Listen to Good Photography, the punchy debut album from local indie-punk trio Mechanical Canine
Last month, local indie trio Mechanical Caninereleased their debut Good Photography, an album full of enthusiastic punk flare and intense instrumental performances. The band is made up of three college students – singer/guitarist James Walsh, bassist Jonathon Herroon, and guitarist Eric Kholenstein – who began playing together in 2017 and released their first EP, Magellan, in October 2018. According to Walsh, the three bandmates tracked and mixed Good Photography together in the studios at Drexel University, and Kholenstein completed the mastering while he was living abroad in Australia. Before putting out Good Photography in full, they released the two-sided single “Souter / Most Important Thing” back in December.
The young band clearly put a lot of love into this album, building a compelling set of songs that blend the energies of alt rock, heavy indie punk, shoegaze and a bit of prog. Throughout, Walsh sings quirky, vulnerable verses about youth and its opposites; he confronts bullies and doubters, what’s childish and what’s right. “The Most Important Thing In The World” feels like a lyrical centerpiece, stretched out into a two-part saga (longer than the version on December’s single) complete with spoken monologues. While the front half sounds something like upbeat Hüsker Dü, the slower back half reminds me of Funeral-era Arcade Fire, earnest and firm. “I’m pretty sure empathy’s the most important thing in the world / No, I know empathy’s the most important thing in the world,” Walsh relates through a buzzing microphone.
Another highlight is the opening track, “The Deacon,” on which Walsh remembers wearing a robe and sitting awkwardly in the church pews on his confirmation day – “the most dishonest day of my life.” The progressive song structure on this cut leaves room for a high-octane outro that showcases the band’s impressive chops, including Kholenstein’s fiery guitar playing. Elsewhere, shorter tracks like “Absent” and the one-minute party-starter “Souter” reveal the young trio’s zany disposition and round out the album’s character.
Mechanical Canine demonstrate plenty of enthusiasm for the album format on Good Photography, fitting the first five tracks tightly together so that the end of each sets up the beginning of the next. The soft moments of reflection during “But Secretly (It Is)” prove that the three musicians are paying close attention to the arc of the tracklist – and after this, they keep the energy high all the way through to the end, concluding with a somber ballad about self-confidence, “Have Some.”
After listening to the album from start to finish, I’m convinced that the band must love ripping through these songs in sequence, one right after the other, during their live shows. These recordings have the immediacy of a live set, too, thanks to mixes that are thicker and more cohesive compared to those on their debut EP.
Walsh tells The Key that Mechanical Canine do not have any live shows coming up, but they hope to tour soon after this spring’s COVID-19 quarantine period ends. Good Photography came out February 28th on Fire Hazard Records, a label founded by Mechanical Canine bassist Jonathon Herroon in December 2019. The album is available online now as a free download and in CD / LP format at firehazardrecords.com.