Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Mashrou’ Leila – Cavalry

Your editor was going to come up with a clever subhead for this post but instead, upon seeing the word “cavalry,” fell down a deep Age of Empires Wiki hole…


Claire Biddles: After appearing on last year’s extremely underrated Hercules and Love Affair album Mashrou’ Leila have gone full transcendent disco and I am thrilled. Like the best contemporary disco, “Cavalry” treats its signifiers seriously rather than as parts of a cheap costume: the strings especially are superbly mournful. I can’t wait to hear this on the dancefloor, with the lights from a glitterball pulsing in front of my eyes.

Scott Mildenhall: Punchy and persistent, Hamed Sinno’s concerted defiance is never overplayed. With every impeding loop of strings, “Cavalry” moves onward with its resistance unbroken, gliding on the power of a quiet self-assuredness that it seeks to replicate far and wide. It doesn’t do detail when it comes to promising action, but it is steadfast in its feeling.

Iain Mew: I find the groove too ponderous once the rhythm comes in and all too easily ignored, but they pull off two great transition moments that light up the song. First, the delayed emergence of the synth line, starlight in the gloom that gets faded back too soon. Even better is the ending, with the drums and string loops peeling off in a perpendicular direction and pulling the song along into new shapes behind. 

Alfred Soto: When those glorious sequencers start at 0:37, “Calvary” blooms into a stomper that mimics The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” without (as far as I can tell) the reveling in self-hating hedonism.

Ian Mathers: You definitely don’t need to understand Arabic to appreciate the timbre of Hamed Sinno’s voice or the smooth, string-assisted groove here, but a quick look at a translation (perhaps best summed up by the closing refrain “you have your ‘values’/and love is for us”) confirms that the quiet defiance in Sinno’s performance is no accident.

Alex Clifton: Protest lyrics AND synths? Truly this is my lucky day as I get two of my favourite things in the world! This isn’t as hypnotic as “Roman” was, but then again that felt otherworldly. There’s something I really like about defiant dancey songs; it’s easy to go maudlin and folky when things are going to pot (and, to be clear, I like those songs too) but dancing in the face of an enemy is a brave move. It’s not what’s expected — they want you to crumble to your feet — but dancing makes you formidable and unbreakable. It’s a radical form of positivity, and one that emboldens me every time I hear it.

Leah Isobel: Criticizing Mashrou’ Leila’s music can feel unfair. They have a presence that can genuinely be described as revolutionary, or at least shocking, as a Lebanese band working with explicitly gay themes. That presence goes a long way towards selling the seriousness that tends to weigh down politically-minded music. But gravity doesn’t get the body moving, and despite its dance signifiers, “Cavalry” struggles to find lift; in a soundscape this busy, the synth arpeggio is like a child kicking too hard in the water and sinking deeper. The gorgeous vocal arrangement and violin let some of the pressure off, but those pleasures just don’t have enough room to breathe. The community that the lyrics invoke can’t be willed into existence by just piling elements on — a community exists in a space and time, and creates its own rules. “Cavalry” tries to give something back but can’t get out of its own way.

Reader average: [5.6] (5 votes)

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3 Responses to “Mashrou’ Leila – Cavalry”

  1. This song is a fucking ripper.

  2. Discovering songs like this is why I come here. I’ve gone right down the rabbit hole with these guys, love them.

  3. Radio Romance on the album is so fantastic. They’ve also done a song with Roisin Murphy!