Review: Cee Smith on Girobabies’ Mark and a spin-out album
‘Need the Characters’ is the solo album of Girobabies’ frontman and all-round “guy who makes hings happen”, Mark McG, and it’s the best he has ever sounded.
A blend of hip-hop, trip-hop, great samples and a list of great independent Scottish producers, this is Mark at his story-telling finest, weaving comedy, politics and the harsh reality of being both promoter and artist in a difficult market.
There’s no money here he snaps in Shortcut to Longevity, a difficult track for anyone who knows him, you can hear the tiredness in his lyrics. The exhaustion of the festival tours and constant performing. The acceptance of alcoholism and drug abuse when stranded in fields with nothing to do.
I’m never entirely sure what a gig for Mark will entail but I know whatever happens the show will go on, the jokes will be made, we’ll find the words and get on with it. And by the end of it all we’ll be laughing.
Sampling Adam Curtis, Bill Hicks, politicians and journalists losing the plot and sharing ideas like what if Robert Burns was in Benefit Street, or Marilyn Monroe had been a philosopher. The cast of characters Mark is looking for plays out before him in the social media sphere. We react to minor offences from that woman and her Glasgow Effect Chips experiment to our politicians caught with their pants down (and in a pig). We react and forget. Meanwhile another cast is living their lives unseen on TV, unless they are watching TV in which case we’ll watch them watching TV with glee.
In Charlie Brooker Sketch he throws it all out there. Satire is our reality. And maybe it always was but we weren’t paying enough attention. Maybe the satire we grew up watching without a point of reference desensitised us to our own turn under Tory rule and Austerity. It’s all happened before and it’s happening now and we’re stuck in a cycle. Maybe we like the drama of it all.
He handles sensitive subjects with such a slight hand, from the teacher interfering with Jack and his dad in Jack the Lad leading to father jailed and son isolated to the forced communal grief perpetuated by the media with the many celebrity deaths in 2016. There’s an edge to his voice, though he sounds softer than his work with the Girobabies. This is an intimate album of sarcasm and bitter comedy.
Come with me, he says in the opening track the Hills Have Eyes. Let’s find another way.
What that way is, maybe isn’t clear but he isn’t offering any answers on this album. The album is a final word in a myriad of arguments he’d rather not get bogged down with anymore.
There’s a warning of the future. A decline speeded up by our own bickering and acting up. ‘They took our jobs, who did? The robots?’
How do we win against our own image?
Respect all opinions but criticise all of them he chants by the final track, the enchanting Bill Hicks Fan. And maybe this is the way forward.
He’s gathered the characters and introduced us all. Now what do we do?
But wherever Mark is going next, we should follow.
Jackal Trades is playing Glasgow at King Tut’s on December 21.
Need the Characters is out now: http://jackaltrades.bandcamp.com/