archive review originally posted on the losing today site c. 2004 …..
FROM BUBBLEGUM TO SKY
NOTHING SADDER THAN LONELY QUEEN
And isn’t always the case, just when you thought you’d heard all you needed to know and left to commiserate that maybe you’ll never hear anything that’ll ever make you feel WOW, then up pops some crafty little darling to literally knock you sideways.
‘Nothing sadder than lonely Queen’ is annoyingly good, better still brilliant, we couldn’t begin to tell you why, maybe its because the sun’s shining outside or maybe its because here’s an artist who runs against the tide of fashion and cool to produce classically proven pop that’s so out of time it may as well come from another planet. From Bubblegum to Sky is Mario Hernandez whose mixed parentage (Father Hispanic American, mother Southern Japanese) and the fact he spent his first decade of life living in the remote rural confines of Kyushu led him to get by in his formative years without ever hearing or knowing about the Beatles, and boy is he making up for lost time. ‘Nothing sadder’ is Fernandez’s second album following 2000’s acclaimed ‘Me and Amy and the Two French Boys’ (which sadly we missed), it’s a crooked though loveable synthesis of late 60’s soft psychedelic melodies and early 70’s fluffy day dream happy pop (just listen to the implausibly perfect 50’s throwback teen pop antics of ‘the gurls and shoo be doo wop’), as far as reference points go those who swooned to the sounds of the Elephant 6 Collective as was, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Ben Folds 5, Doug Powell and early recordings by Ashley Park will thrill to these delicately dedicated top drawer tunes that radiate with all the innocently naive candour of a child.
If there’s any kind of fault to be picked with ‘Nothing’ its just that it has a tendency to go a little over board on the candy pop saccharine stakes, at times it had me reliving my childhood (good or bad?) when the pop charts were infected by cover versions of songs my parents grew up with in the late 50’s / early 60’s, however if you can live with that then its pretty much an enduring treat that awaits you as Hernandez cleverly wraps his McCartney-esque bitter sweet odes to scratch your heart. Pretty difficult if asked to divide up the favourites though ‘Sign the Air’ is breezily cool enough to buzz bomb the most reticent of souls with it’s Talking Heads ‘This must be the place’ meets candy floss dynamic, too damn catchy for its own good while ‘Scorpio’ equips itself with a mean punk pop edge and comes out sounding like Big Star having a fist fight with the Fall all that’s missing is Mr Smith’s trademark shouty scowls. All said and done you have to give credit where credit is due, fans of Norman Greenbaum and T-Rex are strictly alerted and warned to park up close to ‘Vampires’ as it cleverly fuses together the essence of ‘Spirit in the Sky’ and ‘Ride a White Swan’, did it for me anyway, even right down to the accompanying decadent sheen, the glam references further visited on the rocking ’24 hours in your deep blue jeans’. Those in love will classic pop will blush with pride at their newfound friend and rightly so we say.