Wampus Multimedia, 2004
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/30/2004
I get a lot of inquiries from indie artists and labels these days. The majority of these inquiries get forwarded to the Daily Vault's home office for response and distribution to the rest of our writing staff.
The ones that don't -- the ones I pull aside and answer myself -- inevitably have some kind of hook that gets my attention. Either the band's bios and promos reference favorite artists of mine, or they have an intriguing way of presenting themselves, or they target my weak spot… they hook me with their words.
Arms Of Kismet is singer-songwriter-multinstrumentalist Mark Doyon and a handful of special guests (think Kurt Wallinger and the "band" World Party). In terms of attracting the attention of a word-geek like me, the smartest self-promotion Mark has done is to put up a Web site that includes the full lyrics from this disc. I'd been scanning them for maybe two minutes when I said to myself "Anybody who writes like this has got to be worth a listen."
Indeed. Each of the ten little vignettes presented on Eponymous inhabits its own universe of damaged people feeling their way through life, maybe stumbling across an answer or two, or maybe not. Everything's just a little twisted and distorted here -- for one thing, Doyon keeps you off-balance with his deft mixture of standard rock instrumentation with loops, textures and effects -- and yet there's a definite sense of possibility lurking about as well.
The disc opens with a brief intro of garbage-can loops and Motown harmony vocals before kicking into the gently rocking "Karma Never Forgets," suggesting we're all quite literally resting in the "arms of kismet." The outro features a lilting guitar solo, juxtaposed with more faux Supremes in the background. Nice effect.
And then it's straight into the breathy "hip-pop" of the pumping, thrumming "Beautiful Career," a cautionary tirade delivered in the general direction of an unidentified budding popstar. Eponymous presents a dizzying, frothy mixture of voices and genres; it's no surprise to learn that Doyon has published a collection of short stories, as he's constantly trying on new voices, characters and atmospherics.
"Alive And Awake" opens with a straight-ahead, upbeat guitar riff whose urgency is undermined charmingly by Doyon's somewhat laconic vocal delivery (Tom Petty comes to mind), which is itself counterpointed by rich harmony vocals on the choruses. Add some of Doyon's most fluid, witty lyrics -- "If we go broke in Kansas City / In Akron or Des Moines / We can jump into a fountain / Go swimming with the coins" -- and the total effect is like throwing Petty and Bob Dylan in a blender with REM, with a Beach Boy or two added for seasoning.
The next cut, "Sail Seven," is no more predictable, opening with a spoken-word reading from Genesis (as in, the Bible, not Peter Gabriel's old mates), followed by a staccato rhythm section, distorted guitars, sung verses and rapped choruses. It's a true original, and it works.
Other highlights include "Hang," an almost indescribably odd and unsentimental overture to a troubled friend ("So you got yourself a gun / Like a faux soprano / But you shot a rhododendron / When you couldn't get a handle"); the very pretty, primarily acoustic "Foldback" (think Randy Newman writing for the Jayhawks); and the fabulously dreamy power-chords-and-strings meditation "Are You My God."
Eponymous brims with an off-kilter wisdom and warped melodies, a treasure-trove of idiosyncratic rock and roll that will make you smile when it isn't busy making you think. More than just a collection of songs, this disc marks the coming of age of an original voice, and is not to be missed.