Mark Bacino

Queens English

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In classic pop of the Brian Wilson/Harry Nilsson variety -- the kind that has influenced everything from ‘70s power pop to the more contemporary exploits of Panda Bear, the Ruby Suns, et al -- youthful naïvete is a big part of the package. Without that boyish innocence, songs like "Wouldn't It Be Nice" would seem rather creepy. That's what makes New York songwriter Mark Bacino's accomplishment on Queens English such a welcome anomaly. Bacino is the sort who has assimilated pop in all its forms, from Burt Bacharach to Squeeze, and his first two albums aren't lacking in sparkling melodic moments, but Queens English proves that it's possible to introduce actual maturity into pop with no adverse effects. Full of semi-autobiographical songs, Bacino's third album tells of forsaking the bright lights of the big city for the semi-suburban lifestyle of the outer boroughs to start a family. The real masterstroke, though, is that he imbues these topics with that same sense of wonder at the heart of all great pop songs. Whether he's singing about an expectant mother ("Muffin in the Oven"), a mother and father (Bacino's parents) staking their claim on the world ("Angeline & the Bensonhurst Boy"), the ups and downs of new parenthood ("Camp Elmo," "Ballad of M & LJ"), or the simple joy of living ( "Happy"), he mates his lyrics with elegant, light-as-a-feather melodies redolent of McCartney/Emitt Rhodes at their most reflective. The fact that Bacino also manages to pull this off without ever seeming cloying or overly earnest makes his feat all the more impressive, and ultimately fills the listener with a sense of optimism for the future of pure pop music made by full-fledged adults.

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