Adam Marsland's Solo Debut Defies Anonymity
Ken Kase
9/28/2004 12:08:21 AM

Adam Marsland

You Don't Know Me (Karma Frog)

Adam Marsland’s debut CD came to my desk from out of the blue, and it was a welcome surprise. Staunchly rooted in the L.A. Pop scene and using some of the genre’s finest musicians,You Don’t Know Me (Karma Frog) embraces the uplifting and the cynical, the profane and the profound in a well-produced, well-executed romp that should resonate particularly with those of the bi-polar persuasion.

Note the use of the word “pop” here with a capital ‘P’—a distinction from the mass marketed variety characterized by an emphasis on song structure, complex arrangements and in interesting production in the tradition of the Beatles, Brian Wilson and Joe Jackson. Marsland is a fine songwriter with an ear for irony and a good hook.

The album sells itself in the first four cuts: The title track opens the disc with a flourish of pianistic angst directed towards those who might try to pigeonhole the artist. The song consists of contrasting sections that heighten the drama, creating within itself a mini pop symphony.

“Love x 10 (How Dare You)” kicks off with a cello-driven groove, some mean slide guitar and a chorus payoff so rarely heard these days. The result is an exciting, passionate track that perks up the ears and makes one look forward to what other treasures lay in store. As with many cuts on the album, Marsland’s lead vocals contrast quite nicely with the vocals of veteran Evie Sands.

“The Big Bear”, featuring a Brian Wilson-esque double tracked vocal, an acoustically driven groove and a lyric that could have been easily written by Tim Rose of the Sun Sawed in ½, works nicely with a lovely mixture of background vocals and cello section echoing The Beatles’ “If I Needed Someone”. Grand stuff indeed.

“Other Than Me” features a funky electric piano opening with one of the best of many good lyrics: (“I’m glad I never dated Aimee Mann and landed in the crease of a lyric sheet, ‘cause water builds up ‘til you no longer give a damn, telegram, thank you ma’am, control-alt-delete) The chorus features a truly power pop hook which is as powerful as it is accessible.

“A Moment of Clarity”, with its country-inspired feel and “What the Hell”, a tale of casual sex and the trickiness of acquiring same with a minimum of hassle, alternates between power ballad and angst-ridden rock and roll frustration and paranoia. Both tracks provide a nice transition point to the rest of the album loaded with pop gems: The 80s-inspired “Have a Nice Day”, “What The World Needs Now Is A Good Deus Ex Machina and the irrepressible “My Kickass Life” and the epic “Thanks for Everything”.

Adam Marsland’s You Don’t Know Me is a great first solo stab by an artist worth watching. The expert instrumental help he receives from, among many, pop wizards The Wondermints (Brian Wilson’s musicians of choice) is characteristically top-notch and Marsland’s impressive songwriting abilities are served well by the musicians’ interpretations. A fine album full of surprises and worthy of consideration. If he keeps making records like this, we'll all get to know him quite well.

Don’t miss Adam Marsland live at Off Broadway in St. Louis on October 1st


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