From Bubblegum to Sky – Nothing Sadder than Lonely Queen

From Bubblegum to Sky
Nothing Sadder than Lonely Queen

When I first put on Nothing Sadder than Lonely Queen it was a case of wrong record, wrong time. Actually it was leadoff track “Operation Big Beat” and its McCartney-esque piano froth circa “Your Mother Should Know,” kinda cute but a shave too twee. Not as silly but possessing that same mincing manner that’s borders on novelty. Actually it’s a fine song in its own right, but the mood just wasn’t working for me on that drear night, and the disc went down, down, down to the bowels of the CD stack, beneath alt-country, beneath indie-folk. If I had stuck around for just one more song I might have learned something. Like give a guy a chance maybe, jeez. If I hadn’t been in such a rush to judgment I might have stuck around long enough for “Sign the Air” to disco away the doubt with its reserved breeziness and muted house pulse. A stylist! Much better.
From Bubblegum to Sky is largely Californian Mario Hernandez, a Marine’s son who spent his first decade in Japan, soaking up the native AM sounds before discovering the larger world of Westernized pop. Wherever his musical education left off in Japan, it obviously picked right up in California, the perfect home for his sunny, 70s-influenced songs. McCartney, Rundgren, the Brothers Gibb, and T-Rex all leave their mark, though Hernandez is natural enough a melodicist not to be subsumed beneath his influences. It’s odd that this took so long to grow on me; it’s really designed to be an immediate kick, with rich ballads like “My on Call Nurse” and the limpid “Holland” offset by clap happy sunbeams like “Some Kind of Fantastic.” The lyrics may be darker than the music would lead you to believe, but this isn’t a disc to ruminate over; it’s for singing along to – and clapping. But the basement-fi production threw me at first, and I feared a flimsy affair was ahead. Even after revisiting Lonely Queen, two of its weaker tracks were the one’s I got hung up on as Winamp’s shuffle feature seemed to prefer frontloading the lowlights. After finally getting at the rest of the disc, let me say that Mario Hernandez hits at least four of these songs out of the park. What he doesn’t hammer still gets a pretty good whack.
“Catherine Was My June” is definitely one of the fence-clearers though. With full piano chords recalling pop geniuses Carole King and Todd Rundgren, Hernandez and his DIY enablers build a near perfect little tune. Best of all, after softening you up with the one-two of its chorus/verse, the song delivers the knockout in the modestly anthemic bridge. I like a song confident enough to save its money shot until halfway in. Another winner, “The Gurls & Shoo Be Doo Wop” comes on kinda Style Council with a brisk Motown beat and some synth brass. I don’t remember the Style Council being cool though. I do remember a drum kit emblazoned with the Union Jack, that’s certainly not cool. Whatever, it’s a fun song that makes me feel like I should be racing a bicycle through friendly urban streets. Actually, I may be thinking of a Style Council video. Whatever.
Imperfect production, nasal vocals, an ugly cover, and a dumb band name, all these factors and more conspired to ruin my appreciation of From Bubblegum to Sky, but I got it anyway. In your face! Now that From Bubblegum to Sky has brought a little California to my Pennsylvania, the impending summer won’t lack for a soundtrack.