At least once a week, Apostrophe by Frank Zappa is played in my perimeter. The weird, comedic vibes Zappa gives off on his most traditional blues rock album puts a smile on my face that I can’t seem to shake. It’s incredible put together, with songs flowing into one another like a Cirque du Soleil show. I wasn’t around when Zappa revolutionized rock and roll, but I have a strong feeling that he allowed the rules to be bent and humor and strangeness to be added to a genre like the blues. The history behind the creation of blues and blues rock is hard to forget, and we shouldn’t, but thanks to Zappa, we’ve been given an alternative style to look at without all the despair.
Now it’s been 40 years since Apostrophe has been released, but when I was given the New York-based Marla Mase to listen to, I had to have both playing at the same time. They both have the slightly ironic, intimate spoken-word sections, jacked up solos, and the band plays extremely tight behind the main leader. In this case, Marla Mase. The EP opens with “Drown in Blue”, a blazing and unforgiving opener that kicked me back in my seat. Don’t make the mistake of having the volume too loud for this one. A nod to Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth and British punk rock, this song is killer. What drags it down is Marla’s softer vocals that collide with the angry, resistant vocals on the chorus.
I was caught off guard when I heard the spoken word sections. They release so much emotion that sometimes are poetically imaginative and emotional, and at other times, ironic and passive aggressive. Nonetheless, they all have a true, deeper meaning behind the veil of words. Musically, this album is outstanding. “Half-Life” is absolutely beautiful, bringing me back to the days of female alternative rockers like Alanis Morissette and PJ Harvey. (On a side note, Alanis didn’t get enough credit for being a badass. She kicked ass in the 90’s.) The song is a highlight to me, and I really want to see Mase progress this side of her music. It’s captivating and magical. The backing instrumentation by the Tomás Doncker Band is sharp. all the subtle melodies stand out and are memorable.
Sadly, it’s followed up by the outrageous “Things That Scare Me”. It’s humorous, but that’s about it. The lyrics are cheap, and it’s trying to many different ideas without sticking to a main idea. The chorus flows out of place after it has it’s forced half-sung verses. “Try and diagnose me!”, that’s all I can really agree on with that song. “The Heart Beats” brings the same anger into light with better results. It’s slow, stranded, almost like words flowing out of Mase’s mouth walking across the Sahara. Loved it.
At just over 30 minutes, this EP flies by. It covers a lot of ground, from comedic, funky songs, to the serious, intimate side. “Gaping Hole” was one piece off from being an alternative rock standard. It has the homemade vibe that’s a must for any traction in the indie crowd, but it was missing stronger vocals from Mase. She’s showcased her ability on, “Drown in Blue”, and I was itching to hear it come alive again. Even the style on the reprise of “Drown in Blue” would’ve worked. Speaking of the reprise, keep it up. She truly has a talent for an intimate setting.
It’s followed by another funky tune, “Bitch in Heat”, featuring Charlie Funk, so it’s proven to be good. Finally, “Hold Fast Your Dreams” closes off this EP, and it’s also great. Like on the “Drown in Blue (Reprise)”, Marla Mase can control a listener with her soothing voice, spilling out poems that show a piece of true self. It’s no wonder she’s been recently signed to True Groove Records. I do believe Mase will have a promising career, as she’s shown her ability to control a large band and get the sound she wants, but this EP has it’s incredible ups and immense downs. Yes, I understand, it’s an EP showcasing her variety of talents, from poet, to singer, to angry civilian, but I can only say that Mase is a great alternative artist who rocks it on tracks like “Half Life”, or “Drown in Blue”, but when it comes to her trying to copy David Byrne from the Talking Heads, it feels forced. I’m excited to see her progress with a full length that we can expect to hear soon!
Be sure to give the EP a listen below!