LA-based eight-piece The Mowgli’s pack a crisply reverberating rock punch ideal for a beach day. Their Californian sound is joyously upbeat, with effervescent choruses that soar with a predictable nonchalance. The beachside setting shown on the cover of their new album, Waiting for the Dawn, provides an apt summary of the group’s ambition within, which is equivalent to lounging on a beach chair without a care in the world. Waiting for the Dawn is devoid of anything resembling innovation, and for all the emotive rockers and polished production there is minimal impact, despite maybe serving as background fodder at a tiki bar. There are no game-changers for The Mowgli’s here, nor a single track out of the 13 that dares to gravitate from the norm. The lack of memorable content on Waiting for the Dawn suggests that The Mowgli’s will need to reconfigure their approach if they wish to ascend beyond stereotypical power-rock blandness. Whether their predictable songwriting is due to or an excess of members or a tired songwriting approach remains to be seen, but the contagious moments on Waiting for the Dawn are limited to only a handful of tracks.
Opener “San Francisco” shows The Mowgli’s general formula in a bustling package. There are enthusiastic choral vocals alternate between wordless harmonizing and feel-good sentiments like “Do you feel the love? I feel the love / Come come on, let’s start it up, let it pour out of your soul.” The vocals are never abrasive on Waiting for the Dawn, but they’re never particularly catching either. The absence of one particular lead vocalist leads to a scatterbrain vocal delivery present on “San Francisco” and others, which is detrimental to the general flow of the album; leads change depending on the song quite frequently, and it’s hard to get a proper footing at any point. Polished yet scatterbrained describes The Mowgli’s sound in a nutshell. Unfortunately it manages to be predictable even with the collectivist vocal approach.
The members of Waiting for the Dawn are passionate and truly embracing of various styles, and that can be commendable to an extent during moments of tracks, like how the late-night Destroyer-like brass on “We Are Free” adds a nice touch. That track has several memorable moments, such as the synth-laden acid-jazz conclusion. But listeners still have to wade through some mundane decisions before the commendable finale. The middle chorus stomps too much and again relies on the collectivist vocal delivery too much, with the eruptive bass drum needing to be turned down in the mix. At the very least, it’s one of the few efforts where group vocals are utilized well and with genuine unforced passion. Conversely, the sickly sweet “Hi, Hey There, Hello” features overly careful female vocals, whiny male vocals, and the collective wordless crooning that was present on “San Francisco” and other intervals on the album. In refining their sound for the future, The Mowgli’s should acknowledge that having several members of your band croon a wordless chorus does not sound very resounding when it’s the tactic employed on the majority of tracks.
The arrangements on Waiting for the Dawn are lively and polished, but there’s only the occasional punch. “San Francisco” has its moments but appears scatterbrained. Rather, it’s often the simpler yet accessible efforts like the breezy “Love Is Easy” and fun-loving synth-rocker “The Great Divide” that succeed the most. The latter provides a nice dash of ‘80s synth-pop revivalism, with a gnarly alternative punch that finally shows the band flaunting a uniquely empowering sound. Waiting for the Dawn is not all middling, but an over-abundance of failed group vocal attempts at grandiose hooks tends to stop good ideas in their tracks, although a few efforts do shine with bursts of originality. For now The Mowgli’s can focus on past mistakes and attempt to remedy them on their next release. The polish is passion is there; it’s just the songwriting that needs work.