Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Greg Mullen :: The Hungry Ocean

"Like Dante climbing out of hell, if his guides were Bob Dylan and Bukowski"

MP3: "Greg Mullen - Ten Thousand Years"

The Hungry Ocean has all the charm of a folk singer, kicking stones down a dusty road with a harmonica ‘round his neck and guitar strapped to his back, traveling to play his soulful tunes about everyday things. Yet at times, Greg Mullen’s voice quivers strangely supernatural and the words he sings veil some otherworldly pseudo-apocalyptic occurrence. It’s something like Dante climbing the wrong way out of hell if his guides were Bob Dylan and Bukowski, instead of Virgil. All of it is decorated with a whirlpool of beauteous piano, horns and lovely female harmonies.

The theme of wishing to be a ship and failing to float in a vast, all-consuming ocean is strongly present on the album. There's two bummed out Narwhals on the cover and even the 12" vinyl is cleverly pressed a transparent green. In ‘Ten Thousand Years,’ Mullen sings, “We both had a hard time trying to decide what to be for Halloween. Said, ‘I'll be a ship, you be a flying machine.’” In the same song he also mentions that he’s been dead for ten thousand years.

Mullen’s seemingly unassuming lyrics tend to be paired with some surreal element and there’s some kind of bizarre metamorphosis going on that’s hard to put your finger on. In the opener ‘Pipes that Drain Out to the Sea,’ Mullen sings about laying his body on a pile of leaves, looking at his new reflection and laughing, saying “I thought it would be easy to stop being me.”

The album culminates in ‘Telephone,’ a dirty distorted electric guitar leading the melody to an aquatic Armageddon. In the song, Mullen is on a train that’s filled to capacity and he sings, “there’s flowers around my neck and fire where my hands used to be and all these people around are looking down at their feet pretending not to see what they don’t want to believe in a human being.” When asked about it, even Mullen didn’t seem quite sure. He said he only kind of realized the repeated imagery himself when the record was finished.

In a lot of ways, the album is very much a product of the Whitehaus, the art collective that has incubated its growth. When listening to ‘Goldfish,’ I can picture the fisher price xylophone used in the song sitting on the hoot room floor. When hearing the backing vocals on ‘Internal Combustion,’ I can picture Kate Lee singing away, who also lived at the house and is in the band Gracious Calamity.

Loaded with poignant, ear grabbing lines, The Hungry Ocean is a stomping, spine tingling and soulful journey over and under some choppy waves.

//Jamaica Plain, MA//
//Released on Songs with Homes with endorsement from The Whitehaus Family Record//
//March, 2010//
//Produced by Greg Mullen//
//Recorded and Mixed by Max Raphael//
//Mastered by Brian Charles at Zippah Recordings, Boston, MA//
//Art by Briana Horrigan//

Published in Performer Magazine, June 2010 issue.

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