Coca-Cola learned the hard way in 1985 with the ill-fated attempt to launch New Coke: people don’t like change. Don’t mess with a winning formula. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Singer-songwriter Patrick Park seems to adhere to this philosophy with his latest album, Come What Will. The Los Angeles-based Park brings more of his thoughtful, low-key musings on life and love on his third full-length effort, which stays firmly in the stylistic territory of his previous albums, Everyone’s In Everyone (2007) and Loneliness Knows My Name (2003).
Since the inception of his career, Park has garnered comparisons to Elliott Smith, but it always seemed a tenuous likeness, save perhaps for a similar taste in cardigan sweaters. There is simply no undercurrent of the supreme self-directed malevolence that informed Smith’s work. Patrick Park is a much more positive soul, and that shows on Come What Will. He has said that the album is shot through with “a strong thread of redemption and a rebirth”, and it’s true. “The Lucky Ones”, “Blackbird Through the Dark”, and “You’re Enough” all have a message of hope in the face of adversity, a feeling that while the world might look like a bleak place these days, we’ll all get through. With Smith, there was never any “we”, and there certainly wasn’t any “getting through”.
This is not to say that the album is all sunshine and rainbows. “You’ll Get Over” is a cutting rumination on those folks who seem to float through life blithely oblivious to the wreckage they cause, and “You Were Always the One” is a regretful lament to the one that got away. In fact, while the hopeful songs seem to dominate the beginning of the album, Park saves the bummers for the end, leaving us with the final thought in “The Long Night”: “No one will sleep soundly in this tangled web of spite / We’re in for a long night”.
Park’s greatest strengths lie in his lyrics. Since his voice is pleasant and rich but nothing to write home about, and his arrangements are generally quiet affairs that serve to showcase the vocals, it is the words that stick with us:
“When all the world is waking up on through the winding hours
And our reasons rise and tumble like the reach of skyward towers
We’ll walk on that wire clothes tattered and worn
And weather the weight through silence and storm”
Musically, Come What Will is lacking for any bursts of uptempo exuberance like “Here We Are” from Everyone’s In Everyone, which became one of Park’s most popular songs. In a move that appears downright zany for such a normally serious fellow, the song even featured a funny video of Park riding his bicycle down an obviously fake background of the freeways of Los Angeles. This kind of lightheartedness would have been a welcome respite from what veers toward monotony in his newer work. Because while he’s nowhere near as depressing or depressed as Elliott Smith, Park’s downbeat inclinations can get a bit boring.
There’s no doubt about Patrick Park’s tremendous talent as a singer-songwriter, and obviously, fans of this genre are not looking for barn-burners or sprawling musical extravaganzas. It would just be nice to see Park break the mold a bit…and maybe ride his bike down the freeway more often.