Chris Mars

Anonymous Botch

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Anonymous Botch, Chris Mars' fourth solo album, at first glance appears to be an attempt at a more commercial recording, with the addition of acoustic guitars, violin, and cello, as well as a heavier reliance on keyboards, but it is ultimately hampered by his antisocial vocals and a distracting drum sound (imagine a bouncing tennis ball). High points, like the power pop-influenced "Where and Why," the soaring "Narrow," and the steady mid-temp rocker "Black Days" (a flashback to his strong Horseshoes and Hand Grenades labors) are held back by a raucous voice and distorted vocals that are out of place. Mars often shows a warmth toward his fellow man, as on the fond farewell to departed friend and bandmate Bob Stinson ("Two Dreams"), yet he can also be completely unforgiving and callous, as he is throughout "Janet's New Kidney," a cheerless, nursery rhyme-like tale of abandonment of a reckless alcoholic. After years in the record industry, he frequently expresses a lack of patience for liars and phonies, but nothing prior is as scathing as "It's a Long Life," an acidic putdown of a bogus DJ who won't play his songs. "Funeral Hymn of the Small Critter Holocaust" conjures up the mystical aura of the psychedelic '60s and sounds like it was composed as a soundtrack to one of Mars' increasingly frightful paintings (his work is included as cover art and within the layout of each solo release). Mars says goodbye and good luck with a nod toward the horn-filled '70s rock of his youth on "I'll Be Gone," which could be seen as an adieu to the music business itself. [Technical note: due to a mastering glitch, "The Conquering Cow Farmer" is divided into two tracks, thus throwing off the entire sequence of the CD.]

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