Smash the Windows
I have truly never heard anything like Mischief Brew. Much of their music pairs such disparate elements as a heavy-metal bassline and a twangy mandolin, and a study of the lyrics reveals a similar discord: an aggressive expression of anti-establishment anger, under which lies a genuine desire to celebrate freedom and individuality. Their music feels at once like a barroom brawl and an intelligent, textured cultural critique.
While Smash the Windows incorporates solid musicianship and strong production, the vocals miss their mark. Erik Petersen growls his way through many of these songs as though he is determined to sound like a true punk-rocker, but he instead achieves a forced and grating melodrama. I picture him onstage in full pirate getup—a skull-tight bandana and crossbones punctuating a faded-black t-shirt. I appreciate the band’s tendency to combine unlikely elements (e.g., heavy metal rasping with a relaxed jazz riff), but I can’t help but think the vocals limit the potential of these songs to appeal to a wide audience.
Nevertheless, these songs are catchy and filled with a youthful sense of rebellion that dares listeners to not sing along. Raucous music and anarchistic lyrics create a powerful combination in the songs that work here, such as “Nomad’s Revolt” in which Petersen instructs us to “kill off Columbus and turn the world around.” “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” uses a fun, ska-influenced progression to declare “Satan’s army’s rising up soon/ well if it is, I’m the secretary of No-State.” Though some lyrics seem to stem from an immature or naïve perspective, Smash the Windows is a compelling call to action overall, and its integration of jazz, metal, punk and americana traditions treads some much-needed new musical ground.