Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mark Sultan - '$' (Last Gang)

What we have here is an example of the solo one man band sorta thing. You know, a once member of a punk band who split up, only for the remaining artists to forge their own solo projects. Which the case with former Spaceshits drummer/singer Mark Sultan, rather than purely a solo sounding album he creates a multi-instrumental project that could be fooled for sounding like a completely new band in his own right. Despite making music under various different guises for over 20 years now, this is only his second LP to go under his birth name. ‘$’, or ‘Dollar’, if you will, is this messy fusion of recycled mid twentieth century influences that somehow seems to work and seem in touch with the sound that is coming out of a lot of cross Atlantic alternative music scenes.

‘$’ is introduced with a spaghetti western sounding guitar jam. ‘Icicles’, halfway through speeds up into this noisy space rock beast that demonstrates what’s to come with the song’s erratic behaviour. ‘Don’t Look Back’ covers a range of 1960’s sounds with psychedelic layering and garage rock rhythms, whilst ‘Ten of Hearts’ is a gorgeous doo-wop style ballad which portrays Sultan's true instrumental talent. However, a perfect doo-wop hit would clock in at no longer than 3 minutes leaving the listener wanting more, so perhaps 5 minutes is too much an extension. Although that doesn’t affect the quality of the song one bit. ‘Status’ is the leading single from the album. Probably it’s most rock ‘n’ roll number in terms of attitude, especially with an explosive range of dynamics and tempo, very much reminiscent of the work of the late Jay Reatard.

So, you can imagine for formula for the remainder of this record with plenty of blues guitar and rock & roll rhythms. Most of the standout tracks for me occur during the first half of ‘$’ with the exception of curtain raiser ‘Nobody But You’. The 6 minute outro definitely ends the album on a high with the song length identical to the first track which I feel is a rather fitting symmetry. What Sultan lacks here especially with this whole one man band thing is that there are no harmonies or backing vocals. Songs such as ‘Ten of Hearts’ and ‘Go Berserk’ which I do feel are 2 solid examples of doo-wop or punk rock or whatever, but could be made slightly better with a use of harmony which would add a great Pop edge. To summarise, Mark Sultan has recorded a musical mess of an album that somehow manages to fit together brilliantly, and for that you have to say, fair play to him.

Words: Freddy Rothman

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