July 19, 2012

Entertainment Review July 19, 2012

Bob Markley- “Markley, A Group”

Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was hardly experimental or even interesting sounding as their name would imply, this being a late 1960s, early 1970s, when a rock album by any other name was not indicative of its sounds.

Anyway, Bob Markley fronted the band and this album is regarded as his solo debut or the fourth WCPAEB album, or fifth, depending on where you do your research.

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most brilliant psychedelic pop albums from the 1970s.

Markley’s buoyant orchestration and ear for genre imitation creates a sound that at once embraces and satirizes the most commercial aspects of popular music at his time. When you’re basically a one-man band with an inferiority complex, that wasn’t easy to do against the post-1967 deluge of music acts in the rock realm. Especially with albums like Sgt. Peppers and Pet Sounds still fresh in people’s minds?

While experimentation is nowhere near the level of the previously mentioned two albums, and I only mention them because they’re considered canon by mostly anyone having to do with music, Markley, A Group is musically their equal. Markley’s forthrightness, knack for witty lyrics and wordplay and an impeccable ear for timing (the subtle use of strings in “Outside/Inside” is a fantastic little moment in music) should’ve stood out on the radio.

In a way I think Markley knew how little his chances were of breaking through with this album were, because, make no mistake, this is one of the darker albums of the psychedelic pop era, touching upon themes such as isolation, death, xenophobia, expansionism, STDs, incest, pedophilia, mental deterioration and suicide. Sometime in the same song (check out “Roger the Rocket Ship” when you get a chance).

I can see why a lot of people would not like this; there are times when you can’t tell if Markley is taking himself seriously or playing a massive joke on anyone with a working cochlea. Still, the good moments are great and the bad moments are few and far between (even delightfully stupid tracks like the honkytonk “Truck Stop” sounds more like a planned misstep than an honest mistake).

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