Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Shawn Biggs
A young man stands stone-faced on the cover on The Mantles self-titled debut album. He's dressed in a chocolate-colored, button-up shirt and a brown, tweed blazer, in front of a scenic backdrop of forested foothills and a lush valley, holding onto a photograph of Jimi Hendrix. The young man is out of focus, with his soft lines and those of the mountains and sky around him making everything feel as if it's been melted together. He looks as if he believes in something. He looks as if he has convictions and will be purposeful in everything that he does from that day on. He looks as if he has a dog-eared paperback - Huxley's "Brave New World" or something like that - tucked into his hind pocket. He looks as if he's got the world - his small portion of the world - by the horns and he's holding onto it. We don't know who he is, but the picture is fascinating. He represents a resilient form of youth - one that's grown out of being completely naïve about the way that it is and yet still stubbornly blissful. The music that The Mantles wrote and recorded for this record - all fuzzy and dreamy -- is much the same way. It refuses to be child-like just as much as it refuses to be too mature, instead, maintaining a middle ground between ideals and reality. Many songs on the record are quick to cast doubts at relationships or just how things are going to turn out, often suggesting that "you know how it's going to be in the end." It's as if something is nothing only because it might not last forever - nothing holding any salvage value. Eyes get turned from one person. We see lovers walking out the door and then away, gone forever into the past. We hear the loss, but we hear what's worth not losing too and we'd put that Hendrix picture, that look on the young man on the cover's face and that awe-inspiring landscape behind him into that category. The Mantles are like the rest of us, it's plain to see. They view the glass as half-full some of their days and they view that same glass as half-empty the other days. It goes back and forth. One day, love is going to conquer all and we've got things good, better than we should have them (in "What We Do Matters") and the next day, love's just a bad hangover or it's an empty pit the size of your stomach (in "Look Away" or "Disappearing Act"). There's not much to do about it. It's just a game of addition and retraction, a juggling act that requires a suspension of all our good sense and forces us to put on a good face for the time being.