Pop music eventually subsumes every genre that gains a sizable audience. From hip-hop to punk, emo, heavy metal and the many strains of electronic and dance music — at one point, all spent time as the hip-and-happening genre of mainstream pop music.
On his debut album Such a Mess It’s Beautiful, released on Columbus-based Vindicated Records, Akron native C. Mardo Martin shows he also has been absorbing pop styles with a fairly eclectic but not scattered collection of nine songs that incorporate many of the aforementioned genres into slick, well-constructed and well-produced tunes, bouncy, melodic and radio-ready.
Martin is a multi-instrumentalist who attended the University of Akron, where he studied opera and jazz singing and played bass drum in a couple of drum and bugle corps. He also attended the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles and toured as a bassist in the band Obscure Relevance and with Avril Lavigne.
The talented 30-year-old Wadsworth resident does the one-man-band thing in the studio and onstage, playing and singing all the parts. But though he is classically (and umm, “jazzically”) trained, Such a Mess It’s Beautiful does not sound like someone calculatedly dumbing down his schooled abilities for mainstream fame and fortune.
Martin clearly loves hummable pop melodies, heavily layered vocal harmony and jaunty grooves, though he throws in the occasional complex middle-eight breakdown or musical curlicue to remind you he knows more than few fancy scales and chords.
The opener Follow Me Everywhere is a peppy, toe-tapping 3½-minute slice of pop rock. Martin’s tenor can reach to the rafters and he vacillates between word-stuffed verses that recall the jazz-inflected patter-songs of (major influence) Jason Mraz, particularly on Funky Ain’t a Crime, and lengthy, catchy melodies that sometimes linger past the bar. All his choruses strive for earworm status.
Martin is a pretty smart lyricist, and he doesn’t bother much with the third person or elaborate storytelling. His favorite pronouns appear to be “I” and “me” — he seldom seems to assume the guise of anything or anyone other than C. Mardo Martin. On When I Get My Way, with its big Fall Out Boy-style arena-emo chorus, he pines for a lost love and hopes that getting famous will help him get her back.
Martin (who is a heck of a drummer) offsets his pop-rock songs with some synth-driven dance rock on several tracks such as Hooks, in which he offers songwriting as a relationship metaphor over an old-school oscillating bass synth pulse and disco groove, as he sings “I could never be as catchy as your melody, you really got those hooks in me.”
On the midtempo, 1980s R&B-flavored Seems Like Nothing’s Changed (which is decidedly closer to actual funk than the track with “funky” in its title), Martin harmonizes with himself about the importance of being able to create music.
He does briefly step outside his seemingly naturally upbeat self to portray the dissolute, bitter Mr. Cynical. But then he quickly reminds us that his musical glass is always half-full with the album-ending E.D.P.B.R., an acronym for Electro Dance Pop Barbershop Rock, which is an apt and accurate, self-aware assessment of his style.
Such a Mess It’s Beautiful should appeal to those who like their mainstream pop both musically and philosophically upbeat, with catchy choruses exactly where they’re supposed to be in a song, and chunky, rocking bar chords that can inspire a little safe headbanging.
C. Mardo Martin hasn’t set out to unsettle listeners or try to explore the deep, dark recesses of human existence. He seems to just want them to tap their toes, nod their heads to the jaunty rhythms and sing along (maybe even harmonize) to his melodies. And though Such a Mess It’s Beautiful was released in winter, it’s a good soundtrack for driving down the highway with the top down, yelling/singing along at the top of your lungs.