Music Reviews

Artist: Marsmobil (@)
Title: (Why Don’t You Take) The Other Side
Format: CD
Label: Compost Records (@)
Distributor: Rooftop Promotion
Rated: *****
This is something very unusual for Chain D. L. K.- a purely POP album. We don't get much pop music here; sometimes popular artists within the broad umbrella of our 'out-there' variety of musical genres, but hardly ever pop or even alternative rock music. This is no ordinary pop album though; it is retro-pop (late 60s, early 70s) with psychedelic overtones, Beatles, Beach Boys, Bee-Gees, and Hollies like harmonies and a generally upbeat tone. If this wasn't that damn good I would be temped to toss it in the 'not qualified for this site' pile, or just give it a brief, token review. But truth be told, it's that damn good.

The mastermind behind Marsmobil is Roberto di Gioa, located in Munich Germany, although he was born in Milano, Italy. On this album di Gioia does all the vocals and plays all the instruments (keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, etc.) even though other members of the band (Matteo Scrimali, Ferdinand Kirner, Christian Diener) are listed on the MySpace page as band members. Roberto has an extensive background in jazz- he was the keyboardist for Klaus Doldinger's Passport; toured with Art Farmer; played with Bill Frisell, Woody Shaw, Mel Lewis, Till Bronner and a lot of others. But Marsmobil doesn't really have anything to do with jazz. As I said, this is psych-retro pop-rock that will transport you back decades to a time when all pop music didn't sound like crap, at least in my opinion.

On first listen (which was quite some time ago) I knew I was in for something different. The first track, 'Patience' begins with a pulsing bassline and pleasant vocals backed by those retro-pop ('Good Vibrations') harmony vocals. It's a slight tune but a nice intro of what's to come. 'Crazy Confused Colored Light' takes a walk down 'Penny Lane' and recalls 60s pop groups like the Cowsills, Peppermint Trolley Company, the Family Tree, the Lemon Pipers and dozens of others. It's a snazzy little tune with an infectious hook, a perfect piece of pop-psych. Even the 'Illusionist' shtick is forgivable. Damn! This guy knows his retro-pop'¦much better than Prince's trip 'Around the World in a Day'. 'Ordinary Boy' and 'Moon of Dust' take you even further into Magical Mystery Tour land. The Macca-esque piano-based 'Gonna Be My Day' drifts lazily along followed by the Lucy-in-the-Sky like 'Jane' with Bee Gees style harmonies on the chorus. These hooks just won't quit!

'Never Forget' has an early 70s funky pop bassline progression and reminds me of some group I know I've heard but can't seem to remember. 'Lolly' features a 'Daytripper' guitar riff and mystical keyboard plinks and arpeggios. It's the heaviest track on the album with a healthy does of psychedelia and fuzz guitar nostalgia. Di Gioa's guitar playing is lot closer to Neil Young than George Harrison on this track, but considering what most psychedelic bands of the time sounded like, it's pretty much on the money.

I have to digress here for a moment with a couple of contemporary comparisons. Two bands that seem to be mining similar terrain to some degree are The Apples in Stereo and New Pornographers. These are two highly rated (and charting) indie groups. Marsmobil holds its own with these bands. In fact, I find Marsmobil more engaging overall compared with the aforementioned bands, and I think that Robert di Gioa captures the sound of the time much better than either of them.

To get too deep into every track would make this an arduously lengthy review, but one more needs to be singled out ' 'Monday Tuesday'. This is a PERFECT pop song that should be in the charts. Its simple infectious hook is just too irresistible, too flawless. The rest of the album is filled with a myriad of delights that do not disappoint. In fact, the only weak track on the album is an instrumental called 'Helix Pomatia,' but at less than 2 minutes, it hardly a flaw in this gem of brilliance. I hear a hundred things in the music of Marsmobil, shades of David Bowie and ELO, Blossom Toes, the Move, Beatles, Beach Boys, Bee Gees, the Hollies, early Traffic, and even the Commodores. Yet, Marsmobil sounds exactly like none of these. It is its own entity. I'm sure you'll come up with your own comparisons. As for the cover of the CD, I don't know what the bikini bondage babe standing in front of that painting (Brueghel? Bosch? Somebody else?) has to do with the music but whatever it takes to get your CD noticed, I guess.

It's too bad that Marsmobil doesn't have 'Monday Tuesday' posted on their MySpace site. (They do have other songs from the album, and I highly recommend you go there and listen.) You'll just have to buy the album for that one. It's definitely worth it though. If really great retro psychedelic pop appeals to you at all, this album is A MUST.

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