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August 2020
Album review

City Mouth - Coping Machine

A perfect pop album dressed in a Hot Topic wardrobe.
Label: Take This To Heart
Rating: ★★★★
City Mouth - Coping Machine
Published: 4:42 pm, July 29, 2020Words: Rob Mair.

Hailing from Chicago, City Mouth are the latest in a long line of bands from the city to marry emo sensibilities with memorable pop-rock hooks. Like Lucky Boys Confusion or Fall Out Boy before them, they're also not afraid of mixing up genres, bringing in electronica and power-pop to build a sound that is instantly beguiling yet tantalisingly hard to pigeonhole.

Some of this can be attributed to vocalist Matt Pow's semi-spoken-word delivery, which adds a contemporary pop-sheen to the group's indie sound, while the love for easy-on-the-ear melodies and sincere songwriting owes a debt of gratitude to The Format or Motion City Soundtrack.

When thrown together, it means 'Coping Machine' is a garish kaleidoscope of contrasting ideas which comes off like the world's greatest Emo Night. Labelling themselves as 'loud pop for sad kids', the quartet buzz with kinetic energy throughout, yet never lose sight of the fact that even sad music can be fun – like when they're name-checking Julien Baker while crying in the car on 'Sanity for Summer'.

It's a trick gleefully repeated, too, with the group's lyrical earnestness often offset by their love of three-minute pop masterpieces. Opener' Sinking' might take a while to find its groove, for example, but a cool finger-clicking intro and riotous keys make it a delightful introduction, while the title track recalls the mid-paced glacial sheen of The Postal Service at their lovelorn best.

Amongst all the glitz, there are also some strikingly poignant moments. 'Parking Lot' and 'Quit While I'm Ahead' show the group's knack for penning songs that explore self-doubt and personal growth, while 'If Your Not' possesses a cleverly constructed lyric about the passing of time being a synonym for losing touch, which is striking in its simplicity.

And this is the beauty of City Mouth. Pop music doesn't have to be derivative, just as emo doesn't need to be tortured metaphors, making 'Coping Machine' a deft sleight-of-hand by a team of master magicians; a perfect pop album dressed in a Hot Topic wardrobe.


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