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Mope City : Petri Dish

★★★★

Mope City’s Petri Dish exists in the overlap between the mundane and the mythic; that odd place where the ordinary bloats and transforms into something wholly unreal. Harmonies jostle for space; vocals get wrapped in reverb; pop choruses drown in fast-acting distortion.
 
Lens-Blur and Incessant & Dull see the band at its most paradoxical, as the choruses mash up hope and hope’s very opposite, creating an odd sense of cathartic defeat. In fact, contrast is the word of the day, with Toxic Cells Bind and album closer Disasterpiece both combining a fragile kind of beauty with vague unease to stunning effect. It’s instantly relatable from beginning to end, but never in a way that seems like mere reportage. Though the melancholy, distorted strains of Letterbomb or the tainted piano strikes that open Wave Of Youth (W.O.Y) will resonate with any who feel stripped of direction (i.e. most of us), this isn’t an album that simply aims to translate regular life into music.
 
There’s a vaguely epic quality to the tunes, and as the jangly choruses and shoegaze-indebted riffs begin to pile up like the bracken in a bonfire, one comes to feel as though they are bearing witness to the construction of something genuinely special. Petri Dish is an anxious pleasure; a striking, fully realised work that has a real and yet surreal power totally of its own.
 
BY JOSEPH EARP