It’s been nearly three years since Miss Black America’s God Bless… album was released to widespread critical and cult accolades. Unfortunately, love from Rolling Stone, John Peel, OK! and The Guardian wasn’t quite enough to push the band into the UK’s mainstream record chains with their indie label status. After the group’s initial disintegration, Seymour Glass (guitar, vocals) revived the MBA moniker with a new lineup to fulfill touring commitments in the Netherlands. Terminal is a strange sophomore effort; the three different members inevitably bring a change in sound. New guitarist Mat Anthony’s predilection for ’80s rock adds moments of stadium bombast amongst the shimmering tunes, for example. However, Glass, and his knack for composing inexplicably beautiful indie tunes remain. And Gavin Monaghan’s elusively lush production again provides an apt canvas.
While the energy and intent differ slightly, the ghosts of those on their previous effort are still present. If God Bless… was the sound of a band trying to push its way through the dross, Atari Teenage Riot style, with the best, most explosive and most opinionated songs available, this is a different beast. It’s a group who’ve recognized that modern life is rubbish in parts, but that it doesn’t mean you can’t do something amazing regardless of marketing trends and notions of cool.
Thankfully, in whatever incarnation, MBA are all about the tunes, and sincerity without provoking your gag reflex. There’s the odd moment that taps my indie cynic button (the near power ballad “Reborn” conjures images of a telethon for attention seekers), but that probably says more negative things about me typing analytically than anything else. The vast majority of these thirteen songs are fantastic. “Drowning By Numbers” makes like U2 contributing to the Wayne’s World soundtrack. The fast bits rival “White Riot” for speed. While asserting that “I want won’t get me far,” Glass is talking about throwing walls into themselves and promising to “come back to kiss you goodnight” when his blood is drained. “Dot Dot Dot” lies somewhere between a nuclear Supergrass and Raw Power, perversely ending on the cheesiest solo ever.
The album’s intro, “Terminal One”, with its serene guitar-work, and stunning vocals (think Thom Yorke drinking tar coffee), features the opening line: “The choice is yours to make/because every moment is a new beginning/and the bitter end.” This is a genuine album of the year contender. It’s a record concerned with dancing despite anodyne surroundings, and a scuffed masterpiece from a criminally underrated talent.
Sugar – Copper Blue
Joe Strummer – Rock Art and the X-Ray Style
Nick Hornby – High Fidelity