Pale Monsters – Are You Feeling Alive?
The wicked good first full length outing from Boston’s Pale Monsters frames vocalist and guitarist Chris Mulvey’s songwriting talents in such a gripping way you’re likely to find the collection to be a slightly revelatory listening experience. Are You Feeling Alive? is the natural successor to the band’s debut studio recording, a five track EP entitled Take What You Can Take, and sparks with the same creativity that defined that recording and other single releases. Some of the songs here will be familiar to those already following the band, but they are re-mastered and re-mixed for the full length album and, essentially, are effective revisions of already outstanding songs. Are You Feeling Alive? continues in the band’s burgeoning tradition of raucous yet sensitive indie rock and they dispatch the ten cuts on this release with a sense of purpose we don’t often hear anymore from music like this.
The engine room on these ten songs is really good. Drummer/percussionist Travis Richter and bass player Kevin McGrath distinguish themselves time after time on Are You Feeling Alive? and one of their highlights comes with the first song. “All This Time We Wait” is a relatively simple, straight-forward number and the synthesizer touches are practically effective for ratcheting up the musical drama. “Pale Monsters” does recall the influence of David Bowie, some, and has a sleek urban quality that’s a perfect marriage for the pace of its arrangement. The synths and guitars are particularly effective with this number and the restrained, low-key nature of Mulvey’s singing is a nice contrast with what we’ve heard from other songs. Producer Jon Lupfer shows what an excellent job he does behind the board for Pale Monsters with the song “Everybody (Take What You Can Take)” thanks to his skill at separating the stripped back verses from the song’s rousing choruses and assorted instrumental windups while still keeping the recording steady. “Until the End” has a drink Scotch whiskey and die behind the wheel mentality behind the lyrics that Mulvey really gets over as high stakes content while the churning arrangement contributes to that overall mood.
“Buzzed Out” is one of the best outright punk rock moments on Are You Feeling Alive? and never gives up its energy level after it comes swinging out of its corner. A lot of listeners will regard the album’s eight cut, “I Don’t Really Wanna Care No More”, as the album’s peak moment and it’s definitely a darker, musically more unsettled gem than the previous efforts. Mulvey is committed and engaged on every track, but there’s an indefinably different quality twisting his performance on this tune and making it stick even deeper in listener’s brains. Are You Feeling Alive? ends with a largely synth driven number titled “Gone” and the title is rather self explanatory, but Mulvey’s songwriting never panders to melodrama and his lyrics suit the music quite well. The second studio release from Pale Monsters gives music fans their first expansive view of what the band can do and it’s worth every second.