Monday, 10 December 2012

Mark Wynn Album and Live review

Mark Wynn
James Dean makes me insecure, why does he have to be so shexy
Desert Mine Music

Mark Wynn is a York based troubadour and James Dean...... is his second album for Desert Mine Music. It was recorded by Sam Forrest in August/September 2012.

Wynn has been compared variously to Mark E Smith, John Cooper Clarke, and Half Man Half Biscuit. All of these, for me at least, are pretty wide of the mark (if you will excuse the pun).  If you need a comparison, as a shorthand to place Mark Wynn, think Syd Barrett circa 1970 (Madcap Laughs) or Ivor Cutler (any time).

The recording of the album itself is satisfyingly lo-fi. That is not to say that it is without craft. There are many well judged harmonies and scruffy guitars sitting well back in the mix which give a number of the songs the subtlety and dynamism they deserve.

The album kicks off, not surprisingly, with Introduction. A distorted and grating wall of sound, Wynn says, is “meant to make ‘Baby baby’ (the second track) sound better”. Suffice it to say that the track achieves its aim.

Of the next 15 tracks (only two of which break the epic 3 minute barrier) some are “throw away” some are touching and warm and others are beautifully crafted, unselfconscious pop.  Highlights include The big fib song, Is this where I get off? Woolies please and the sublime Henry Miller filler song. The latter of these contains the line which perhaps goes some way towards summing up Mark Wynn and his music. The line is:

“Oh Henry, sometimes you hit the mark. Sometimes you get too etherial”.

Not that I see this as a criticism of Wynn’s work. He appears to have no interest in reproducing bland formulaic pop for an audience eager to hear the same thing over and over again.

In an indie scene where conformity and conservatism can stifle creativity Mark Wynn is prepared to sound, and be, different. This, perhaps inevitably, results in an album where not every song passes the quality control test. In support of Wynn’s approach to his art, however, I would say that a number of the songs on this album are the most charming, enlightening and joyous I have heard in the last five years.

Given the deliberately ragged approach Wynn takes to creating music it may come as a surprise that the album is just that. An album. Although the details may at times seem “messy” the whole package feels coherent. Wynn knows exactly what he is doing.

At his best Mark Wynn makes catchy and clever, off beat pop without ever reaching for a cliche or an auto-tuner. He writes love letters, laments and takes scatological strolls through the mundane and the everyday.

Mark Wynn @ The Hop

Mark Wynn
The Hop, Wakefield
22nd November

Arriving late enough to (unfortunately) miss Michael Ainsley and catch only half of Sam Forrest’s (highly impressive) set I have to confess to a high level of anticipation when waiting for York’s  finest to take the stage.

Up until recently I had never heard a note of Wynn’s work but having listened to his latest album (produced, incidentally by Sam Forrest) in heavy rotation up and down the M1 for the last three weeks the opportunity to see him live was almost mouth watering. The album is inventive, original, and contains ample evidence that Wynn will be much, much more than a passing fancy on the indie scene.

Having taken the stage at The Hop and engaging in a “getting to know you” tune up and chat with the audience Wynn rattled through a set of finely tuned songs many of which were taken from the James Dean… album. Highlights of the set, for me at least, were Henry Miller Filler Song, Trebles for singles, Woolies please and She is waiting.

His words flow with ease and he is a much better musician than I had previously given him credit for. With an audience more than ready to enjoy his work and the night, Wynn looked to be enjoying it as much as we were. His patter in between songs, like the songs themselves was smart, thoughtful and funny.

I have to say that Wynn’s live work may even be an improvement on his recorded stuff, where he seems more likely to give himself free reign to experiment rather than, as he did tonight, stick to the discipline of playing short, punchy engaging pop from just outside the mainstream.

You probably can’t remember what you were doing at 10.00pm on Thursday 22nd November. Please take note that your fellow citizens were watching a truly memorable show by Mark Wynn upstairs at The Hop. Put down your remote control and take advantage of the original live music on your doorstep.

Karl Shore 

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