Mercedes - Resolved

"Mercedes have nothing to do with monkeys as far as I'm aware (which is a shame) and they also have nothing to do with German automobiles (which I'm pleased about). "


Mercedes are from Hartlepool in the North East of England and are surely on their way to becoming the most famous thing to happen in Hartlepool since their townsfolk, of days gone by, hung a monkey in the town square. They thought it was a spy you see. But Mercedes have nothing to do with monkeys as far as I'm aware (which is a shame) and they also have nothing to do with German automobiles (which I'm pleased about). They take their name from James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist" apparently, which I suppose means that they like to read a lot and that is an admirable quality I'm sure you'll agree.


Anyway, their single Here Am I landed through the letterbox of the Incendiary shed last year and we loved it instantly so we got in touch with them and said "Send us more!" which they did, because they're nice people. Resolved, their debut album, arrived at our shed door a few weeks later and it's a cracker.


The band once supported Coldplay on a short UK tour a couple of years ago and it's easy to understand why they were given that spot when you give them a listen. Mercedes write slow, passionate rock ballads and it would be easy to categorise them in the same vein as bands like Coldplay and Keane; but I don't want to put you off. Mercedes may plough a similar furrow to those two bands, but to be honest, they sound closer to the Doves than they do anybody else. Although not quite as upbeat as the Doves get on songs like Pounding, Mercedes have the same playfulness in their tunes that the Doves have and Keane and Coldplay do not.


The biggest distinction between all of those bands and Mercedes is, of course, the vocals. If a band are going to make it big, then they need some kind of spark, something special to grab your interest and attention. Sharon, Mercedes' singer, is that spark. She seduced the entire Incendiary team within 30 seconds of their single Here Am I and it's an absolute joy to spend an extended amount of time with her here on Resolved. Her voice is the special ingredient here, it lifts you, it caresses you and it carries every song and just forces you to listen to every note. It's a beautiful instrument in its own right.


Thankfully there's more going on in the background though. Having a great voice is ok, but you've got to have a talented band behind you. (Joss Stone take note!) Mark (bass), Paul (guitar) and Graeme (drums) give Sharon plenty of room to work her magic, but they're not just here to make her look good (she does a good enough job of that herself), they like to mess around. Their songs may sound simple and straightforward in their structure at first, but if can stop yourself listening to Sharon every now and again, you'll find some nice guitar licks and moments where they'll mess around with things every now and then and that's what makes this album so rewarding. Here Am I is a beautiful song, and probably our favourite on the album, but that may be because we're more familiar with it. The opening track Daydream is another delight. Sharon sings about dreaming and being tired and repeatedly asks, "Please don't wake me" but the boys in the band turn the volume up ever so slightly and the song builds and builds until they finally ignore her altogether and get to grips with a decent workout. It's a great tune.


Elsewhere, it's more of the same and if I have one criticism I think it's that the album never really changes gear. Everything's built around the same kind of tempo; but when the songs are as well crafted and polished as this that doesn't matter. Dip into this album anywhere you like and you'll find a decent, well written, well crafted song that's beautifully sung. The album is engineered and polished to a very high level and they probably wanted to get a certain type of atmosphere and feel to the album. What's great about the songs though is that, although they sound very good here, I get the impression that they could be rather powerful live. Especially when you start to notice all the little extras and flourishes that the band have incorporated. Every song is built to a rather simple structure, but you can hear that the band aren't afraid to play with that, to bend the rules slightly and when you put these guys on stage, I reckon these songs have a chance of becoming even more intense and satisfying.


In the end, all that I can say is that if Coldplay or Keane were to sing Here Am I or Never Satisfied; it would sell by the bucket load. Mercedes deserve to have the chance to do that themselves. Resolved has a picture of a cup of tea on its cover (which made me rather homesick for a moment – the crap tea bags they sell here in Holland are a disgrace) and the album itself is as refreshing and comforting as a well brewed cuppa so put the kettle on, open the biscuit tin, relax on the couch and spend an hour with Mercedes. You'll feel better for it. I, and the rest of the Incendiary team, look forward to hearing a lot more from this lot.


Words : Damian Leslie