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Mike K - A Simple Story Simply Told Review

by Patrick Muldowney

Mike K must be a pretty smart individual judging from the title of his album, considering it perfectly states what he is all about, and saves me from considering some ingenious way of telling you so. I spent a good time racking my brain for what exactly in my collection this sounded very similar to, and then it finally struck me: Badly Drawn Boy. Mike K approaches his craft much the same, in that his vocals are melancholic soundscapes in perfect alignment with music that is philosophically minimalist. What is gratifying about each song is, as a listener you come to appreciate a single snap of a snare, or a note ringing out on a guitar, without feeling like there is anything missing from the song. The reason this could be successful for Mike K, and is successful through parts of A Simple Story Simply Told, is the voice. This album is dependent on the melodies, which drive the changes and dynamics of each tune, and the presence of the vocals, which are as rich and soothing as a cigarette advertisement in the mid-80s claimed to be.

A Simple Story… shows much of its ability in the first half of the album. "Pretty Sure" and "We Are The Ones" have the most universal appeal for the average listener, and are not so coincidentally the most similar to tracks off Badly Drawn Boy's Bewilderbeast album. "Pretty Sure" is a song about pain, and how we try to be the one to make "pretty sure it won't hurt anymore." "We Are The Ones" is an accomplishment in that it successfully shows that Mike K can pick up the tempo, and communicate a fun tale, while delivering a message. From the beginning of getting wasted after school in the parents' basement, like "That 70s Show", Mike K discusses the insecurities of youth, and how it makes us dream that things will last forever, coupled with delusions of invincibility. "RazorCloser" is also a bright spot, featuring a verse about angels and devils that is his finest lyrical moment among the 13 songs.

Based on the sounds captured on this album, a bright future should be predicted for Mike K, although I would suggest a less vanilla name (and please don't tell me Mephisto Sundae on your myspace page is the new name because that is truly idiotic). Beyond such a surface change, Mike K needs to grow a bit as a lyricist. At times, the simple stories contained in this disc border on blandly boring, like when a friend tells you a story and by the end you have no clue why he felt the need. Most of the songs are about love and relationships, which is no surprise and has been a successful topic since the inception of lyric poetry, but on songs like "Bright Future", "Sleepwalker", and "Brokedown", they might be better kept as gems between songwriter and muse. These songs make for a painful album beyond track 6. "Brokedown", which seems ad-libbed during the verses, celebrates how sweet it is to have someone break down and cry in his arms during the chorus. If people in extreme duress are the sweetest things you see, maybe a tour of funeral homes is in order. Experienced musicians will generally write 40-60 songs, only to trim down to a dozen or so for an album. From the second half of A Simple Story Simply Told, I would assume Mike K trimmed from 14 to 13.

Missing from the album, in its entirety, are changes which prevent the songs from melting together into a meaningless dream. Even though Mike K is comparable to Badly Drawn Boy, and if you'd like to dig further back, Simon and Garfunkel, he misses the experience at this point to catch the ear and engage the mind with songs that stand out. For at least half of the album, you will find yourself witnessing, but not identifying with A Simple Story Simply Told, and it is natural for humans to want to identify with simplicity, and witness the extraordinary. Therein lies the problem, which results in an album that will neither bother you enough to change, nor interest you enough to realize it has cycled through your car stereo 2 or 3 times while your mind was on other things.

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