Scary Mansion – Make Me Cry

Scary Mansions - Make Me Cry

Leah Hayes is a very busy lady. Already an accomplished artist and illustrator, Scary Mansion has the air a side project that overtook the creative lives of both Leah and her sister Vanessa, the band’s bassist. Certainly, there are sufficient points of interest to keep any web browser occupied for several hours, what with looking at Leah Haye’s artwork, rediscovering the joys of the vintage ‘Scary Mansion’ computer game which the band possibly take their name from, and finding out exactly what a Thunderstick is, the latter being a native American percussion instrument used by Leah Hayes onstage and which I’m yet to find an actual picture of.

Listening to Make Me Cry will also take up a bit more of your time than you might’ve anticipated. Scary Mansion clearly style their music on the sound of mid 80’s UK indie pop, and properly align themselves with a glam-punk ethos that they share with, most obviously, the Jesus & Mary Chain and other three chord bands of that particular moment in indie history; especially the known-only-to-C86-completists The Shop Assistants. Which is as good a place to start as any if what you want to do is make some tuneful noise. So, first track “No Law” starts out with a collision of feedback, or possibly a harmonium, but there isn’t any mistaking what it leads into: an energetic garage punk number worthy of anyone’s reputation up to and including that of the Ramones. Lively enough by most standards, but the second track really does deserve your complete attention. “Over The Weekend” is a minor masterpiece of a ballad and easly the strongest track on the album. The band develop an initially minimal guitar and drum motif into a keeningly mesmeric three minutes, and Leah Hayes vocal is quite simply heartbreaking. Simultaneously delicate, sensuous and ethereally fragile, as if she might snap her thunderstick any second. It’s also the song which Scary Mansion might’ve wanted to let us hear later in the album, certainly the one track on Make Me Cry which anyone needing an introduction to the group should listen to.

The thing is, Scary Mansion can sound a bit remarkable. One minute they’re hiding behid their hair and singing at us nervously, then suddenly their songs bursts into strident powerpop with hardly as much as a pause for breath. This technique is exemplified on “Fatal Flaw”, whose hesitiant intro masks a skeletally structured three chord moment of My Bloody Valentine level intensities, helped by a powerful performance from drummer Ben Shapiro, and both the sounds and images of the mid 80s Creation roster cast their noticeable shadows across the track, and much of the entire album. Except that the Shop Assistants never recorded a keyboard ballad of the quality of “On My Mind”. Again, Scary Mansion pare down the instrumentation to allow Leah Hayes’ murder victim vocals to carry the song, and it’s here that my promo copy plays a little trick, with a false track ending and an ensuing two minute silence which might’ve led me to miss out on final song “Look Through Your Eyes”. It’s the one moment on the album where Scary Mansion seem less than entirely confident; a low-key electronic ballad whose downbeat frequencies sit shakily at odds with much of what precedes them, almost seeming to belong on another album entirely.

But, through all this, the apparent contradictions and purposeful directness that inhabit the songs present on Make Me Cry somehow fail to entirely counteract each other, and the ensuing squence of ballads and more upfront fuzzbox pop numbers makes for a consistently rewarding listen. Scary Mansion won’t frighten, but they will definitely entertain and, perhaps, even mystify their audience.