The first time I heard Frank Marzano’s music, I wasn’t impressed. His singing got on my nerves. His guitar playing was strictly run-of-the-mill. The man had no stage presence whatsoever.
What he did have was songs: dozens upon dozens of some of the most well-written songs I’d ever heard. Twelve of them appear on his latest CD, American Proust.
Based in northwest Pennsylvania (a region dominated by Americana and jam bands), Marzano defiantly cranks out melodic pop-rock. His biggest influence seems to be the Beatles (in particular George Harrison), but one can also detect elements of surf-rock, jazz, blues, and country.
Proust is Marzano’s third album, following But Enough About Me (2007) and The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last (2012). But while the first album was marred by sub-par production, the second suffered from a lack of self-editing. On Proust, Marzano finally gets it right. The arrangements are full. The melodies and guitar hooks are catchy. His singing is the best it's ever sounded.
Lyrically, Proust can be considered a “concept” album dealing with middle-age angst. Marzano discusses the difficulties of finding romantic partners later in life (“Slow and Steady”) while questioning previous decisions (“Sleeping with Strangers”), with the spectre of old age never far away (“Golden Years”).
This is not to say that Proust is one continuous buzzkill. “Keeper” is a hilarious spoof on redneck culture, and if you can't dance to "Someone Else's Sin", you can't dance. Marzano has surprised us all and delivered the best local CD of 2015.
Marcel Proust was a 20th-century French author known for a long novel (Remembrance of Things Past), which contained long sentences with long words. The same can be said for Marzano. Most songs on this disc run in excess of five minutes, and you might want to keep a dictionary handy. But, with his well-crafted songs and unique perspective on human nature, Marzano is thoughtful, evocative, and not altogether undeserving of the moniker American Proust.
**** (out of four)