$10 in advance/$10 at the door
10:30pm doors/11pm showtime
Minneapolis rock legend, Mark Mallman has created a masterwork that turns the classic concept album on its head. The End Is Not The End was released March 25, 2016 on Polkadot Mayhem. In this age of cynicism, with too many people believing rock is dead, comes a sincere telling of an emotional trial we all must face at some point. Mark Mallman has created a 21st century Scary Monsters, except this time, the good guy wins.
In the summer of 2014, with great uncertainty, Mallman was putting his final touches on a collection of nihilist dance tracks called Nightmares. The album was the true account of recurring terror dreams that had haunted him since losing his mother a year earlier. “The city was closing in on me. I was immersed in tension, and the tension was growing. There was a gang war happening on our block that summer - sirens every night. Sometimes gunfire woke me out of a bad dream, taking me from a bad dream into a bad reality. I would work on the record till my ears wouldn't stop ringing and pass out from the noise in my head.”
The songs were tracked in his third floor artist’s loft, nestled between three strip clubs in the core of Minneapolis’ small, unofficial red light district. The ironically named “Harmony Lofts” building was infamous for being the site of the first murder by the Minnesota serial killer who murdered Versace, Andrew Cunanan. “My whole life felt like a horror show. Even at home, the haunted elevator would take tenants to the basement on it's own accord.” says Mallman. Soon would come a notice from his landlord that the lofts were to be re-modeled and his rent was to double. He was being forced out.
At 3am on the morning of September 6, Mallman woke up with an unstoppable anxiety attack that would land him in the hospital. He'd had a complete nervous meltdown. Even the clouds passing over the sun would grip him with fear. “The nightmares I was writing about had crossed over into my waking life. 90% of everything was too scary, especially the minor key. But I was determined to fight.” He'd put all of his time and money into this record, and couldn't afford to just scrap it and start over. Instead, he constructed playlists of major key music, and buried himself in Elvis Presley musicals. “I needed to get happy again. I hit the gym, sometimes twice a day. I tried everything from Western medicine to Himalayan salt lamps.”
Instead of throwing Nightmares in the garbage, he stripped the entire record apart and began reconstructing. In the spring of 2015, he'd left the gritty city behind him for a quiet bungalow, blocks from Lake Nokomis. The record would be renamed, The End is Not The End. Mallman says, “I'd used music for therapy before, but I never realized that it could work the opposite way too. This is medicinal material. I now know with certainty that music has the power to help heal depression.”
Over the course of his 20-year career, Mallman's signature style has earned him a place among the Midwest's greatest indie-rockers. With a stage show that seems yanked out of some punk vaudeville time machine, Mallman has a reputation for wild rock antics that stretches through roadhouses across America. He was the first person to ever webcast a nonstop concert on wheels that traveled from coast to coast, all in the back of a van. He's been a pioneer of brainwave controlled music, as well as the first person to remotely front a rock band via BeamPro robot. He's scored for countless film and television pieces, and he's been suspended upside down from the ceiling over the piano. If Iggy Pop and Philip Glass ever met in a night club, Mark Mallman would be the bartender.
Here we find an artist exposing himself all the way to rawest nerve, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Neutral Milk Hotel's In an Aeroplane Over The Sea or The Eels’ Electro-Shock Blues. It is a deliberate meditation on overcoming the roots of despair. But even so, this is a timeless, kick ass rock record. As Mallman sings it: “I didn't know where I was going / till I stopped believing and I started knowing / The story of life is what was manifested where once was a void.”
Summer's coming early this year if Al Church has his way. His new solo LP, Next Summer, is a suite of pop confections conjuring up carefree days of his youth. His summers were filled with driving around with the windows rolled down bumping Dr. Dre's The Chronicand R.E.M.'s Monster. "My album is like [Monster], but with saxophone and keyboards instead of Peter Buck's guitar tremolo," the Duluth-raised multi-instrumentalist exclaims when the Athens alt-rock legends' "Strange Currencies" hits the speakers. He's with City Pages at Mackenzie Pub on a frigid night in downtown Minneapolis.
Actually, Next Summer is more reminiscent of Beck's funky soul circa Midnite Vultures. But there are even more chill Yacht Rock flourishes with the aforementioned saxophone, played by Cole Pulice, who performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers as well as Black Market Brass. "Cole is a genius sax player," Church says. "He basically took the role of lead guitar on the record. When I think about lead guitar, and all the solos and stuff — that was all replaced by Cole. It was super organic, and he just flowed over everything."
Pulice's wailing sax and Church's retro synth strains on "Next to You" have a Billy Ocean flavor, but they don't overshadow the vocals. Just as powerful as Fitz & the Tantrums vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick, Church's treated falsetto is always in control, even amid an over-the-top story of drunk, text-messaging ex-boyfriends. On the piano-laced title track, he sounds more like Queen's Freddie Mercury. Church's affable personality soaks into the endearing Next Summer like suntan lotion on the neck. He freely speaks about music, sports, and Minnesota living over beers for nearly an hour before getting around to the record.
"You And I" comes off as a dynamic combination of Dirty Projectors' angelic harmonies and the effervescent pop that filled the original Miami Vice soundtrack, like cruising in a white Ferrari to a hot house party or to solve a crime. A rare guitar solo appears on the earnest blue-eyed soul of "You Came Into My Life," affectionately written for Church's new fiancée after they got engaged in Paris. "I think it's almost like a vibe," Church says, when asked how he knew which songs to put in this project. "These songs just didn't fit anywhere else. I think it's partly because of the content, but also because of the structure. I don't really have any interest in your typical A part, B part, verse, bridge, song structure. I wanted to experiment with the idea that maybe this whole thing is just a verse, or maybe it's all chorus, or maybe it's just hooks."
Like much of his past work, Next Summer has plenty of heart beneath the gloss of the dance-party jams. Up until this point, Church had more of a rep for guitar-centric work in BBGUN, Dear Data, Al Church and State, Clustercuss, and Private Oates (a Hall and Oates cover band). He's also been a sideman with Haley Bonar, Pink Mink, Frankie Lee, and Actual Wolf, among other local acts. "All of these other projects, I've been hiding behind something in a way," Church says. "I wanted this to be more naked and revealing. I'm treating this more as my rock band — or my solo rock band. I gave myself a lot of time to do this. I didn't have any deadline, really. And that freed me up to try anything."
Church's many projects kept Next Summer percolating for the past two years. After starting out modestly, the songs grew with guest vocalists Mina Moore ("The Clock") and Gabe Douglas ("Birthday Party," "The Clock," "S.A.T.J.") along with producer/synth player Matt Sandstedt during recording at the Hideaway studio in Minneapolis. The key players on the album frequently drew inspiration from a secret Google doc filled with lyric snippets and random song notes.
His lyrics are frequently as radiant as the arrangements themselves. "Turquoise Sun" is where "Memories drag on like a cigarette," and "The Clock" might start a new dance craze. "Birthday Party" took shape when Church overheard a euphoric father and his young son in Brooklyn. "This guy was just hanging out with his kid, singing, 'I'm coming to your birthday party! I'm coming to your birthday party!' And I just thought, 'That's a song right there,'" Church reminisces with a hearty laugh. "In fact, I had to do some research to see if it was already like a Rihanna song or something."
To match the album's joviality, Church's release party will have a middle school carnival theme, and will feature a dance party, karaoke, and a cake walk. "It's going to be a really fun party," Church says animatedly. "You've got to prepare for summer, even in March." [Erik Thompson, City Pages]