Tiger Banana

Mark Robinson

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Tiger Banana Review

by Ken Taylor

Extremely prolific indie auteur Mark Robinson, the brain behind the Teenbeat label based in Arlington, VA, can't slow down for even a single minute. Whether releasing music for his label or writing and performing under numerous monikers (Unrest, Air Miami, Flin Flon, True Love Always), Robinson has definitely kept himself busy. Finally, 16 years and 306 releases later, Robinson has crafted his first solo record, Tiger Banana, and under the most unassuming of aliases: Mark Robinson. It's probably fitting that Tiger Banana marks the first release of Teenbeat's Warm Series, since it is just that -- incredibly warm. Tiger Banana, in terms of its recording technique and theme, is overwhelmingly introspective, focusing on one man alone in the studio with his thoughts and devices. Recorded primarily by himself, and on only four tracks, Robinson delves deep into his past, retracing the romantic meetings of his recent memory, rehashing the heartache of their failures, and trying to reclaim control of his emotions. The admission of his faults is so unnerving at times that he hallucinates, on one track imagining himself to be the King of Prussia, doing anything he wants without consequence. He goes over a cliff in a barrel in "Water Crashing In." Still, he remains heartfelt and intensely emotional, knowing that "someday (he'll) get it right." Fontaine Toups and Richard Baluyut of New York's Versus inject a bit of welcome color on some of the album's more upbeat, rock guitar-driven tracks like "Starfighter" and "Volunteers Conquering Fires," but for the most part the record remains sparse and lonesome. The interplay of cheap drum machines and simple jangly guitar sets a brilliant tone for Robinson's cryptic yet pointed lyrics. And although electronic elements are put to use, the record is not a watered-down electronica cop out. On Tiger Banana, Robinson is certainly not "experimenting with electronic instrumentation" in the same way that REM or U2 have in their later years. Robinson knows when too much is too much. He is a master of control.

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