It’s been two years since The Mirror Trap released their debut album, Stay Young, a collection of songs so reminiscent of ‘90s indie rock that it garnered support from the likes of Brian Molko. After experiencing incredible opportunities – from supporting Placebo on a trans-Siberian tour of Russia, to accompanying them on their UK tour – the alt-rockers from Dundee return with their second album, Simulations. Consisting of remarkable music, emotive lyrics and powerful vocals, it harks back to the beloved epoch of alternative rock, the late 1990s.
Featuring ten glorious pieces of alternative music, the album begins with the punchy ‘Under the Glass Towers’, a track which almost immediately lunges in to a combination of heavy drums, insane guitar playing and aggressive vocals. Upon listening to the opening track, it becomes apparent why The Mirror Trap has so much traction with fans of ‘90s indie and rock: their work delivers an informed response to a hostile world prevalent in music from that era. Indeed, a philosophy concerning the struggle to find a sense of purpose in an increasingly crowded world resonates throughout the album. Pieces such as ‘No ID’ and ‘New Trance’, for example, address the dejection that many people feel as a result of the growing presence of technology in everyday life.
‘New Trance’ in particular deals with the potentially dangerous threat that social media poses to subjects like mental health and the relationship between an individual and the real world. Notably, the lyrics ‘I’ve joined the conversation, but I don’t have anything left to say’ echo a worry felt by many regarding the impact of devices like Facebook on what we say and how we feel. The influences of the politically-astute Manic Street Preachers and the social observance of Placebo are manifest in several of the tracks of the album. Beginning with an effective, slow-paced drumming solo – which enables the track to gradually evolve in to a compelling alt rock piece – the powerful chorus of ‘No ID’ is Nirvana-esque with its aggressive guitar rifts and impassioned vocals.
Unsurprisingly, the vocal range of lead singer Gary Moore – known informally as “The Panther” – accentuate the entire album, interlacing with the variety of music produced by Michael McFarlane and Paul Markie on guitars, Paul Reilly on drums and Ben Doherty on bass. With a huge part of the album centring on social and political matters, the few tracks focussing on love and relationships add a pleasant lyrical touch to the album. That isn’t to say that the band has created pieces like ‘Joy Ride’ and ‘Something About Forever’ by using the simple formula for love songs, however. Both tracks are beautifully honest in their lyrics and alternative in sound, steering away from damaging clichés that are abundant in several indie love songs these days.
A digression from the heavier sounds of the album, ‘Joy Ride’ contains lyrics that illustrate the complexity of romance in the modern world: ‘We fucked where we fell and called it modern romance.’ Similarly, the definite gem of the album, ‘Something About Forever’, showcases the band’s ability to produce lyrical and emotive music; the cohesion of drums, guitars and vocals marks the song as nothing short of a masterpiece. Interestingly, what makes it even more impressive is the fact that form doesn’t match content-the track is about the conflict between the desire for sexual and emotional fulfilment and the reluctance to take on commitment in a relationship. Evidently, the group of five from Dundee aren’t just musicians; they’re poets.
The genius of the band is reinforced in the final song, where hooks like ‘I’m the son and the father’ convey a powerful message that has been clear throughout the entire album. A combination of wordplay, musical ability and hard work has culminated in a collection of sounds that reflect the state of the modern world. Charged with emotion and built with intelligence, Simulations is most definitely one of the most original albums released this year.