The brainchild of Mark Dunn with encouragement and assistance from Tim Jones at Stone Premonitions and Barry Lamb at Falling A Records (Check out their website- link on this site), “The View from the Cheap Seats” is the best album I have heard from the talented multi-instrumentalist to date.
It starts with ‘They Say, They Say’ (currently on playlist of Garry Lee’s Starship Overflow radio show), with some fantastic wah-wah guitar from JOHN SIMMS and backing vocals from MAXINE SIMMS; ‘Astonishing News’ is a tongue-in-cheek wish list for a better world, while guitarist Martin Holder does a fantastic job on ‘Breaking Down’. On these songs, Mark sums up pretty much what we are all feeling in “trying to find peace of mind in a world we don’t understand.” “Isn’t It Strange?” has some funky organ and there are so many interesting lyrical and musical contributions and variations that the listener is easily engaged. The changes in mood also sustain our apt attention: the touching ballad of ‘Judgement Day’ followed by a clever funky variation on the traditional ‘Mocking Bird’ called ‘Lemon Drops’ (also playing on Freedom Overflow), with a similarity to TALKING HEADS, I thought. At the half way point, ‘Sometimes’ is one of Mark’s best songs to date, an acoustic ballad co-written by acoustic guitarist John Bryant, with more words of wisdom about trying our best and failing, and also about needing to become what we are meant to be: the clattering drums and fluid guitar shake us out of our reverie and accentuate the impact of the piece.
The latter part of the album has a more 80s feel, and a more personal touch of the ‘New Romantics’. ‘Hide and Seek’ is an ingenuously worked funky take on Afrobeat, while Mark rolls out the clichés in ‘The Human Zoo’ to emphasise this “ship of fools sinking” referred to earlier, with another catchy satirical chorus. Apart from the sterling contributions of his fellow musicians, not forgetting Paddi’s drums on ‘You and Me’, what I really loved about “The View from the Cheap Seats” is how Mark delivers some serious and personal music so entertainingly, and the deep, philosophical and spiritual convictions at its roots.