The ruckus returns: Mary Prankster's all over the map

When I ask you to “Please ignore the gentlemen to the right and left of Ms. Prankster in the above picture,” it’s not because of any Wizard of Oz-type shenanigans-– singer/songwriter Mary Prankster is no one’s puppet, or for that matter, giant floating head.
The reason I say to ignore her bookends is that they are no longer with the group. Although this seems to be Mary Prankster’s  most recent press photo, it chronicles the band (also called Mary Prankster) before its implosion last year.
Interestingly enough, shortly after recording 2002’s Tell Your Friends, the band broke up, leaving the true Mary stranded, with a booked tour but no one to share it with. In just two weeks, Mary had to find a drummer and a bassist she felt comfortable playing with for the next two months on a national tour.
Luckily, in a fine example of the tenacity and verve she has shown through her career, the young lady was able to find bassist Andy Mabe and drummer Terry Klawth, and take to the road with a new lease on life, of sorts.
Tell Your Friends was recorded with producer Mitch Easter, best known for his work on a number of early R.E.M. albums, and to put it plainly, the album kind of rocks. Though Mary’s previous trend in lyrical content drew constant comparisons to early ‘90s pop rocker Liz Phair, her latest songs bespeak a broader worldview than just the personal (albeit humorous, quirky, and cutting).
More rock than pop, the songs on Tell Your Friends often have a subtle country twinge, to the point that it would be interesting to hear Mary’s take on a number by a country artist such as Patsy Cline.
The album doesn’t sound like a band going through the last stages of self-destruction. It’s hard to hear something like animosity in instrumentalists, so discerning auditory clues that would tell the listener that drummer Phil Tang and bassist Jon E. Cakes were contemplating less than ceremonious exits at the time is not an easy task.
In fact, judging from tracks such as the allusion filled “Sun,” which are, at least from a songwriter’s perspective, much more advanced than the expletive-filled tracks on Mary Prankster’s previous releases (songtitles: “Mercyfuck,” “Tits and Whisky,” etc.), one would think that an evolution of sorts is going on, and this is usually the type of thing that musicians love to get in on. Mysterious to say the least.
With her full, deeper-than-average voice and a songwriting style that harks to the simplistic pleasures of punk, Mary Prankster sounds like no one else (so comparisons are less than easy). It’s rock music, sure, but the group’s sound is more multi-faceted than can easily be fit in that one genre – lyrically, emotionally, and musically.
Confusing, enlightening, and often amusing, Mary Prankster mixes the serious and the inane in proper portions, making music that’s at once listenable and engaging.

Mary Prankster perform at Outback Lodge, May 9. $6, 10pm.


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