Fixed Ideals is the second album from the Exeter-based indie punk trio the Muncie Girls. The band is the vehicle for singer and guitarist Lande Hekt, whose strident lyrics about the ills of the world and the struggles that people go through complement the punchy rhythms and the sharp melodies. This is catchy, mostly up-tempo punk with a pop sensibility that belies the darkness of some of the lyrics. The album’s title comes from the line of a Sylvia Plath poem: perfume, politics and fixed ideals. First album From Caplan to Belsize, released in 2016, was similarly inspired. Plath’s words obviously speak strongly to Lande.
The album opens with a swaggering beat: the other band members are Dean McCullen on guitar and Luke Ellis on drums, and launches into a brutal put down of her errant father who, Lande has said, “denied my existence and refused to help my mum in any way.” The song is called Jeremy, and I love the line that goes, “I’m so angry I’m gonna get a tattoo, that says fuck Jeremy Clarkson and fuck you too”. Bit of humour in the anger there. Next song is the first single off the album, Picture of Health. The title is ironic, as Lande bemoans seven days of fucked up dreams before I get to sleep; but it’s a song about friendship, support in difficult times. The soaring guitars on this one, and Lande’s singing, reminded me of American bands like Paramore and even Green Day to some extent. Internal turmoil is a theme that runs through the album: Lande’s lyrics are deeply personal and heartfelt. She’s angry about a lot of things: politics, misogyny, neglect and maybe even herself. Clinic most obviously brings this all together: the song was written when Lande was starting CBT for anxiety.
One of my favourite tunes is Fig Tree, which bowls along like a rocking Alvvays number, Plimsoll Punks for example. In between berating herself for shooting her mouth off, she delivers another spiky put down of a sexist bloke, while the guitar floats joyously above it all.
In Between Bands is another I like a lot. It pays tribute to the Cavern in Exeter, which was an important venue for the band. Sadly there was a significant fire there relatively recently, an event that had a big impact on the band while making this record. Musically I could hear a bit of Give ‘Em Enough Rope era-Clash in this one. Lande says the band were listening to The Replacements, The Pastels, Popcorns and Siouxsie and the Banshees while they were recording Fixed Ideals; I got flashes of early Manic Street Preachers too.
My favourite band of the moment is Honeyblood, the Glasgow indie rockers. I think Lande would have something in common with their singer Stina Tweeddale: their subject matter overlaps and they both have distinctive voices that can be punky and fragile at the same time. Honeyblood’s last album, the wonderful Babes Never Die, ended on a reflective note, with a messed up ballad (Cruel) and a song about roots, or escaping them in Stina’s case, called Gangs. Comparably, Muncie Girls’ album ends with a messed up ballad called Hangovers (what have I got myself into?), and a song about roots in Family of Four. In Lande’s case it’s a tribute to her mother and siblings. Two songs that seem to reflect on all that has gone before: a catching of the breath after the remorseless railing against the world, and herself, that Lande passes through on this excellent record. Modern day punk with tunes, searing honesty and something to say. I like it a lot, and have just bought myself tickets to see Muncie Girls at the Borderline in London to prove it!