It doesn’t take much more than the opening bars of “Gravity is Failing” for the audience to get a clue as to what kind of magic Paul Mark & the Van Dorens are bringing to the table in their new record Gravity this season. Steeped in as much old school charm as it is a modern surrealism, Gravity’s first three songs – “Gravity is Failing,” “Forever” and “I Spin When You Grin” – welcome us into a world that is Paul Mark’s and Paul Mark’s alone, but they’re hardly the only identity tracks on this 12-song record. While they’ve been at this game for nearly 30 years, this band shows us that they’ve still got a lot left to say in 2020, and they aren’t going to refrain from giving us a full-color performance here.

URL: https://paulmark.com/

“The Next Fight” has a moderate psychedelic tinge to its main harmony, but it’s definitely not the most cerebral song on Gravity. This track segues directly into the haunting instrumental “Coronation” before turning us on to “Con Man VIP,” one of the more freewheeling numbers on the first half of the LP. It’s not the aching ballad that “Friend Gone Astray” is, but despite the difference between these two songs, they sit together in Gravity all too comfortably. Paul Mark & the Van Dorens have reached a point where they don’t have to adhere to a specific premise to illustrate a consistent message, and furthermore, a particular theme in their music, and if that wasn’t obvious before, it definitely is now.

“You Can Take It with You” introduces a country pulse into the mix, and while I don’t think this track is quite the stimulator that the rousing slow song “O T B” is, neither are as profoundly sharp and unforgettable as Paul Mark’s ripping cover of “Heart Full of Soul.” “Heart Full of Soul,” in its original incarnation, had more of an upbeat swing to its groove where this version is painfully pendulous, maximizing tension with every verse Mark croons. It’s reason enough to pick up Gravity this June, and in all honesty, I don’t recall the last time that I was able to say that about a cover song featured on any original LP, regardless of who the artist was.

I-TUNES: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/paul-mark-the-van-dorens/66520692

We cross the finish line with Gravity in the retrospective “Waiting Round for You” and “December at the P.O.” (a track that reminds me of the Blue Valentine staple “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” every time I hear it without fail), there isn’t a sense of unfinished business as there has been with a lot of new content out of the east coast underground lately. Paul Mark & the Van Dorens sound entirely at peace with the statements they’ve made, and in the last few moments this LP has to share, it feels like we’re witnessing a setting sun over a hazy urban skyline. There are a lot of really moving indie releases coming out of the woodwork right now, but to put it as simply as I can, not many have the kind of heart that this latest work from Paul Mark does.

Michael Rand

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