Solo artist Mark Mallman has previously explored glam-rock to great effect, but with his latest, Invincible Criminal, he decided to draw from rock-rock singers like Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, and Elvis (even visiting Graceland…). Still, Criminal has that bombastic, anthemistic bright dance-rock of Mallman’s, albeit more electro & disco-dance this time ‘round. He can be cheesy & overwrought, but he can also be as hook-laden as anyone out there.
The uplifting indie-pop disco-dance of opener “Eternal Moonshine” has that serious catch, and it is Mallman’s strongest suit throughout Criminal. The record is best when Mallman goes for anthem-bop, like on “Moonshine” or the following “You’re Never Alone In New York” (which also features singer Craig Finn of The Hold Steady – QRO live review). “White Leather Days” is an anthem for those days of yore, while the subsequent “Don’t Spill the Bottle” is infectiously hook-laden disco-dance, without being too disco-dance.
Other than the similar, but kind of forgettable “Light the Dynamite and Fun”, that side of Mallman (mostly on the first half) is stronger than his darker one. “Mercy Calls” and “Can’t Count To One” are both rather overwrought, but having staying power, and it’s all improved with “Put Your Collar Up”. Criminal also throws at least one change-up, in the stripped-to-orchestral “In These Times of Harsh Economy” (featuring duet vocals with Shannon Frid, violinist of Cloud Cult – QRO album review), but ends at what Mallman does best, in the ultra-catchy disco-bop title track.
Yes, Mallman’s bombastic persona threatens to overdo it, but he’s charming enough, and plays it just tongue-in-cheek enough (like his comic book back art & track listing, on the CD) that you can just enjoy it when he hooks you in.
MP3 Stream: "Don’t Spill the Bottle"