JOHN MARS – The Secrets I Won’t Even Tell Myself
There are hints of some of the best power pop of the last decade in John Mars’ addictively listenable, but tragically brief, five song EP, The Secrets I Won’t Even Tell Myself. The opening track, “So What,” a blast of head-rush-inducing Fountains of Wayne-style candy may be the best of the bunch. From the catchy opening guitar line to the great opening lyric, “If I forget to tell you / you remind me of an angel / remind me please to tell you / the next time we’re alone,” it’s as sweet as the first cherry Popsicle of the year. If the world of music was anything at all resembling fair, you would hear it blasting from open car windows all summer long. “So what, she says we’re only friends / so what’s the problem with this?” captures perfectly the indecision of the is-she-or-isn’t-she interested moment in a friendship that may be turning into something more. By the time he says “she’s laughing way too loud,” it starts to sound like just maybe she is. The mellower “One Thousand Words” is another winner with skittish drum beats and keyboard bleeps just peeking out from behind the vocal and guitar.
Landing in Madison via Michigan and Colorado, Mars tapped many of his old bandmates in Detroit for help on his solo debut. Drummer and co-producer Rob Feature played with Mars in all his previous bands- Spork, I Hate Mars and The Stand Up Johns. Bass duties were split between Jon Baber (of The Stand Up Johns, of course) and Jason Shellhaas from I Hate Mars. Trying to figure out how keyboardist Dale Rohrback fits in requires drawing a family tree, but “She Kissed Me” wouldn’t be near as infectious without him. Like Cheap Trick at their most tuneful, it pairs soaring vocals with a memorable melody. It’s followed by the only track to extend beyond the four minute mark, the blue-album-era Weezer-channeling “Please Don’t Ask.” Calling to mind their “Say It Isn’t So,” Mars alternates crunchy electric guitar riffs with plaintive acoustic laments, gently pleading “if you have to tell me, go ahead and let it go, I can’t be much worse you know,” before it gets heavy again admitting “I’ve said more than thirteen things that should make you cry.” The disc ends with the lovely echo of “Breathe Again,” a song about starting over, whether in a relationship or as a solo musician.
As noted on his bio sheet, Mars isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. But who cares? The wheel works just fine, thank you. This is head-bobbing, smile-inducing, just-plain-good stuff. Now excuse me, I have to pop this in my CD player, turn it way up and drive around town with the windows open.