As with most contemporary garage rock, Long Enough to Leave can perhaps be most efficiently described by highlighting which 60′s bands it ostensibly draws the largest influence from. The immediate conclusion would be The Byrds, whose influence can be felt in every jangled chord and stunted vocal delivery. The comparison, however, is a reference point that quickly looses relevance as the album progresses. In reality, this is a record that owes more to Syd Barrett‘s insular, psychologically damaged strain of psychedelia – a melancholy and isolated call for help. It’s this melancholic edge that separates it from many of its contemporaries. While artists like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segal Band become broader, more confident and bombastic, The Mantles have retreated further into their bedrooms and started listening to Galaxie 500 and the Violent Femmes.
It’s a strange juxtaposition of style and substance that The Mantles have balanced on Long Enough To Leave, where the melodies, jangling guitar and tambourines belie the isolation in its lyrical content. Every bouncing rhythm and major harmony has a weight that drags it downward. It would almost be tempting to treat this as a sort of irony but for the sincerity that each song is performed with.
Separation permeates this album. Through it’s production, lyrical content and delivery, it comes across less of a statement of intent than a confessional whisper. A letter to nobody, self-effacing and anxiety ridden. “This isn’t me”, insists Olivares on ‘Brown Balloon’ , “this is happening to someone else.” Pensive, self-pitying and unsure of its place in the world, this record is stuff the best kind of teenage angst is made of. It is an album that talks of escape and disappearing. From what and to where, it isn’t entirely clear. It would appear the reasons are as equally interior as external, and this tension is felt throughout, it lingers on every mumbled lyric and rings out of every mishit note. As catchy as it is crushing, it is almost impossible not to feel even a pang of sympathy, even though the lyrics ask for none.
It is a strange melting pot which has thrown out some of the songs on this album. Equal parts Nuggets era-psych as it is The Cure and The Smiths, it is certainly an interesting avenue of songwriting they’ve chosen to explore. As with most exploration, however, there are missteps and wrong directions. Some of the production obscures the more intricate harmonic moments on the album and there are a few instances that beg to break, only to retreat back in on themselves. But then, perhaps for an album so isolated,doubting and unsure, these ‘missteps’ are a representation of an inner turmoil – a damaged photo-negative of the Flower Power pop that informs it, barely recognisable in the dark.