MILLIE MANDERS AND THE SHUTUP have just released their genre-defying debut album and the results do not disappoint.
Telling Truths, Breaking Ties is a rip-roaring journey through heartache, loss, bitterness and political anger to name but a few of the themes explored in the band’s first LP.
The album opens up with the previously released single, Your Story, starting with some fairly standard pop-punky guitar, a dramatic pause, then a burst of brass which really gets the song going. Millie’s incredible vocals really shine as they belt out a story of being led on and not being enough for another person despite your best efforts.
Despite the somewhat dreary subject matter, this is a tune that is irresistibly upbeat and danceable and will prove to be a hit on tour. Your Story is a fantastic introduction and sets the stage for the rest of the album.
Broken Record, the aptly named second song, very much feels like a sequel to the first song and follows the natural progression of the same emotions as hurt turns into defiance while featuring a sublime jazzy brass solo. Who in their right mind would limit themselves to one genre anyway? Certainly not this band.
Here We Go Again, explores the struggle with poor mental health and its often cyclical nature. Unfortunately, aside from one instrumental section toward the end of the song, the feeling of the music itself doesn’t do the subject matter any favours and leaves everything feeling rather tame. The lyrics suffer as a result.
Silent Screams rectifies this entirely with a much more incisive traversal of the themes at hand. Lyrically and musically, this is a vast improvement over Here We Go Again and it is little wonder this fantastic song was chosen as the album’s second single. Raw and honest, this is Millie Manders at her finest.
Continuing with the brutal honesty and dropping the brass for pure, meaty, power chord joy, Bitter is the band’s phenomenal third single and this reviewer’s personal favourite. Laced with unbridled, heartfelt contempt, you can hear the sincerity in Millie’s voice as it drives the song forward. It’s difficult not to want to scream along to the words. And to top it all off is a wonderfully wailing guitar solo which captures the song’s fury beautifully.
As explained by Millie, “The song is about abandonment, callousness, cowardice and maltreatment, and the bitterness that arises in the wake of it”. Bravo.
Admirably, the band have also released limited edition merch related to the album’s three singles, with £5 from each sale going towards four different charities: Mind, Papyrus, NHS Charities Together and The Survivor’s Trust.
Poor Man’s Show switches gear and introduces a politically poignant, ska-inspired number which is both vocally and musically subdued compared to the rest of the album. Think Lily Allen, but, you know, actually enjoyable.
Continuing with the social commentary, and a bombastic return of the brass, is Panic. To put it bluntly, The 1975 should take note from this song on how to deliver a punky, eco-aware message without coming across as utterly pretentious and with a modicum of sophistication.
The band’s diverse musicality is shown off further with Glitter Mix. Millie’s voice is softened, which suits the solemn lyrics, yet remains powerful as a gorgeous piano arrangement supports a wonderfully melancholic and metaphorical exploration of the consequences of substance abuse. This is a real highlight and even if the rest of the album isn’t quite to your taste, this is more than worth a listen.
Telling Truths, Breaking Ties then concludes with two angsty American pop-punk inspired tracks – Not Okay (no, not a My Chemical Romance cover, but it might as well have been) and the all too relatable Burnout, which provides a satisfying end to the tempestuous tracklist.
The band were due to tour in April this year, but had to postpone due to the ongoing pandemic. Their first rescheduled gig is due to go ahead on November 21 at Head of Steam in Newcastle, although it is yet to be seen if this will go ahead. Sadly there are no dates announced here in Scotland.
All in all, the band’s brass-infused signature sound is now more refined and beautifully interwoven compared with their earlier EPs. The musical variety and vocal versatility throughout will have you coming back for more, even if not every song managed to strike a chord. A very good debut indeed.
Telling Truths, Breaking Ties by Millie Manders and The Shutup is available now.
Featured Image Credit: Millie Manders and The Shutup / Ian Cheek Press