Mangoo from Finland, despite having a name that sounds like something you’d find on the floor of a porno cinema, are something of an unknown quantity and have come out of nowhere to release their second album on the label that is the harbinger of quality, Small Stone. I had been vaguely aware of the band from their appearance on the awesome and extensive Planet Fuzz compilation “Cowbells and Cobwebs” but had heard little since until this album popped out of nowhere.
Mangoo offer up a sound that is a natural progression from traditional stoner rock and incorporates elements of psychedelia, space rock and, I hate to say it, pop rock in the vein of the Foo Fighters. Following a brief intro the title track hits us as the first track proper. It’s a brave move from the band as this is a sprawling journey through spacey psychedelia to heavy grind that maybe doesn’t grab the listener as instantly as you might expect from a lead off song where first impressions are so important. Not that it isn’t a decent song and given repeated listens it does start to unfold its goodies to you but you only get one chance to make a first impression. Things improve dramatically on “Deathmint” which showcases the band’s strong ability to craft a heavy yet pop like song packed with killer melodies and groove. From the onset it’s clear that one thing that really sets the band apart from so many of the stoner rock pack is their use of keyboards. Ivory tinkler and knob twiddler Nicke mostly steers clear of the expected Hammond flourishes to provide interesting and unusual analogue synth touches that give the band their spacey edge yet hark back to the days of 80’s New Wave.
The New Wave influence becomes even more apparent on the excellent “Diamond In The Rough” which mixes XTC with 60’s garage rock and some fat stoner riffs. It’s a unique sound that shows Mangoo have far more up their sleeves than they first offer. After a few listens it’s clear that this is the track that stands head and shoulders above the rest…the acapella breakdown is a move of pure genius that comes from the left field without any warning. The party doesn’t last long however and next track “You” brings the mood down starting as a mournful ballad before dropping some cowbell and heading off into chargin’ and chuggin’ stoner rock territory accompanied by some distinctly Hawkwind-esque synth warbles. It’s another decent enough song but doesn’t necessarily offer as much as it should after its predecessor. That said, the interestingly named Pickles is in particularly good voice here and nails some very tasty harmonies.
Next up Mangoo raid the stoner rock riff library on “Lose Yourself” in which the somewhat generic verses are saved by a strong, soaring chorus. In my best soccer pundit voice I’ll stick my neck out and say this is a song of two halves. If the verse was as strong as the chorus this could be a killer but does fall a touch short despite the rollicking bar room rock out of the middle section. “Interlude” is a largely pointless minute spent dicking around on the synth before “You, Robot” creeps in on some sinister warbling noises. Initially this seems like it’s going to be some sort of monstrous doom epic but the hypnotic, lockstep rhythm and vaguely eastern robotic riff that kick in show a return to form that has echoes of mid 80’s Hawkwind albeit with a far bigger and infinitely more hairy pair of nut sacks!!!
For a brief minute the drum intro to “Moom” sounds as though Mangoo are going to attempt a cover of Rainbow’s epic “Stargazer”, but no, this is a full throttle, four to the floor ass kicking of killer proportions and at barely 2 minutes, is a much needed shot of adrenaline. After this slap round the face, “Painted Black” rolls in on some strummed acoustics and mellow lead that doesn’t sound a million miles away from some of The Scorpions more balladic 80’s moments. Is this a good thing? The jury is out on this one. The band do increase the testosterone on the chorus but it does step a little too close to clichéd big rock balladry for comfort. That said it will probably get the hairspray and denim chicks a bit moist and give the crowds an excuse to waste their lighter fluid now that they’re not allowed to smoke indoors anymore!!!
By this point I’m kind of craving a bit of an ass kicking but instead Mangoo go all Pink Floyd on our asses on “Hooks” which comes over like an out take from “Wish You Were Here”. The squelching synth and the bruising, fat chorus do offer a lift from the drifting verses. In truth, this isn’t a bad song at all and the ebb and flow works very well, particularly with some welcome muted trumpet that adds a nice air of jazz and shows that Mangoo have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Just as you might be thinking Mangoo might be all about the fuzz they drop “Home”, a minute long banjo and voice porch burner that offers some welcome relief before “Datzun” assaults the senses for the best part of 10 minutes!!! Far from being the sprawling epic the subdued intro may suggest this is actually something of a pop rock tour-de-force sounding not unlike the Foo Fighters jamming with QOTSA…on mushrooms. A touch of editing could potentially make this a strong single choice and shows that Mangoo have a real way with a catchy melody.
It’s clear that Small Stone will never release a shitty album and this offering from Mangoo is certainly interesting enough to warrant some further investigation even if it may not scale the giddy heights of some of the labels other acts. Hopefully this is just the start of the Mangoo journey with the label as, although this is a good album with some real stand out moments, it does fall short of being a classic…and I think, with a little self editing and tightening of the songs these guys are truly capable of creating something incredible.
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall