Dusted Reviews

The Marked Men - Fix My Brain

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Marked Men

Album: Fix My Brain

Label: Dirtnap

Review date: Mar. 18, 2010

The Marked Men’s high notes have been released by Dirtnap Records, a label who’s logo shows a cartoon fist under the inscription "Punk Rock." Fittingly, the Men bash out pop songs with cartoon fists. More than the bare-minimum of three chords and a catch-phrase, they’re closer to the style of Jehu/Hot Snakes; dueling buzzsaws wielded by dueling songwriters. The Marked Men’s topics stay in the realm of the Ramones, though: heartbreak and mental breakdown. The sing-alongs come easy, the guitars riffs are odder than they seem at first, but what sets this band apart is the momentum. They spray these things out. At their best, the songs blare by like a great gig in a club with shitty sound. The songcraft has to be there to keep the rally of two-minute blasts from blurring together. But the kicks come so quick, it’s hard to think to much about the interplay. Eccentric turns and changes are tricks to make the songs go even faster.

Last year’s Ghosts found them at their apex. Songs dropped to the 90-second range, and their verse-change-chorus was craftier than than ever. Cramming 15 songs on to the album had a magic effect. The pop-punk album template is well-established; start fast, slow down for a few songs before the end, then close the deal with the bluntest thing you got. Ghosts follows the guidelines, but keeps unloading blunter and faster numbers at the end. Its series of fakeouts makes it one of the the best sequenced albums of the last decade, a good reason to turn off the shuffle.

That’s not to say their songs don’t stand up in isolation. They’re a DIY band, but not a lo-fi band. Fix My Brain, their 2006 album, has this credit: "recorded, engineered, produced, mixed and obsessed over by the Marked Men." In the process of that obsessing, they backed off the tempos, and showed off their melodies. The whole first half jangles as much as it distorts, leaving room for backing melodies. "Sully My Name" slows it down enough to pass for something off Damn The Torpedoes.

Fix My Brain was first issued on Swami Records, owned by Hot Snake John Reis. In comparing these songs with the rest of the Marked Men catalog, it’s surprising what a difference a few less BPMs can make. Touches stand out - "A Little Lesson" starts with the "Hard Day’s Night" chord, "Someday" quotes Wire’s "The Commercial." With judicious injection of sap into their lyrics, this band could expand their following into audiences that prefer more sincerity. They could, maybe, get way beyond their intermittent trips outside of Denton, Texas.

That would spoil a good thing going. There’s a lot of ghettoized bands that have cracked the code of polished songwriting, and in the processes shed all the character that made them interesting in the first place. Edit out all the breakthrough songs on Zen Arcade, and you’ve still got one disc of knock-your-teeth-out hardcore. Drop the strongest songs from Warehouse: Songs and Stories and you’ve got a disc of easily discarded college rock. Fix My Brain album closes with one that’s plenty speedy (the template, folks), but is framed with open, crashing power chords. It’s got an intro and bridge and all those flourishes Marked Men haven’t always bothered with. Yet, when the twin guitars coil together, it’s got a tripping-over-itself enthusiasm few can match.

By Ben Donnelly

Read More

View all articles by Ben Donnelly

Find out more about Dirtnap

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.