Same goes for Mark's music. Cheapass-looking homemade Maxell tapes with photocopied covers. Production values so low it makes Sebadoh look like they recorded Freed Weed with the Dust Brothers. Totally offensive lyrics that overuse the word "poop." But somewhere within the morass (heh heh) there's something special. There's a sensitivity to tone, emotion, quality, harmony. What appears superficially to be total garbage is really the product of an obsessive perfectionist that will not let his creative focus waver - recording and re-recording until each song has the beauty, texture and balance of a Persian rug. Or until a half-hour is up, whichever comes first.
His solo album has many of the same characteristics as his work with the LuMP. There's plenty of ridiculousness and loud guitar noise, and it's unusually creative (Jesus, who would've thought to take that beeping noise that's at the beginning of old tapes and turn it into a bombastic first song?). After the initial intro, the first ditty that really strikes me is "Eddie's Dad". It's got a great guitar line and vocal stylin'. Very catchy, especially parts when certain aspects of the music fade away for a sec so you get the impact of the voice full-on. "I Ching" you gotta love for the lyrics alone. Same with "Mess", which is great. I like how the guitar is kind of a Van Halenesque electric solo noise that's treated as a background element until the end. "Fingers" is a little out of joint it seems. "Bunnies" reminds me a little too much of (the band) X, but it's my own damn fault for singing that way. I like how it transitions to the slower, quieter sound of the somehow Tom Pettyish "Dave". E-bow, I presume? Then, Mark's rather lukewarm (bastard!) response to my discussion of marriage is captured forever in the twenty second silliness of "Marriage Song". "God Rules" is very catchy. I like "Chet's Potato" in a way, although it begs for more musical avenues to be explored than simply turning the mixing knobs up and down and up and down. "I Like Those Things" is very subdued and quiet. It doesn't stick out as one of the better songs, but if you just heard it on its own it's a very pretty tune. "Go" reminds me of a nice collegiate melody that has an edge. I think this would be my choice for, say, second Hit Single from The Album. When I ponder this song further (which I have the luxury of doing because - whoa - it's over three minutes long!) it kinda makes me jealous that I can't think up something that aurally charming. "Ukuleles" is crazy-neat with the harmonics and then the noise-layering at the end. Like a barber shop quartet of quadruplets with one funny misfit saying ("tree!") at exactly the wrong moment just to be an ass. The irritating noises and vocals that comprise "Gymnasium" should be shoved in the bottom of a locker with my stinky socks somewhere and forgotten. "Sperm Whale" is famously dorky with the improvised reggae lyrics. This is where Mark's talent shines through: stupid lyrics, stupid noises, and funky beat combine to form something that makes you laugh in spite of yourself in this heartless sharp-toothed world. "Caboose" is a nice way to end things, but sorta lacks a hook. That's when side two (the better half, in my opinion) comes in to pick up the pace.
Side two greats and god-awfuls: the beautiful simplicity and bass noise(!) of "Antonio Banderas Naked", which I especially love because the song ends on a gloriously unresolved note. "Nothing" with great vocals and the kind of anthemic pseudo-meaningful gimme-gimme-indie rock lyrics that I like. This is probably my favorite song on the tape, simply because I'm such a fucking sap for that kind of stuff. "Zucchini" I could do without - especially the stupid straining-at-the-sttool sound he makes when he says the word "food!". The wonderful backwards song ("Smart People are Stupid") is absolutely frightening, such a cool noise. "Big Tummy" I like (in spite of my intense hatred of the words "tummy" and "peen") because it comes across like a sonic version of a kiddie roller coaster: smiley and fun and rhythmic rockings back and forth with no alarming surprises. "Living Vicariously" could use a little more actual music, please. And if you're gonna try the rap thing, do it right - at least try and don't just white-boy it. "Joe the Sucky" I found myself head-bobbing to. Great pounding drum noise with claps. Vocals could be mixed down a little. Especially the "fillet of poop!!" line, which could be mixed way, way down into oblivion as far as I'm concerned. "Missing" makes me cry. Is that a minor chord or something in the chorus? I really pressed for the Morrissey voice (which Jim Hull hates - but what does he know? He never had the experience of feeling real pain like only an ostracized teenage girl can.) but I love it. The comic/tragic climax with the drum-machine claps behind it just takes my limbic system and turns it inside-out and back again and makes my eyebrows do that Brandon Walsh thing. "Boring" is a fabulous follow-up, too. Hope my eyebrows don't get stuck that way. The vocals have a tad bit too much facetiousness in some parts, but hey, irony is hip these days. "Jobs" simply kicks my ass!! This goes down in history with rockin' greats like, I don't know, early M.C. Hammer stuff or something. Definitely hits the nerve of the everyman experience. "Ornette" is better than the original, and it accomplishes the goal of showing Mark to be a liberal-arts educated music historian without being all cocky about it. I just wish he would shut up in "Urine Test", though. I liked this song much better when it was about his stupid ex- girlfriend or whatever. "Jazz" has a great ominous sound and the vocal warble thing is pretty cool. "True" would be catchy if it wasn't so damn noisy. I understand it's supposed to be punk, but somehow it's just a bit much and a bit muddy. "Hurting You" is another example of a song that would be more powerful (for me) if it remained in it's original serious format. But oh god! "Trashcan"! What the hell is that great airplane noise?! And where did that voice come from?! Fucking beautiful! "Kiwi" is dear to my heart (being the first original song I've written) and would be perfect if I could carry a tune in a goddamn bulldozer. At least Mark contributes harmonically and totally deleted the worst of my vocal offenses in the final mix so it sort of ends up coming off like a charming uppity Unrest song.
Overall, this album is totally enjoyable. I think this particular musical endeavor ranks an 8. There's definitely room for improvement though, and I look forward to the next album which should reflect more experience with the equipment and effort put into the concepts. Finally, I've gotta say that all Mark's tapes are formatted like a rotating buffet counter: there's a little something to please everyone, and if you happen to run across an offering you don't really like, it doesn't matter too much because it goes away soon. And if you do like it. Well, you're in luck because he's slaving away to mass-produce more original music designed to take America by its one good ear and tweak until it falls to its knees.
Unfortunately, a few of the songs have some ugly noise that threatens to obscure the actual tune (see "Ging Hoopy- Runnin' Fast"), so that's the reason for the loss of one of the points. The other point is missing because a few of these songs simply don't appeal to me. "I Like Those Things That I Turn To Tune My Guitar" is kinda boring, "I Can't Wear A Ponytail in Public" is inferior to it's original version on the LuMP's "Chicago XX", and "Dish Up the Zucchini, Man" is what we here call "the runt of the litter"; it has the same basic features as the other songs, but it's just not as good.
The rest of this stuff is great though! There are some wonderful remakes of LuMP songs, most of them in dire need of remaking ("Livin' It Up Like Eddie's Dad" is about 400 times better than it's original recording), and TONS of excellent all-new stuff. The new stuff is basically split between songs that wouldn't be out of place on Jurassic Park and songs that wouldn't be out of place on Chicago XX.
Also, the singing is really important to the sound of this album, which makes it a lot different than the pre-Chicago XX LuMP. Mark alternates between goofy voice put-ons and actual vocal harmonies, used to best effect on songs like "Garden of Ukuleles". The lyrics are hilarious, too (see the punky fast-food mockery "Joe the Sucky McDonald's Guy"), but you'll expect that if you've ever heard the LuMP. For the record, there are a few "serious" songs, too, the likes of which haven't been seen since the days of LuMP's Tamara's Little Sex Secret etc.. Those are really good, too.
So, in conclusion, this tape is great, and if you like the LuMP, you'll probably like this as well.
Mark Prindle, believe it or not, moves closer to straight-ahead pop than ever before on this record. It's similar to the last two LuMP albums, in that it finds the sometime-LuMPer growing more confident in tackling "songs".
There are potential problems with this approach. First, it moves away (a bit) from some of the free-form, anarchic noise-core the LuMP specializes in, in favor of some more structured song forms. Second, there's a little confusion in whether the songs are meant to be taken as jokes or not.
The real "discovery" of this album is that MP shows a downright knack in writing a hooky, catchy song when he takes the time to. Having said that, this record definitely suffers from a lack of editing--much as the entire LuMP catalog does.
Good Things: Pretty good sound. The capability of the 4-track is definitely getting pushed beyond the limit, though...several awesome early-Prindle pop songs that I would love to hear on a drastically pared-down record...tongue-in-cheek nicks from Queen/Sweet/Metallica/Seattle, and some really killer riffs on both electric AND acoustic guitar. Mark even drops in a Chuck Berry riff on side 1--and he hates that kind of riffing. There are also porno videos, a dog, stuffed animals, and some chick on the sleeve.
Not So Good Things: Too long...too many half-baked ideas which come out sounding "baked"...some of the songs get the short-shrift by being tossed off as jokes, when they really shouldn't be...
I give this a 9 in relation to other LuMP items. It's got a lot of great ideas and shows the P-man actually "crafting", but as a stand-alone record, it doesn't know what it wants to be--LuMP or Mark--and I give it a 6.
If you're familiar with Mark's work with LuMP and you take a gander at the lyrics sheet inside the album before listening, you might be fooled into thinking that this is just another LuMP-type of album. But no! Stop: in the name of progress! This album is a sort of continuation of Chicago XX (LuMP's best album). The lyrics for Mark's first solo album all could have very well been on Chicago, very very funny, but not as childish as the other LuMP material. Well some of the other LuMP material. Yes yes, like I said lyrics rank up there with Mark's best, and look look! They're some serious songs too. Now, I normally don't really go for that sort of thing when the rest of the album has joke lyrics, but listen to the serious songs. They definitely won me over. Even if they don't fit in with the rest of the album, the serious songs are fantastic. No jokin'! Shit man, if my generation wasn't a bunch of fucking losers, they'd be enjoying songs like "Mess", "Go" and "Nothing". Shit, if MTV or radio had any sense at all they'd be playing those sort of songs! Oh well. In a different dimension I'm sure Mark Prindle music is played on radios everywhere and the likes of trendy rap/metal groups; deep, artificial, introspective female jazz/pop artists and the rest of those MTV assholes are suffering some horrible sort of fate. But I digress? OK!
Oh yeah! Another thing about the album: if you wanna get the full experience that I'm sure Mr. Prindle intended you to have while listening to this album, listen to it with headphones. There's alotta shit going on in there that you can't hear or appreciate when listening to the album otherwise. This ain't a Ramones album, yo! Hey, speaking of Everybody Loves Raymond, one of the things that makes with album (that's very characteristic of most of Mark's material) is the goddamn creative guitar melodies. This sort of album might have grown old pretty fast (it's 70 minutes and change!) if Mark wasn't so damn adept at pulling great notes out of his guitar so often. Damn, lord knows I've tried to learn some of the great git melodies on this album, but, I'm not very good and the riffs are so damn skillful, so I just can't pull many of them off (though I did figure out some of "Go" and "Suicide Is Truly The Only Solution"). And "Mess"! "Mess"! I gotta mention that song again because it is truly devastating. The music is killer. And the lead guitar that comes in about a minute into the song….. wow!!
The two things that make this album truly great…. I've already covered the wicked creative guitar melodies….. and…. oh yes, the funnies! Like I probably said before, these lyrics rank among Mark's best. I might even dare to say that they're funnier than the lyrics on Chicago. But for now, let's just say they're equally funny, eh? Not because Nature's Smelly Ass ain't that great, it's just because Chicago is just so friggin' brilliant. "Suicide Is Truly The Only Solution" and "Ornette Coleman's Dancing In Your Head" had me in hysterics. And another great thing about 'em: show the lyrics to people that are sort of sensitive or easily offended. Man, seeing the face of one of my more easily-offendable friends made after reading "Ornette Coleman…" had me on the floor. Some of the other highlights of funniness: "Half A Pickle", "Joe The Sucky McDonald's Guy", "Jazz Gets Somewhat Tiresome" and the beginning of "The Electric Prunes."
Well, now I've gotta gripe. In a very expirimental album, they're bound to be misses. Including this one. "The Marriage Song" seems to be some sort of joke that I don't get. "Bring Back Jim!" ain't that great either. There're some more songs that I don't really care for on this album also. But hey, they're 42 (!) songs on here and the hit to miss ratio is very good.
Another problem: some of the songs just run on for too long. "Living Vicariously Through A Football Team" shouldn't be over two minutes…. it's not that good at all, except the lyrics, which are amusing and well, we all know people like that, so it's relatable. Haha, the computer says I spelled "relatable" wrong. Take this, Microsoft Word! Who's laughing now?! Oh yeah. Some of the songs just push the "just hit the 'ff' button" barrier.
Here comes the tough part: the rating. Ummmm, a nine for this one. A nine because, although like I said, they're some misses, but not many: but the album is very ambitious, aims high and hits . A very worthwhile album. And like I said before, if my generation has any musical taste at all, they'd spend their hard-unearned dollars, or more accurately, four hard-earned dollars, on this album.
Take Mark Prindle for example. It can be easy to say, listening to Nature's Smelly Ass (a title he disavows but which points out his charming immaturity tellingly), that he achieved what he wanted, and that makes it good.
But that's NOT what makes it good. As much as he might be bothered by the lurking elitism of such a statement, Mark has a vision. He goes for something different, and-I dare say it-better. You can be happy with complacency, but only novelty has the ability to raise your happiness threshold; only by experiencing something new and great can you expand the field of your enjoyment to encompass more than just classic greatness. This also, of course, gets you crap; break rules all the time and you end up breaking good rules sometimes too.
Jeez-the problem with writing about Mark this way is that it doesn't capture how FUN his music is! I can blather all day about him trying desperately to break free from his roots (partly at least by incorporating as many as he can), but what does that get you? Every sort of music you've ever heard goes in a blender, and comes out louder: that's the Prindle way. Said by me, that may sound boring or too cerebral, but it's amazing how often it works-how frequently you find yourself humming along, or just enjoying the way those guitars ring off each other.
In the tradition of the best subversives, Mark doesn't sound very revolutionary at all on first listen. Maybe the occasional guitar sound, sure, but those dumbass lyrics keep reminding you it's all just pop songs. Yet see how he makes you even question the viability of pop with ridiculous, hilariou, underthought-and-overwrought stuff like "Joe the Sucky McDonald's Guy" or "Garden of Ukeleles?"
And here's where he borders on genius: he then proceeds to include some catchy, powerful, moving songs like "Mess" and "Boring," and well-done pop ditties like "Go" and "Nothing." He manages to completely restore your faith-for at least as long as it takes to get to the next joke about defecation.
Let's be brutal. The mix is occasionally horrible and few of the executions live up to the talent I know he has. Sometimes it crosses the line from experimentation to desperation, and listening even to the shortened CD version can be exhausting. But dangit, there's no way an album this fun can be bad! A 7 out of 10, which may seem overly harsh but consider what this is up against: fully-fledged studio outings by the Beatles, Fugazi, Nick Cave, etc. That's a respectable showing alongside powerful company.
Oh, and the inside cover is great, featuring Mr. Prindle himself in a Dead Kennedys T-shirt in the back of a video store. That doesn't sound so funny, but you have to see the videos he's holding up. Pfwah!
Which is not to say the production is otherwise without problems. Most of these songs lack a proper bottom end, which is fine for calmer numbers like the stewing "Trading Card Shenanigan" and the flighty "Smearing Sperm Whale Secretion All Over My Face"- where the guitar and faux-exotic rhythm are highlighted, respectively- but the ineffectual drum machine and not-bassy-enough bass render hardcore tracks like "Ging Hoopy- Runnin' Fast" and "Acid Rules" little more than flaccid demos of promising songs. Once you get used to the negative-fidelity sounds you're hearing, however, you can start to appreciate Prindle's unique ear for tones, chord progressions, and harmonies that seem to draw inspiration from every rock album Mark has ever heard. For example, one might not expect much subtlety on an album that contains lyrics like "Burger King said, 'Have it your way'/Well, I want half a pickle/Manager says he can't do that for me/Well, that's the last time I'm chewing his dickle," but check out the evocative, E-bow based "Furnished with a Caboose" or the sturdy two-guitar intro to the catchy "Suicide is Truly the Only Solution" (that sounds like R.E.M.'s "Feeling Gravitys Pull" on crack). Most of all, no matter highbrow you think your sense of humor is, there is an easygoing-but-persistent attempt on Prindle's part to make you bust out laughing every fourth or fifth song, at least. If the lyrics don't do it for you, he'll get you with throwaway gags like the cheesy handclap sounds before the verse of the punky "Joe the Sucky McDonald's Guy," or the hilarious way he freaks out while singing the punchline of "I Like Those Things That I Turn to Tune My Guitar." Like Touch Me Zoo's similarly overstuffed Wonderwear Music, Nature's Smelly Ass is an album that could have used some pruning (most of the hardcore tracks, and almost everything after the cheeky "Ornette Coleman's Dancing in Your Head" could be cut, really), but there are few things more satisfying in the independent rock world than the sounds of an artist embracing the genre's freedom to whip musical darts at a wall, just for the fun of seeing what hits its target and what doesn't. One of those things is when there's actually as impressive a hit-to-miss ratio as Mark exhibits here.
