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Shivering in the Moon: After 36 Years, Mark Fry Makes Another Album

Mark Fry is the latest British folkie on the comeback trail. His new cd, Shooting the Moon is only his second recording. Thirty-six years have come and gone since RCA Italy released his only other album, Dreaming with Alice in 1972. Out of print for decades (although recently reissued on cd by Sunbeam), it’s a strange yet compelling blend of British folk and psychedelia, perhaps a British counterpart to Judy Henske and Jerry Yester’s utterly bizarre yet sometimes entrancing Farewell Aldebaran. In the years that passed, Fry never abandoned music, though his public performances became very infrequent while he pursued what would become a far more successful career as a painter, with several solo exibitions in the UK over the past few years.

This album, while hardly a follow-up, reveals that Fry hasn’t lost his utterly unique and somewhat disquieting vision. This album has a striking and also somewhat baffling resemblance to David J’s solo work, musically at least, right down to the darkly attractive, major-key chordal work, vocal phrasing, guitar tunings and sparse arrangements typical of the Bauhaus bassist’s quieter, more stark, late 80s/early 90s songs. But one can only wonder if the two even know each other exist. In any event, they’d make a great double bill! Fry’s acoustic guitar and casually bright vocals are backed in places by tasteful pedal steel, piano, violin and occasionally a rhythm section: it’s all very pretty and best when it takes on a nocturnal feel, which is often. The songwriting here is saturnine and somewhat woozy from time to time, precisely what one would expect from someone who lived through the sixties (insert amnesiac punchline here). The album’s opening track, Under the Milky Way (NOT the Church’s 1988 cocaine anthem) has the narrator perplexed, thinking the sky’s about to fall on him. As it turns out, it’s only the clouds messing around. One can only wonder what prompted that observation (definitely not cocaine). The same rings true for many of the other songs, like the following track, Big Silver Jet:

It’s slipping through my fingers
Like the rays of the sunset
It’s slipping through my radar
Like a big silver jet

As with the rest of the instruments, Fry’s fingerstyle acoustic and electric guitar work is understated but fluid, particularly the warm, lushly overdubbed You Make It Easy. But on the rest of the album, there’s a chill in the air, regrets over not having done one thing or another, and a pervasive sense of unease everywhere. “You’re like a box of chocolates that melts in the sun,” Fry wryly tells a lover.

The album’s most memorable – and concluding – cut, the brief, upbeat, gently swaying title track, is set in a junkyard, its residents raising a quiet racket by the light of the moon:

You can hear them dancing like soldiers
To their lost parade
Dancing to the junkyard serenade
We’re all shooting the moon tonight

But if you’re not paying attention, it sounds like Fry is singing “we’re all shivering in the moon tonight,” which probably isn’t intentional but perfectly capsulizes what he’s done here. For fans of eerie singer-songwriters everywhere, from Nick Drake to the aforementioned David J or even Syd Barrett.

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment