Brian Kassan, one third of the outfit Chewy Marble, is a pianist. He doesn’t just play piano. He understands the myriad of notes that can be extracted from 88 keys.
Indeed, throughout history, the piano has been a centerpiece for musical composition in every genre. Burt Bacharach, Rod Argent of The Zombies, Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney raised the bar for rock/pop songwriters with songs created mainly on piano. Like those greats, Kassan appears to work the same way here, creating a collection of songs that squeeze interesting melody, countermelody and harmony out of his songs through the expansive tool of the piano.
Although there is nothing like the power of the 1-4-5 chord progression used in songs from “Johnny B Goode” to “Louie, Louie” (actually the last chord is a minor 5, very important!), there is a stunning beauty in the merger of classical, jazz and pop when the piano is used. Just try transposing an A flat, major 9th on the guitar. It can put the waterbucket on your inspiration, and inspired is an accurate word to describe Kassan and Chewy Marble on Bowl of Surreal.
The staccato notes of the opener, “Inside Our Head”, morphs into a quick payoff at the chorus, featuring sweeping organ and piano tracks. The bridge changes tempo, breaking up the song seamlessly. “Bowl of Surreal” is marked by a snappy bass line and catchy keyboard and backward guitar sounds. “Tiny World” opens with a hooky guitar riff leading to a big chorus. “Dressed in Blue” is a beautiful slower song with string accompaniment. If you buy this, listen for the last chord that accompanies the word Blue at the end of the chorus and the climb which follows. Only an accomplished songwriter would go to that note and then up. Nice. I hear Whitney Houston in a Jackie DeShannon kind of way. C’mon, Whitney, give this song a shot. Other slower songs like “Scribble Variations” have a great Air Supply feel with a well-placed tremolo guitar solo. I take it back. Air Supply would never have arranged a song in such a cool fashion.
Fans of Jellyfish, The Wondermints, Air Supply, Bread, Linus of Hollywood, Eric Carmen’s piano songs with Raspberries and pop in general will like this alot. Chewy Marble is one of the strongest bands in a burgeoning Los Angeles pop scene. Bowl of Surreal is their best effort to date.