Well, eat my fuc and call me Lillian -- either the CDs' remastering job really really really helped, or I seriously underestimated out poopdish of fluid prose. Anyway, whatever the cause of Nature's Smelly Ass' prowess, it's a good thing I jumped back onto the objective plane of music evaluation so quickly. Otherwise, I might've been praising this album as superior to Astral Weeks -- or at least Badfinger's No Dice.
This is basically an overlong, incoherent, juvenile, raucous, and intensely funny and well-crafted pastiche of LuMP-esque hardcore humor and obvious Suicidal Tendencies/Circle Jerks/DRI/Black Flag influences, with obvious debts owed to REM, Midnight Oil, Neil Young, REM, U2, the Who, the Stones, Neil Hamburger, Miles Davis, the Beatles and even an unconscious bit of the Grateful Dead. Mark makes all of his records a pastiche of different outlandish ideas, trying out everything whether shamelessly or seriously and succeeding at about 75% of it. There's no way to dissect the record critically without drifting completely away from structure; therefore, let's revisit Mark's own Jurassic Park: The Album review by going song by song by song by song by song by song by song by song by song...
Man alive, I really do love that "Take Off" by Bob and Doug MacKenzie. For the record--none of these tunes are that good. But then, the Beatles aren't even that good.
The albums starts out, um, really fuckin' loud. "Ging Hoopy - Runnin' Fast" lives up to its title: maybe not the "ging hoopy" part (unless the inaudible lyrics have something to do with it), but it's a jaunty, fast-as-hell, bone-crunching slice of hardcore that remains the perfect way to start any album of this nature. I plan to give each track a rating from 1 to 5 (out of 5)--this one gets an easy 4. Mark obviously achieved what he was trying to do here.
"Trading Card Shenanigan", while slower and poppier, is no less powerful. This is a damn fine little song, with enjoyable harmonies and production to boot. Thiswun getza 4 frum mee. A note on the production: if Group Sex is an 80 and Let it Be is a 50, this is an easy 70. Mark did a good job wit da knobz.
"Change the Channel, Carroll O' Connor" is another excellent hardcore song, and the first tune I've ever heard that honors (ahem) the late Archie Bunker. It naturally ends with the first reference to having shoved something up one's ass. 4-5 points.
"Livin' it Up Like Eddie's Dad", a LuMP cover, is by contrast an excellent pop single. Seriously, this could be a hit if you could play some of the more wacky stuff on the radio (you probably can in this day and age). I haven't heard the supposedly weaker Chicago XX version, but this is an easy 5. Damn.
"I Ching", tho', is less fun. And the lyrics are completely inaudible. This has a neat riff, but there's no way I can give it more than a 2-5.
But "Mess" is a masterpiece. The best song on here by a long shot, because it could actually hold its own amongst some of the best tunes ever written. The most poignant of Mark's tunes, the most effectively earnest, the simplest, most attractive harmonies, the best lyrics, and a great supplementary guitar part that gives the tune a haunting feel. This is the reason you kinda need to get this CD. "Mess" proves that Mark, in all of his occasionally distasteful tendencies, really does have AUTHENTIC TALENT. He's not just a jokester. A 5 all da way.
"Acid Rules" is heavy, hard, and quick, much like the most agile and appealing of penises. A 4, but this could fit in easily on the best DRI albums.
"God Rules" comes next--the CD track listing screws up by putting "The Marriage Song" too early on the list (it's shoved to a much better place between the two tape sides). This is quick and effective, with a great, left-field punchline and Mark singing like the Dude of Life. A 4.
"Chet..." is a little hard to like. If you haven't heard, Mark REEEEALLLY likes that volume control. It kinda works with the psychopathic edge of this song, but it can get pret-ty annoying after, um, two minutes. 3-5.
"I Like Those Things That I Turn to Tune My Guitar" is electric folk-rock with self-explanatory subject manner. It's quiet, charming, funny, and short. 4.
"Bring Back Jim!", by contrast, is completely superfluous and basically forgettable. There's really nothing here to make the track essential. A 2.
"Go" makes up for it as a swell pop tune in the vein of "Mess"--faster, too, which is always good. This is another example of Marcus's songwritingus's prowus's. This pretty much deserves a 5.
"Lefties, Righties" however, is just annoying. Fine the first time, but it starts to dig into your nerves like a fine foreign-insect infested wine. 2-5.
Christian Burns Smith is right about "Garden of Ukuleles", however--it's totally idiosyncratic and totally worthy of the 4.5-star rating I'm about to give it.
That trippy, folksy masterwork is followed by the less distinguished "Run Around in Gymnasium". It coulda been a fine song, but the competition is just too strong--Mark musta used up most of his creativity already. Still, that "A dog--free!!!!!" line really gets me. Dis is a 3.
"I Can't Wear a Ponytail" is a messy, punky quickie in the vein of LuMP. And hey, chekk that out, 'twas already a LuMP song, and this version is just as charming. 4.
"Half a Pickle" is a pleasant quickie with spacey vocals (the thing that mars it, basically) that debuts the word "dickle"--I think. A weightless tune wit a well-earned 2-5 star rating.
"Sperm Whale", by contrast, is delightful, classic, improvised Prindle with a great riff-thing. Wonderbar. A 4 it is.
The E-bow-driven "Furnished by a Caboose", despite a near-lack of melody *\(but not riff!!!) and unmakeoutable lyrics, is a lovely side closer. I could'n'a axed fer any-ting betta. 4 solid starfish.
"The Marriage Song"--'kay, with so many actual SONGS, ya cut out for the CD reissue, why the fuck did this John Cage ripoff keep its place on an otherwise enjoyable record? Not funny, not enjoyable--just nothing. The only jappy thing about it (the only JANKLY thing, if you will) is the fact that it provides some nice space between side un and side deux. No stars, ma man. Sorry.
"Antonio Banderas Naked", a great 38-second instrumental intro (hmm...that title...) actually gives Mike Oldfield and Tangerine Dream a run for their money. Quite a feat--a well-deserved 4.
"Nothing" might be a Condom? What Condom? outtake--I haven't heard that record, see, so I don't know...but this, while buried deeper in a cave-like mix than a Joy Division tune, provides some more upbeat but haunting brilliance. "Nothing" is one of the Prindmaster Flash's best songs. 4-5.
"Smart People are Stupid" will scare the shit out of you. And then Mark will write a song about the load you just dropped. A 3--it's an interesting experiment, anyway.
"My Cold..." is annoyingly muddy, one of the weaker produced song. But it's not much worse as a song than "Trading Card..." it basically deserves a 3 for the overall package. But don't worry, 'cuz that scream at the end is classic.
"Big Tummy" is just delightful, a catchyashell Chocolate and Cheese-esque pop tune about seeking revenge against one's bellellellelly. Yeah, the production is no better than the last song, but the song is killer. This is a well deserved 4. And that instrumental part after the false ending is excellent.
"Living Vicariously..." is some nice football parody, but it's kind of tame and undefined for a, um, Mark Prindle song. Still--"and by me, I mean Fran Tarkington..." Yeah. This is a kind-of-low 3.
"Joe the Sucky McDonald's Guy" surprised me. I had heard so many great things about it--one of the highlights of this record!! and such--and then it's superceded by so many better, better songs. Sure, it's fast and semi-catchy, but the production hurts this one too. 4 for the song, but lowered to a 3-5 for the poor-quality mix.
Now "Missing" is nice. But the mix is once again kinda muddy, and the song is surprisingly...well, slight. Yes--this is Mark Prindle writing a kind of SLIGHT, FEATHERWEIGHT POP SONG. It's still good, though, and Brenda seems to like it a lot. A 4.
"Boring" is a masterpiece. The best pop song on the record since "Go"--no, it's better, it's "Mess"-worthy, it could be a smart, admirable, catchy and fast-paced chart hit. Yes, a CHART HIT. This is the kind of song great underground albums are made of. A 5, with little stars around it and lots of strange red dots under the title, label and year.
"Jobs Are an Asshole" is more of a light tossoff, with a blues-flavored vocal. 3 stars. Definitely a Prindle tune, but this whole side is a little murky-sounding--why!!?!?!??!!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!?
"Suicide is Truly the Only Solution", a Descendents- and LuMP-flavored skewering of that one Ozzy Osbourne tune that got so much heat, is hilarious, melodic, and presented with that caustic edge that makes so much of Mark's humor so goddamned funny. That ending rocks, too, speed-knob issue aside. 4-5.
"Ornette Coleman's Dancing In Your Head" is album's best, most concise and HIFUCKINGLARIOUS joke, a great, eclectic tune, clever, engaging, warped, delightful--it's a Prindle Masterpiece on the other end of the spectrum from "Mess" and "Boring". 5 star.
"Mold" is fine, but do we really need an ode to a shower-curtain's disgusting little buddies? No, not really...besides, this tune is leagues weaker than about 60 LuMP songs.
There's not much special to say about "Urine Test Fish Guy Fellow", except that the production, tune and performance is pretty good. It's all not bad. 4 stars. Is it just I, or do the drums on this album sound a lot like the work of the late Elma Dee.......?
The lyrics of "Jazz is Somewhat Tiresome" confidently and importantly (and, I guess, funnily) address the crucial and controversial issue of Mark's "not really getting jazz at all". Mark sarcastically and effectively approaches the situation, winning impressive lyrical results from both, and the music ain't bad...it's just that damn knob again...3-5.
"True Yet Not True at All" is searing and melodic. 4 loud, ripping, boisterous stars. Who here likes ear sex?
"Hurting You in a Malicious Manner" is wonderful. A great melody, and the same caustic lyrics and powerful, fast-paced tune. This manages to rage, jerk a tear, and make you laugh all in the same extremely short period (period! haa!) of time.
"Lightning Rod"...overuses the word "ass", and it's too quick and reminiscent of previous tunes to be distinguished. It's like track 35 of Ace of Spades if Ace of Spades had 45 songs on it--you get that supremely clever metaphor? Do ya? Hahahahahaha, then!!!!!! (Anyway, the punchline of this tune elevates its rating a half a point to 3-5 stars. Kee.)
Two songs follow, and I can't even friggin' remember the title of the first one. Oh, yeah, um...Larry's Trashcan! That's it! Not too great or memorable, though. I wish I could see this lyrics, maybe some of these ratings would be raised a half-point or so...like this one, which still steadily rests at a 2-5 star point...
"Kiwi" is a Brenda/Mark collaboration, I believe written strictly by Brenda. It's a pleasant, slight little tune that's at least catchy enough to sing. But what the hell does it mean!!??!?!??!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!? Damn do I like typing in all dem explcmammeatiation points. (3 stars, by the way).
"Electric Prunes". Ha ha. I get it. "Electric Prunes" like the band, but the fruit, so you get an excuse to make poop jokes...great...um...I had too much to dream last night. Ha. I got the joke. Ummahh, 'kay, not the best way to end the album, but it ends after all that.
And a buncha great tunes, too!!!! 3 stars for this last one.
4 pages later, here's my overall analysis: Mark may dis LuMP from time to time (great/grating as they variably were), but don't ever let him dis his solo work in from of you without making an attempt to cut off the balls that are a subject of so many of his songs! Because this 30-year-old bastard has some real MUSICAL TALENT. The incohesive record may be a solid B/7 stars, but for songs like "Mess", "Boring", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Layla" and "Take it in the Butt, Glenn Frey", this is SOOOOOOOOOOOO worth it!!!!!!!!
Sorry, let me change that last statement.
This is quite worth it.
Now I walked into this listening experience not knowing what to expect. To tell you the truth, on first listen, I was annoyed. You see, the music on this album is so creative, and so unlike anything I've ever heard, that it almost seems like it'd be better as an instrumental album. Hey, I buy into Frank Zappa's belief that humor does belong in music. Though with Ween and Zappa, their careers were built around deconstructing existing genres. Prindle's sound is all his own, but he lacks a lot as far as actual melodies are concerned. When melodies do shine through, they are very good. However, this is a very seldom occurence.
Another thing, this is not an album where I think we can really dissect it song by song. A lot of these songs might suffer taken out of context. However, I will talk about a few songs that I do adore. "Livin' It Up Like Eddie's Dad" is an awesome song, and with the right production, has a lot of hit potential, and very funny lyrics. "Mess," like the other actual serious stuff on here like "Go," another very poppy song with a great melody, "Nothing," "Missing," and "Boring," all prove what a great heart this man has. Now I want to hear more of this in Mark's music. Hauntingly beautiful melodies filled to the brim with very moving lyrics.
Other highlights for me include "Garden of Ukueleles," which is perhaps my favorite tune on the album. It reminds me of 70's Brian Wilson. It's lush, but in that deranged lunacy sort of way. "Theme From 'The Kiwi Song'" proves that Mark's other half can pen a nice tune. She's sort of like the Stevie Nicks to his Lindsey Buckingham. He is the studio whiz, while she is perfectly content just being a nice songwriter.
Don't get me wrong. The music on this stuff is amazing. I didn't award it an 8 for nothing. But until Mark matures and lets us see what a true genius he is, I'm afraid he'll fall just short of giving me the sort of emotional experience I cherish in music.
This album has tons of great sounds and guitar melodies on it. The drum beats are really good sounding, and the 4 track is taken to the limit(I hate the way that sounds. "taken to the limit". Hi, my name's Nick. I just wrote a basketball shoe commercial.) Mark's songs here contain lots of guitar interplay and shit, and for the most part are very entertaining and good. I dig the expanded use of harmonics, too.
However, due to the law of averages(don't know where the fuck that came from), some of these songs just fall flat on their collective sexual organ. Like there'll be 2 simultaneous yet unrelated guitar lines in a song, and neither of them will have a melody. Or an otherwise good song will be ruined by stupid speed manipulation on the vocals, making it a.impossible to understand the lyrics(i know they're printed, but still...), and b. impossible to listen for the music.
Observation: this album doesn't really remind me of the LuMP musically or lyrically. For example, where the LuMP were more rooted in punk, there are only traces of punk here, the emphasis being on the songs themselves, as opposed to speed or volume. Also, it gives off more of a "guy in NYC spouting sarcastic obscenities about actual personal experiences" vibe, as opposed to the LuMP's hilarious abstract juxtapositions (y'know, nuns+bubble gum+etc.).
In conclusion, most bands write 10-20 songs for an album. This one contains 67. And about 55 of 'em are really great. Cut the bad ones out and ya got yerself an easy 10. Notice how I didn't name any song titles. That's cause part of the fun is reading 'em yrself. So get the cd from Mark!! Here's another bit of advice for anyone reading this. Don't ever get a job telemarketing!!! NOT EVEN FOR A GOOD CAUSE. Oh yeah, and listen to Born Against. Well, it's what I'm doing....
This is Mark's best record. Want to know why? Because he's letting us see who he is on it, and he's providing a point to his jokes as well as "maturing" and providing insights into his puh-sychy! "I Can't Use A Urinal 'Cuz I'm A Pussy" proves that the title of this album ain't completely a joke. I love the "Mark's Diary" approach to writing this record, and think it's the best thing he could have done for his songs.
Let me quote one lyric from "That Crazy Old Man Eating Out Of The Trash Was Funny":
"...He grabbed that Coke/Drank it through the straw/It probably gave him AIDS/Ha ha ha..."
Above is the finest lyric that Mark Prindle has yet written.
Am I crazy? Nope. The reason that lyric (and song) is great, is because unlike many of the LuMP and earlier Prindletoons, there is irony in the lyric, and in the musical delivery of the lyric. He's not bashing you over the head like a WCW wrestler, but he's shaking you hard. This is a line that Dee Dee Ramone would have written, and I thought of the Deedster when I heard it. I'm envious of this song. Envious.
I know. I'm a pompous idiot. But listen to this record from about track 44 to about 57, and you'll find the best stuff of Prindle's "career". Originals, parodies, buffoonery. It's great stuff, and it's thoughtful, heartfelt, and sometimes brutally honest with personal subject matter--things that in my opinion, Mark has sometimes previously danced around and masked with shock lyrics and obscenity. He lets it out here, and the record is much the better for it. Cool guitar lines and lazy guitar lines abound, as usual. Good for Mark.
Badness: Too long, of course. But this is a given with Mark, and something I'll always bitch about. Much chaff, but a lot of it is more interesting than much of his other chaff, so I humbly give this record a 10. I give it a 10 with reservations, but I give it a 10 as his best record, and recommend you get it first.
Oh, hah, and it's wicked funny. Hah! Just a look at the song titles and lyrics sheet…. It's the usual. The lyrics are a hoot! But of course you know that. End paragraph.
Oh, man, I'm afraid this review might go something like my last one. This album is sort of similar to the last one. Except like I said in the top paragraph, it's more unique. And no serious songs! Ooh, and the harmony vocals! There're lots of those. And accapella (spelled wrong) vocals. Well, there're usually all sorts of noises going when, so I guess it's not quite accapella. So, the vocals are brought out a lot more on this album. Yes yes! Quite good.
Highlights? Yes. There're quite a lot of them. Tons of these bastards have the potential to stick in your head. "Honey Child, You Ain't Lived…." Is the first really good one. "I Can't Help But Notice…." should be required listening for humans across the world. "Dogs Galore!" is my girlfriend's favorite. I guess that's worth mentioning. Ya know what? Since there are 67 songs are here, naming favorites is pretty futile. Let me just say that there are some sucky songs on here. But for every "A Hilarious Riddle…." Or "Hot Cross Buns", there are about seven really terrific tunes.
