It has been a long time coming for Leigh Gregorys solo studio moniker-turned band Mellow Drunk. The San Francisco outfit hasnt put out a full-length record since 2003s Never Sleep At Night, leaving fans with a peppered trail of EPs to help pass the time. While previous albums have been heavy on chord structure with short punctuated songs, their latest, One Thousand Lights, shows a departure from that formula. It’s this developed sound that leaves you with a longer-lasting taste, and shows us just what the trio has been up to for the past six years.
The record begins with a throw back to that other brand of 90s alternative–not the kind that has been plastered all over rock radio, but of the college scene. Cut Me To Pieces calls back that eras finest stoner rock, combining drone with psychedelic grunge that’s not too far off from Mellow Drunk’s earlier material. The differences here are subtly hidden in the song structure and provide a fake-out for the rest of the album, which is more in tune with Pink Floyd and The Church than who they’ve been compared to as of late. Nonetheless, it’s a supercharged song that should provide some nostalgia for any Gen-X’er listening. Where the record goes next, however, is somewhere completely different and could be seen as an experimental change. Rock anthems are traded for longer, more thought out song structures, while smoother textures are combined with hints of indie pop that make tracks like From My Window change any previous impressions made beforehand.
The Floyd chops come out with a serious punch for one of the best tracks on the record, This Is No Dream. Gregorys whispering drone fits perfectly within the harmonious and sleepy guitar slides from Ricky Rene Maymi, formerly of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Butterfly and If Only I Could Change round out the best of list by adding long, reverberated introductions that straddle the gap between structured rock and jam session. The first of which lays a beautiful, sonic guitar melody/solo that takes over the song and brings it home
When taking the band at face value, you tend to overlook exactly what Gregory is talking about, but from a lyrical point of view it seems that the man has turned this record, like all the others, into another big red couch. Even after decades of searching, he still seems to feel lost within his own life, still struggling to find meaning. This couldn’t be made more clear than on the organ driven, bar rock, album closer Nostalgia, in which he sings: Everyones moved out, and Im stuck here in this town. These are the closing words, a saddening cry, if you will, for someone feeling left behind. The record finishes closer to where it started giving a feeling of coming full circle. Im not sure if this is the right soundtrack to a drunken night, but if it were, it would be one where the alcohol was more an agent of lonesome self-medication than social lubricant.
In the vast sea of great, but forgotten bands, Mellow Drunk is holding on to the lifeboat. This is in no way a comment on the music, but rather the state of how life is. One Thousand Lights is easily their best work to date proving once more that this band deserves more credit and recognition than there are getting. The record is a sleeper hit for the ages, one that I personally will keep on rotation for years to come.