On their debut for Western Vinyl, recording engineer and multi-instrumentalist Nate Mendelsohn and his band use lyrical maximalism for the powers of good. Where Market’s previous home recorded releases shifted genre restlessly, on The Consistent Brutal Bullshit Gong Mendelsohn took a core band of longtime collaborators to a house in rural Massachusetts where they carved out space for his words to speak through with humor and intensity.
Though he comes from a background in experimental music, Mendelsohn’s ear for pop has prevailed. Certain moments on Bullshit Gong reveal his stranger side, as on the thundering bridge of “Scar,” which sounds like a more unhinged Parquet Courts, or the angular “I Would Do That,” which takes cues from Cate Le Bon. On the whole, though, this band of close friends insists on directness, their arrangements clear despite the intricacies. Guitars and synthesizers tangle fluidly atop the rhythm section’s tight bedrock, evoking the tenderness and backbeat-centric qualities of Elliott Smith or Big Thief.
After college, where he met most of the members of Market, Mendelsohn became an engineer and producer at the Brooklyn studio Figure 8 Recording. Through that community he’s recorded artists like Frankie Cosmos and Wendy Eisenberg, and played with Yaeji, Vagabon, Katie Von Schleicher (who co-produced Bullshit Gong with him), and Sam Evian, who mixed the album.
Creating intimacy out of manic self-reflection requires a delicate balancing act, one Mendelsohn tackles with abandon. His words never skew too poetic or grandiose, and when he invokes the ugly it’s met with a sonic tonality that sets him right again. In tender moments, his voice is often flanked by bandmates Natasha Thweatt or Von Schleicher, who help skew his words toward the universal. Still, Bullshit Gong is an obsessive look inward, one in which Mendelsohn simply asks himself if he is good to those he loves. It’s an act of trust between the artist and the imagined listener he takes with him.