Let me just mention how truly great "A Song Written and Sung….." is. Christ, those guitar lines are amazing. I don't think you'll find songs that sound like that by anyone else.
OK, concluding paragraph. My verdict: this is quite the album. Certainly a worthy addition to anyone's record collection. And it's four bucks! If the world were a perfect place, this album would be on the Billboard Top forty, right along with ALL and the Pavers and….Yeah, you get it. Let's just hope that Mr. Prindle keeps up the good work and keeps filling people's speakers with music like this.
Not to say that the experimentalism, joviality, or immaturity have vanished with those traits--just listen to "My Ho Left Me for a Golf Ball" if you need unpredictable funny innuendo, or "Jogging is the Bestest" if you need unnecessary same. Everything here is in overplus, from the guitar sounds (which range into heights of beautiful idiocy and depths of insolent brilliance) to the harmonized vocals to, of course, those words.
Since forever Mark's lyrical personas have struck me as authentic voices, if not at all honest; no slice-of-life verisimilitude for him, but emotional tirades and childish rondelays that seemed somehow akin to the fundamentally human.
If you can believe that.
Yet with this album you finally actually hear some real Mark Prindle peeking through. Sure, on Nature's Smelly Ass you got things like "Boring" and "Go" which certainly felt real enough--but that was a neurotic, college-age Mark who only cared about girls. Here you get a fully adult voice, no less honest for berating its own inadequacies in preposterous terms. And no less touching for discussing bashful bladder or his attitudes towards fucking.
This may be an experience few other listeners get. I imagine they do find his personality intriguing since as presented here it is warped in several hilarious ways; I just don't know if, like I do, they feel warm affection for the goofy, incisive person that balances all this stuff in his head. I like Mark a lot.
None of that personal stuff is more than icing for what makes this album great, though. And that is? Songwriting, I guess--that just seems impersonal and inadequate for what Mark and a handful of other people are capable of. He manages to dredge out of his brain a curious amalgam of his disparate musical tastes, process it for amusement value, and disgorge it into your ears. It's lovely.
There have been, and always will be, people that can capture the mood of the day. Dave Matthews might be one of them, the members of Iron Butterfly and Abba more. That's not a talent to mock, surely, but it seems to pale in comparison to true musical genius. What artists like Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barrett or Rob Wright or Ash Bowie do is different. They present music that sounds beautifully, transcendently obvious--but which we ourselves would never have discovered without their guidance.
Is Mark in that league? He certainly aspires to it. Perhaps there's too many songs on Keep On Zaccin', or perhaps Mark tries too hard to deflate his own pretensions sometimes, ending up sounding like just another foul-mouthed comic (which he certainly isn't). But listen to that exuberance! Listen to the very structure of rock music shimmer when he hits the peaks of his powers! It may not mean much, but Mark Prindle is a really damn good rock musician.
Nine out of ten.
(important note from Mark Prindle: I'd like everyone to know that Brenda reviewed the CD while listening to it through her laptop computer speakers. Thus, she missed out on all the basslines and... you know, separation and stuff. Also, she doesn't understand art)
Mark reaches some highs on Prozac, but it's not him at his best.
On Zaccin', we reach some milestones in Mark's development-notably greater experimentation with styles and steps toward innovation in instrument-playing-but most of the album is just wacky filler.
The album starts out strong-even years after it was recorded, I still get the Michael Ovitz song stuck in my head, making me shake my neck back and forth like a West Nile virus-infected pigeon. The guitar medley on "I can't help but notice..." is just amazing, like the Dave Matthews band if they actually had talent, and segues well into "Sometimes you just gotta dance." "I'm not (a very good songwriter)" -although with a totally untrue title-is pretty and flowing.
"Cadillac man fan" is a great quickie; "Dogs galore" is fun, a slight ripoff of some cartoon theme, but hey, it's sung by me; "It means I love you" is a completely engrossing radio song as is "Yonder doggie." Incidentally, this is the first time I've actually been able to discern the lyrics, and find them to be quite clever.
Skipping to "My ho," you'd find a Rancid-like song that is somewhat predictive of the Mark-Prindle-take-on-mainstream-music style we see more on Stop, Drop and Roll. And hoo boy, it's a long one, clocking in at over 2 minutes!
"Avant le tic" is a ridiculous showcase for my god-awful attempt to speak French. At least Mark did the best he could with the echos and such. Thanks, sweetie. "A mystical journey" is drabbish, high-quality background music until the vocals get a little out of control toward the end. "Oh, won't you..." is a nice example of what Mark can do with his voice if he puts a little effort into it and stops himself from making all those stupid noises and curses like a Touretter.
I think the lyrics of song 22 pretty much covers that it. The Terrierarian song is nice, a funny reminder of one day we spent walking around the lower east side laughing. "Separation" has potential, but falls a little flat and feels a little long on the 4 track. But the end line of "My songs..." is accurate, and nicely recorded for a change. "A song written and sung" is one of my favorites, with wonderful music and wacky voices. "Hot cross buns" is just fantastic, like a better Velvet Underground song. And "I can't use a urinal..." is my absolute number-one favorite Mark Prindle song of all time. It may even be my favorite song of all time period. Here's an example of Mark's combination of tone and tackiness strike, ahem, gold!
"Facts..." has lyrics too silly for my taste and music that sounds like a re-hash of something the Flaming Lips did. "Men masturbate..." I find funny simply because it's actually what one of my co-workers thought-and she was almost 30 years old! "The secret to how I'm a jillionaire" is a catchy, winning song, though.
Although Mark derides "F-C-G" in the song itself, I think it's one of the highlights of the album. This is the song that makes me turn up the volume and smile. I don't necessarily like the tit reference, but the line "I wrote it with my knee" almost makes up for that. To all the fans of Mark's unconventional stuff: is there something I'm missing? Am I just another soulless clone of Gen-X-MTVers?
Similarly, "I suck..." would be nice, except for the lyrics. I've said it before and I'll say it again: male genitalia is just not a very interesting topic of discussion. Well, post-college at least.
"Mark D. Prindle," like the man himself, is very smart and entertaining. I think this is one of his innovations, looking for visual instead of auditory patterns on the guitar. I'm impressed. "I was pleased to hear..." is another good one, and "Stop the bloody slaughter!" a fine parody. "That crazy old man..." has a nice feeling in the beginning, but gives way to fuzzy-bassy stuff in the middle. "Reprehensible act" has guitars that sound like me brushing my teeth, but has nice loud funny lyrics.
"I adore and cherish..." is good and jangly, the way I like it. "Lookin' at the meter" is Sonic Youth-y and ironic... which doesn't really fit in with the Prindle persona, but I like it nonetheless. "Things in New York City..." is more in keeping with his style, and is more of a musical success. "Happy birthday Winky" is a nice thought, and I am pleased with the effort put into it, but I'd personally prefer a more uptempo birthday song next time. At least "We need anarchy!" follows it and provides more spunk.
There are a few...ok, more than a few... annoying-noise songs that I'm not particularly fond of, such as "The happy day sun good," "Hare Krishna..." "Pisspoor excuse for a shoehorn," "I would appreciate it if you would desist..." and more. Plus, there's some slower songs that don't really make the cut either, like "Shutuppayouface," "Is it just me or do people who enjoy..." and "Query of the genius." At least we have fewer twisty-speed-and-volume knob tricks this time around, but I would like to see Mark make an effort to reduce the little-boy profanity of his lyrics while still retaining the anti-P.C. content. He's so smart that it's really a shame to have his balls be a featured topic in nearly every song.
The other annoying aspect of this album is that the requisite picture of me makes me look like I've had my neck replaced with an elephant's leg.
Overall, Mark's time spent 'Zaccin has come out allright, but I think there's greater things for him in the future.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, what can I say about "Keep On Zaccin'"... I promised this review about four years ago, but my unfounded allegiance to "Ben Stein's Money" combined with a busy masturbation schedule has kept my fingers off the keyboard and Mark sitting in agonizing anticipation. While Zaccin' isn't quite as enjoyable as Smoke Inhalation (the concept of that one, like the Chris Elliott classic Cabin Boy, is just too hilariously orgasmic to beat), it's still an INCREDIBLY enjoyable little record - and as Mark once said to me, this one is completely 100% HIS vision, and thus gives the listener (and by listener, I mean "Al Franken") more of an insight into the twisted compilation of penis jokes that is Mark's brain.
Musically, this has more of a stress on the guitar interplay antics that I love so dear (the gorgeous "Components of A Mixture", in particular), and on warped post-punk noise. This means that while the album lacks the hysterical identity crises madness of "Smoking", it's style is a better fit, resulting in less hit or missin' for the Prind. Mark's really great at this stuff, kids!!! As usual, he pushes every one of those four tracks as far as they can go - it's minimalism, but it never SOUNDS like minimalism. His lyrics are the same bounding across the map non-sequitors, but when the boy hits the mark (teehee), he....uh, hits it. And your damn right, buddy - us smokers ARE more attractive. Just ask my hideous friend Jeff from high school!
So, to close in closing, you shouldn't drink too much orange juice, because it will make you have to buy more orange juice. Toodles!
With Keep on Zaccin's opening track, the five-minute "Separation of the Components of a Mixture," Prindle announces that his songwriting has taken a newly traditional turn: the song is satisfyingly twisty, but maintains an accessible pop structure free from the topsy-turvy japery of his previous record. Then, with the matter-of-fact flip-flopping of a New York Times editorial correction, Mark spends the next 70 minutes nullifying that announcement by diving even farther into experimental hyperactivity than before. It's mostly amazing, too- over the course of 65 tracks (most less than a minute and a half long), all commonly-held notions about what constitutes a "song" are challenged, squashed, or simply ignored, and you're left with a big hopeless pile of hooks that teasingly vanish before they have a chance to hook you, ear-burningly weird noise clusters, and melodies that eat themselves alive. Lest my description should make Zaccin' sound like a lengthy, "Revolution 9"-esque exercise in random sounds, though, let me assure you that the entire record is closer in tone and spirit to early Butthole Surfers, They Might Be Giants' "Fingertips," and the Thinking Fellers' whimsical muckery than to any self-indulgent post-rockers you'd care to name. (The endearingly strange "Avant-Garde? No! Stupid and Boring!" should silence any naysayers.)
Ultimately, the wondrous thing about Zaccin' is that it is less a cohesive album than a fascinating collection of musical moments, all strung together in a feat of channel-surfing hysteria. The catchy "My Songs Would be Significantly Less Sucky If I Bothered to Save Up for More Powerful Recording Equipment" is undercut by the furious "Internet Pornography Gives My Boner an Erection" (great Gibby Haynes impression on that one), which immediately bottlenecks into the ominous, flanger-powered "Spooky Guy with a Mustache," which, in turn, is contradicted by Brenda (Mark's wife) belting out the merry "Dogs Galore!" and so on. There is a certain overreliance on the four track's speed control knob here, which seems to substitute for inspiration on a dozen or so tracks, and the album bogs down a bit in the middle, with too much noisy bluster that feels like a mental gangbang after awhile. However, when you've got innumerable moments of genius (the backing vocals on "I Suck a Big Ol' Peen," or the terrifically stupid "A Hilarious Riddle Which Begins as Follows: 'What Do You Call a Person Whose Diet Consists Solely of Jack Russell Terriers?'" to name a couple) scattered throughout the disc, you won't mind sifting through a little bit of rubble.
Rock is for stupid people! This is a declaration Mark so proudly declares at one point on this, his sophtmore solo release. Judging from the looks of things, one can't help but feel he truly feels the way. His songs are filled to the brim with vulgarity and offensive jokes. That's just the way the man is. Take it or leave it.
Listening to this album reminds one of listening to Chicago XX by Mark's old band The Low Maintenance Perennials. Where some material on Mark's last solo release Nature's Smelly Ass seemed like Mark had developed a great sense of pop craft. Here, he dumps that side of him, to bring us his noisiest solo album yet.
This album fixes mistakes, but also makes more. The melodies on this album are actually pretty good, for the most part, unlike Nature's Smelly Ass, where sometimes it seemed like melodies were sacrificed for jokes. However, musically, Mark isn't really advancing. In fact, in some ways, he's sort of backtracking. With as much as I love The Low Maintenance Perennials's knack for offensive punk and loud noise, Mark's Nature's Smelly Ass showed that the man was actually a strong musical talent, creating some of the most gorgeous guitar noise I've heard it quite some time.
I also miss the serious side of Mark, which really only the surfaces on the opening "Separation Of The Components Of A Mixture." That's alright, though, because like I said, Mark has definitely matured melodically. No songs on here would ever be a candidate for hit single, but how can you not adore the giddiness of "Dogs Galore!" How can you resist the spooky pop of "The Happy Day Sun Good," or the straight from hell prog rock of "A Mystical Journey Through The Realms Of Fantasy (Movement One)."
Mark's sense of humor has improved a great deal as well. Where before he seemed intent on only dick and poop jokes, here he really has a point in his humor, like the hilariously observant "That Crazy Old Man Eating Out Of The Trash Was Funny" or the deliriously self-depracating "I Can't Use A Urinal 'Cuz I'm A Pussy."
All in all, it is a fine album. It is by no means a failure. However, brighter things were to follow. But let's no get ahead of our selves, shall we?
Here's come Mark with another offering full of wacky genre jumping good times. I must admit I prefer Stop Drop and Roll a little bit, but there's plenty of stuff to keep you entertained, such as "I Have No Interest In Entertaining Anybody Except Myself." The epic opening track "Components of a Mixture" is a very nice number, as well as the longest one I noticed anyway. As has been noted, the low rumble and deep menacing voice on "Those Around Me Recieve the Majority of Our News from Yahoo" bears a resemblance to Godflesh, particularly "Locust Furnace" and Mark's death voice puts Chris Barnes to shame... Elsewhere, Mark proclaims his love for Cadillac Man on "Cadillac Man Fan" (I prefer Death to Smoochy myself) and lets us know "I Adore and Cherish My Occupation Job" before George W. took it away. This tune has nice bouncy riff and neat pounding from the always present drum machine, followed by another killer riff on "F.C.G." And how can you argue with the opening riff and vocal changes on "Internet Pornography Gives My Boner an Erection." I liked that 45 seconds of that one enough that I ran over to my dictonary to find the definitions for "pornography," "boner" and "erection". Hey, so that's what those things are called... you learn something new everyday I guess. Cool stuff all around, Mark providing the listeners with a plethora of different voices and riffs to keep you flipping through for more cool short songs for days on end. So enjoy or (and this time I swear to spell 'ignore' right) ignore at your own risk. On this album, Prindle continues to prove he can pump out neato short tunes by the dozen, and given a chance would be right at home on some indie label somewhere. Pass the hat and let's help get the man an 8 track...
If I had taken your original advise and bought one album, I might have picked this one because I love the title and then I probably wouldn't have picked up the rest. None of the songs are catchy to me, but at least none of them bother me either.
Stop Drop And Roll is nothing short of a masterpiece. One would think that a superambitious concept album chronicling the entire history of rock and roll would sink under its own weight, but the brilliant quirkiness we've come to expect from Mark Prindle keeps it afloat. More fans like Keep On Zaccin' because it's the "big, deep, introspective album," but this is unquestionably Prindle's finest solo album thus far, for three reasons. First of all, his songwriting is at an all time high. There's barely any filler, and even the ones I don't particularly like obviously has a lot of work put into them. Secondly, the concept album format works in the album's favor because previous Prindle albums lacked structure--the albums end when the tape runs out. Here, Mark's working within a specific framework, which gives the album a cohesion that the other two lack. And thirdly, because of the album's concept, the album is his most diverse yet, and at the same time it flows more smoothly than any of his previous albums--one could easily call this Prindle's White Album, or at least his Chocolate And Cheese.
Highlights are too numerous to mention, but I'll try--the Chuck Berry-ish "Rock 'Till You Drop," with lyrics protesting the Korean war; the "Witch Doctor" parody "Mee Mi Mee Mee Mo Mo Mee," which comes dangerously close to crossing the line between funny and just plain scary; the hysterically wholesome Pat Boone parody "Heckhound On My Trail"; the unbelievable tackiness of "Surfin' Taps"; the gut-bustingly hilarious Robert Plant impression at the end of "Large Collection Of Blues Comin' Down"; "Country Boy Down South," which is every bit as catchy as it is obscene; the menacing death boogie of "Disco Jaws" featuring the unforgettable chorus: "He'll bite you, bite you, 'cos he's Disco Jaws!"; the astonishingly accurate Iron Maiden impression "Death Of A Salesman"; "Hot Rockin' 2Nite," which takes the very concept of live albums and skins it alive with a sinister grin and a funny Peter Frampton imitation at the end... I'd mention more, but you'd just be listening to the album vicariously through me when you're supposed to be emailing Mark and asking him to make you a copy! Please buy this reasonably priced work of genius. It's a non-stop action-packed edge-of-your-seat roller-coaster thrill-ride!
Did I mention that it's JANKLY????
Writing a review of any recorded work by Sir Mark Prindle in the traditional sense is out of question, and so is listening to his work. You have to dig down deep, looking not to the music (God no, not the music!) but past the music, to the lyrics, to the cover art, to the way the lyrics are sung, to the way the world crumbles around it, to the way the album title is even written on the actual CDr.
