Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Marykate O’Neil – mkULTRA

Truth in advertising. The cd cover pictures a deadpan Marykate O’Neil in shirt and tie with old-fashioned 1950s glasses, holding a bottle of a suspicious, possibly mind-altering and tortuous substance designated for some poor unfortunate prisoner of the CIA. Onstage, O’Neil typically relies on a subtle wit to get her melodic, purist songs across, but this is one dark album. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical singer/songwriter fare.

 

Switching evocatively from Boston to a New York milieu, O’Neil’s vocals on the cd’s opening lament Green Street have Barbara Brousal-class subtlety and a lyric glistening with little gems:

 

The last time I saw you on Storrow Drive

You were walking your three-speed Huffy bike…

Dropping a nickel on the dime

 

Set to an imaginative acoustic trip-hop arrangement, Man manages to straddle the line between sensuality and frustration: “How did I get so fucked up,” O’Neil wails. On the bleak, depressed 6/8 ballad Nothing I Say or Do, layers of synth make their way in like a draft under the door. 

 

With its stately, eerily reverberating 6/8 guitar and insistent backing vocals leading up to the end of the verse, Trouble evokes Erika Simonian at her most angst-ridden, all the way up to the top of a towering, roaring crescendo, a vivid East Village tale that namechecks the Lakeside Lounge (yay!). 

 

The way the cd closes testifies to O’Neil’s fondness for classic pop songs. A stark take of Without You surpasses the Randy Newman original but falls short of the transcendent, bass-driven version that made the top 40 for Manfred Mann. The concluding cut, Happy, steals the eerie riff from Walking in the Rain (more evocative of the Flash & the Pan original than the Grace Jones version). “All I wanna be is happy,” is the anguished mantra O’Neil repeats over and over, making it clear that she’s a long way from there as the guitars burn and the percussion reaches a breakneck pace. Intense, powerful stuff. Marykate O’Neil plays Kenny’s Castaways at 8:30 PM on Nov 7; her December 8 show at Maxwell’s is sold out.

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November 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment