People are slowly coming to the realization that two instruments are all you really need to rock out. If it's true that a two-piece band can be limiting, it's also true that a two-piece band can be very empowering. From The White Stripes to Duotang to Hella to the Inbreds, there's already plenty of proof out there for those who would seek it.
Mates Of State are another dynamic duo who set themselves apart both in their choice of instruments and in their songwriting style. Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner are a married couple based in San Francisco who have built up a reputation on catchy pop music and sweet dueling vocal melodies. No gimmicks, just great songs that speak for themselves. The interesting thing is that there isn't a guitar between them: he plays drums and she plays a vintage Yamaha organ, and that's all they need to keep the listener hooked.
The full out power and creativity of their playing masks the fact that there are only two musicians... in fact, before I read the bio the thought didn't even cross my mind. It also helps when they throw some extra instrumentation into the recordings, for example the smooth trumpets in Whiner's Bio, the handclaps in Open Book, not to mention the piano, viola, glockenspiel and other percussion sprinkled elsewhere on the record.
This album will grab you right off the bat with the joyous sing along vocals and youthful energy of "Ha Ha", setting pace for the punchy rhythms and rapid changes that follow. Some songs seem to flow better than others but somehow the many jumps in tempo and sound make for an exciting "cut and paste" style of songwriting that is rather unique to Mates Of State music.
If the album has a stumbling point it is probably the momentary loss of momentum in the songs "Parachutes (Funeral Song)" and "An Experiment"; their lack of any real hooks and generally aimless feel serve up a bit of filler in the middle of the album's other pop gems.
While I haven't heard all of the previous Mates Of State recordings, I can say that Team Boo picks up pretty close to where Our Constant Concern left off. Long time fans will not be disappointed, and newcomers will wonder how they could have ever lived without the Mates for so long. Team Boo comes highly recommended, especially for anyone who has a soft spot for organs and immediately addictive pop songs
By Sean Dwyer
Nov 30, 2003