Album Review: Mordred – The Noise Years

Mordred - Tim Finch

Album Review: Mordred - The Noise Years
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings

Signed to German label Noise Records from 1989 to 1994, this triple CD package features the three albums that the Bay Area funk thrashers delivered during that period. Many will be familiar with these albums, with the first two, ‘Fool’s Game’ and ‘In This Life’ regarded as seminal releases by many. But what’s the incentive to buy a package that many fans will already have in some shape or format?

Well, to be honest, not a huge amount. A 2000-word essay from journalist Dave Everley and a deluxe digipack is attractive enough to some. ‘In This Life’ and ‘The Next Room’ feature bonus tracks that may be of interest although all were available on previous releases. The cynic might suggest that there is an attempt to cash in on the band’s excellent 2021 release, ‘The Dark Parade’.

‘Fool’s Game’ is enough of a cult classic to stand on its own without any additional trimmings. As well as the storming opening track ‘State of Mind’, ‘Fool’s Game’ features the single ‘Every Day’s A Holiday’ with its rampant funk and rap breakdowns and of course, the cover of Rick James’ ‘Super Freak’. It’s an album that still stands up strong today, with the band’s hybrid approach still unique.

Album Review: Mordred – The Noise Years

‘In This Life’ remains a solid second release, with the band exploring their sound in more depth, retaining their thrash roots whilst adding more funk and rap. In many ways, ‘In This Life’ is a stronger album that the debut, with more complete songs, politically charged themes and a style that blended them neatly with the likes of Faith No More. There’s plenty to revisit here, with the title track, ‘Esse Quam Videri’, ‘Windows’ and ‘Falling Away’ all standing strong today. For those who haven’t heard the bonus tracks, then the live versions of ‘Killing Time’ and ‘Every Day’s A Holiday’ which first appeared on the ‘Esse Quam Videri’ EP are worth a listen. The cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jonny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed’ is a perfect song for Mordred to have covered, given the tempo and funk-driven vibe, with Aaron Vaughn’s turntable additions giving the song a different feel. It’s never going to better the original although that isn’t the intention.

‘The Next Room’ may be the most interesting release in this package. Paul Kimbell had replaced Scott Holderby on vocals although the rest of the line-up remained intact from ‘In This Life’. Kimbell’s delivery has always struck me as closer to John Bush than Holderby, both unique in their own way. ‘The Next Room’ is probably the least visited or rated by Mordred fans and listening to it again it’s a really variable record. Mordred’s style had evolved once more, with a wider range of songs. The pop sensibilities of ‘Crash’ crashing wildly against the rap-jazz fusion of ‘Shut’, whilst ‘Pauper’s Wine’ remains a jarring car crash. Approaching it for the first time in many years, ‘The Next Room’ showed an organic progression from the first two albums, but it’s not one that I’d return to on a regular basis.

Overall, this is a package that offers limited additional value, although, if you are a newcomer to the band, it’s ideal, capturing their early work in one place.

Header image: Tim Finch Photography

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