For those not in the know, Mongrel Zine might not be a big deal – there are, after all, thousands of zine-slash-record-labels floating around the blogosphere. What sets Mongrel apart from the rest is their unwavering enthusiasm and thoughtful output. That this is their first vinyl release in their five-year history speaks volumes about the artists highlighted on each side. For the most part, it’s praise that the bands well deserve.
Side A is Red Mass’ “Candy”, a psychedelic single dripping with globe-trodden cool. Like a star-studded version of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, minus Anton Newcombe, Red Mass is a wriggling collaboration between ringleader Roy Vucino and anyone that wants to play with him. “Candy” enjoys its wide palette of instrumentation, on a back-bone of garage-rock violin and coasting on the many toys and gadgets supplied by Mark Sultan and Arish Khan (a.k.a. the King Khan & BBQ Show).
Side B is a more mellow affair, featuring the first vinyl release of locals Cindy Lee. “Holding The Devil’s Hand” channels Nico through lo-fi dirty blues; sparse guitar caked in abandoned-adobe-church echo leads the charge. Patrick Flegel’s (ex-Women) angelic upper-register vocals churn up dust all over each verse, drawing a bleak picture against pretty words. “Polished” isn’t the right word here – drums and bass are thinly painted over the background to cover up cracks in the walls of the song, but the chance to peek past the curtains into Flegel’s monologue is well worth the lack of decor.