CHRIS MARSOL- Butterflys, Lipstick & Hand Grenades
Let’s face it, they’ve got us all figured out. It’s a formula no doubt. Multiply your age by your city and state, add your disposable income level then divide that by your ethnicity and they will surely be able to determine what kind of music you listen to and how to get you to buy it. And unfortunately, we as a society rarely disappoint. Yet we all know that Nirvana fan that used to sneak in her room when no one was privy and pop in that N’ Sync album, all the while publicly detesting pop music. That was our first lesson in pop culture: things are rarely as simple as they seem. We like to pretend they are if for no other reason than that we like our world neat and easily digestible, i.e.: black and white. But in this pretend world of black and white that we’ve created, is it possible that any one artist can bring the Rock lover, the Soul lover and the Pop music lover together in one blissful Technicolor orgy? If any artist can, it is Chris Marsol.
Maybe it has to do with his upbringing. You see, Chris was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Haight-Ashbury, the centerpiece to the hippie movement, Psychedelic Rock, the Black Panthers and of course the most ethnically diverse population in the country. Sure, he wasn’t around during the revolution, but the spirit of art, freedom, liberalism and progressive thinking still illuminate the Bay Area to this day and Marsol is a product of that environment.
“As a child, I didn’t distinguish between the many different genres of music I was exposed to. I only distinguished between what I liked and what I didn’t like.”
At age 6 Chris was singing in his church choir and stealing the spotlight, dancing at his family reunions. By age 11 he was locking himself in the bathroom, writing and recording his first songs with a crude tape recorder. At age 17 he taught himself how to play the piano. As the years went by he would pick up a guitar as well and absorb artists like Pink Floyd, Cream, Stevie Wonder, Nirvana, Genesis, Terence Trent D’Arby, Stone Temple Pilots, D’Angelo, Radiohead, Hall and Oates and Elton John.
The result is an album written, arranged and produced by Chris Marsol entitled “Butterflys, Lipstick and Hand Grenades”. Marsol and his buddies made this record the old-fashioned way; they got together in a room and played. But taking black and white and turning it into something beautiful is not an easy task. Most mixtures of this type are a watered down, sloppy, undefined mess. This project, however, is unique, bold and confident with its own texture and attitude, just as bold as black and white but much more colorful and interesting. In this effort Marsol seems to have had an extremely deep conversation with his influences without letting them overtake his musical vision. Listening to the entire album, if you were to find any single artist to whom Chris can be compared, my guess is you haven’t been listening close enough. This “I am a rock album that refuses to be defined as another rock album” approach is exactly what makes “Butterflys…” both well-defined and at the same time utterly refreshing. What we are left with is an excitingly focused album where no 2 tracks sound the same.
When asked about the meaning of the album title, Marsol just shrugs and says “there is no meaning until you create one.” How true those words ring, not just in defining the album title, but in defining his music and of course his entire movement. It seems there is always a revolution going on in the Bay Area.
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