Amazingly enough, The Mabuses have been kicking it around now for nearly two decades. They released their first album clear back in 1991, and it's been about thirteen years since their previous album (Melbourne Method in 1994) came out. Lead man Kim Fahy has long had a fondness for Syd Barrett, so the explanation of their absence could be either crazy or completely mundane. It seems that no expense has been spared in reintroducing them to the world, as Mabused comes housed in one of the more stunning digipacks I've seen lately, complete with die-cuts and giant fold-out poster/lyric sheet.
Musically, the group is all over the map, with everything from layered UK pop ala Andy Partridge to fuzzy, psych-laced power rock. Opening track "Dark Star" is a perfect oddity, moving along with warm guitars, little string swoops, spoken-word samples, and chipper woodwinds while Fahy adds breathy vocals. It's one of the best songs on the release, and one of those rare tracks that's buoyant enough to pick you up just about any time. "Seasider" is a bit more power pop, with layers of jangling guitars that stomp along with piano and a simple rhythm section for just under three minutes while "Sugarland" is another stunner, mixing acoustic guitar and wispy lap steel into a reverb-drenched Simon And Garfunkel-esque treat (albeit with some weird trimmings).
In other places, the kitchen-sink approach throws a bit of a monkey-wrench into songs that would probably be just fine without all the additions. "Mirth" is another woodwind-touched orchestral pop track in the vein of the opener, but in places on the track, the group inserts a sample of an old blues record (presumably) and it just throws things off the rails a bit. Likewise, "June" sounds almost completely out-of-place on the release as it thunders with huge programmed beats and loud guitars that push it into pretty mainstream sounding rock mode (before it drops off into a section with organs and samples of a Native American chant).
With artwork that's somewhere between Monty Python and Sgt. Peppers, it seems that the group definitely has a vibe that they're going for, but as mentioned above, the almost random nature of many sound inclusions sometimes work to the detriment of the album itself. As a whole, there are many songs on the release that work quite well (and even stand out in a big way in places), but it's also a frustrating listen at times because of the overall embrace of just about every style under the sun. Considering the drastic change in style from their previous incarnation and how long it's been since the group released an album, it feels to just be a bit of overcompensation.