Speaking of introductions, let’s get to some. We have Andrew Colin Beck on co-lead vocals, Rob on guitar/keys and the other co-lead vocalist, Denney on bass, and from what I can gather, many other instruments, and finally, Ian on drums. They all might look like unathletic variations of Uncle Rico led by Jesus—if Jesus resembled Allen Stone—but let me assure you, they are much more than that. Rather than being stuck in a past, unable to let go of their glory days, they’re an homage to the styles and music that made them into the band they are today.
The lazy thing would be to say that the Mellons are the Beach Boys brought to the 21st century (without the ties to Charlie Manson). I could talk about obvious comparables outside of The Beach Boys such as the Monkees (“Daydream Believer”) or the Turtles (Tired: “Happy Together,” Wired: “Makin’ My Mind Up” or any other song besides “Happy Together”). Tommy James and the Shondells (“Dragging the Line”). The Lovin’ Spoonful (“Do You Believe In Magic”). And last but not least, I could talk Sergeant Pepper and the power of psychedelics, the influence of flower power, and the 1960s—from sound to style and how our country could probably benefit from a modern equivalent.*
So I won’t bore you with rhetoric of bands long gone but clearly not forgotten. As the band says in their song, "So Much to Say," I want to go deeper. So deep that I wanted to answer the one question that has plagued mankind since our inception:
What is the meaning of life?
Some believe the answer lies in religion. Others believe that the answer is that there is no answer—life is meaningless. I believe there is a very simple answer, found by answering another question:
What’s the elvish word for friend? Mellon.
I actually believe therein lies the answer. After listening to this album, I would like to make the argument that the meaning of life is to do what we love with those we love. Or as 4x New York Times Best-Selling Author Shea Serrano would put it, “I just wanna make cool shit with cool people.”
And the Mellons have surely done that. Watch any one of their music videos, but more importantly listen to their music, and you can tell they are having the time of their lives. You can hear the joy in their harmonies, the way they goof off in music videos with puppets, quoting Dr. Seuss in promo videos, and how the horn arrangements sound like they’re announcing the second coming of our lord and savior: Ewan McGregor framed on an old lady’s wall because she thinks he's Jesus.
And while this album provides the meaning of life, it also provides a litany of absolute bangers.
“Salad Made of Butterflies” is the toboggan chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel in song form but if The Nice Guys was directed by Wes Anderson. You’re going for a late night joy ride under the neon lights, but be careful, you might get whiplash bobbing your head along to the bass line in this song. And then I swear Sir Anthony Hopkins finishes the song with a reading of a poem by the same name, written by none other than the person who inspired “Strawberry Girl.”
And while “Strawberry Girl” is the most endearing track, when I asked Andrew Colin beck who this song was about he answered, “Strawberry girl is a song about a love-witch I met in a psychedelic haze.” That was certainly not the answer I expected, but maybe that’s on me.
“Magic Spell” is a roller coaster. Whether it’s the melody or the bass line, this song takes you up and down in a thrilling ride that leaves you right where you began: delighted.
The fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to listen to this album and be sad. The harmonies on “Devil’s Advocate” alone might earn them a Nobel Peace Prize. As they sing, “what a time to be alive,” in the song by the same title, I add one more out-of-tune harmony to their chorus in agreement.
And while it’s impossible to feel sad while listening to the Mellons, it’s also impossible to feel like you haven’t entered into a completely different world. At the very least, it’s reminiscent of a time before everything and everyone in this country was corrupted by capitalism—a time when only most things were corrupted by capitalism. And on the other extreme, it’s like the scene in The Wizard of Oz where it transitions from black and white to technicolor. The Mellons waste no time introducing you to their world with the title track, beginning with a drumroll and classic late night TV variety show introduction, right into a high-speed TV intro that recalls an image of the band driving a red convertible with cut away action shots and freeze frames of each of the band members.
Mt. Joy insists that Jesus drives an Astro van, and if that’s true—which I believe it is—he’s listening to this album as he’s driving.
I can’t wait to get this album on vinyl and listen to it how it was clearly intended.
*Did I provide enough examples?