October 2018 – Spotlight on: Secret Traffic by Mesh-29

Our choice to spotlight this month, October 2018, is Secret Traffic by Mesh-29. Released 10 years ago, in October 2008, this carefully considered, powerful collection of songs is worth revisiting for those of us blessed to have caught it at the time and equally worth checking out for those discovering them for the first time.

Personally, Mesh-29’s music instantly transports me back over a decade and fills my senses with memories of dim candle-lit Thursday evenings at The Met Lounge in Peterborough, sitting on cold faux-leather sofas strewn across the uncharacteristically docile dance floor, sipping lemon Fanta, as I enjoyed the fragile sound of two friends on stage playing their hearts out.

However, beneath that comfortable sensory recollection lies a turbulent emotional memory. Secret Traffic came along at a time when I was trying to find my feet in life, negotiating the adult world as a 20-something – replete with missteps, mistakes and misunderstandings. The bands lyrics, passionately delivered, resonated with me at the time. I would frequently listen to this album for reassurance, taking comfort that I was not the only one who was yet to figure it all out.

The stand-out song for me has always been ‘Strangest Conversation’. I was always able to relate to the feeling of being underestimated, of willingly setting so much aside for someone and yet having them always closed off from you. That particularly chimed with my personal situation at the time (details of which would serve no purpose to be repeated here) and it kept me coming back to this album time and again. The melody is haunting yet catchy and the opening line – ‘I heard about the strangest conversation that you ever had..’ – still puts chills through my spine, summarising a situation so succinctly.

The album is awash with wonderful little lyrical moments, similarly painting whole situations so simply and yet so vividly with words, bringing the characters in this world to life. The direct fragility and frustration of ‘White Light’ – ‘You’re narcissistic… I had to look that up…’ tells you everything you need to know about a couple struggling to hold their relationship together despite vast differences in outlook and interests – she is likely acting self-absorbed and self-important and he is self-aware and self-deprecating.

Self-deprecation is a common flavour sprinkled throughout the album, but it never pushes too far into self-pity. The tone overwhelmingly feels cautiously optimistic and that is wherein the comfort and reassurance I found lies. ‘There’s a sign in the doorway that says keep on singing, so I hang on. We’ll all hang on.’ (‘Worse for Wear’)

Musically, at the time, the band drew a lot of comparisons to Keane. I think this is a shallow comparison, hearing the prominent timbre of the piano and not looking much beyond. More observant listeners will hear a lot more in the blend here though. The world-crafting of Bruce Springsteen, the emotional intensity of Bright Eyes, and the sincerity of Counting Crows, are all to be found here among many more influences, creating a sound uniquely Mesh-29’s.

The one song which truly sums up the sound of the band so well is ‘Waiting for the Day’. This was a staple set-piece of the band’s live shows from very early on in the band’s life. It originally appeared on their debut Dead Machine (an album also worth checking out if you want to delve further into the band’s oeuvre). Here however, it has been given a little more power and energy which reflect the subtle shift of the band’s overall sound from their first album to this. The band had been working and touring hard before its release and the song has grown up alongside the band from album to album.

This album will take you on a journey through the familiar naïveté of early adulthood. You may even briefly lament the passing of those innocent years. Either way this journey is one worth taking.

– Barry Walker

If you’d like to pick up a copy to check it out for yourself, it is available from our online store below. It is also available on all major streaming services.