I have no idea if anyone likes the Mendoza Line. They’ve been around forever, starting out as lo-fi-by-necessity indie rockers in Athens, Georgia and eventually moving the operation north to our fair city, where they seem to have taken up permanent residence. They’ve released seven records on highly regarded labels, gotten glowing press from a number of well-known writers and publications and have done a good bit of touring as well. But in the grand scheme of things, they’re not the kind of band people freak out about. Their shows don’t seem to sell out, and the indie-rock glitterati don’t drop their name to impress acquaintances. Or, in short, Pitchfork hasn’t given them a 9.6 yet.
And in fairness, maybe they haven’t released a record worthy of such praise. Full of Light and Full of Fire probably isn’t that record either, but like all their records, it’s got its fair share of should-be hits. The opener, ‘Water Surrounds’, might be the best song they’ve ever released, featuring Shannon McArdle’s sultry vocals and a subtle Velvets-esque guitar line. Timothy Bracy takes the lead on ‘Settle Down, Zelda’, a laid-back, insightful look at defeatists everywhere. Then you’ve got tracks like ‘Catch a Collapsing Star’, where Bracy and McArdle share vocal duties, harmonizing over swinging, expertly assembled classic pop instrumentation.
There are, however, some songs that lack that certain something, that spark that’s so evident in so much of their material. And those are the songs that will ultimately keep them off magazine covers and huge, headlining tours. I think that’s ok, though. They’re fine just where they are, as a lovable group of rock ‘n’ roll lifers whose catalogue is constantly growing and whose craft is constantly yet slowly being refined. In a world where people complain about major labels not taking the time to develop artists, it’s probably worth noting that the same can be said of a lot of indie labels in the past few years, with bands being catapulted to semi-fame with little more than twelve songs under their belt. The Mendoza Line, either by choice or because of circumstances, have managed to avoid that, and in the long run, it’s for the best.