Pale Monsters – Are You Feeling Alive?
By: Mike Yoder
Boston’s Pale Monsters first hit public notice with their 2016 debut EP Take What You Can Take and immediately garnered praise for their boisterous and often emotional indie rock sound. Chris Mulvey is the primary songwriting force behind the project, but you never experience any sense that Pale Monsters is some sort of glorified solo vehicle instead of a genuine band. Indeed, Pale Monsters sounds like they’ve been playing together a lot longer than two years. There’s an assortment of moods scattered over the course of the album’s ten songs, but there’s an unity of sound and technique that helps tie these seemingly disparate strands into a single cohesive thread. Are You Feeling Alive? is definitely alive and sounds inspired throughout much of the recording. Chris Mulvey and his band mates will make some considerable waves with this release.
Pale Monsters aren’t the sort of band to craft anthems, but “All This Time We Wait” comes close with its bracing stride, physical sound, and particularly effective vocals from Mulvey. The rhythm section of bassist Kevin McGrath and drummer Travis Richter are key cogs in the band’s success on much of the collection and particularly on songs like the opener and the second song “Pale Monsters”. Any of the anthemic trappings we hear on the opener are utterly absent here and replaced with a much more overt alternative rock sensibility that, nevertheless, stakes out more of its territory as the band’s own. Mulvey has far from a classically beautiful voice, but his ability for manifesting emotion really makes the opening tandem spark to life. “The Dead” is one of the more thoughtful tunes, especially musically, on Are You Feeling Alive? and illustrates how well they incorporate synth sounds into their indie rock slant.
“Bombs Away” is a wholly unexpected addition to the release thanks to the fact it’s an instrumental, but it never strikes me as something tossed on here as an afterthought; instead, this shows how the band doesn’t need any lyrics and has ample talent to craft a stand-alone musical narrative. “Buzzed Out”, as the title implies, is a rollicking guitar based tune with more than enough attitude to carry the day while the next track, “I Don’t ReallyWanna Care No More”, may strike some as the album’s true climax thanks to its outstanding, creative arrangement and the depth of emotion, but the album’s final two tracks “Fine” and “Gone” embody a considered falling action if it’s so – the uncluttered guitar work between Mulvey and second guitarist Mike Ward hits the right mood here while “Gone” relies much more heavily on synths and dramatic percussion for a spartan first half. It culminates nicely, but in a tasteful and artistic way. Pale Monsters’ first full length studio album is an impressive songwriting and musical work from first to last and it solidifies them as one of the indie scene’s most promising outfits.