If any of you were to look at my reviews over the past year or so, you might notice that I have acquired a slowly growing chip on my shoulder about Beatles-influenced, power-pop bands. It’s been done to death and you, constant readers, no doubt have noticed (along with my editor) a certain hopelessness creeping into my reviews of same.
So the good news on Maple Mars is that they don’t just sound like a Beatles-influenced power pop band, but like a band whose influences have been filtered through those who were influenced by the Beatles. Oh. That’s much better. I’m not being completely facetious; long before yours truly started drowning in them, the Beatles influenced some pretty good soft pop/rock bands and artists. And Maple Mars are, indeed, pretty good. It’s just that they shouldn’t have included a song, playing as I write this, in which they proclaim over and over that “it’s all brand new.” Because it isn’t, you know.
That said, there are some potential singles here and, if Maple Mars ever reaches the compilation or boxed-set stage, cherry-picking the first album will be a breeze. The opening, declaratory “Welcome to Maple Mars” uses Sgt. Pepper crowd noises as intro, then turns edgy but charming. The third track, “Fly” is recognizable from the first note out of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/bandleader Rick Hromadka’s mouth as a Jeff Lynne/ELO homage, it’s almost thievery. Still, all very enjoyable. A couple of tracks later, though, on “When Atlas Falls”, we come up against a noticeable wall: Hromadka badly, badly needs a lyric-writing partner. “Love used to be a word that you’d dream of but lately you can’t even find a dove” is bad enough, but the opening verse of “Midsummer Day Dream” is hysterically bad: “Could I touch you just one more time? / There’s so much to discover / Wanna run my feelings up and down your skin, exposing your brilliant colors / Your passion has a hold on me and frees me up so sensually”. It is a testament to the bad taste this song left in my mouth that I consider the glitch which has caused the CD to stutter every other time I’ve played it to be a gift from God.
Even worse for the God-awful “Daydream” is that if comes just one song after what might be the best on the album, the reflective, intense, paranoid, sensual and stylish “Silver Spy Satellite” The album is wrapped up with the trippy, theatrical “Wonderwalla” which recalls “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” while name-checking one of George Harrison’s compositions. The instrumental sounds like it’s going somewhere, but is prevented from building by an arbitrarily placed glass-breaking sound and a bonus track. This is another in the long list of albums which is unfortunately best listened to at a low volume, where it may remind you of it’s betters.