San Francisco is just going to have to be one of those places where the residual spirit of the Summer of Love saturates all creative endeavors until further notice. If only it were ignorable rehash, it might be easier to forgo the intense listening regimen that perhaps more sophisticated recordings might call for. As it stands, the value of Bay Area scrappy garage-pop isn’t exactly at a premium; luckily, The Mantles are avoiding the inflation of a saturated market.
Long Enough to Leave, the quartet’s second studio album, is also coyly devoid of the trappings of the psych revival, too, adroitly eschewing macabre, cosmic melodies for smart pop hooks and peppy guitar numbers. Opener “Marbled Birds” is one such example, with vocalist Michael Olivares’ quivery yelps peppering a fun summertime shimmy. The album, by and large, plays like a live recording; somewhat endearingly sloppy performances add to the authenticity of a band whose honest songwriting is more important than any flash-in-the-pan posturing.
The album’s second single, “Hello,” sounds like a postcard from Davy Jones’ grave. Olivares often channels neo-Brit annunciations that go swimmingly with The Mantles’ Invasion-era garage-pop. Refrains like “Maybe you can help me get out of here and reappear somewhere else” set up wry winks to a nostalgic homage without sounding overtly plagiarized. And sure, “Brown Balloon” is at its heart a jangly pop-rock song, dripping with splashy drums, vintage-y reverbed guitars and a saccharine-sweet melody. Ignoring that it isn’t exactly a mold-breaker is easy because the song is so great, and that seems to be the overarching motif of the album, intended or not.
The fact that Long Enough to Leave is only the latest album from a band whose identity is essentially mired in the guts of a musical expression that’s seen its fair cycle of revivals is unfortunate, but that doesn’t mean The Mantles’ creative fortitude ought to be completely overlooked.