MARK HOLLIS – Mark Hollis (1998)

Review by: Syd Spence
Album assigned by: Jonathan Birch

There are certain albums that require few listens. Generally when an album is manufactured for mass consumption, one listen is enough. There’s the pop hook, do I enjoy it? repeat for twelve songs. The more good hooks, the better the album is, post grade accordingly. Then, there are albums that just DEMAND you listen to them over and over again, and this is one of those albums. 

On first listen this album, is shrouded by a thick fog of pretentious melancholy. Any and all messages besides, “I’m a serious artist and I’m depressed” are just blocked out. After the first listen I dreaded coming back to the sad slow art album, but I continued. The more I listened to it, the more it unraveled and I felt I could maybe pierce through it and finally grasp something. What little I’ve grasped feels a melancholy singer songwriter album with a bit of avant garde jazz thrown in. Essentially, a mixture of Nick Drake and star sailor era Tim Buckley.

Now I enjoy Nick Drake, but can understand the criticism that he’s not exactly an excellent song writer, that he is too focused on mood instead of melody. Compared to Mark Hollis, he’s a god damned Paul McCartney. These songs are just all mood and that mood is sad, sad, sad. It really is a one note album and even the tiny bits of cacophonous jazz scronking is muffled and never really shakes off the strummed sad artist vibe. 

With that said, I’m about 12 listens in and yet, every listen I feel like there is something more to it. This nagging feeling that this might be some secret masterpiece of super serious sad songwriter albums, Perhaps, I haven’t truly pierced the shroud of pretentious art, and have instead just become entranced with its mystery. Perhaps, by the 25th listen this album will usurp Love’s Forever Changes as my favorite sad arty records. 

Though somehow I doubt it. I just can’t see myself coming back to these moody dirges for enjoyment. I’m a musical simpleton in that regard. I need some catchy melodies with my grand statements. So I feel my mind will forever waffle between secret depression masterpiece and too pretentious for its own good art record. Perhaps, your mind is better equipped for such an activity, but for me, I’m just going to shuffle this record away to the land of well crafted albums that I don’t ever want to listen to again.

Author: tomymostalas


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