You see, when you come across a disc with the ol' Mark Prindle name carved across the front, you just know what you're in for (or you should). An epic, sloppily put together collage of songs and sounds and genres. Songs with lyrics so funny and damn clever you want to kill. Vocals that are haphazard and completely out of tune, sung with the sarcastic, disillusioned sting of a classic punk rocker, but the seriously-who-gives-a-shit attitude of a gen x alt rocker. It's kind of pointless at this point for me to even attempt to point out "standout tracks" because for me, it's all one giant wash of noise. Thanfully, all of the tracks are strung together in the sort of manner that people like Frank Zappa and Cornelius use(d) to help convey their own artistic messages. I couldn't imagine Prindle's work any other way.
Compared to the other Prindle product I've heard (Chicago XX by LuMP), this is "softer" in terms of actual volume, but I think that the way in which he twists sounds and instruments around gives us a much harsher view of his music. In the beginning of the album, we are taken back to semi-parodies of older rock genres (country, classic rock, doo-wop) and from there it just goes off in a wild tangent. Jokes start and sometimes they finish, sometimes they don't, but they always leave you in stiches. Compared to past products, it sounds as if Mark is making his music more thoughtfully. As if the insane amount of reverb on the vocals was arrived at methodically. As if the stereo effects aren't just some guy twiddling knobs. As if he thinks about it...just a little bit...before he tosses the guitar out the window.
But if you know Prindle, you know that one of the best parts of the album is the actual packaging! The title to this one...a long overdue shut-up call to the assholeian PC anti-smoke campaign...is well worth the price of the disc. And never one to let us down, Mark has continued with the stellar quality of the actual song titles as well. "My Poppa is a Square Old Fuck"? "Jesus Loves I, Yes Me Know"? "My Penis Goes In Your Daughter's Vagina"? Here's one for you: "Gazing Through the Shadows of Eternity (A. Renaissance of the Mind; B. The Lessons of the Sage; C. The Battle for Infinity)". Yes folks, that was the title for ONE SONG!!!!
The music itself (which in this case is really a moot point) jumps from genre to genre like a much more biting and yet lazy version of Beck, and there are parts that mimic classic rock, barbershop quartet, country, punk, psychedelic rock, and my personal favorite of bossa nova....although a bossa nova flooded with distorted wah-wah guitars. It's not really as if the genres even are "jumped" from, but rather they are all plopped together in a giant soup of sonic foolery. Mark doesn't lament the postmodern world where everything worth doing has already been done, and he doesn't wield it like an ironic tool. Approach-wise, this album is more Ramones than Beck, more Johnny Rotten than Momus. I don't doubt that he's conscious of how ironic everything he does is, but I'm sure he doesn't care, and that's incredibly admirable.
As with past Prindle (and LuMP) releases, this new disc is funny as hell. Relentlessly so. As a comedian or a musician this guy is talented! I have only one question: why isn't Mark Prindle a millionaire already? Someone discover this guy, quick! If I was somebody... I'd discover him and get very rich myself.
Anyway, there are 55 tracks on this hyperactive 72minute cd. I'll be sorting out my favorites for weeks to come, but here are a few songs I liked right off the bat: The dirgey blues of "Talkin' Lemon Devil Woman Blues..." The rockin "I Ain't Leavin'" with its great punchline; "Lollipops and Daffodils and Cinnamon and Spice" is cool and sounds like early Wall of Voodoo; "Gazing Through the Shadows..." is as emotional and epic as an almost four minute long song can get; "Country Boy Down South" is hilarious and has a great boot to hook.
I found "Apotheosis of a Jive Turkey" to be quite menacing; "I Love to Rock.." contains a clever knock on the Chemical Brothers; "Hot Rockin' Tonight (live)" is fun and wanky; "Slightly Warm Medina" is so funny it makes me pee my pants; The track "Get Your Knitting Needle Out of My Ass" serves as dire warning about truth and consequence; and Brenda does a lovely guest vocal on the controversial "I'm a Girl (Girl Power)".
Mark has trouble sitting still for long periods of time. He is also a distraction to the other kids in the class. 8 out of 10 from me!
So anyway, I'm in the unique position of being able to tell you assorted internet peeps just how much Mark has progressed over these ten or so years. These days he sticks more to a noise-pop aesthetic, and while he still gets bored after a couple verses and ends most of the songs in exactly the same half-assed manner (throwing in a line about anal sex being the most popular method), a couple things became clear to me during the course of this record: a) Mark has become a MEAN geet and, unexpectedly, bass player in his old age, A) his social commentary is now as entertaining as almost anything Jello Biafra wrote in his entire career, and A) the kid can write a fookin' pop song.
Man, can he. As I was tellin' him the other day, his songs remind me of Syd Barrett - fat, bald, simple simple simple melodies that are nonetheless SO unexpectedly perfect that any songwriter that knows what he's doing suddenly feels like a total moron for not thinking of them first. That's magic, my friends, and maybe genius - and I think innate quality is just a notion smart people use to feel good about themselves!
Chances are you all know the rock-history-as-filtered-through-Mark concept by now, and it's ridiculously ambitious, not to mention admirable (and successful a lot more than you'd expect - "Hot Rockin' 2Nite" sounds just like Cheap Trick, for instance). Sometimes he even pulls a Spinal Tap - that being making a parody better and catchier than that which it is parodying. Boy bands have never gotten as catchy as "Girl I Love You Girl", and I've never heard a disco pop tune as sublime and blissful as "Disco Jaws". It's just another case to prove my longstanding hypothesis that underground punk songwriters could flood the market with beautiful pop songs if they wanted to, they just don't. And as my good friend George F Will would say, "Thank God for that, pussy, and the Jesus Lizard!"
As cool as the concept is and as much as I liked that tangent, I hardly even pay attention to it because of this next very important line that I'm about to write: I have the attention span of a squirrel and other less mobile things found in underbrush I like News Radio. Also, Mark did the right thing and made the concept subordinate to the songs, which are crammed with so many ideas that they make nearly every songwriter in existince sound obscenely normal and boring. He's squeezing the ideas of a sixteen-track on to a four-track (I think), which makes it a bit tough to tell what the hell he's trying to imitate sometimes, but also keeps him honest. Just listen to the way "Jesus Loves I Yes Me Know" comes together and try NOT to get that tingly pop-rush thing going. Yeah.
The predictable thing to say would be, "Wow! Imagine what Mark could do with a budget and better equipment! Wow!", but it would also be kind of misguided. He's making great records now - pull the cord, buy the ticket, take the ride. It's brilliant. It's funny. It makes me feel like a hack. This is the best album of the year - I proudly award it a ten with glowing masturbatation.
As it is, each song drifts by in just over a minute or so, refusing to stick in your brain and taunting you with threats that the next one will be even better. One thing is for certain: Mark is a terribly talented songwriter when he wants to be. He's listened to enough Fall records to understand that strong guitar interplay and memorable bass riffs can carry a tune, and about half the songs on here are definite keepers. Another huge influence here is Ween. Many songs even sound like something Dean and Gene might have cooked up in their earlier days.
I also enjoy the whole concept of recreating rock history. Who the fuck else would undertake something like that?
Another thing Mark should work on is his lyricism. This is probably a result of his "more/simple" technique rather than a cause, but his words run the gamut from hilarious to banal to pointless to brilliant. Too many lines here seem choppy and rushed; as if he was simply racing to get to the next melody instead of developing the song and challenging the listener. Ever heard "OJ Simpson", that old LuMP chestnut? Then you know what this guy's capable of (assuming of course that Mark had a hand in writing that song; I wouldn't know one way or the other).
I'm criticizing this honestly because I could never picture Mark wanting anyone to kiss his ass. He TRULY is a good songwriter. And, in the future, if he chooses to focus his talent he could come through with a masterpiece. As it is, what we have is a quirky, funny, occasionally stunning collection of songs that show what potential the guy really does have.
That said, the execution of the concept leaves some to be desired. But it was recorded on a four-track, so I ain't about to bitch. Besides, the point of this appears to be just to pay tribute to/make fun of the history of rock music, not to mimic each individual phase of it with meticulous perfection. It sounds like it was fun to record, and it's certainly fun as hell to listen to.
Even if you ignore the concept, most of the songs are very catchy, and many have gotten stuck in my head since I received this disc. I really like the singin' in "Innocence Lost", the guitar melody in "Country Boy Down South" the....ah fuck it. Attempting to describe what is good about a song to people who haven't heard it is pointless. You internet people are gonna hafta check it out for yerselves, so hard friggin' poop.
I can't stress enough how genius this album is. Mark stretches his reach over decades of diverse musical styles ranging from blues to boy-bands, essentially chronicling the development of rock. What's especially great is that these aren't straight parodies a la Weird Al; they're original interpretations. But although this individualism provides a more interesting listening experience, it obscures the 'concept' of this concept album. Well, if a slightly hidden meaning is the expense of something so aurally appealing, I'll take it any day. Mark's craziness, fast tempos, and fantastic humor make this album a winner from start to finish. That's why I think it deserves a 10.
The CD starts out strong with 'Talkin Lemon Devil Woman Blues,' which has vocals that don't sound like Mark at all. Next, a tribute song to my dad, 'Rock Til you Drop.' This completely impresses me because Mark has revealed himself to be one of the first people to have listened to something my parents said and give spontaneous recall of it months later, notably, my dad's story of being trapped in the Chosin valley during the Korean War.
'Why Must I be a Teenager' is a harmonic ode with a weird-ass interlude that sounds something like, 'grrr-WAMP!,grr-WAMP!' 'Mee Mi Mee Mee Mo Mo Mee' is the Chipmunks gone hardcore. The juxtaposition of innocence and evil is akin to an early Hustler magazine.
'Innocence Lost' seems to be more modern than its position in the musical timeline. It sounds more like earlyish stuff from the Cure. Following it is 'Heckhound on my Trail,' which is eerily minimalist. The Venturesish 'Surfin' Taps' is another example of nice-meets-nasty, and has an impressive guitar noise in it as a bonus. Then we enter Motown, although the vocals sound a little womanish on 'I ain't leavin,' I really like it. In fact, I've been known to sing this in my head for weeks on end.
I believe 'Loving to love with you' is supposed to be like a Beatles song; and it succeeds in the chorus'but the rest sounds a bit grungy for this time period, probably due to the un-Fab Four-track. 'My Poppa is a Square Old Fuck' brings to mind the curly-lipped presences of Billy Idol and Iggy Pop. 'Lollipops and daffodils'' is a nice Donovan-inspired song, and is pretty and lilting in spite of the somewhat irritating keyboard noise.
'Gazing through the Shadows of Eternity'' is simply beautiful (which is good since it's almost 4 minutes long). I suppose this is Mark's version of an epic, kind of like Yes or something but it blows their hippie shit out of the water. Ric Wakeman, eat your heart out. Or should I save that line for 'Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America''
'Large Collection of Blues Comin Down' is a bit slow and grinding for my taste, and although I suggested the lyrics, I now regret it. In contrast, 'Country Boy Down South' is one of Mark's greatest hits. He shows off his awesome fast guitar skills, and also shows he knows when to take them away to let the vocals shine. 'Umweltvurschmitz Ungi' is kind of a letdown of an interlude, but then 'Jesus Loves I, Yes Me Know' picks up the pace again with its weird Jamaican sound.
'I Love to Rock' starts out as an over-the-top tribute to the big-haired rockers of the past, then ends up sounding like a bunch of free-range chickens at feeding time. I love it! Then again we return to the Idol/Iggy genre with 'I Ain't no Party Pooper.'
Finally, we reach 'Disco Jaws.' What can I say about this? The catch of the day, The catchiest song of the year' I don't know; I'm too busy shaking my booty to write!
I'm sure Mark put a lot of effort into the dueling guitar sound of 'Death of a Salesman,' but I find that it's one of the less-endearing songs in the bunch. Maybe if the vocals were toned down it would be clearer for me. 'She Brings her Love to Me' is a sweetly-sung song, which is aptly followed up by the punk 'Tarkus is Boner.' 'I find Myself attracted to a Young Man in my Home Economics Class' is another significant Prindle success. But wait'the best is yet to come, and is deserving of its own paragraph.
'Hot Rockin 2Nite (Live)' is so far beyond anything Mark has ever done that I can't find the superlatives to describe it. The music is dead-on, the jokes never fall flat, and I'm told that the drum solo would not be possible for a standard 2-armed drummer to play, which I find amusing also. What Mark does with a simple screaming sample would make any rap artist jealous.
'Spastic Penguin Guy' starts out nicely off-kilter, but drags on too long, kind of like the Reagan presidency. The next song that distinguishes itself is 'Slightly Warm Medina,' Mark's hilarious old-school rap cover.
I think the tune that's in the beginning of 'My penis'' is the same as the rubber-tree plant song on Keep on Zaccin', but I'll let that slide since the lyrics say that he loves me. 'Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich' is mega-funny and appropriately bombastic. 'Cereal Box' out-Sebadohs Sebadoh, but Mark makes it ok by openly mocking how easy it is to use a single voice and lo-fi guitar to make teenaged girls cry.
And then Mark reaches the late 90's. I know he hates this Green Day-311-Offspring crap, but he does it so well! 'Get your Knitting Needle,' 'I like Smoking Joints,' and 'The end of the Party' have more musical virtue than most of those little post-punk pests could ever muster. 'I'm a Girl,' sung by me, is one where, against all odds, Mark makes me sound good. His voice-coaching ability is to be admired for this.
I wasn't going to say anything about 'S&M Bondage domination Snowball' because I never liked hearing it at home and didn't even appreciate its NIN-like sound even after I found out that's what it's supposed to be, but on the single, one-inch in diameter speaker on my iMac, it sounds pretty damn good. It's still overshadowed by the Puffed version of 'Angel of Death,' though. That initial 'whooaaaaaaa' is worth a million bucks.
Mark's techno song (featuring Oscar the Grouch in a choice sample) and swing songs are also excellent. And as an ending note, 'The Post-Man only Rings Untrue' is lovely, and feels emotionally correct.
This is'to me'clearly the best album that Mark has ever created. The great songs reach new highs of Prindledom, and even the filler songs are satisfying. Congratulations, Mark. If you keep this up, I'm going to get you an 8-track for Christmas.
Other than that, you can't beat this album with a stick!
Of course, I had missed something. Now, I still defend the reasoning that was making me vacillate between a seven and an eight. Whatever other merits the album has, the fact that it is a purposeful recapitulation of rock meant that not as much strangeness was in the offing. You know the kind I'm talking about: the vicious mid-song changes of direction, the lurching hectic interplay of awful guitar noises, the inappropriate mixing, the grade-school-goofy funny voices and basically the entire suite of irritating, fascinating gimmicks that makes me a proud member of the Low-Maintenance Perennials, and an unabashed promoter of Prindle's talent. All of that would be diminished.
And it is. Despite a few moments when the listener is assaulted by high weirdness, for the most part the presence of rock-history's specter dampens the crazy excursions into unknown territory, if by no other way than by taking up space that might've been otherwise filled with zaniness. When I was away from the album, that stayed foremost in my mind.
But when you actually sit down and listen to the thing, all that disappears in a rush of energy. Mark doesn't adhere strictly to the rock formulas he's ostensibly emulating (things like "Loving to Love With You" and "Apotheosis of a Jive Turkey" don't even sound close), but he does capture the one aspect that made rock'n'roll the fifty-ton behemoth it is today, and that is the sense of discovery.
These aren't the songs Mark would normally write. That does mean, as I had recognized, that some of the strongest, most personal elements of his style are missing; but it also means that you get to hear Mark Prindle stumble around a huge open field of new, different sounds. And ladies and gentlemen, hearing Mark stumble is far more entertaining than hearing Joe Satriani dance nimbly.
Raucous good fun ensues, ranging wildly around the source material, but always questing and turning up gems. The same inexplicable brain ability that allows him to create "Garden of Ukeleles" or "Jogging is the Bestest" here perverts 50s rock-pop into "Rock 'Til You Drop," whose chorus Mark may have tossed in for the sheer sound of it, but which summons up a wonderful wide-ranging image of historical America. It turns a decadent, hedonist social movement into cutey-pie antics with "Disco Jaws." And so on, and so on. Eschewing accurate remakes, Mark manages to infuse every genre with something new, wrong for the period, perhaps, but good for the ears. This is a history of rock construed as if Mark Prindle was in every rock band ever. That's a good thing.
Provided you like more distortion than usual.
There are still weaknesses. He tried his best to be exhaustive, and demanding certain products from himself made it inevitable that some would contain little drive ("I Want 2 Phunk U Up"); what satisfies is how often he delivers anyway. Things like "Surfin' Taps" are accurate but boring; by contrast, the 80s/90s pastiches are spot-on. Both his Soundgarden tune ("Let It Down Slowly"?perfect!) and his Offspring one ("Get Your Knitting Needle Out of My Ass!") are fierce condemnations of the repetitive sterility of their styles, while simultaneously providing the backhanded compliment of being extremely catchy anyway.
Were I to wish for improvements, among them would be more harmony vocals. Mark has a lifelong fan's ear for pretty singing, and Zaccin' was chock-full of it. Here, the guitars and keyboards shoulder more of a burden, leading to catchier, smoother songs with less beauty. And while he does a man's job of fitting his gonzo lyrical sensibility to a wide range of eras, very few hit the peaks of something like "Joe the Sucky McDonald's Guy," where you just want to reach through the speakers and shake his hand for writing something so funny (with "Lonesome as a Colored" being a notable exception).
