The 2000s are being called the decade of indie rock, but the type of music I associate with the term had its peak in the late '90s. That's when bands like Braid, Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse were marrying the angular guitar chords and odd song structures of post-punk with strong melodies. The best indie rock sounded experimental and exciting while still being accessible and interesting. Perth band Mukaizake nail this winning formula on their sophomore EP, Unknown Knowns.
They start off with the propulsive single "Yeah Conditioner," which balances their math-rock leanings and jagged guitars with singer Geoffrey Symons' yearning vocals. "Rule Norse" features a less arithmetically inclined song structure. "Frisbee," with its gentle beauty and absurd/obtuse lines like "there's a parachute inside your soul" recalls The Promise Ring, while "My Friend Flicker" has an Americana feel to it. The EP ends with the ballad "Slack Bees," a perfect indie rock makeout song if ever there was one.
As with many indie bands, the lyrics are deliberately obscure and ambiguous. The meaning of the songs is conveyed in the way Symons sings them and the snippets you can make out. Put on paper, the lyrics probably wouldn't be too impressive, but they work in the songs. More impressive is the tension in all of the tracks between melody and dissonance. Melody always wins, but Mukaizake does an excellent job of adding jagged edges to their songs.
Mukaizake's '90s influence may be due in part to the fact that the band was formed in 1999. That certainly puts them in the age bracket that guarantees that at least some of the Jade Tree Records catalog has ended up in their collections. They put out their debut record, Mapping the Static, in 2003, and waited six years to put out Unknown Knowns. That averages out to a song a year, which doesn't bode well for a prolific future from the band. The upside is that all six songs on the EP are keepers, with no toss-offs or duds. Unknown Knowns hearkens back to a time when indie rock was discovered by buying seven-inches, not downloading MP3s. It is a prime example of indie rock done right, and I can only hope that the band is working on a full-length.