Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond (Other Music)
By Scott Creney
If you’re going to watch slanted autumnal sunlight streaming through the branches and into your eyes, you won’t find a better album to soundtrack your crisp intakes of breath than the debut album from Mutual Benefit.
Or you could just watch a car commercial on TV. Mutual Benefit deals in sentimental prettiness, that succeeds in sentiment as well as its prettiness. Anyone looking for more will be underwhelmed, but when sentimental prettiness is done this well, it feels churlish to ask for more.
The string and vocal arrangements bring to mind Disney at its sweetest, or Van Dyke Parks at his straightest. The record doesn’t have a cynical, angry, insincere bone in its vinyl. Romantic pastoralism abounds in its most literal sense—a retreat, an escape from urban/suburban dread. In a better world, Mutual Benefit songwriter Jordan Lee could have crafted a Midsummer Night’s Dream universe of magic and escapism, misplaced identity and puckish confusion. But that’s beyond his capabilities, for now. I’m not ruling anything out in the future.
So we’re left with a lyrical existence where losing one’s job is a liberation from the mundane, rather than a harrowing descent into fear and anxiety, where the narrator travels by train as banjos pluck behind him. Here, take my impromptu Mutual Benefit lyrical quiz.
1) On track 5, the singers say their hearts are:
a) engorged with fetal blood
b) a mass of plasma spasming delight
If you picked c, then you’re starting to get the idea. Let’s do one more.
2) On track 6, the singer is underneath what kind of tree?
b) dead and burning
You get the idea (if you need me to tell you it’s c again, then either you’re not paying attention, or I’m being too subtle).
Look, I’m not saying LCD sucks. At its best, as on the hushed cacophony of opener ‘Strong River’, LCD is almost consciousness-expanding. At its worst, it fleetingly sounds like the fleetest of foxes cloying at you with their clumsy lead feet. If you’re in the wrong mood it will make you want to vomit. If you’re in the right mood it will make you weep incandescent tears.
And while Jordan Lee should keep in mind that you only get one chance to skate by on youthful naivete, that eventually the dreamer wakes up, he has the potential to make a uniquely singular work of art. Love’s Crushing Diamond isn’t that album, but you’d be a fool not to keep watching.