Fast Behind the Times is the second album from Glasgow band Hercules Mandarin. Their first album was well received here at Bluesbunny Towers but what of this new offering?
Listening to it for the first time, you might, with just cause, think to yourself that this is an album with distinct mainstream appeal. Not to the "kids", I would hazard for this is not an album that follows trends. Time and money hasn't been wasted on haircuts here. The effort has been made where it counts - the songs. Seasoned with just the right amount of quirkiness - for example, "… pteryodactyls start to fall out of the sky" in the opening song "Long Before Time", it is an album that rewards repeated plays. Elegant and intense songs like "Throughout Your Mind's Decline" are in the majority here and they are matched with elegant and intense musicianship with Cat Calton's contributions being a particular pleasure. You're not getting short changed anywhere here. Favourites? I'd choose the hauntingly beautiful "Move Slow" and - even I might consider waving a lighter in the air to this one - "Always Never".
True, this album is less immediate than its predecessor but it compensates for that with an unexpected maturity. The songs are strong and the arrangements are imaginative and supportive. Chris Rodger's voice has become more distinctive and his delivery notably more confident as well, providing the icing on this musically and emotionally satisfying cake. There's another key factor. Nobody shows off here. They just make it all work and perhaps that is the reason why the songs on this album gel so well. Two thumbs up, five carrots - you get the picture by now.