Scratch below the surface of the well-known players on the one hand and the clamoring wannabes on the other and rock’n’roll remains, to this day, a universe peopled by any number of obscure toilers, many of whom have found a way of making it work for years on end. There are far more fully-formed characters out there on American stages than seems possible, or maybe even advisable.
Thirty-nine-year-old Mark Mallman is one of them. Emerging on the Minneapolis music scene in the late ’90s as part of a short-lived glam-rock parody band called The Odd, Mallman has been an eccentric and persistent presence there ever since, complete with wacky stage antics (playing keyboard solos in mid-air) and shticky concepts (onstage alter-ego: werewolf). Through the ’00s, he achieved a bit of notoriety for a series of unnaturally long concerts/performances he has given—so-called “Marathons” that have ranged in length from 26 to 78 hours. His most recent Marathon, number four, was done on the road in a van last month, involving 150 hours of non-stop music. I get press releases about such things and toss them in my “gimmick” folder. Ho hum. Then I actually thought to listen to the song. And well now. “Double Silhouette” is an easily approachable helping of anthemic rock’n’roll, mixing 21st-century sounds with some ineffable old-school touches—those deep chimes in the background feel inexplicably nostalgic, as do some of his vocal quirks (he’s channeling somebody there when he sings “Where everything is black and white” at 0:45, I just can’t put my finger on whom). I’m enjoying too his penchant for epigrammatic lyrics (“Nobody dies in nightmares/So I guess I must be living the dream”; “Won’t you join me on my road to ruin/’Cause it’s the only thing left worth pursuin'”; etc.); contemporary indie rock can surely do with a bit less obscurantism than we’ve been getting over the last decade.
“Double Silhouette” is the title track to Mallman’s new album, which will be released next week on Eagle’s Golden Tooth Records. It’s his seventh solo release; he has also recorded two albums with a band called Ruby Isle, in 2008 and 2010. In addition to “Double Sihoulette,” Mallman currently has five other songs of his available for download on his web site.