sympathy only by defiantly refusing it. Right away, Shannon McArdle, once the soulful foil to Bracy’s self-hating barfly, takes on a more complex role.

Lyrically, the band does fall into its old pattern: a) provide pithy analysis on a doomed sexual liaison (“Catch A Collapsing Star”); b) insult clingy loser (“Rat’s Alley”); c) insult self and sex partners (“Settle Down, Zelda”); d) repeat. But the world is a ghetto, and this time, the Mendoza Line is ghetto-fabulous. “Pipe Stories” is either a dystopian fantasy or the band’s take on the US circa now. On the propulsive “Golden Boy (Torture In The Shed)”, McArdle channels the spiritulaized fear of women under Allah's thumb. As with the more selfish Mendoza material, these songs are too beaten and maybe too smart to protest, but too pissed to do nothing.

The Line may be as polarizing as ever, but fuck me, can it play a righteous drinking song. In the mode of “A Damned Good Disguise” (from the should-be dive-bar jukebox staple Lost In Revelry), “Catch a Collapsing Star” bleeds snide verses into a soaring chorus over a catchy shuffle, and serves it up sad as the party before the breakdown. When the band hoots and hollers over the instrumental break, it only augments the song’s melancholy. A cross-town gin tear was never so painful to contemplate, nor so hard to refuse.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of The Mendoza Line

Lost In Revelry


Full of Light and Full of Fire

30 Year Low

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View all articles by Emerson Dameron

Find out more about Misra

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