Money Mark: Brand New By Tomorrow

Is this just some sweet background music, or has the fourth Beastie Boy found some mature profundity in rootsy pop?

Money Mark

Brand New By Tomorrow

Label: Brushfire
US Release Date: 2007-02-27
UK Release Date: 2007-03-26

Money Mark, the onetime Beastie Boy and long-time experimenter of pop forms is that peculiar kind of pop chameleon who may be revered within the industry, but never quite wins over the casual listener. Part of this may indeed be a modest commitment to the technicalities of a genre, be it roots-pop or instrumental funk. Money Mark certainly has the pedigree, certainly has the musical talent -- his three previous solo albums, varying widely in style and tone, have been received generally positively even if they haven't entered the larger cultural pantheon of "musicians worth knowing about".

Well, whether you end up praising these songs’ minimal lack of ambition or finding it a limitation ultimately depends on how much you pay attention to the music: The closer you listen, the less you get rewarded. As an accompaniment to activities of daily living, well, you have something sweet and entirely appropriate. Is that enough for you?

A more pertinent question for Brand New by Tomorrow might be, "Do you like Jack Johnson?" The surfer-guitarist's Brushfire Records label has released Money Mark's latest effort, and the similarity between Johnson's laid-back rootsy ethos and Money Mark's is not limited to their shared Hawaiian blood. I have to admit, I'm a little skeptical of the authenticity of this newly popular kind of roots music. It's not thematically linked to the protest songs of acts like the John Butler Trio or the gospel-tinged songs of Ben Harper, and the universally tackled theme (love) that resurfaces again here is dealt with in an unsatisfyingly simple way. Basically, I can't imagine any real teenage surfer admitting to liking Money Mark, even if they do. Call it a kind of new easy listening alternative for the surf-punk set.

The album's opening words don't augur well for those who like some meat to their lyrical content. Slowly, as if he's saying something profound, and savoring the "s" sounds at the end of each line, extending to a snake-like hiss, Money Mark sings: "Since you've been gone, I've lost my cleverness / And since you've walked away, I just can't deal with this / Loneliness and emptiness". There's nothing wrong with the music, which establishes a nice groove and snuggles there for a comfortable three minutes. But the problem is the simplicity.

This simplicity, if it bugs you, will bug you throughout the whole album. There are bands that trade in a nostalgic kind of childhood reminiscence, like Boy Least Likely To, and (less successfully) singer-songwriters like Sebastien Schuller. From the opening "Color of Your Blues" to "Summer Blue", lines like "You're hurting people, and I disapprove / Destiny is not for us to choose" are cringe-worthy. You might expect this from a Donavon Frankenreiter, but from the fourth Beastie? Somehow it seems a bit disingenuous. But sometimes the simplicity is deserved, and redeemed by a lilting, breeze-blown guitar accompaniment. The surf-washed "Everyday I Die a Little" is all about the orchestral accompaniment. And "Pretend to Sleep", one of the album's undeniable highlights, approaches a Coldplay-like pop sensibility and the looping beauty of Jens Lekman as a sad, effective song. "Pretend to sleep, it's your only guarantee."

This isn't all dire stuff, by any means. Money Mark's an accomplished and experienced musician, and the songs here reflect that technical proficiency with tight arrangements and a self-knowledge that lets ideas go long before they become tedious. Even lyrically, Money Mark has some interesting moments -- the trope of shining that propels "Radiate Nothing" is one such moment -- that enables the album to become a wash of pleasant listening. The disappointment is that it never reaches for anything more. Brand New by Tomorrow may be great background music, but it isn't anything but that.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.