Canada's Green Highways (TeenBeat)
extraordinaire Mark Robinson, head-honcho of TeenBeat Records and prolific
singer/songwriter for Unrest, Air Miami, and Flin Flon, furthers his solo
career in the right direction with his new full-length, Canada's Green
Highways. Mark has always flirted with a solo career, but a lack of
consistency and continuity has kept his solo projects in the novelty-zone.
Private, holiday-themed cassettes, his "Sammy Supreme" 7", and the
Olympic Death Squad full-length all featured his typically amusing, well-crafted
pop songs, but in hind-sight they each stand alone as a barometer of where
his direction was at that moment along his musical path.
Not to speak of his recent electronic experiments ("Tiger Banana", "Taste"),
that in this reviewer's opinion, were bold steps forward conceptually,
but ultimately unsatisfying in the tune department.
With Canada's Green Highways, Mark has finally hit his stride with
a solo recording that not only hints at many of his previous, whimsical
directions, but also succeeds in presenting his popular songwriting style
in a restrained, contempoprary fashion. With the help of producer Trevor
Kampman and backing-vocalist Juliet Swango, Mark has lifted the mask of
conceptualism and the weight of his ever-changing stylistic direction,
and has finally allowed those well-crafted songs to stand on their own
in a refreshing return to form.
Fortunately, Trevor's pristine, digital production does not overshadow
Mark's craft, in fact, it provides a production style similar to Guy Fixen's
work on the Air Miami album, in a way that provides a simple electronic-pop
production that acts as the glue that holds the talent together. The core
of Canada's sound is guitar and vocals, plain and simple. Here
and there, like on "Sylvian Cote'", multi-tracked guitar gives way to
rhythmic vocal samples and a smattering of drums. And if you blink you'll
miss Trevor's subliminal synth compliments.
But for the most part, the production allows the spotlight to fall on
the essence of Mark Robinson's songwriting: tight melodic bass lines,
staccato jangle-pop guitar licks, and Mark's sing-along, slogan-esque
lyrics that are probably best overlooked for their meaning. My favorite
one of which repeats, "...severed contact lenses, cataracts and power
drills." The hit single on Canada's Green Highways is undoubtedly
the duet with the Rondelles' Juliet Swango, "100% Guaranteed". This track,
reminiscent of his Olympic Death Squad rock anthems, highlights the collaborative
effort between all the parties involved, and the trio really shines as
a unit on this rockin' track.
In short, Mark Robinson has created, arguably, his first definitive solo
recording. It's a solid slice of vinyl from start to finish that brings
out the best of his songwriting ability and lyrical wit, and one that
stands up to the best efforts of his bandleading past, and easily trancends
his previous solo efforts.
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| August 2001 | Issue 17
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