Park – Bemusement


Production. There’s a step of making an album that a band doesn’t want to worry too much about – once all the songs are hammered out and the parts are practiced and the overdubs are taken care of, that’s the part you have to pony up for and hope goes well. An album might come back underproduced, and as a result, devitalized or muddy – or it might come back overproduced and glossy, becoming mere ear candy instead of remaining the document of an expression. What can one do to avoid this? If you’re Andrew Dierks, you get a four-track and you avoid all the condenser microphones and stacks of vintage amps and pitch limiters, and put your unassuming pop songs to tape, hiss and all. Of course, if you’re Andrew Dierks (nee Park), you have also just released one of the best dark-horse albums of 2002.
While some people might associate commercially available pop-song four-tracking with Guided By Voices, a better touchstone would be certain songs on Modest Mouse’s “stop Ebaying mix CDs” complilation, Sad Sappy Suckers. Dierks is a dead ringer for Brock’s self-conscious warble-into-the-telephone on “Birds vs. Worms,” and the instrumentation is similar (strummed guitar over hopping basslines, doubled vocals). However, unlike the 20-odd songs on Sad Sappy Suckers, Bemusement doesn’t have a weak track on it.
Bemusement‘s songs are catchy and distinct, ranging from the straightforward twist-and-shake about long-distance relationships of “Frequent Flyer,” to the Casio-organ-backed bus-ride-soundtrack of “Rock City,” to the percussionless, plaintive “Love Come My Way.” The four-track production perfectly matches the mood Dierks is trying to set – basement lovesickness, stretches of city blocks seen through the filter of a particular pair of eyes. And best of all, the lyrics are wonderfully dour. Substance abuse, failed love affairs, and casual agoraphobia all cower around harmonicas and tinny, twangy guitars. All of these elements make this record the best album you’re likely to miss in 2002.