Middleman – Cut Out The Middleman (Brainrotter)
Released 2nd Dec 2022
The debut EP from Middleman is half happy jangle and half emo with clear punk and indie influences.
Middleman is a good name for this band as they kind of sit mid-way between punk and indie. Middleman offer up 4 sub-three minute radio friendly tunes that range between upbeat and downtrodden on their debut EP.
At their best Middleman barrel along with guitar propelled upbeat tunes. Train Man is a great number. However, there is a dour emotional drain at play on this EP as well. The “single” off the EP, Entropy, starts off OK but slows down half way through to a swaying head nodding journey into emo, by which I mean DC emotional hardcore not the more recent black eyeliner variant. When done poorly, emo isn’t particularly appealing and should be better termed Eeyore-core. Luckily Middleman don’t fall into this trap. Turn Away similarly has that emo feel to it. The thing is, I have heard so many bands try the emo thing since about 1991 that a lot of it starts to sound the same to me. One Day We Will Be Strangers sits somewhere in the middle.
Despite all the hard work put in by the drummer and bass player, it is the guitar that really dominates the sound. Something in the guitar attack, harmonics and even the tunes, suggests Wire and other early punk pioneers. I’m also hearing a touch of Dinosaur Jr and their peers. Solos are thankfully not overly long, this band being a descendant of the stripped back attitude of 1977 (it is conceivable that someone at the legendary Roxy gigs could be their grandparents). In the promotional spiel, Middleman cite The Replacements, Mission of Burma and Wipers as influences, which stands up to scrutiny if you set the vocals to one side. Similarly, fans of Mega City Four and their ilk will dig this.
Speaking of vocals, occasionally I hear a Joey Ramone ending to a line and let’s face it, the Bruddas were a big influence on every fast guitar band ever since Dee Dee shouted “1-2-3-4”, even if they don’t know it. On Turn Away the vocals sound a little pained, somewhere between TV Smith and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi).
Listen to Entropy here.
Middleman are good at what they do, but as they don’t have anything that immediately sets them apart they are going to have to work hard to be memorable and rise above the herd in a world of decreasing attention spans (what’s that shiny thing over there?). And this is where I suspect live performances will do them some favours. That cranked up guitar tone will win people over.
If you are impressed by such things, Jonah Falco (Fucked Up, Career Suicide) mixed and mastered the EP and it was recorded at Fuzzbrain Studios (used by Chubby & The Gang, The Chisel etc). And in keeping with current trends it is being released on cassette tape as well as digital, a fetish I am still struggling to understand as someone who grew up on the things.
Words by Nathan Brown. Check out his Louder Than War Author Archive.
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