Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.
Minneapolis-based The Melismatics aren’t the first band to wholeheartedly embrace the 1980s, but they might be the one to bring new wave back to the top of the charts. Initially, the commercial sheen on their latest effort, Mania!, is off-putting, but the music’s charms grow stronger and more diverse with each listen. Guitarist-keyboards player Ryan Smith and guitarist- keyboards player Pony (AKA Kathie Hixon-Smith) trade off on lead vocals, amidst an energetic swirl of guitars and synthesizers. Jon Auer of The Posies produced over half of the tracks (veteran indie producer Ed Ackerson did the others) and sings back-up on six songs.
Chief songwriter Ryan Smith explores the untrustworthy nature of relationships on “Divided Devotions,” one of the CD’s potential hit singles, and the bitter “Out Of Yer Mind,” co-written with Dan Wilson, has the lines, “Which side are you on?/I don’t think you even know.” Hixon-Smith’s vocals on the irresistible “Your Love Is A Poison” recall the sexy fun of Missing Persons. The Melismatics nail social satire on “Theez Daze” with lines like, “It’s a long way to the bottom, but we’re getting closer,” and aim for the club scene with the monster synth beats on the bonus track, “Divided Devotions (DRA Remix).”