Don't Be LongRise Records
By Cole Faulkner
From their Panic Records beginnings through their tenure on Paper + Plastick Records, West Hartford, Connecticut gruff punk-rockers Make Do And Mend have emerged from an initial spark into a full burning flame. Manning such a fierce fire, it was only a matter of time before the zealous talent scouts at Rise Records added the quartet to the contemporary home of long-running influence Hot Water Music.
But even with James Carroll’s gravel-coated, throatful bellows, their next step, Everything You Ever Loved, initiated a stylistic divergence that infused increased melody at a price. The culprit was an age old offender that often rears it’s head when upshifting labels: a misalignment in production. The band’s ambition veered away from rugged emotionalism, in favour of a somewhat glossy, less personal finish. But the band’s latest full length, Don’t Be Long, addresses these growing pains while maintaining the strong hooks set forth in Everything You Ever Loved.
Put simply, Make Do And Mend pulls diversely from their collective bag of tricks, ensuring that Don’t Be Long maintains forward momentum while rummaging insightfully through their back catalogue. Take the abrasive and dark howls of the opener and title track. Carroll keeps things coarse and rugged with a constant wave of crunching riffs against Mike O’Toole’s soaring guitar lead. As echoed later in “Bluff,” the song leans most heavily on the band’s hardcore elements, reassuring the old crew that they won’t be neglecting what originally drew in long time fans. From there, “Ever Since” teases forthcoming stylistic hybrids with various shifts in tempo and overall approach. Carroll employs his cleaner, more immediately emotional vocal personae all the while lightly peppering the chorus with a sprinkling of piano notes and periodic instrumental reserve. Not long after the full depth of character begins unravelling. “Sin Amor” perhaps best encompasses the full scope of Don’t Be Long in one go, sending listeners on a post-hardcore pilgrimage of fluctuating sonic intake.
Perhaps the most exciting resurgence rests in the minimalist call of “I Don’t Wonder At All” and “Waiting For The Sun To Come Down.” While stylistically both fringe items veering from Make Do And Mend’s “tough-guy” outlook, they retreat from the safety of heavy riffs and into the realm of the band’s Part & Parcel EP’s grand acoustic experiment. The former strips down to an acoustic base with a dash of plugged in chords fueling the weight of raw and exposed mood, while the latter plays out a vulnerable, melancholy two-minute instrumental outro on a weighted, remorseful note.
Don’t Be Long finds Make Do And Mend drawing upon many of the same conventions as found in Everything You Ever Loved, but with more honesty, grit and purpose. A rawer but still highly polished outlook ensures that both highs and lows feel sincere and insightful – Don’t Be Long is the next big step for Make Do And Mend. Whether or not the hard nosed four-piece ever breaks into mainstream consciousness, Don’t Be Long will likely be remembered as a career turning point similar to that of Rise Against’s comparable leap in confidence that accompanied their label upshift Siren Song of the Counter Culture – Make Do And Mend just needed a second try to make the jump.