Mini Mansions isn’t a band that constantly churns out new music on a regular basis: between Michael Shuman’s tenure in Queens of the Stone Age and both Tyler Parkford and Zach Dawes having musical ties to Arctic Monkeys, the psych pop trio stays rather busy with other work. So on the rare occasion that they do release a full-length, it’s always a treat. I’ve been steadily following them for almost half a decade since having first caught wind of their song “Death is a Girl” near the tail end of 2014, and their new LP is only the second such release in that same span of time. Thankfully, though, the Los Angeles natives have yet to disappoint, and Guy Walks Into a Bar… is no exception.
Guy Walks Into a Bar… tells the story of a whirlwind relationship, exploring the full evolution of such a relationship as it happens. As the listener you get to witness all of this in incredible detail, from that first romantic encounter, through the relationship as it develops and flourishes, all the way up until it ends. Written from his own perspective, frontman Michael Shuman wrote many of the lyrics to these songs in such a way to where you’ll feel like you’re right there in real time experiencing this relationship firsthand. By no means is this a concept album, and yet, it’s the best, most vivid storytelling I’ve heard in musical form in quite some time, more so than many actual concept albums I’ve heard recently.
Musically speaking, Shuman, Parkford, and Dawes cover all kinds of ground, from the desert-like roar of the opening two tracks “Should Be Dancing” and “Bad Things (That Make You Feel Good),” to the more mid-tempo cuts like “Time Machine” and “GummyBear,” to even the vibey bop (is that a thing?) that is last summer’s hit single “Works Every Time.” One thing is true for all of those tracks, however: you’ll always feel compelled to dance along. It’s a theme that was present some on 2015’s The Great Pretenders, but feels far more fleshed out this time around. The spacey atmosphere from The Great Pretenders returns for much of this effort also. My favorite moments from Guy Walks into a Bar… though come on the tunes that rock the hardest: the aforementioned roaring 1-2 punch to kick off the record, the disco-tinged banger “Living in the Future,” and the stellar, upbeat rocker of a closer “Tears in Her Eyes.”
Guy Walks Into a Bar… features a few key guest appearances, like the duet with The Kills’ Alison Mosshart on the atmospheric power ballad “Hey Lover” and the backing vocals from Z Berg on “Forgot Your Name” and “Living in the Future.” The most notable collaboration on the record though comes from Shuman relinquishing his role as drummer for the first time, instead enlisting the duties of Queens of the Stone Age bandmate Jon Theodore. Theodore of course demonstrates his prowess behind the kit, but more importantly he gives Shuman the opportunity to finally focus fully on fronting the group, allowing for Shuman to pen his most personal but also his most quotable one-liners to date.
There were a few minor aspects from The Great Pretenders that I missed hearing on Guy Walks Into a Bar…, but overall this newest LP is a stronger release. I constantly find myself coming back to it, getting so lost in the music and storyline that I feel this sense of remorse when it’s over, which to me is just too soon. Put in three simple adjectives: the L.A.-based trio’s third full-length is spacey, groovy, and dancy, and even though all of the group’s members play in other, more well-known bands, you’ll forget that completely when spinning the new Mini Mansions.