Park After Dark - Sharkbear
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: May 21, 2010
Of all the places across this country, no area has been more influential to this pop-punk/alternative community than the area of Long Island, New York. This is the place that gave us staples in the scene Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, and Glassjaw; as well as the fan favorites Bayside, Latterman, and The Movielife. But the area has not stopped producing great music, as many up-and-coming bands (Envy on the Coast, Gabriel the Marine, etc.) have proved to put out some fantastic music. So, naturally, I'm eager to hear any new release from a young band coming from Long Island. Obviously, I'm talking about ska-punk band Park After Dark and their EP, Sharkbear.
In the opening track, "Simple Remedy," the band showcases some great musicianship as drummer Jesse Tudda pounds through the song. Bassist Jon Pietronigro provides a lively bassline for vocalist Mike Wieder's unconventional vocal delivery. Wieder casually gives off quirky, tongue-in-cheek lyrics throughout, and shines during the extremely catchy chorus. The next song, "I'm Spent," starts out as promising as the first, with soft guitar strings and a slow, lazy beat, until the chorus ends and the song launches into one of the most overused vocal melodies of all time and an extremely forced drum beat. It doesn't help that the production sounds extremely hollow during the guitar solo, with little to no bass to back it up.
The band recovers with "Running On Fumes," which utilizes a recycled guitar riff, but is still saved by the rhythm section and Weider's unique vocals. The poor production on this track though, is also quite noticeable, as guitarist Brian Hershkowitz attempts another guitar solo over practically no foundation. Track four, "Pretending," is the best song on the album, featuring a fun ska beat, and Weider's casual-yet-crazy singing style. "I know you/You're not cool/You're just a tool," Wieder goofily sings overtop the catchiest chorus of the album. The album closes out with an intentionally sloppy cover of Elliot Smith's "Between the Bars," an interesting listen, and nothing more.
In general, the EP is a solid listen. Park After Dark is quirky, goofy, but at the same time smart and extremely talented. What kills the EP is the empty-sounding production, and an occasional stretch of unoriginality in the songwriting. Aside from that, the band shows extreme potential to be as good as Envy, or Gabriel the Marine have proven to be. With some tweaks to song structure and a better budget recording, the band will be able to carry on the quality of that legendary Long Island scene.