Wikipedia defines a 'Mary Sue' "as a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfilment fantasy for the author or reader. It is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional." Mary Sue is the subject, via samples from films including Pleasantville, of the love stories within Wally Clark's thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable Lovers Lane. See, as a doo wop hip-hop album, I still love the sound of that, it works heavily in contrasts. While the love of the doo wop era, the Leave It To Beaver landscape, was delicate and pure and hyper-romanticized, the love of this era, the era of hip-hop, is unabashedly sexual. What Clark does by mashing up doo wop tracks and film clips is highlight that difference, especially on tracks where he flies fearlessly into near-parody with the sexuality of the lyrics. But, Clark upholds the sweet side too, with a song like "Young Love" where the disappointment isn't about romance, but about life circumstance and addiction.
From start to finish Lovers Lane is a quality, deft and swift. The whole album is only 19 minutes, but while some albums would be disappointing at that short mark, this one is not. First, the replay-ability is high. The tracks here are so chill and cool that the album can act as background music, focused listening, or even babymaking music. Second, the execution here is tight. Clark is on theme. Clark is sampling intelligently. Clark is making keen observations about the contrast between idealized love, true love, real love, and sexuality. And in the midst of it all, the groove is smooth, funky and fucking great. Check out "Let's Go Steady," "Panty Dropper (Amerigo Rmx)" and "Young Love" for the highest highlights, but make sure you listen to the whole album from start to finish. There's a vibe here that is powerful and excellent. It feels like love in a lot of ways. And in a lot of ways it feels like even the darkest aspects of love are still idealized, especially as Mary Sue, Reese Witherspoon's alias in Pleasantville, begins corrupting the pure little American town. The important thing is that Wally Clark attends to the mash up in an intriguing, challenging, thoughtful and enjoyable way. Lovers Lane deserves some constant rotation. Dig in below. And peruse the rest of the Gummy Soul offerings here.
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