MARK SULTAN is not a name I am familiar with, and even though he Press Release advises that he is ‘the voice behind King Khan & BBQ Show (he is BBQ) and widely known as a pioneer in the modern garage-rock / doo-wop movement,’ I am still none the wiser. He has apparently gained a large underground following, and has toured with the likes of Vivian Girls, Clinic and Black Lips.
His latest album, ‘$’ is in a way, a bit of a variation on a theme, having moved on from the more straight-forward ‘garage-rock’ that he helped pioneer, to incorporate elements of ‘doo-wop.’ That said, opening track ‘Icicles’ is not a typical precursor for what is to follow in the main. This particular track runs to six and a half minutes, which is matched in length only by the closing number ‘Nobody But You’ some twelve songs later. It features a bit of a ‘droned’ and monotonous (in a good way!) sound to the extended introduction and initially I was thinking along the lines of the excellent Australian band, Eddie Current Suppression Ring. Like a slowing steam train, ‘Icicles’ eventually (almost) grinds to a halt with a couple of minutes remaining, but this really just the green flag for the vocals and guitar solo that do actually bring the track to the end.
From here on though, the overriding impression is one of old-time Rock ‘n’ Roll being given a modern feel with the incorporation of other influences ranging from punk, to jazz, to psyche etc.. And along the way, Mark manages to reference several idols from that period.
‘Don’t Look Back’ comes in at The Fifties / early Sixties standard, radio-friendly two and a half minutes duration. Indeed, it reflects the style of that time with galloping drums and racing, harmonised vocals. ‘Ten Of Hearts’ starts out in ‘doo-wop’ style but soon adopts the zippy, distorted guitar sound of the Glam era, before reverting to the Fifties style of vocalisation with simple guitar to the fore. But with slightly over five minutes to play with, the Glam guitar sound returns, sounding like deep saxophone and very Glitter Band-esque.
‘Status’ is for me the best track on the album – perhaps because it definitely refers back to the original Punk movement in both the playing – especially the bass and drum rhythms – and even the vocal delivery. ‘I Get Nothin From My Girl’ sounds like something The Shadows would have been happy with back in the day, although Mark’s vocals are more current sounding.
The opening guitar rush on ‘Go Beserk’ reminds me of Chris Spedding, while the bulk of the rest of the song makes me think of The Ramones! ‘I Am The End’ starts out acapella with big-echoed vocals and develops into a slower, soulful blues-influenced song. You know, the kind that Elvis would have sung in his Vegas residency. ‘Misery’s Upon Us’ is a bouncy little up-tempo song with liberal helpings of handclaps. That does for me alright.
‘I’ll Be Lovin’ You’ has the drumming and guitar riffs of the sunny Californian Surf Sound. The ‘false’ ending catches me every time – even as I write this – but on the re-start, I start to hear the guitar riff taking more influence from the likes of Hank Mizzell (‘Jungle Rock.’)
‘Waiting For Me’ again sounds vaguely like The Ramones instrumentally, before ‘Just To Hold You’ reverts back to the Sixties ‘tearjerker’ mood with a blues-inspired sing-a-long, before ‘Catastrophe’ kicks up a storm with a bit of a Rockabilly beat, before the album closes with the afore-mentioned ‘Nobody But You.’ And like the opener, this is quite untypical of what’s gone before. It does have the deliberate stomping rhythm of Iggy’s ‘Nightclubbing’ and numerous other Glam Rock hits, but it is all shrouded in a wall of noise created by guitars and feedback.
It’s a good, strong and refreshingly modern end to an album that quite simply proves the longevity and adaptability of the first genre of music to have such widespread popularity and influence.
(Released through Last Gang Records on 8th November 2010)