Somewhere within the hard-hitting flow of One Way Ticket to Midnight, the brilliant, feisty and ultra-ambitious – not to mention, crisply time-economical – debut full length album by Denver indie rockers Mainland Break, there’s an overriding theme we’re urged to track and follow.
Considered cinematically, it opens at sundown on a lonely night of introspection where our protagonist is “Calling After,” thinking about a long-lost summer love (where “you were pulling at strings trying to unravel me” – and wraps nine incredible, insightful tracks later with a longing for sunrise but instead trying his darndest to remember the good times of yore and asking someone, anyone to “Help me remember, I will remember.” Yet by design, the band - Evan Oliver (vocals, acoustic guitar, keys), Kevin Kohl (vocals, bass), Travis Rice (guitar, synth), Ian Gassman (guitar) and Steven Henning (drums) – is so determined to let the summery guitars jingle jangle and the propulsive drums get us grooving with a summer vibin’ playfulness that the heavy, often charmingly cryptic narratives are easy to overlook or push aside amidst the joy and sunshine.
Those willing to delve deep into the poetry behind the sparkler and shimmer will be greatly rewarded with semi-autobiographical adventures like the booming “Portland”, which is ostensibly about the distance between pals, but literally about one of the guys moving to Oregon for work; the dreamy 60’s flavored bustle of “Talking in the Cinema,” about a couple in Prague (observed by bassist Kohl) using foreign film dialogue to facilitate connection with each other; and the power pop/rock driven title track, a tune set in the heart of the long night that reflects deep and enduring yet fragile friendship.
Perhaps the most fascinating tune is the throbbing “Replacements,” which uses sly references to the, shall we say colorful history of the band The Replacements to make finer points about the ego-driven human tendency to foolishly toss precious people and things aside, which has a “permanent effect for which there is no substitute.” Oliver sings “Replace me and replace you/Settling for substitutes” with a slightly angry tone, but in such a way as to convey that this kind of wrongheaded insanity will with any luck, never happen to Mainland Break.
Produced by Mark Anderson (Sylvan Esso), One Way Ticket to Midnight’s two lead singles – “Calling After” and the title track – now have videos to help the listeners feel the camaraderie of the cheery music even in the midst of the tense storytelling.