Though not "accessible," Stop, Drop, and Roll is nevertheless easy. Easy to listen to, easy to enjoy, and not half as aggressively off-putting as something like Jurassic Park. Listen to it. Your jaw may never hit the floor with astonishment as mine has done with previous Prindle work but you'll be swinging to the tunes every second (this being the least overlong-seeming album he's done). From a man of (embarrassing to say) genius, this is a challenge to himself, to avoid all his safe, familiar techniques and still entertain. He succeeds admirably. A nine of ten.
P.S. I noticed upon re-reading this that I barely mentioned any of his 70s/80s songs. Friends, when even Mark Prindle can't make a period of rock history interesting, you know something was terribly, terribly wrong.
That's why this album surprised me - it's lo-fi, (VERY much so, largely due to the limitations of the four-track) and sometimes it's hard to make out what's going on, but the album is a -really- interesting listen. As everyone and his brother has already pointed out, it's a concept album giving a bizarre spin on rock history from blues to contemporary. Mark pretty much hits on everything (though sometimes it's hard to tell). Most of the songs take some basic songwriting technique of a certain genre and parody it either by producing a completely generic song of the genre or throwing out loads of kiddie, vulgar lyrics (usually the latter).
The first half of the album concentrates on the '50s and '60s, and the highlights there are the catchy "Rock Til You Drop," the garage-y Motown of "I Ain't Leavin'" and the jagged rock of "Loving To Love With You." The art-rock suite "Shadows Of Eternity" is absolutely hilarious, piling on loads and loads of the most pretentious-sounding lyrics imaginable and singing them in a straight-faced manner -- and the musical backdrop actually sounds like art-rock, which helps matters quite a bit.
I personally prefer the second half of the album to the first half, largely because it's more fun hearing Mark lampoon crappy musical trends of the late rock era than hearing him pay tribute to older stuff. After churning out a completely on-the-dot "live" parody of macho rock bands in "Hot Rockin 2Nite," he enters the '80s with the dark Joy Division-y postpunk tune "Luxurious Castle of Snuggles" and the synthpop-ish "Lonesome Potato". He then goes on to parody rap (the jaw-droppingly hilarious "Slightly Warm Medina," as perfect a rap parody as I've ever heard besides Weird Al's "It's All About The Pentiums"), speed metal ("Evil Lurks"), pathetic '90s retro-psychedelia ("Cereal Box") and...um....one-second songs ("Preamble"). Then you've got "I'm A Girl," which pokes fun at the alt-rock Lilith Fair Natalie Merchant/Lisa Loeb VH1 "Women First" crowd - hey, they deserved it, and the song's awesome.
There are some flaws - as has been beaten into the ground by earlier reviewers, the sound is awful (which is to be expected), some of the lyrics are more "offensive" than "offensively funny," and some of the songs are more ideas than full-fleshed out pastiches (such as the punk songs, along with "Disco Jaws" which would've been more effective if it really sounded like disco, with corny backing vocals and a pulsing beat, a thing which Mark probably could've accomplished). But it's hard to hate an album where the last five songs perfectly sum up all that's wrong with music in this day and age - parodies of techno, sellout swing, teenybopper pop, and faceless rock music, all capped off by a dreary "epilogue" instrumental which perfectly encapsulates the current wasteland that music is in. Good job, Mark -- just hire a producer and you've got yourself set for your own position in the annals of rock.
I'd just like to pick a bone with your statements about "producers" and "the limitations of a four track." Mark doesn't need to get a producer; he just needs to get some top notch microphones. The four track itself doesn't really have intrinsic "limitations," it's what you do with it that determines the quality of the tape. Having made a bunch of albums already, I'm sure Mark knows how to use it, but the best advice that I could give him would be to read some stuff about microphones and how to get good room reverberations. I totally understand the appeal of cheap, DIY recordings (being a big fan of Smog and early Pavement), but I think Mark should experiment with some new things.
Stop, Drop, and Roll is one of the most beautiful things ever to be put on CD. I bash on your albums each time, but only because I feel obligated to. I love your work and all, but is there any chance you'd consider making your albums somewhat shorter? By the time I'm halfway through I feel like it's dragging on and on. This is partially due to the quality of the recording itself. Have you tried turning down the "trim" setting? All of my home recordings sounded a lot like yours until I learned to do this. Anyway though, enough dissing, Mark is a genius. The "you can laugh at my wee dick" line in I'm Not Leaving made me laugh so fucking hard. Incense Lost is actually good musically and quite funny. Mee Mi Mo Mo etc. is just hilarious what with the laughing and clapping and anal sex on 6 yr olds. Heckhound On My Trail is funny the way it avoids the bad word "hell". My Penis Is Big, as it should be called, is another good penis joke. Death Of A Salesman just rocks!!!! Wonderful guitar line. I can't remember a lot of the other stuff, but it's all good. Just a bit long and messy. Like John Flansburgh trying to play a guitar solo. There was another good anal sex joke but I forget what it was. We smoke some pot, we give it all we've got. Great song. Oh yeah now I remember. She brings her love to me, I find it in her crap encrusted ass. Oh man, just the feeling with which that line is delivered is so goddamn funny.
But as much as I enjoy this fine piece of work, it's not something I plan on listening to often. Yes, the melodies are there and the composition is strong, but it's buried under layers and layers of mud. It's definitely worth digging out, but it takes a lot of work to fully appreciate this disc. Can you imagine if Mark hooked up with a legendary producer like, say, George Martin (before he went deaf, mind you)? That could well be a pop masterpiece. Well, as much a masterpiece it could be with the word "poop" strewn all over it. I eagerly await the next Prindle release.
The challenge in taking on this project- which I imagine was the reason that prodded the Byrds to abandon it- is not only in producing identifiable replicas/parodies of dozens of musical styles, but in making each song genuinely good; the sort of thing you'd want to listen to more than once for a giggle. So not only do I give Mark a mastadonic amount of credit for even attempting this feat (which simply would not work if he wasn't well-versed in nearly every type of music since the days when people were recording samples for Moby), but the fact that the album contains any number of truly great songs lands it squarely in the pantheon of underground rock miracles. The smirky, three-part prog fantasia "Gazing Through the Shadows of Eternity," for instance, is extremely well-constructed and addictive, even as Mark mockingly sings about "mantra and yantra all having a solid foundation in reality." There's still a plethora of pointless noise and undercooked songs here ("Spastic Penguin Guy" particularly rankles me), but it's futile to gripe about that stuff by this point, and it's also overshadowed by the eye-popping songwriting range exhibited here. And true, Stop, Drop and Roll can't quite duck the "novelty" label in the end, but Mark is unpretentious- and learned- enough to know that "novelty masterwork" isn't necessarily an oxymoron.
0.) All numbering systems (all of them that matter anyway) start with zero, so here's zero. Now that that's out of the way...
1.) SD&R (which is my time-saving abreviation for the album "Stop, Drop and Roll: A Musical Celebration of Death by Smoke Inhalation" by Mark Prindle) made my boss call me from across the room and ask "What the hell is that weird buzzing sound?" three times during three different songs. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that Prindle is in fact a beehive or an electric turbine, because (like both of these things) he buzzes quite a lot. Very buzzy indeed. The mix on most of these songs is really thick and "indie" sounding, but still sounds better than Sebadoh and people buy their shit. (So to sum up the first outline point: buzzy does not equal shitty; it just means buzzy, which is a detail you should probably know about an album before you break the bank for $4 to buy it.)
2.) I would probably like to be in a band type unit with Prindle, as long as he didn't sing. No, actually I'm only kidding. He's pretty capable of singing, but I have no earthly idea what his voice actually sounds like because he either uses funny accents or smothers it in pitch change-y speed-up slow-down stuff and distortions. He also apparently is able to channel the cookie monster when he feels like it, which is probably a laugh riot in bed.
3.) Prindle's music is not background music. Remember this or prepare to kill innocent people in your sudden fits of rage. I'm currently (as of when I'm writing it, not when you're reading it) sitting at my work desk, not really working, and I have realized that I can only listen to SD&R when I'm not doing anything else. I have to sit quiet and still, lyric sheet in hand, or it all piles into noise. This is not a criticism, just a fact. So pay attention! Lowly Maggot!
4.) If you've not heard any of it, I think a lot of Prindle's stuff (not just this album) lies somewhere between fast poppy-punk (Ramones, not Blink182) and Sonic Youth. In my opinion, the best part of the stuff is Mark's bizarre guitar style. Even with the maddeningly lo-fi mix, the guitar textures always cum through, and cum through enjoyably. (My ribald sense of spelling is ribald! Look at its ribald-ness!) He uses slides and stuff sometimes, neat noisy distortions, reverbs and delays, and coats his strings in anal-ease. Probably.
5.) Okay, so I guess I should mention SD&R is a "Tribute/Parody/Mockery" of rock n' roll through the ages (both of them). And it's pretty damn funny. It starts off with some Chicago-ish blues junk (Chicago the city, of course; not the shitty pop-rock outfit of the 80's), hits surf rock (with a hilarious "cover" of taps played Ventures style), carresses stupid folk ("Innocence Lost"), consoles doo-wop ("Me Mi Me Mi Mo Mo Me"), cavorts with Chuck Berry proto-rock ("Rock til you Drop"), and of course of course of course there's punk and metal. Lots of punk and metal. And track 3 ("Why Must I Be a Teenager?") sounds like an odd children's choir. (All of the children probably have something stuck in their poop holes.)
6.) Prindle's lyrics are just as funny as his reviews, you just have to take them in context. The sincerest form of flattery is imitation, but you can also subtly call attention to something's idiocy by doing it relatively straight-faced. The very first time I heard most of this stuff, seemingly not remembering that this was music from Mark Prindle, I tried too hard to take it "seriously" and of course hated it and thought it sucked. It decidedly does not suck. Like how part B of "Gazing Through the Shadows of Eternity" has those hilariously pretentious, mystical lyrics - they're a joke, see. Not actually pretentious, even though they're actually pretentious! He's making fun of pretentious fucks like YES! YES he is! I'll bet he doesn't really condone such things as "scoring H" and "living life till I die by which I mean become addicted to several chemical substances and shake all night and puke", either. (By the way kids, that's pretty much a quote from a song on this album. Keen, huh?)
7.) "Lollipops and Daffodils and Cinnamon and Spice" is fucking awesome. I want to cover it or at least rip off that cool bleating noise thing.
8.) I think he uses an Alesis drum machine (just like me!) sometimes, but my guess is he might also be sequencing some of the rhythms on his PC, because one or two songs seem to have a Windows system sound in them as a percussive element. P.S. - Good way to get sued, Mark.
9.) Mark Prindle has as much chance getting signed to a major label as my cat Daphne does, and he probably doesn't care too much about this. Or maybe he does, but I wouldn't wager on it judging by songs like "Lonesome as a Colored" and "Get Your Knitting Needle Out of my Ass". He's not GG Allin, certainly, (Marks actually talented and doesn't try to rape and poop on everybody), but he's also not Pat Boone. Well, okay "Heckhound on my Trail" is kinda Pat Boone.
10.) "Death of a Salesman" makes my teeth hurt. SQUEEEEEEL!!!!!! (I was hoping you would infer that said sound is loud and screeching from my judicious use of all caps and many vowels in a row.)
11.) I said something about guitars earlier; this point is as good as any other to mention some of this stuff has keyboards on it too. The sissier stuff.
12.) Is Mark Brittish? I could almost swear from that hilarious punk song about Emerson Lake and Palmer and how much they rule. Hilariously snotty vocals!
13.) Do women really like it when you refer to the act of love making as "Hot Rockin 2nite"? The answer appears actually to be yes, because Brenda is pretty damn hot. Mark used to shamelessly shill markprindle.com coffee cups with a partially naked picture of her on them, and oh boy. I have to go to the bathroom for a second. Hold on.
14.) I'm back. My bowels were hurting badly. (If you thought I was gonna make a masturbation joke, you were probably mistaken. I might make one later though.)
15.) A critique: These songs are all like a minute and a half long and run together like nobody's business. OCD + ADD = loud short songs that don't stick around long enough sometimes for me to get into them. Actually the main problem for me is that some of the coolest stuff on the disc is contained in little 22 second tracks that are book-ended by weird-vocaled goof off tracks. Everybody that's posted one of these reviews seems to say something like that though, so maybe we're just not able to understand the true genious of Mark Prindle - a poor sense of editing. See, the thing is this thing: as Prindle would probably tell you if you went to New York and asked him like I hope to do tonight, even the "goof-off" tracks probably weren't meant to be goofs. They're just goofy anyway, because that's part of Mark. He's kinda goofy. But very intelligently so, which helps. Take the opener, "Talkin' Lemon Devil Woman Blues (and Chicago, in Addition)". It's a parody of those dumb ol' black (or white, which is worse) twits that sit on stools in smokey bars in Chicago and play dumb pentatonic riffs over and over and sing about stupid blues stuff, stupidly. So it should be no suprise that Mark sounds really, really stupid singing it. No suprise whatsoever. It may be a suprise though, that he manages to fit the word "vas deferens" into the 12-bar blues form, which probably hasn't been done before. He's smart that way.
17.) "Louie Louie/I've Got my Penis in your Daughter's Vagina" may be the closest thing Mark has written to serious lyrics. No kidding.
18.) "Dreary Old Lonesome Potato" is probably the saddest song Mark (or anyone other than the Cure, Swans, or Joy Division) has written. It would be a really funny suicide note if it didn't make me cry so hard. See, Mark is not ever really too serious, and this is no exception on the surface. (If it was serious-sounding in the context of these other songs, it would probably suck.) But the lyrics do the whole "sad-clown" thing quite well, especially if you read Mark's site enough to know a little about him.
19.) For someone who says he doesn't do drugs, Mark sure does do alot of drugs. Or at least he sounds like it. What other excuse can you come up with for someone who suddenly stops songs to carry on conversations with himself? What excuse? What? W?
20.) I wonder if that's really Brenda singing on "I'm a Girl (GirlPower)". I wonder. And did Prindle really write the song for her, or is she in actuallity the songwriter of the marriage? Is she the hidden savant, let's say, behind such luminary works as "Colonel Rollins Amplified Cookie Kutter" and "My Poppa is a Square Old Fuck"? I wonder.
In summer vacation (summation): It's darn good. I'd give it a high seven if I knew how to count. You'll probably think the same, unless of course you do not.
Think, that is.
Nowhere is this more true than on Stop, Drop and Roll. Just listen to tracks 1-10 and realize that not only have you just heard ten completely different songs in different styles, as delivered through a truly warped mind (I mean that in a good way), but also that there are still 51 tracks left to go, all following suit in their far-reaching eclecticism. That alone gives me a giddy sort of feeling, like I've just stumbled into an unknown world where anything can happen.
Some might complain that with 61 tracks, there is a lot of filler that should have been left out. But I think these people are missing the whole point: this, along with a handful of other albums (The Clash's "Sandinista", Ween's "GodWeenSatan", Guided by Voices' "Suitcase" box set, Half Japanese's "1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts", R. Stevie Moore's whole catalog, even the Beatles White Album¦), has as its very agenda the all-encompassing disregard for any sort of editing -- a nearly stream-of-consciousness avalanche of ideas that, taken together, has the manic intensity of an insane person gone out of control. This intensity comes through clearly when taken as a whole collection; if you just played one or two tracks out of context, you wouldn't get the same sense of wonder and shock.
Now on to the music itself. As fascinatingly intense as the very format of this album is, the diversity of the songs keeps things entertaining. Having reviewed music as a hobby for many years, I've learned to catch myself before making broad generalizations of someone's music merely by saying, "like a cross between Ween and the Residents". So I'll avoid doing Mark a disservice and leave that part out, but you can read between the lines. In other reviews I've read on this page, there are references to this as a "concept album" about the history of music, and I guess I can see where that comes from. Many different subgenres of rock and pop are paid homage, much like Ween has done throughout their career. It begins with a bit of swampy slide-blues, onto a 50s rock tribute, and so onâ€¦ There are even a couple of well-known songs covered here: an instrumental version of "Louie Louie" (frighteningly similar to R.Stevie Moore's own version -- did Mark know about this?), and a supremely clever surf-version of "Taps" with the lyrics "You're Dead!" added over a cheerleader-clapping rhythm. Really, though, to me the presiding concept here is a trip through Mark's mind, with sensitive moments peppered throughout the toilet humor, the crass mixed with the sublime (real heavy on the crass part though). No matter where his mind is, though, it's always funny as hell, and that helps a lot too. More so than his subsequent album, Only the Good Die Young, this is a FUN, accessible album if you can get past the novel recording techniques and his penchant for strange voices â€“ there really are legitimate SONGS hiding behind the lo-fi haze, but it may take patience to sort them out. Once I find my magnifying glass so I can read the lyric booklet, I'll get back to you.
One more angle to this assessment needs to be addressed: the financial angle. I bought this album from Mark for $4, and it has 61 songs. That's roughly 6.5 cents per song. You can't even buy a gumball for that anymore. Think about how much care and attention went into the production of that gumball, and then listen to ANY of the 61 songs here and think about how much care and attention went into IT. I don't know about you, but next time I feel like buying some gum, I'll stop myself and buy a couple of songs from Mark Prindle instead.
