Sons & Daughters // Mirror Mirror
Over the course of an EP and two albums, Glasgow’s Sons and Daughters wedded punk’s charged menace to a much older macabre spirit lurking in the musty back pages of folk, pop, and rockabilly. It’s a neatly evocative trick, but one that gloomy post-punk icons like X, the Mekons, and the Birthday Party already pulled off in the late 1970s and early 80s. Another quarter-century removed from greasers, torch singers, and murder balladeers, Sons and Daughters’ resurrections had a tendency to feel like kitsch, but really fun kitsch. Their antiquated influences eliminated the need for reverence, so the band could concentrate on cranking out absurdly enjoyable slices of breakneck nastiness.
Sons and Daughters’ third full-length, Mirror Mirror, mostly trades one brand of pillaging for a duller one. The moroseness and death obsession remain (one song’s about the Black Dahlia), but instead of using dark concerns as a springboard for sick thrills, Sons and Daughters have gotten hung up on the precise craft of emulating gothic post-punks like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, and Bauhaus. Mirror Mirror is impressively spot-on in its reenactments, from doomy synths and cavernous drums to guitars that are practically always whirring, grinding, or shooting out lonely shards and tendrils; in fact, much of the album’s merit is textural. But that’s a dispiriting realization considering how great Sons and Daughters have previously been at crafting arresting, immediate hooks. And what happened to the tempos? Even the band’s most ardent supporters would concede their previous albums were a tad relentless in their barreling pace, but too much of Mirror Mirror is either plodding or static. Only a few times, most notably on “Breaking Fun” and “Rose Red”, do Sons and Daughters really get pulses pounding.
All this atmosphere and portent would be fine if the band displayed the presence to sell it. Instead, engrossing lead singer Adele Bethel cedes too much of the mic to counterpart Scott Paterson, who has been effective in call-and-response settings but isn’t distinctive enough to carry songs himself. No matter who’s taking the lead, neither singer seems to be having much fun, which used to be a constant for Sons and Daughters regardless of how bleak or blood-soaked their lyrical fixations might have been. Mirror Mirror smacks of a band struggling to be taken more seriously, but simply settling on a more stone-faced form of pastiche isn’t the way to do it. All they’ve really done is trade a Halloween party for a history lesson.
— Joshua Love, July 20, 2011