Back when they first started winning over the record store set, Mates of State did this 100% puppy dog thing where they’d lock eyes in the middle of a song and just love the hell out of eachother until it was over. Of course, their chipper drum-n-keys sunshine show made sense paired with those I-Thee-Wed Peepers. And whether they grossed out the cynics or won over the lovebugs didn’t seem important to Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. Didn’t even factor. Because, well, They Totally <3’d Eachother, y’know?!
But, to my surprise, when the Mates played their early-bird “secret show” this Wednesday at Mercury Lounge, they didn’t really do the eye thing. It was a sure-fire sign. After all, lots has changed since the puppy dog days: they’re proud parents of two now, with a network TV debut under their belts, and a new “mature” record to peddle. But, as Wednesday’s performance proved, while the recently-released Re-arrange Us isn’t as bubbly and hook-obsessed as its predecessors, the knack for smart-pop songcraft hasn’t left the couple.
Naturally, the set drew heavily from the new record, with older gems and a lone cover serving as pace changers. “Goods” was as bright and bristling as ever. And the band’s rendition of Nico’s “These Days” was enjoyably crisp, despite the mic issues that marred Hammel’s vox. But newbs “Get Better” and “My Only Offer” drew the strongest applause, and benefited from the addition of new instrumentation — violin, cello, and guitar, oh my. And when they closed with “The Re-Arranger,” it was as if to affirm what the crowd had been noticing all night long: the one-two punch and eye-locks have made way for a string totting, post-puppy-dog Mates. And it couldn’t serve them any better.
MP3: My Only Offer
Photo Credit: Bao Nguyen