Published Oct 18, 2011Alluring and demented, Mark Bragg and a crackerjack band of fellow Newfoundlanders in St. John's storm through haunting, off-kilter songs on the delightfully disturbing Your Kiss. An odd duck live, Bragg is perfectly at home unsettling a roomful of people with his blunt humour, but even if he's joking about teaching an infant how to be his designated driver, he does so like a master storyteller, with charm and graceful timing. Those same skills are all over Your Kiss, which borrows liberally from a songwriting tradition spanning everyone from Captain Beefheart to Gordon Gano, in that weird punk/folk realm where dark reality jibes with razor-sharp absurdity. The threat is on instantly, as Bragg sings the opening title track's menacing lyrics, before launching into the murderous "Your Boys Home." While Nick Cave and Black Francis haunt fantastical songs like "Roll Baby Roll" and "You Be the Boy," which mannishly mess with gender dynamics, Bragg's real muse is Bruce Springsteen. An acknowledged fan, Bragg pays homage to the Boss's mid-'70s style with the structure and emotion of things like "The Cutter" and "The Fool," but, rather than romantic, the characters throughout Your Kiss generally sound completely nuts.
Were you sent here by the devil?
Uh, clearly I was sent here by the devil himself, yes. I know where you're coming from, but the boring answer is, I feel like a fiction writer, akin to Stephen King or any horror movie-making types. It's funny because people treat songs as being more personal to the people presenting them than they would an author or filmmaker. I don't feel a strong personal attachment to dark songs; they just get me excited.
And is it a persona?
Maybe. Years ago, I wrote songs about my feelings and they really sucked. I started writing fiction and was much happier as a result. There are elements of truth in there, as in anything, but they're quite heavily disguised, and I'm inclined to keep it that way.
The record's sound is quite eclectic.
I differentiate sounds from song structures. As a craftsperson, I'm heavily influenced by Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen, and I've stolen from these guys often. But the sound is something else altogether; I just assemble the guys I want to play with and they have carte blanche to do anything. I didn't even play a single note on this record; I trusted them completely. (Independent)