Fades in slowly. Before I begin, I will say that I have just been reading about The Ramones. There is a legend whereby The Ramones recorded their debut album for $6,400. This legend is repeated all over the internet, because $6,400 was a trivial sum of money to record an album in the late 1970s, especially compared to the millions spent in the studio by Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd and Boston etc. Nonetheless the legend puzzles me a bit, because $6,400 is a fairly tidy sum nowadays and must have been huge in 1976. According to the website of the US Social Security department, the average annual wage in the United States was $10,556.03 in 1978. It is hard to grasp that sum nowadays, because goods and services did not cost the same in 1978 as they do today, and furthermore I am British, and dollars are typically weaker than the pound, but at the same time Britain is a more expensive place to live. I cannot draw any conclusion from $10,556.03. The point I am trying to make, though, is that The Ramones spent almost a year's salary to record their debut album, which probably took ninety minutes to do, with no guarantee that they would ever record another album, although in their hearts they knew that they were good. They knew that there was an audience for their music, and that they could give the audience what they wanted. There were four Ramones, and perhaps they each chipped in $1,600. Even that is not the kind of sum you would throw away. They had self-belief, drive, and determination, and perhaps they had won some money on the lottery. I wish Mark Prindle had taken the same kind of risk, and spent $6,400 to record Stop, Drop and Roll. The average wage in Pennsylvania in 1996 was $28,717, I wish Mark Prindle had spent that; I'm not suggesting that he lives in Pennsylvania, I'm just using Pennsylvania as a general example of North America circa 1996. Stop, Drop and Roll has a lot of clever ideas, a lot of filler, a lot of scatology, a little bit of eschatology, and it would have benefited greatly from proper production, even cheap proper production. It is sick that people who can afford to throw away thousands of dollars on expensive cameras tend to be creatively empty retirees, the kind of people who show off their toys on the internet, they have masses of kit but they never do anything with it. The people who have talent tend to have no money. This is an ancient argument.
My copy of Stop, Drop and Roll has a "Made in Canada" sticker on the back. The inlay card has a photograph of John Belushi looking uncharacteristically meek, and unusually slim for John Belushi. There's a stuffed toy, and a hot chick who is wearing a beret. The CDR is by Maxell. The album is apparently a condensed history of rock music, although it goes way over my head because rock music began and evolved very differently in Britain. For instance, KISS were major recording stars in the US, but in the UK they were dwarfed by Slade and T-Rex. If you were to ask an Englishman about Chuck Berry, he would assume you were asking him about a traditional game. In England, Little Richard is a term of abuse. There are so many bands that are popular in the US, but which have only become famous in Britain because the internet has allowed the American cultural poison to infect people's minds with false memories.
Track one starts slowly and must be a kind of overture. Track two is a rocking number about the Korean War. It's catchy and I find myself humming it at work. It's also frightfully clever, because it transposes the anti-war sentiment of 1960s rock music to a previous decade, using an earlier rock style. Track three is a vocal experiment, perhaps it is a vocal interpretation of childbirth. I am put in mind of Yoko Ono. The tracks are basically sketches. They tend to chug along for a minute and a half, and then they stop dead. The abrupt endings are initially jarring, and then they are funny, because they are inevitable. Just when you expect a track to fade out, it stops dead. Over and over again. Track four is a novelty jingle with cartoon voices. It stops dead. Track five sounds a bit like Love, the band, rather than the feeling. It stops dead. Etc. When I read Mark Prindle's reviews, I don't have a mental voice running in my head, perhaps because his style is so wordy; it doesn't lend itself to being read out. When I read George Starostin's reviews I have a mental image of what George must look like, but Mark Prindle is a blank space. I find it hard to associate the voice coming out of my speakers with the Mark Prindle I have known and loved, from afar, secretly, for so many years.
Taken as a whole the album reminds me of The Residents' Commercial Album, but it is more muffled, and there is more rock guitar. The Residents used a lot of different instruments, but they were not big on guitar. Mark Prindle's lead guitarist is better than me, and the band's singer does not sound as dopey and rural as the lead singer of The Residents. The arrangements are pretty good, on a par with those of The Residents, but without any space - everything plays all the time. The vocals are often buried in the mix and it's a pain to read the lyrics on the lyric sheet, but then again The Residents didn't even print lyrics sheets at all, so plus one point to The Prindle. There isn't a numbered track listing, so I have had to jot down notes. The songwriting reminds me of Wire, in the sense that each song tends to have at least one verse and then sometimes a chorus, which is sometimes repeated, sometimes not. Track eight has a sexy babe doing the vocals. It's a bit synthpop and reminds me of Barcelona's "I Have The Password to Your Shell Account". I think that the general concept, that of presenting a history of rock music, is abandoned early on, or perhaps it was nonsense to begin with. Track IX sounds like a shoegazing band, and there are still fifty tracks left to go. That's monkey dream art, baby. Give us a kiss, pine smile, you lord o'locusts, I cannae dream. If you read the previous sentence backwards you get some song lyrics, I won't tell you which ones. Track 12 is nice. Track 13 ends with a Pink Floyd interstellar freakout 48-hour fever dream.
I've heard a lot of demos by useless talentless nobodies, you can find them all over MySpace. I imagine John Peel had shedloads, literally. They are typically very serious-faced and completely boring and empty and hollow and empty. Stop, Drop and Roll is much better than that, because there are actual tunes, shifts of mood etc, a guiding intelligence, a unique voice. The arrangements are complex and imaginative, although poorly-produced, and very murky. I've recently been listening to some of the Pebbles albums, which are compilations of garage pop singles from the 1960s. The production on those records is very basic, but better than Stop Drop and Roll, e.g. "Searching" by The Omens, which is the archetypal garage pop single and was recorded in a living room. I can't really fault Mark Prindle for the production, because he was working cheaply with a cheap four-track tape machine, and he must have done loads of overdubs. But I kept thinking that the musical core of these songs could have be made to shine with some more work, and that he should have pared the album down to twenty-five good songs, and then spent a year's wages recording them in a studio. Sometimes the poor production helps, e.g. Track 33, "Hot Rockin' 2Night (Live)", is parody of the kind of stage drivel that I remember hearing on one of those "Celebrities at Their Worst" CDs, from Poison or one of those bands. The mixer had edited out all of the music, and the only thing left behind was the lead singer saying "All right!" and "Let's party!" and "Michigan!" and "Yeah!" and "Do you like to smoke dope?" and so forth. In Mark Prindle's musical hands it is funny because the music is a clever recreation of this, and it sounds cheap and nasty, like sex.
The drums all come out of a drum machine. I think Track 40 encapsulates the experience; it starts off rocking, with a fake-sounding drum machine and some power chords, and after twenty seconds the guitars vanish, and the singer does a lovely harmony vocal with a lovely keyboard, and then the guitars come back, and it's over in a flash. I'm tempted to say that it sounds schizo, but that might be a bit insensitive on account of Mark Prindle's well-documented... his unique mental perspective. He probably thinks that we're unusual. Track 39 is an instrumental cover of Louie Louie that sounds like The Residents. Track 16 sounds like Ultravox. Track 17 has some wicked wah-wah playing and reminds me of the stuff on one of those Frank Zappa albums where he just plays guitar, except that it is only half a minute long. Track 51 is a bass-heavy cover of Slayer's "Angel of Death".
I think Track 22 is a mickey-take of King Crimson, or one of those technique-heavy instrumental guitarists like Adrian Belew, with odd time signatures and jerky rhythms. I would not mind if Adrian Belew's fingers were broken off. Track 53 is similar. Track 23 ends with a vocal line that reminds me of The Residents' cover of "Satisfaction". Track 28 sounds like Lene Lovich, except that it has a much busier guitar arrangement than Lene Lovich. Track 49 is a relatively conventional indie guitar ballad of the female-fronted variety. Track 56 sounds like early Depeche Mode.
Endings, eh? Do you remember the end of "Electra Glide in Blue"? It was one of those downbeat films from the 1970s where the main character is killed at the end. In this case the main character was played by Robert Blake, a man familiar with death.
A problem I have, though, is with Mark's computer vocals. When he just sorta sings, which he doesn't do much on here, it's great, but all that slowed down, sped up, stripped down, locked up machine-manipulated word processing tends to annoy me. Though, you(moron that you are) might quite light-ly enjoy it. Considering this was my first Prindle listening experience, I was much surprised at how non-bad the album was. Egads at the cover, though...egads.
As for the songs themselves, I can't remember what sounds like what, but I can definitely say that the lyrics are very high class and somewhat witty. Dig that one line about the window with no screen that you can bang whores in. This guy is funny. Marvel at the genius that came up with "Men are from Mars, women lick my penis". Indulge in the cheapshots taken at Neil Young, who should indeed stay away from tower-esque tragedies. I'm also much in favor of Mark's shots at the person who said his site was overrated...it's not, jealous reviewer. Oh, and the song about the guy from the Cows thinking he was a fag is pure gold. Don't you skip over the one about the microphones being on the fingers of Johnny Ramone during the recording of "Pinhead" either. Finally, for the ladies, Mark lets his dog bark a tune. Best vocals on the album, but you don't need me to tell you that. This album is worth your time. Well, maybe not 74 minutes of your time. "Be Carefull" and that exercise song for two, suck. What are you obsessed with having as many songs as possible on a cd? Weirdo.
Mark says it himself: “I can’t tell the difference between discipline and obsession… drive turns to routine turns to restbreaking brainache.” And this was the case with him while recording this album. He started by listing his obsessions – a healthy beginning. Then, he wrote the lyrics, which have some gems (“a showdown was forced to occur / M. Prindle v God with opening act The Cure”), but returned to the tiresome defecation/urination jokes Mark so easily falls prey to. Next, Mark wrote the music. Every day after work, he would go to the back room and spend about an hour orchestrating the drums, bass, harmony, melody, tonality, rhythm, distortion, and ancillary instruments he would use on each song. An hour for everything! There were a few times he tweaked and finessed a vocal harmony because it didn’t meet his expectations, but mostly the composing was a series of wham-bam-stop the 4-track ma’am events. There was very little reflection or self-assessment during this period, and I think this led to a lot of repetitive stuff ending up on the album. Finally, Mark mixed the album onto CD, a new process for him which helped boost the sound quality of the final product but also forced him to mix it right the first time since there was no opportunity for do-overs. Of course, all this work resulted in a vast number of songs – several of which are really very good. But Mark’s end goal for this album was definitely not quality, or innovation. His goal was to get this album out of the way “so he won’t have to record another one until July.” The final result is not music that results from a labor of love, but obsession. Fitting, but not fulfilling.
That’s why I think this album deserves a low 7. It starts out with a number of solid songs, including “4th Shrink,” which has a pretty, saddening sound worthy of Radiohead, “Prisoner of Wobbery,” where Mark shows how beautifully he can sing, and “Irish Eyes are Smiling” and “Spinny Baseball Game,” both of which are funny and mind-stickingly catchy. But also interspersed are songs like “The Album So Nice” and “Ablums” where Mark uses a really fucking irritating voice where he sounds constipated. Also making an annoying return appearance in Mark’s work is the play-with-the-speed-dial technique, which mars the purity of “Henry” and ruins “The next song I listen to.” The middle of the album is a long stretch of Prindle-warmed-over songs that are too noisy to be interesting and too similar to be novel. There are a few flickers of smartness, such as the jankly “Exercise Regime” and “Add your thoughts” where Mark sings his humorous lyrics in Subterranean Homesick Blues-style. Also, “Bitches” has a nice refrain; “Semi-Celebrity” is a lovely ballad; and “Be Careful” is a funky little punk song. Every once in a while, you’ll hear a flicker of arcade-game sound, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 influence, or even Indian or Celtic sounding guitar that makes the listening experience feel worthwhile. Or you’ll find an intriguing aural insight into what it’s like to be in Mark’s head like “Hispanic Attack,” which is an ugly but intellectually neat song because it sounds exactly like how one of his panic attacks must feel. But these are Easter eggs in an otherwise muddy and monotonous landscape. Towards the end, the quality increases again and you find two of the best songs on the album, “Pinhead + Diver Down,” which is a peppy, Pavement-y song (except for that fart noise) and “Doin’ It” where Mark finally pulls the lyrics, vocal style and music together to create a masterpiece pleasing to ear and brain.
Simply put, Only the Good Die Young doesn’t live up to the greatness of Mark’s preceding 3 albums. Unless Mark gets a handle on his OCD – and gets hold of an 8-track – he’ll become a Wesley Willis clone, singing the same old songs over and over and over again.
But this latest album by Mark is also evidence of another truism of artistic development: novelty is beguiling, and a vibrant exploratory artist is better than a stagnating one. Maybe if you weren't listening too closely, the album wouldn't sound much like Mark at all; the tapespeed warpings, angular guitar noise, and ridiculous obscenity might fly beneath your notice, because while those things are all still present, they aren't what this album's *about*. Yet a (relative) lack of fag jokes and other Prindliana can't disguise the route he took from there to here. We may only see the end product, but if nothing else the layered vocal harmonies (and preposterously lengthy song titles) indicate that this is still a Mark Prindle record.
It's not as typical as we might expect, though, and that in itself is part of what makes it good. I miss the superfunny obscenity as much as the next guy (though "An Album So Nice..." has a wonderful example, it's oddly out of place here), but I hope the next guy also appreciates the open book that Mark makes of his fears. Almost all the songs are about various obsessions he's had over the course of his life. That's not a totally new theme; "I Hate When Old Records Go 'Kihh'" from the Low-Maintenance Perennials' Chicago XX is about such a monomaniacal focus, as are a few of his solo tunes ("Mess," etc.).
But certainly this is his most extended treatment of his psychological problems, and the least parodic. There's the occasional poop joke to leaven the proceedings, and the music is still about as far from sensitive balladry as rock gets. But if you can manage to read the lyrics--they're printed in a fuzzy grey block at approximately the size of atoms--you'll find a great deal of direct, unadorned emotional pain. "Never Better" and "Be Careful!" are among the most wrenching songs I've ever read. Some of that may be due to the fact that I know this is my friend Mark Prindle talking and not some random songwriter. Yet I think everyone will empathize with the general ideas. It may sound strange to say of a song that centers on clever, obscene rhymes, but tunes like "Working Late?" seem unburdened by artificiality. This is a really good pop writer telling us the things that make him most miserable--but he likes us too much to make the songs themselves miserable, and he throws in punchlines so we don't have to get any more involved than we want. Personally, I love feeling that I've glimpsed somebody's most central thoughts in their art.
So why, then, does this album only get an 8? The short answer is: technology. Lo-fi may be the medium of choice for many a balladeer, but that's not what Mark is. As I said, "Never Better" and "Be Careful!" are among the most wrenching songs I've ever read--but they are NOT among the most wrenching I've heard. Mark isn't about profound emotionalism in his music a la Nick Cave; he's about the pop hook, especially fast ones. (The sole ballad on here "Semi-Celebrity" is also among the most heedlessly obscene.) As a result, none of his soul-baring lyrics are attached to music that we'd consider similarly deep. That's just because we love categories, though. I don't think the fuzzed-out melancholy of "Fourth Shrinkity-Dink," the wavery goodness of "Count Unhealthula," or the pure pop bliss of "Bitches Don't Know Shit" are any farther from Mark's central identity than "Soul and Fire" is from Lou Barlow's. They might be closer; Mr. Barlow is apt to include irony in his creations.
But I was talking about technology, not Mark's preferences. Folks, there's only so much you can cram into a four-track cassette mixer. Three-part (or more) vocal harmonies, drums, multiple guitar parts--Mark composes like he has infinite room to do exactly what he wants. Of course, this means that down the road he has to overwrite sections of music with vocals, or ping-pong tracks until they're indistinct hums in the background, or other space-saving tricks. He does an admirable job of maintaining audibility for the most part, but sometimes the machine just isn't up to it. There's an awful lot of songs on here where a major element--guitar riff, backup vocal--will just abruptly disappear so that the next section can have another element added.
This accentuates the somewhat scattershot feel of the album; when your tracks are already only a minute or so long, cutting them into three distinct pieces results in "hooks" so short they barely have time to register. As a result, there's very few songs on here that will have you singing along or bopping your head in time, as Mark's past albums have always included. That's not because his guitar work has gotten less catchy. It's just that unless you're chugging at grindcore speed, 20 seconds isn't enough to lay down a memorable melody and repeat it more than once. And while this album is uptempo, it's no Dealing With It. For this reason, I still have a hard time remembering how most of the songs go. Similarly, the purest punk songs on here, such as "I Hope You Enjoyed..." are the catchiest, even though they're simpler and less beautiful than some of the splintered longer tracks. Mark has said that this is his last album on 4-track, and this makes me happy. He's got so many ideas it's frustrating to hear them buried beneath each other.
There's not much more I can say. If you like Mark's other albums, you should like this one. But it will probably take more than one listen for you to discern just how it fits into his discography. I would strongly suggest listening at least once through headphones; home recording technology is kinder there. Above all, I recommend breaking out a magnifying glass and reading the lyrics. They're not as funny as some of his previous work, but they're exciting pop creations in the same wondrous, idiosyncratic way as the 70s punk/new wave renaissance.
This is vital music that taps directly into the artist, influenced by many things but not consciously imitating any of them. This is loud guitar. This is rock and roll.
