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Charlie Mars

Like a Bird, Like a Plane

(Thirty Three Tigers/Rockingham; US: 9 Jun 2009)

I’ve never synced up Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon with the movie Wizard of Oz, but I bet Charlie Mars has. Mars’ invitation to come over to his place and listen to that over-praised, piece of crap sound effects record is so warm, seductive, and friendly that it makes me want to accept his offer. The song “Listen to the Darkside” entices one to engage in behavior that maybe one otherwise wouldn’t, which typifies the temptations Mars makes manifest on the album as a whole. While he keeps things artfully ambiguous, his suggestions of sex, drugs, and violence are alluring. Mars does this by whispering his needs and making them seem like yours. He gently repeats his requests while the music drones and ripples behind him. The sophisticated musical arrangements reveal the devil in their details: the cymbal struck in martial time, the slithering bass solo, and the keyboard runs behind the melody. Mars’ urgencies arouse without building to a climax, so they don’t seem so naughty. He looks for the mercy more than release. The narrators of his songs know they’re sinning, but sinning rarely sounds this good.


Steven Horowitz has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where he continues to teach a three-credit online course on "Rock and Roll in America". He has written for many different popular and academic publications including American Music, Paste and the Icon. Horowitz is a firm believer in Paul Goodman's neofunctional perspective on culture and that Sam Cooke was right, a change is gonna come.


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