Review: Mustard Gas And Roses ‘We Are One’ EP

Mustard Gas And Roses got their name from a line in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which was a symbol of how deeply the war had affected him. As a fan of the author, I was therefore drawn to the EP despite being indifferent to Michael Gallagher‘s previous band Isis. At the very least it demonstrates an excellent taste in literature. Mike plays guitar and vocals on all tracks and is assisted by Marc Brandi (guitar), J Bennett (bass), and Patrick Crawford (drums) on Shadows and Exercise One. Bryan Tulao (guitar) contributes to Becoming, while Cop Shoot Cop features Bryan Tulao (guitar), J Bennett (bass), Sash Popovic (drums), Keefus Cianca (piano) and Tara Connelly, C. J. Leedy, and Sera Timms providing additional vocals.

Mustard Gas And Roses 'We Are One'

The EP is the long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s Becoming and is mixed by Sanford Parker, mastered by James Plotkin and features gorgeous cover art from Nicole Momaney. So impressed am I by the artwork I’m tempted to source a copy to affix to my ever populated walls. If a pedigree like that doesn’t whet your appetite for the release I don’t know what will.

Opener Shadows vocal style instantly recalled Michael Gira, the track  resembling one of Swans late 80s/early 90s period, particularly White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity. The track starts quietly and builds in intensity, embracing a hefty dose of post-rock with shades of very early Mogwai. This is a thrilling track which made you forget its lengthy six minute running time so engaging was the music. Unfortunately the track comes to an abrupt end, which is a pity as I could easily have listened to it for another six minutes. I would have liked it to have continued on its ever expansive journey, but alas it wasn’t to be. Less is more for once isn’t applicable here. 

Next we have the rerecording of the track Becoming from the album of the same name. This number is absolutely exquisite, the richly baritone vocals that Michael Gallagher showcased on that album is continued here. The folk and gothic alt-country style evokes Michael Gira’s other project The Angels Of Light along with Wovenhand.

The track [Shadows] starts quietly and builds in intensity, embracing a hefty dose of post-rock with shades of very early Mogwai…

Third track Exercise One by Joy Division is the first of two covers on the EP. A band who every man and his dog seem to cover these days such is the level of their ubiquitousness, however the difference here is that in addition to the gloomy aura being maintained, it manages to sound even more sonically oppressive. Credit needs to be afforded to the band for choosing a less obvious track, one that doesn’t feature on either of the band’s two main albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer but on the less familiar Still compilation, which only serious listeners of Joy Division would be acquainted with.

The ten-minute plus version of Spiritualized‘s Cop Shoot Cop that concludes the EP is by far the most daring track. Jazz bar flavoured psych rock is not what you would necessarily expect as a choice of cover from a band such as Mustard Gas And Roses, but they do a spectacular interpretation, featuring lovely additional female backing vocals. This helps provide a truly climactic ending for what has been an exhilarating listen.

Such was my enjoyment of We Are One that my only complaint would be its length. Whether the band intended to tantalize us with the brevity of the recording is anyone’s guess, but if this is proven to be the case, then I would argue it has been a resounding success.

Label: Pax Aeternum
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills