Reagan and Thatcher helped launch a 1,000 punk bands throughout the 1980s. And Trump is on track to help to be the unintentional muse to a 1,000 more. And Leslie Mendelson is likely another one, though she just so happens to be influenced more by some the great ‘70s singer songwriters like Carol King rather than The Clash and Crass.
Though Trump and his merry band of dangerous followers aren’t namechecked on the album, there is certainly a great deal of anger, depression and anxiety at current events that fuel the aptly ironic If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… (Royal Potato Family). The record starts off with the sublime “Lay It On Me,” giving hints at what’s to come lyrically before diving deep into personal territory with “Medication” a ballad that is both wildly frank and relatable to anyone who’s faced mental struggles before. There is a tendency every now and then for Mendelson to get mired in earnestness; “Would You Give Up Your Gun?” is backed by a laudable sentiment but comes across too preachy and a little heavy handed lyrically. But that misstep aside, Mendelson quickly recovers with the groove-heavy, should-be anthem “All Come Together.”
Elsewhere, on the title track, with solid distorted guitar riffs and an infectious chorus, the song helps to prove the breadth of her musical influences; at times she skirts the line between folk, Americana and pop. The album ends with the stunning piano ballad “My Dark Piece,” a perfect bookend alongside “Lay It On Me” to a mostly remarkable collection of Mendelson’s emotions. And while the songs themselves manage to be relatively sparse, her lyrical prowess helps fill the spaces.
With two solid LPs and an EP to her name – including a Grammy nomination for her 2009 debut – with If You Can’t Say Anything Nice… Mendelson has turned in her most consistently satisfying album to date. Find it here: https://www.lesliemendelson.com/