Spiritually and sonically, this album is the follow-up to Keep On 'Zaccin, with that album's "Diary Full of Dick Jokes" lyrical approach, twisty guitar interplay and emphasis on vocal harmonies left intact. Mark's ability to write memorable guitar parts is still in full effect, what with stuff like "Larry Hagman Christmas" and the cool harmonic thing in "I'm Not an Alcoholic" popping up all over the cd. He's still kickin' out those vocal harmonies too, in particular the verse in "Prisoner of Wobbery" keeps getting stuck in my head. Also I love the weird-voiced chorus in "Suicible Tendancies." Hell, I like a lot of different things on the album! 'Tis good.
I wonder though why Mark insists on doing annoying things with the tape speed knob on the 4-track with the vocals on half the songs. Especially when he makes it quite clear elsewhere that he can actually come up with something more interesting to do. "Hispanicattack" doesn't have the worst vocals ever(though it does come close). No, that honor belongs to "The Next Song I Listen to Is Big Business." It sounds like he's being annoying on PURPOSE, and that's annoying! Unfortunately there's stuff like THAT all over too, though most of it isn't as flagrant as said "Business" song.
Anywho, there are still a ton of wonderful guitar and vocal lines coming out of Mark's head, and you'd do yourself well to get this cd if you're acquainted with his music already.
Plus, I can now rest assured that I'm not the only person on the planet who watched "Pinwheel." It was a real show you bastards! I didn't make it up! Just listen to the chorus of "Henry Henry Mr. Chew!!" I am vindicated.
Musically, this album is very inaccessible, possible Prindle's least accessible CD yet. I think it was Christian Smith (who on this album is given a 'shoutout' to, and then proceeded to be called a dick) that described LuMP's "Jurassic Park" has having a bottomless pit of sound, and I think that term would apply well here. This album is filled with tons of really noisy guitar lines, odd keyboard parts, and occasionally a really ridiculous fast drumbeat. However on top of all of that is usually a really pop-sounding vocal melody. In a way, this sort of reminds me of later period Crass playing pop songs. While the later Crass stuff was really noisy (probably to get people to focus more on the lyrics, which in my opinion is a really stupid idea - if you want to preach politics, write a fucking book), it reminds me somewhat of an aural equivalent of the colleges that are found on their album covers and in their sleeves. Of course, Crass were very serious about their music and more serious about the politics (probably too serious), and their music was designed that way, a poltical collage of sound, if you will. Whereas this Mark Prindle CD soundsto me more like a sonic collage of ridiculousness, poking fun at everything under the sun, not only with the lyrics, which are the same kind of profane yet clever puns that we've grown to know and love from Prindle as well as some OCD inspired rantings, but also with the music. Some of the realy fast 'dancy' drum beats and over the top vocal lines sound just too ridiculous to be anything but, well, ridiculous. Unlike the previous Mark Prindle CD, which purposely attacks certain musical genres, this one is really unlike any other kind of music I've ever heard before, other than the previous Prindle stuff. Even the Crass comparison doesn't really hold water, as this stuff is too far out there even for that gang of humourless Brits.
So that somewhat covers what the CD sounds like. But why do I like it? Well, for on thing, while the music is extremely noisy, its also extremely fun. And while it pokes at some very serious issues, it provides a much needed laugh. Often in the worst situations, laughter is the best medicine, and its good that someone like Mark Prindle can find humor in mental conditions, death, and really big buildings blowing up.
This is a good CD. Not everyone will like it, but those that appreciate the quirky humor displayed on Prindle's website will probably at least enjoy listening to this. I suppose I couldn't review this album without mentioning a few of the actual songs on there. The semi-cover of the Pinwheel theme song is well... odd, the Neil Hamburder endorsement is hilarious, and "Jesus Loves Me (But His Dad Thinks I'm A Prick)" is one of the funniest and truest song titles ever. While this album isn't perfect (74 minutes is a bit too long), its still really good, and I hope the next one is this cool.
Basically, what I'm trying to say is, Mark Prindle has one of the best musical imaginations around, and keeping him from using more than four tracks is like keeping a tiger trapped in a shoebox. If this man were to be let loose in a recording studio, the world as we know it would be over. If anyone from a major label reads this, PLEASE SIGN MARK PRINDLE. Thank you.
Besides the normal things, like melodys, harmonys and crap, theres also musical experimentation. Mark didnt fall into the cliche trap of neglecting the music because he was paying attention to the lyrics and concept, if anything, he did the opposite! Theres a lot of stuff he does with his guitar, adding effects, or making it ring beautifully jankly but of course, mostly staying true to his punk rock or rock roots by adding some distorted wall of guitars. None of the 67 songs on this CD sound the least bit similar!! They all are unique and fickle, but as a whole, this is a wonderful represent of the OCD laden mind of Mark Prindle. People may call this "novelty music" because a handful of these songs are pretty bizarre (I like how Mark doesn't just sing in the same tone all over the record, but he diversifies his voice), and plus some of the lyrics are so silly you just have to bust a gut, but dont call it "novelty"!! Mark's songs are too good for "novelty", as its not just music to laugh to, its also sing-a-long-able or just plain interesting to listen to. One thing, though, is that i wish i could drum for Mark, as sometimes the drum machine gets drowned out with the guitars and stuff and i usually am used to hearing big booming drums (like Surfer Rosa).
But that said, I should make clear how frustrating a listening experience Mark's new album is. I think I'm coming to understand Mark more with each puzzlingly stubborn use of a homophobic/sexist/racist joke and gratuitous, blatantly irritiating noise - conceived with postmodernistic irony, clearly, but overwhelmed by the sheer punishing DISCIPLINE he seems to subject himself to in their placement. A lot of us start out in this exact same place - and why not? It's an awfully fun place to be for a time.
But then, after a few years boredom, hightened social awareness, and/or a combination of both leads most people somewhere else. What interests me is that, for Mark, this doesn't seem to be happening - if anything, he's moving in the complete opposite direction, freezing his artistic ambition if for no other reason than sheer force of will. Bands and artists do this all the time, as often insuccessfully as successfully, but almost always out of integrity, which is at least admirable in some pointless sort of way. I could be wrong, but what worries me about Mark is how I get the feeling that he's only being so stringently obnoxious as a means of satisfying that one part of his brain that - if his experience is anything like mine - bullies him into being offensive by actually making inoffensiveness feel GUILTY. If this doesn't make sense to anyone I'll have naught to do but shake my head in a beautiful Mel Gibson in Braveheart-esque show of defeat, but mental illness can make doing anything that someone else could reasonably enjoy or appreciate seem like a self-flaw... a weakness, and the problem with this (aside from the obvious) is that giving in to the mental bullying honestly makes ANY kind of self-progress impossible. That's not integrity - it's submission.
I'm well aware that this review is pretty presumptuous and hasn't concerned itself with the actual ALBUM all that often, but I feel that since the thought process behind it is what interests me most, that's what I should right about. Maybe I'm projecting, but this album (as neat as it is) as well as Mark's recent reviews make it seem like he's just going through the motions to satisfy an impulse that just HAS to be dealt with conclusively at some point. Your thoughts?
The atmosphere of the album is unlike any other mark prindle album I have ever heard; it almost feels like kid A mixed with were only in it for the money. Which reminds me, mark is in my opinion the lo-fi frank zappa of the 90's (only he is not a complete ass).
this is a difficult album (as it should be). it sorta reminds me of can in a weird way; it sounds like insanity, but as i just said (my God I'm a redundant) it's funny insanity! with great melodies! the music is fluid and he fiddles with the speed knob a tab too much, but i don't care; it doesn't seem to matter when the songs are this good; catchy as heroin but his lyrics are like him showing off scars. So get it! it is not one of my faves but 70 minutes of high quality experimentation is worth $4.
There is a manic nature to OTGDY, therefore I believe Mark's OCD may've been misdiagnosed. Now, I realize 'manic' (therapeutically speaking) is a disorder with its own set of overly-prescribed and fully patented medications separate from OCD which Mark struggles with, but c'mon... here he's created an album that crams 67 songs into 74 minutes with 4.5 pages of printed lyrics (single spaced!). This seems far more inspired by mania than by mere compulsion. I'm no Dr. Shrinker, but damn! If Mr. P. is truly concerned about his mental health, might I suggest he move to a less insane city than NYC? Move to a mellow West Coast state where medical marijuana usage has been legalized by voters who know better than their politicians! Every Western US state has legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes so take your pick. (Why did we do this? Because deep down inside we know that life pretty much sucks. Working your ass off your whole life in order to make someone else rich is a concept that only the, well, wealthy could love. Running on the career treadmill - like those of us without trust funds do - leads us nowhere and eventually makes us chronically ill in various ways including, I'm sure, OCD and mania. If pot makes someone feel better about their condition, why the hell would I want to stop that someone from smoking pot? Or baking it into delicious chocolate brownies? I truly wouldn't want to. But I digress... the point is: Mark, out here YOU CAN GET MARY JANE PRESCRIBED FOR YOUR OCD, BRO! Drop the Paxil!)
Mark's a funny, sensitive guy and a genius artist. I feel I've been reading his reviews and listening to his discs long enough to assert this. There are uncut gems scattered throughout OTGDY that are begging for refinement and expansion. As for the theme of this concept album, OCD, I'm unqualified to make medical opinions but I foolishly will anyhow. I repeat, I don't think Mark has OCD. I think a truly obsessive artist would be a bit more of a perfectionist re: the finished creative product. If I somehow knew better (that is to say: I don't know better), I'd say most tracks on OTGDY are the first and only takes and/or mixes. It would seem that Mark has murdered his Internal Editor and stuffed the corpse into his own penis (so-to-speak). The Internal Editor is that little voice inside you that helps you hone and refine that which you create. It is extremely helpful in letting you know when a work of art is finished or not. Mark needs that Internal Editor more than he needs any prescription medication. If Mark were to use his Internal Editor he might be able to refine his music and lyrics and create something that is a bit more accessible to people in the universal sense; something that feels less... I don't know... regurgitated. Not that regurgitation is a bad thing in and of itself... it's how I got through public school. A little more refinement would definitely be less assaulting to the listener. Mark always gives us a lot to digest.
To paraphrase Tenacious D: Mark needs to quit his day job and set the artist within him free. Take up meditation. I think that would be helpful too. Maybe slowing down, getting in touch with his Inner Editor and using it in a focused manner would function as a form of meditation for him. Or perhaps actual meditation would be better. Or Accupuncture. Oh, I know... Yoga! I hear that shit messes you up in a good way. We also recently legalized yoga out here on the West Coast.
As a psych major in college, I had to laugh at how stupid this comment was.
Not the comment on the prescribing drugs, because I tend to agree with it. But you lumping psychologists and psychiatrists into the same category is laughable, since the professions are both very different.
Psychologists do not prescribe drugs, nor are they allowed to. They have started to lobby for the ability, but the fact is, psychologists don't attend med school and therefore do not prescribe anything at all. All they can do is refer you to a psychiatrist.
PSYCHIATRISTS attend medical school before or during taking their psychology classes. They are the "evil ones" of which you speak.
I tend to hold them in lesser regard, but I find no problem with the psychologist type.
I have to confess that I¹m not qualified to review this CD. First, I don¹t really like rock music very much. Second, I have a number of crippling emotional problems that make me uncomfortable with all manner of gags, jokes, spoofs, and japes. And third, I spent the greater part of last night with Prindle¹s rampant cock knocking my uvula around like a tetherball.
But if a combination of snobbery, clinical depression, and really, *really* hot gay sex can help us to understand Mark Prindle¹s new CD--and I¹m hard pressed to imagine anything else that could--then I¹m not going to let something so outmoded as journalistic ethics prevent me from having my say.
Mark Prindle may have the poor taste to like the Ramones, but he has the excellent taste to be a lot more interesting than they are...both personally and professionally, as the saying is. And this comparison is apposite not merely because of the spiritual rectitude that gives all my utterances their remarkable authority, but also because Mark, like the Ramones, has attempted to weave a plausible garment from the cheap threads of rock-N-roll and comedy.
Can we talk about comedy, just for a minute? Can we go there? Personally, I know of nothing that can make life seem so utterly without value as the Dr. Demento show. Give me a Holocaust, a Bataan Death March, or a Hiroshima, and I will bear my grief manfully, firm in the conviction that ³Life is real, life is earnest, and the grave is not its goal.² But give me Martin Mull¹s ³Sex and Violins² LP and you¹d better give me a shotgun too, and lay down some newspapers or a tarp.
Fortunately, Mark Prindle--remember that name, you¹re going to be hearing a lot about him in a moment--is a fine funny fellow, and the brand of merriment he dispenses is nothing to sneeze at. But behind it all, through no fault of his own, the sepulchre yawns...that same pit from which Chevy Chase¹s and Chinga Chavez¹s albums slouched into our twilight world.
Now, let¹s have us a nice little chinwag about rock music. The other day, while brooding about precisely what it is that makes the world seem so cheap these days, it occurred to me that part of the problem is the fact that a great many people think empty-skulled chatterboxes like Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan are poets. Why is it, I wondered, that rock fans think the word ³poet² is some sort of ultimate argument-settler that requires no adjectival modification whatsoever? Haven¹t they ever heard of *bad* poetry? Incoherent poetry? Mere doggerel? Whence this assumption of universal competence in regards to people whose lives, as often as not, stand as monuments to egotism, laziness, and smug ignorance?
The next time you have the opportunity to look at pictures of rock musicians, study them well; you may profit greatly by it! Look at their folded arms, their sullen stare. Don¹t think of these as poses assumed merely by chance. If you do, you might just as well assume that the blonde bent over the hood of the SUV in that TV commercial just happened to be passing by. The fact is, rock musicians understood branding long before Madison Avenue did. These are people, generally speaking, with the ethical sense of a pack of jackals, motivated less by reverence for Art than by the idea of having three chicks "ball" them at once.
Willfully uneducated, inarticulate, self-centered, self-important, rock musicians are vain beyond endurance, yet willing to make the most enormous fools of themselves if they can just stay "relevant" for one more album. Their merest nodding acquaintance with a serious book, a piece of classical music, or an Eastern religion is taken by fans and fawning journalists as a deep understanding that borders on spiritual kinship, rather than as a fashion accessory that¹s as superficial and easily acquired as a rub-on tattoo.
Their much-lauded trashing of hotel rooms is really a very nice metaphor for their activities within your very own cranium. Imagine they¹ve rented a room in your skull...they¹re tearing up the carpet, throwing televisions out the window, and letting shaved and baby-oiled Great Danes lick their assholes while they minister to the needs of one of the 14-year-old girls who are stacked like cordwood next to the bar. And you thought you just had ADD!
Of course, I¹m not talking about the bands *you* like...those guys are visionaries. I¹m talking about all those bands you think suck.
In any case, we¹ve ascertained that rock musicians are by and large a prodigious waste of skin. But what of their fans? I¹m glad you asked, because I was just getting to that. Rock music fans are essentially enablers. They praise their heroes for the slightest demonstration of everyday competence, somewhat like parents who praise their 24-year-old for being potty-trained. Rock fans generally have no sense of humor about their pet bands, upon whom they project wholly imaginary virtues and about whom they tolerate no display of ambivalence, let alone skepticism. If the Clash, for instance, write some song that touches on politics, they are ipso facto an important political group. No one asks the question: ³Does this song represent an informed position on this issue, let alone a meaningful one? Do these guys, in short, have the slightest fucking clue what they¹re talking about?² To any eyes unclouded by rock Œn¹ roll pixie dust, the answer must be a resolute ³no.² And yet when a good man like Mark Prindle attempts to educate you folks by making similar (though much gentler) points on his own website, he is inundated with e-mails from people whose counterarguments tend to consist of the phrase ³YOU ARE FUCKEN WRONG DICKHED² copied and pasted 100 times.
Think of the world we live in‹-a world of terror and woe in which millions of teenagers are too busy prostituting themselves, or burrowing for food in garbage dumps, to worry about the relative merits of Velvet Underground records. Then imagine someone whose most pressing concern is to make sure that Mark Prindle doesn¹t get away with giving a Velvet Underground record a star or two less than it ³deserves.² God forbid Mark should even *hint* that the syphilitic teat at which these knuckleheads so vacantly suck is delivering anything less than Nature¹s Perfect Food.
So anyway, back to the CD. Prindle¹s got this rock Œn¹ roll thing goin¹, he¹s into this comedy thing...he¹s a kooky guy, and there¹s no pinning him down! He¹s quite a renaissance man, in fact. But the question our generation must ask is, whither does Mark¹s road lead, and shall we follow?
Mark could be another Frank Zappa, I suppose. But if Frank Zappa accomplished nothing else in life, he made it abundantly clear just what an unappetizing prospect being Frank Zappa is. I don¹t think we can be faulted for hoping that Our Mark will choose some other path, one more suited to the essential dignity of humankind. Not least because as unsatisfactory a goal as being Frank Zappa is, most people who seek to attain it will never reach it...the best most people can hope for is to be Ween, and that is a Gehenna from which no soul may be delivered.
