Disbelief follows the first listen of Come On Live Long's new EP Mender: it spans just 20 minutes but in that time manages more costume changes than a catwalk model. Rather than use the relative youth of the band as an excuse for making mistakes, Come On Live Long have instead embraced the opportunity to be ambitious, energetic and vigorous in their compositions, all the while exercising restraint and control.
This intention is clear from the first bar of the opening track 'Elephants And Time' with its swirling intro and rapid-fire drum tattoo that shifts within itself, as vocals harmonise, to immediately mark out a desire to intrigue as well as entertain the listener. The band could build a serious reputation for rhythm and melody on the basis of this track alone. It adapts and grows from itself, with the bass used to tremendous effect, particularly when a magnificent grungey heaviness tops the final of its full five minutes.
'Guatemala' had its work cut out to follow 'Elephant's massive footprints but by changing tack entirely, it hears the band settle into a form they feel comfortable with, moving into defined rock while retaining the quirky melodic delight of its predecessor. 'Guatemala' is more formulaic and steady in progression, and it's here that James Eager's keen ear and eye for detail comes to the fore. It's doubtful that Mender would sound so hefty and strong if Come On Live Long had gone elsewhere; there's crunch, prickle and rasp in the mix that softer hands would have made to shimmer artificially.
'White Horses', reined in with a fine vocal and slow tempo, harks back to powerful, classic rock while moving forward with oddly-complementary electronic insertions that almost bring it to a standstill.
'Someone's Home' doesn't seem serious yet acts as a bookend to the first track, the perfect closer as we hear it flit through forms again. A rising hum and picked strings introduce us before the kickdrum boots forward into a funk-fused singalong that is coaxed to dancy fullness. There are vocal bridges that ring out, then a massive guitar/cymbal section before a slow finale 4/4 drum crescendo that verges on sublime. It's a fitting way to end as the entire EP seems pinned around artful, simple rhythms and the right balance of melody in the arrangements.
What's curious about Mender is the fact that 'Elephants And Time'and 'Someone's Home' show that Come On Live Long use them as a portfolios of their abilities and range of influence, in order to impress, but counter this with genuine rock that justifies the 'Alternative' tag. Part business, part indulgence makes for something truly exciting. There is currently no real audience for this type of Irish music that encompasses electronica, pop and rock without diluting the aesthetic properties of the genres, and Mender is a gloriously risky listen that will mark them out as a dynamic force of Ireland's new alternative bands to watch in 2012.