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Mardo Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Mardo are a Californian brother duo of Aron and Robert Mardo, who add a guitarist called Rob Small to their live appearances. Small seems to be added for photo shoots as well, since there's a trio pictured on the back cover of their eponymous 2004 debut. But, if the liners are to be believed, Robert handles all the guitars, drums, and harmony vocals here, with Aron picking up the bass, lead vocals, and keyboards, while producer Les Pierce not only helms the board but plays a saxophone on a cover of Huey Lewis & the News' "I Want a New Drug." That cover completely throws out the riff of the original, retaining the melody and chord progression, but adding a heavy dose of crunching, metallic guitars and ironic humor. And that's pretty much the sound of Mardo in a nutshell -- heavy, heavy guitars, tempered with irony and retro nostalgia. Visually, they're straight out of the acid rock late '60s, but musically it's '70s arena rock filtered through '80s Los Angeles metal ("Big Mouth Shotgun" has comically menacing lower-register vocals that sound precisely like what Guns n' Roses learned from Thin Lizzy's Bad Reputation). Mardo ain't alone in throwing all these sounds into the blender and coming out with something that's deliberately retro and classicist, but hard to peg down to any particular sound outside of "classic rock." Most notoriously, there's the Darkness and the Datsuns, and if Mardo isn't as funny, knowing, or gonzo as the Darkness, at least they have stronger hooks and more muscle than the earthbound Datsuns, which makes them a bit more fun. Still, that creeping sense of irony in Mardo's music can keep listeners at a distance, since it gives the impression that this might all be a put-on, no matter how much power the music packs. But if you share that sense of irony and detachment, chances are this bit of retro-rock will be quite appealing to you.

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