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SINGLE REVIEW: Mannequin BY RED STAINS

Hints of no-wave, determined punk sentiments, and disjointed synth lines: Manchester-based Red Stains leave a fascinatingly odd first impression on their debut single, “Mannequin”.


A fairly nascent band, only about a year old, The Red Stains appear to be making notable noise in the North. Having found a home in the Manchester gig circuit, they’ve been also expanding their reach to cities and festivals far and wide, even garnering the attention of The Charlatans. And now, with the release of their debut single, “Mannequin,” they’ve successfully managed to broadcast all that makes them so captivating to anyone with a streaming account.


As the three-minute track begins with a looping but bold bass line, it almost feels like the rest of the band are getting acclimated with their instruments as they tentatively make splashes of noise. However, the entrance of singer Natalie Emslie brings about an increased certainty for the rest of the band as they all get into their respective grooves. A pounding tom groove on the drums and the continuing bass settle the song and firmly make their punk aesthetics apparent. Though, unlike the typical uninspired bashing punk riffs, The Red Stains have something that truly makes them unique. What really separates them from the herd is their mystifyingly disjointed use of the synth, center-sage in the mix. Out of step from the rest of the band, the synth plonks away on a three note pattern that goes between a series of seemingly random but related rhythmic patterns; almost amateur but in such an intentional way that you can’t help but get hooked in by it. There’s something so captivatingly oblique about the relentless staccato squeal that it provides that I have yet to see in any track in recent history.


The Red Stains


It would be a shame, though, if I didn’t highlight Emslie’s vocal performance and lyricism as it is what gives the song purpose and drive. Capturing the rot that is the objectification of women in our society, Emslie resigns herself to being viewed as “a mannequin, just a body” but yet showing strength in her declaration that “you will never break me”. While certainly not the first and likely far from the last song to address these struggles, there’s an unavoidable directness to her performance. Going from wry speech to yelping passion at times with enviable agility, she effectively creates a variety of moods despite the relatively static musical backing. While her performance is raw and unrefined, as is true for the instrumentals, it comes across as a strength and certainly not a weakness. It’ll be interesting to see what else the band put out and I hope that soon I’ll get a chance to see them live, but in the meantime, I’ll keep listening to their quirky debut outing.


Writing by Varun Govil

Photography by Andi Callen


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