PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Patrick Park: Under the Unminding Skies

Chris Fallon

Patrick Park

Under the Unminding Skies

Label: Badman
US Release Date: 2003-04-01
UK Release Date: 2003-03-31
Amazon
iTunes

The graduation from punk to roots rock, country, and folk has become somewhat of a natural progression -- the liberties afforded by the medium of punk music serving as much-needed practice for the skill more multi-faceted musical endeavors, particularly ones that delve into traditional styles, require. We've seen it in Ryan Adams, who went from making punk music with his first band the Patty Duke Syndrome to alt-country with Whiskeytown and later as a solo act. Well before Adams was John Doe of seminal '80s punk-rock band X, with his latter day country-rock albums. Most recently there is Jim O'Rourke, now a member of Sonic Youth, whose side projects include work with alt-country pioneer Jeff Tweedy. The ease with which the two deceptively similar musical styles meld, furthers the claim that all forms of rock are essentially folk music at their cores. Patrick Park can claim a punk past in his repertoire as well, having been a member of several such bands in L.A. before coming around to his particular brand of singing and songwriting. In his debut EP, Under the Unminding Skies, Park's punk sensibility finds a quiet (almost inaudible) voice, detectable in the anguished lyrics but not much in the music.

By the sheer quality of Park's delivery it's easy to see that said practice making punk music paid off. Park rids himself of the constraints of the guitar pick and opts for the more challenging method of traditional finger-picking, which imbues the material with a natural quality, steeped in country twang, that prevents it from becoming excessively wispy -- a danger Park is, for the most part, careful to avoid. His voice possesses the slightly hoarse mellowness of Nick Drake (no doubt achieved by smoking thousands of cigarettes and screaming his head off in a punk band) which then soars to the near-weeping crescendos of Jeff Buckley but without the classical vocal training that would potentially throw many of these tracks right over the top. Stretching his vocal chords beyond his natural range, he nears the point of cracking but never lets it go quite that far. The songs, none much over three minutes in length, are tales of general angst encountered on the slog through life as a sensitive guy in a necessarily troubled world or relationship or any other whine-worthy situation.

"Love Is a Bomb" starts it right off with a prancing mix of soft percussion, acoustic guitar and a harmonica where Park's skill as a musician and composer are immediately evident. The easy picking style he deftly employs, be it electric or acoustic guitar or mandolin, is directly responsible for the catchiness and quality of the music. The lyrics, while not bad, and yes angst-ridden, don't say anything we haven't all heard before.

"Nothing's Wrong" and "Untitled" are pleasantly mellow odes, again, to the subtle torments and disappointments of a relationship, "I'm sick of your voice / The things that you say / They just don't sound the same as they did before".

Park's sugar-sweet rendition of "Caroline Goodbye", written by Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, recalls White Album-era Beatles with a slice of syrupy '70s AM radio (think Bread sans schlock, if you can). What saves it from sinking in the sappy muck is the tight composition. Park's good taste is evident, perhaps too much so: the polish of the songs can come off a bit precious. "Home for Now" is as catchy as they come, not unlike a Ben Folds tune but without the prominence of a piano line, and, like the rest of the set, oh-so-pretty and forlorn.

The closing track is a cover of the traditional "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", as arranged by Alvin Carter of Carter Family fame. This is Park at his best. He systematically reveals his penchant for country, folk, and rock (in that order). Opening with delicate acoustic country strums, he slides in with his smoothly honed folksy voice and throws on a crackly, classic-rock electric lick, turning out the sound he should continue to strive for: his own unique take on roots-based music without much of the polish of overproduction.

The songs are all very pretty and heart-wrenching and all the rest but the overall effect would greatly benefit from less shimmer and more gravel, that is of course if Park wants to avoid the radio overkill he is sure to experience with such highly accessible, infectious, music. "It's hard waking up to that big city drum", says Park, an apparent reference to the brief period he lived in New York. Had he not gone and mellowed out in L.A., but instead endured the New York drum, the grittiness of the city might have rekindled his punk attitude enough to provide the more substantive scratchiness this album needs.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.