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CD REVIEW: Mark Berube – Suspicious Fish
By Chip Withrow - 04/23/2006 - 12:40 AM EDT

Artist: Mark Berube
Album: Suspicious Fish
CD Review: When I took a look at some of the titles of Mark Berube’s songs – “The Naked Guy at the Gym,” “The Way You Smell,” “Your Big But,” “Grandma Gave Me the Finger” – I was reluctant to give Suspicious Fish a listen. I’m not a big fan of novelty music – even though some of my favorite songwriters (Springsteen with “Pink Cadillac,” Neil Young with “This Note’s for You”) have dabbled in silliness.

Then I opened up the disc case and read Berube’s lyrics. I thought they were clever, in fact often brilliantly perverse, and I thought his notes and credits were pretty darn funny. But I was still a bit wary.

And then I popped in the CD and found that Berube’s folk/power pop tunes are catchy as heck, sort of along the lines of Bare Naked Ladies except Berube is a far better lyricist. He’s also a good vocalist (really good on “Cocktails on the Balcony” and “Body Farm”) – he has a nice baritone and he can fit a whole bunch of words into a single line.

Except for “Grandma Gave Me the Middle Finger” (but even that grew on me after a while), ever song on the disc is a winner. Standouts are “Something About” (sample oddball line: “I wouldn’t know reality if it slapped me in the face/And even then I’d probably think it was cole slaw”), “Cocktails on the Balcony (no idea what it’s about, but I love the wordplay) “Your Big But,” (don’t let the title fool you – it’s actually weirdly poignant), the rocker “Come Undone,” and the anti-war yet unpretentious “The Look on Your Face.”

The songs mentioned above are about as straight as Berube can play it, which is to say healthily twisted. Of the really wacky cuts, “Mr. Miyagi” is probably the best (“I had too much absinthe, I was feeling kind of groggy/I was getting my butt whooped by Mr. Miyagi.”) “Body Farm” is nifty, too, a gruesome ode to leaving your corpse to science.

It’s worth mentioning some other contributions: Guitarist Jon Kolleeny rocks on “Something About,” “Come Undone” and “Body Farm,” and Carolyn Solebello’s vocals inject an extra charge into “Come Undone.” Berube, whose acoustic guitar propels almost every track, plucks a banjo on the punchy closer, “Sleep.”

Mark Berube may be one weird dude, but he’s millions of miles from Weird Al and a lot closer (in singing voice, too) to Warren Zevon.

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