ITALY: I Mortali² - Colapesce & Dimartino
From piano ballads to synth pop, this Italian duo manage to impress in an expansive album
In the sphere of culture, Italy has had a titanic influence in many areas, even if one discounts the Renaissance era. Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini are two of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, and indeed all time, actors Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren are silver screen icons, Umberto Eco was maybe the best-known author-philosopher of his time, and Elena Ferrante is currently one of the most popular novelists across Europe. Musically, things are slightly different. Opera might be Italy’s biggest contribution in that regard, with Puccini and Verdi, as well as tenors like Caruso and Pavarotti all being household names. More recently, il maestro Ennio Morricone is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential film composers. But what about pop and rock music? Despite a well developed and strong domestic scene, none of Italy’s biggest popular music exponents that have not had some operatic component (so Andrea Bocelli does not quite count here) have never known great fame outside their homeland. An exception would be Domenico Modugno’s Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu, better known as Volare. While it is true Maneskin have gained huge popularity since they won Eurovision, but it is too early to know if they will stand the test of time.
“Colapesce and Dimartino have talent and song-writing skill in spades, and perhaps the old talent show adage will prove true – it’s better to be a runner up than a winner.”
And yet, in some ways, Italy is responsible for Europe’s most visible representation of its music culture. The Sanremo Festival, inaugurated in 1951, was the first music contest of its kind, which ended up inspiring and serving as the blueprint for Eurovision. Modugno and Maneskin both won it and went on to varying degrees of Eurovision success, and it generally has proven to be a springboard to domestic success for many Italian artists, which is where we finally arrive at Colapesce and Dimartino’s 2021 album, I Mortali². This is an extended version of 2020’s I Mortali, presumably released to cash in on their appearance at Sanremo, where they performed Musica Leggerissima and came fourth. Maneskin came first, by the way. But no matter. Colapesce and Dimartino have talent and song-writing skill in spades, and perhaps the old talent show adage will prove true – it’s better to be a runner up than a winner.
Considering I Mortali² is an extended album, it is exceedingly long. I usually would have a moan about this, but I won’t this time, considering it is effectively a rerelease, but bear it in mind. However, it does mean that as an album experience it is a bit disjointed and cumbersome. I do not think much is lost by going through the album song by song, picking at tunes that tickle your fancy. That said, there is some interesting stuff here that is not on the original release, namely the opening track Toy Boy, which features Italian diva Ornella Vanoni, whose characterful and rich voice adds a level of gravitas to what is, on the face of it, a rather silly song with a cod-samba beat. Another nice addition to the album is I mortali, a futuristic dance-pop tune with a chugging bassline that makes for a song that could play at a club night. The two stand-out tracks of the album are to be found on the previous album as well, and they are Musica Leggerissima and Luna Arabe. The former is just an excellent pop banger with sound of the Italian summer written all over it, while the latter is a great pop rock tune with a muscular guitar riff that gets under your skin.
Some of their more sincere works like the piano ballads Nati per vivere/Born to live and Copperfield are somewhat dull, though I did like the tune Non siamo gli alberi, which sounds like Colapesce and Dimartino paying tribute to the brilliant Lucio Dalla. As an expanded version of a shorter album, there is enough good material here for it to merit listening to this one over the original 2020 album. It has a wider variety of songs, some of which are very good, and who knows, you might enjoy the piano-led songs more than I did. For me, however the album works best when taking the synth pop-oriented parts of the album. The ballads are varying, but none of them really as good as they need to be. However, considering how strong the rest of it is, especially are Musica Leggerissima and Luna Arabe, I do view the album to be not only a worthy expanded edition, but also worthy of your time, even if you just decide that one aspect of it is more your jam.