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Mock Orange Puts an Edge on ‘Indie Rock’

October 4, 2008

By KATE DARBY Courier & Press correspondent

The “indie rock” tag often becomes an albatross for innovative musicians; bands feel that they need to conform to the sound ascribed to the genre, which is tending more and more toward a depressed, slow sound.

Local band Mock Orange, however, maintains originality within that label, using vast, beguiling, complicated musical arrangements coupled with sharp, smart songwriting.

This month, the band returns not only to the music scene with a new album, “Captain Love” (Wednesday Records), but also to Evansville, finishing its tour at the Duck Inn on Saturday.

The band, comprised of Ryan Grisham (vocals, guitar), Joe Asher (guitar), Zach Grace (bass), and Heath Metzger (drums) was formed in Evansville and released its first album, “Nines & Sixes,” a decade ago.

There have been obstacles.

The band’s record label, Dead Droid Records, was sued by George Lucas for copyright infringement in 2002, leaving it without a label. But it has gained international success, with fans as far as Japan, and critical respect.

Alternative Press called the band’s 2004 album, “Mind is Not Brain,”"the closest to a perfect album we’ve heard in a long time.”

Some of the band’s songs may also sound familiar because of its

television promotions: As well as having performed live on MTV2, Mock Orange also has had songs featured on popular TV shows, such as “CSI: Miami” and MTV’s “Real World,” and events on ESPN.

Such praise puts a lot of pressure on a follow-up, but “Captain Love,” released on Sept. 9, plows through the expectations by further evolving the sounds and atmosphere of “Mind Is Not Brain.”

The album was recorded in Nashville, Tenn., with producer Jeremy Ferguson, who has recently worked with Josh Rouse and Be Your Own Pet.

“Song in D,” for example, uses swelling guitars that are reminiscent of the Eastern sounds in former Beatle George Harrison’s later work. However, none of the tracks linger; they are concise, and it quickly becomes clear that they have carved out an original voice.

Grisham’s vocals have an ethereal quality that underscores the lyrics without overpowering them; even in songs such as “Lila,” which has a cast including a man, a woman, God and Jesus, the lyrics seem down-to-earth and conversational.

The music is equally impressive. Mock Orange has been together long enough to anticipate the needs of a song, and it shows on new tracks, such as “World of Machines.”

The driving introduction and steady percussion seem mechanical.

Though it has been a while since it has performed in the Evansville area, Mock Orange’s return to the Duck Inn should be exciting both for people who have seen them perform and for new fans.

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