I wish to make it clear at this point that Prindle has talent a-plenty; the fact that I¹m ungraciously using a review of his CD as a forum for advancing my own ill-tempered agenda does not mean that I don¹t admire his work. Speaking as someone who has forgotten more than you¹ll ever know, I can say without fear of (meaningful) contradiction that Mark¹s approach to recording and guitar playing is more inventive, clever, and fundamentally musical than about two-thirds of the bands profiled on his site...including quite a few of those to whom he¹s given ten-star reviews. (What a pretty picture for our irony-mad age: Here you are writing Mark Prindle to yell at him for failing to give every Sonic Youth record 10 stars, without having the slightest inkling that his CDs are better than theirs! What a humorous predicament!)
Behold our hero as he attempts to steer his frail ship between the Scylla of novelty music and the Charybdis of rock and/or roll, using his talent as a rudder and his ten-foot-long, dung-encrusted penis as an oar. We cannot deny the nobility of the undertaking. But still we must ask: Is he successful?
As far as I can tell, he is. He has a fancy apartment on the Upper East Side, a lovely wife who clearly adores him, and he's a nice guy with what I¹d call a pretty firm grasp of the basic human problems. All this being the case, who cares if his CDs are any good? He¹s better off than most of you terminally adolescent, navel-gazing, D & D-playing dumbshits will ever be!
Can you remember the last time you had sex? Can you even remember the last time you masturbated without thinking about your mother¹s bloodstained underwear right at the ³moment of truth²? Of course not. But luckily, your life isn¹t a complete loss: you¹ve got REM¹s ³Losing My Religion² to express your pain. (That¹s you in the corner, all right...and what¹s it say on that pointy hat you¹re wearing?)
Let¹s return to Mark¹s CD for a moment. For all my complaints about ³comedy rock,² a lot of these songs are pretty goddamn funny. And the ones dealing most specifically with OCD are not only funny but educational; Mark¹s very successful at getting across the feeling of being driven by various exhausting compulsions and worries...that feeling of being a helpless spectator of one¹s own actions.
Like most of us who have a square yard of comedic gauze with which to bandage a square mile of pain and anxiety, Mr. Prindle¹s sense of humor is sometimes stretched pretty thin. You can be reasonably sure that if one of the songs on this CD begins to seem as though it¹s expressing something that hits too close to home, you¹re within moments of hearing about Mark¹s penis, his semen, his ass, or some unfortunate and probably unnecessary confluence of all three. Whether you come to praise him or bury him, you have to take a guess at why this might be. Someone once called comedy a cowardly response to aggression. True enough, but it can also be a heroic response to pain. And nowadays, more than anything else, it¹s a childish response to (i.e., avoidance of) sincere emotion of just about any kind.
So what¹s Mark¹s story? How the fuck should I know? Why don¹t you e-mail him and ask him? Be forceful about it, too...don¹t let him weasel out of answering. I will say that on ³Never Better,² which is the song where Mark decides to get, like, all serious and shit, he acquits himself admirably, and yours truly found it eloquent and rather touching.
What can I say? The man¹s a poet!
Given such moments, in which Herr Prindle seems verily ablaze with Heraclitean fire, his apparent notion that songs must have punchlines feels like a cop-out. But it may not be. I don¹t pretend to know what manner of being is using Mark Prindle as an incubator; when it hatches at last, and comes into its full power, it may well be that we will all be singing songs about squishing mosquitoes with our penises (that includes you, ladies).
I bring up A Movie only because Mark achieves a similarly risky and gut-wrenching feat with Only the Good Die Young: it's a concept album about his lifelong battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and although it's frequently hysterical, the entire disc is permeated with so much of Mark's pain that the laughter is defensive and uncomfortable. For an hour and 15 minutes, Mark unflinchingly details every aspect of his life that has been affected by OCD, from his experiences with unhelpful psychiatrists to childhood superstitions, from mundane experiences with roaches to the surreal terror of the World Trade Center attacks. All this is presented for your consumption without a whiff of self-consciousness- and the unrelenting sadness can make it rough going at times- but as hopeless as things can get, Mark never lets self-pity drown the project. A few hilarious songs like "Add Your Thoughts? (Fuck Yourself?)" (a parody of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" that culminates in perhaps the greatest inside joke ever written) plow along with a surprisingly positive tone, given the subject matter, and occasional interludes like "Henry Henry Mr. Chew" (Brenda's rewrite of the Pinwheel theme song) lighten the mood a little as well. However, this is nevertheless one of the most difficult records I've ever heard.
Musically, Only the Good Die Young puts Mark's lo-fi antsiness to its best use yet. Although noisy guitar experiments like "I'm a Rebel! (A Fashion Rebel)" aren't far removed from the laughing-gas weirdness of Zaccin', here the chaos and unsteady hooks add up to an expressionistic typhoon of sensory overload that's entirely appropriate to these snippets of mental torment. That's not to say that there aren't catchy moments here- "P.O.W. (Prisoner of Wobbery)" and "Irish Eyes are Smiling (at My Wongdong Sweet Poontong)" are more memorable than anything Dashboard Confessional will ever turn out- but the focus is more on the sounds of synapses misfiring than on Nissan commercial fodder. (I will say, however, that I wish Brenda would electrify Mark's speed-control knob to deliver a harmless but memorable shock every time he touches it from now on...) It's unlikely you'll get through this album in one sitting- it's the most personal and specific artistic statement you'll ever hear, and the intimacy with which Mark invites you to try and understand his plight can be shocking- but it's worth working through. I hope to God that this exercise was somehow helpful or cleansing for Mark, because he obviously put so much of himself into it, but at the very least, I hope he can take some comfort in having created one of the ballsiest albums I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. (And I'm not just speaking about the number of times the word balls appears throughout.)
I think for some stupid reason that Mark Prindle would understand my plight, but I don't even really know the guy. He seems nice enough. He let's me rant on and then another nice guy posts my rants. The only thing I have to go on is a hunch. Like the idea that I see Mark at work during the day getting so worked up that a Band has released a New Album that he immediately has to write about it as soon as he gets home. Boy, how I fucking relate to that. Then I see he works on his own music in addition to maintaining this site and I get this feeling he's as messed up as I am. I send him four dollars and he sends me a cd. I feel that I would be a kiss ass for immediately reviewing his latest effort, but then some ten fucking months later, I relent and decide a couple of things: he deserves a review as nice as he's been and in reality it's worth reviewing. Seriously.
But this is how I operate: I took notes ten month's ago when I listened to Only The Good Die Young: An All-Star Tribute To Mark Prindle (1973-2058) and put them away. I've just dug them out and let me read them to you verbatim. "Big Black. #4 Penis/Hair/Rock Icons. Ass naked trying to dick ya. #5 Starts like Lemmy. (James Taylor 8-track). Silence then "yeah." #7 Evil Dead? Necronomicon. #8 Wall Street. #9 Priorities: Audio in the bedroom. #12 Mr. Chew TV Show Theme. #16 60's Anglo-pop>80's. #30 80's metal riff. #32 Lizard. The Oz of Wizard." In some ways, this is the perfect review of the album because I have no fucking idea what I was thinking or where I was trying to go with it. Believe me when I say that I originally was just going to submit those notes as a "review" and be done with it. But then I just got smacked by some 23 year old metal head that my writings are "monolithic" and I felt that Mark would somehow want me to submit a monolithic review. The youngster also used the word "temerity" which I knew had some Latin root meaning "dark" and prompted me to look for a Theremin on EBay. Like I said, this is how I operate.
This album clearly presents Mark's passion for music, words, and life itself. And like life itself, you probably need to take this in release one day at a time. He's clearly got a lot on his mind and his therapy is to release an epic detailing 67 events of everyday life. Clearly, he's missing that key tool in one's brain matter which stops people from saying exactly what's on their mind, and that's not a bad thing. It's an effort that captures Mark in a very manic period of his own life which happens right around the time men turn thirty. You go kicking and screaming into the reality that you're about to become "middle-aged" while still thinking that, no matter how you say it, poop is a funny word to say. I always thought it would be a great joke to take one of those free A.O.L. disks that you get in the mail, put your own label on it, package it and then sell it as your own version of "Metal Machine Music." Now we all know that "M.M.M." is a true piece of shit and deserves a "1" rating. Let me just say this: if Prindle had gone through with that joke and included the packaging that he did for "O.T.G.D.Y." I'd be tempted to give it at least a four rating based on the songtitles alone. They are simply hilarious, especially if you're a regular visitor to this site and think it's funny that badass Walter Payton had a somewhat feminine voice when he spoke. But since there's actual music on the release and some of it is quite enjoyable, the rating is much higher than that. If you're looking for a band or artist to compare this to for an easy reference as to see if it's worth your hard earned money, fuck off. From what I understand, a pack of Marlboro's will set you back around $10 in N.Y.C. nowadays, and this release is simply a bargain. If it had Ween's name on the cover instead of Prindle's, then everyone would be declaring it as Ween's "White Album." Instead, let's call it Mark's "Temerity Album" and pray that he will someday see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Mark Prindle is one of the web’s most renowned web reviewers. The guy has a massive record collection, and he’s been hell-bent on reviewing each and every one of those albums for about ten years. His writings are utterly fascinating, sometimes having very little to do with the album he’s actually spinning at the time, but his fearless nature - and unparalleled sense of humor - always leaves the reader fascinated at what this guy spews forth, even when he’s talking about a recorded work that the reader couldn’t care know less about. Seriously, check out his review of Tori Amo’s latest wankfest for a good example of his no-bullshit-framed-by-nothing-but-bullshit approach.
I’m a fan.
But, wait! Did you know he also makes records? It’s true! He had a band once upon a long ago called Low Maintenence Perennials, and I’ve never heard them… nor have I heard any of his prior solo albums with glorious titles like Nature’s Smelly Ass: Maxell Audiocassettes’ 1998 Fall Sampler and Stop, Drop And Roll: A Musical Celebration Of Death By Smoke Inhalation. Nope, I’ve only heard his latest outing, Smilehouse: The Tragic Remains of an Abandoned Masterpiece. And folks, it’s one schizophrenic album. Seriously! This thing has 55 tracks and clocks in at over 70 minutes, and with all of it’s genre-hopping and short track times, you’ve kinda gotta work with Smilehouse in order to enjoy it. You can’t exactly throw this thing on and just clean the house for maximum enjoyment like Elton John’s classic Rock Of The Westies. (Not that I ever did such a thing, but my mom always liked it for doing housework… mostly because she didn’t have to think at all while it was on. I personally don’t own a copy of that Elton John record. And why would I? That thing sucks.)
So, in our first two paragraphs, we’ve already established that Smilehouse is better than Rock Of The Westies, which is an amazing feat,because that other album sold like a jillion copies on the strength of “Island Girl” alone. Well, dear readers, I can assure you with no qualms that every single song on Smilehouse is miles better than “Island Girl”. By that logic alone, Smilehouse deserves a place in your record collection.
The story goes that Prindle had a bunch of half-finished stuff lying around and decided to complete the tracks this year come hell or heavy water. So what do you get to kick off an album this long in incubation? A vocal masterpiece like “Our Prayer”? Some crazy orchestrated inrto? Nope, there’s a disjointed vocal loop backing Mark’s wife Brenda doing parody lyrics of the first two lines from “The Last Time” by those emo-hipsters The Rolling Stones. Which leads into the unbelieveable “Oddpretty”, framed by “death is comin’ to get me” lyrics and some totally unexpectedly great vocal harmonies to cap it off. Tons of electronic drums abound, not to mention a time signature change that you couldn’t have seen coming a mile away. And *that* track leads into “Punkhappy”, which contains every Pennywise drum pattern ever - but you know… synthetically - as well as some tasty guitarmonies and… frank and positive lyrics about happiness. Which are probably sarcastic. *cough*
One is never able to predict where the musical stylings are gonna go on this album from one moment to the next. You can rely on two things… first, that you’ll always be amazed at just how much more cohesive each seemingly jagged musical composition gets with each listen, and secondly? The lyrics are always hilarious. So hilarious that when describing Smilehouse to a friend via instant message, you may be tempted to use acronyms like LOL. Check ‘em:
“So have you heard about this math rock thing? / Sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me / ‘Oooh, Look at me! I can count’! / But can you write a melody? / You lousy… is it okay if I bring my calculator to the gig? / Nothing gets my fist pumping like an abacus” - lyrics from “Mathrock (from “Now That’s What I Call Annoying! 6? v/a compilation)”
Okay, seriously… the lyrics are fun enough to warrant repeated listenings alone, but the off-kilter song structures are what guarantee that you’ll have to spin this plastic disc numerous times to follow along correctly. For example, there’s roughly two minutes of sparse percussion punctuating Shellac-type guitar riffage in the aforementioned “Mathrock”, but that’s quickly followed by a fifty-two second romp that plays with tempo and melody so much in under one minute that the listener is alternately laughing at the lyrics, musically confounded, and completely unsure of what you’ve just heard.
Is it experimental? Sure! Is it “outsider music? Not by definition, unless you factor in “The Prind”’s well-documented battles with OCD! Is Smilehouse a fun, challenging record that is worth the money? Yes, yes and absolutely. I’ve never heard anything like it, be it in song-sequencing, constant stylistic changes, and the juxtaposition of gorgeously-sung harmonies versus silly voices that are only built to make you giggle. But, then out of the blue… you get something like track twenty-four, “Angst (clean version)”, that proves that this cat could probably write pop melodies that would stick in the listeners head all the live-long day if he felt like it… but he’s much happier experimenting, having fun, and taking the end result none too seriously.
There’s a lot to experience on Smilehouse, and thankfully, Mark’s offering ‘em up at a measly four dollars via his website. It’s a wonderful, not-quite lo-fi epic that keeps you interested at all points… even if it’s just to figure out what the fuck is going on.
The weaknesses first: the mixing definitely could be improved. Even with 16 tracks, I hear you just suddenly drop in an element (e.g. 17 seconds into XYLODARK). I wish you had improved your drumming programming skills - I know I've heard some of these drum patterns before on your/LuMP's albums (e.g. NOTECHORD and PUNKVIOLIN). Sorry, I know you put MATHROCK on MySpace so I suspect you like it - but I think it is bad. It's like super-slow mathrock and the angry spoken word doesn't work for me.
On the other hand, you still (well, 5 years ago) can whip out really great riffs - something that was missing from your previous album. Some examples: DEADFAG, 12345, NOTES, DIGGAX2 (which really sounds like a LuMP track)
God there are some gems on this disc:
NOTES - I love that riff. The lyrics are funny.
ATTHISPOINT - A definite throwback track to Nature's Smelly Ass and would fit great on the awesome side 1 of that album.
ANGST - Another Nature's Smelly Ass type of track and probably one of the three best solo song you have done (Go and Mess are the others). This may sound crazy but it is easily in the 5 best songs I've heard that has been released this year. I've had this album like 4 days and listened to this song at least 20 times. Very, very few songs connect to me on an emotional level but ANGST does. Blink 182's "Adam Song" (Mark just threw up) and Police's "Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic" (which is basically the same theme) are the only two I can think of. ANGST does a good job of summing up a period of my life 20 years ago.
PRESIDENT - All I can say is that it takes balls to put out that song.
D$PUNQUE - Great song and really funny conclusion. I just wish I could understand all the lyrics.
RATDANCE - I don't even know what to say except that it is really cool.
HARMONICTRIBE - Horribly offensive and so funny. Plus it sounds like it would be a great base for a real song. But like TMBG's "FingerTips" it may be for the best being a fragment.
I'm not sure how to put a number on this. It's in between Only the Good Die Young, which today I'd probably re-rate to a 6/10 and Nature's Smelly Ass, which is a high 8. Shit I don't know - let's just give this a low 8.
I was okay with this being probably your final album, but then you had to unleash ANGST (damn this song is great - I've listened to it like another 5 times while writing this review). I've always thought you had two special talents as a solo artist. One was style parody, but I think you exhausted the well with "Stop, Drop and Roll". The other was a kind of singer-songwriter with awesome riffs, which is what "Nature's Smelly Ass" was about for me. I can see that you still have that in you and that makes me sad that I probably won't get any more of this.
Most of us were worried that a Prindle album recorded on sixteen tracks instead of his usual four would sound like Ric Ocasek came in and slicked everything out, but the messy, homemade Prindle sound is still very much in place--he's still using the same cheap drum machine, plugging his guitar straight into the mixer, and twiddling knobs in ways they should not be twiddled (and we wouldn't want it any other way). There is, however, a good deal more space in the mix than there has been before; every instrument is placed where it belongs instead of crammed into a shoebox with ten others, and nothing has to be erased every time he wants to do a vocal overdub, making everything sound closer to what was probably intended.
The songs themselves, begun in 2002 and finished in a single weekend in 2007, are all as entertaining as anything else he's written. Musically, there are xylophones, violins, toy saxophones, bread crunching noises, and layers and layers of guitars doing melodious things you've never heard. Lyrically, it's even sillier than usual, and since most of the words were written in a few days (and sometimes improvised on the spot) they're not among the most profound statements we've heard from the man. But this is really one of the more refreshing things about the album. It is, more than anything else, the sound of Prindle having fun, singing goofy little songs about magic beans, assassinating the President with a boat, and a fellow named Xylodark. (There are also a couple of real heartbreakers in the middle, but they don't spoil the mood.)
For the Prindle neophyte looking for the best example of what the man is capable of, I'd probably recommend either Stop Drop And Roll or Keep On Zaccin'. But when I'm in the mood to throw on a fun album and laugh, this is probably the Prindle album I'll be reaching for first.