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Record Review


On his overly earnest solo debut, Mike Park trades in his ska-punk pedigree for the faded T-shirt of the sensitive indie singer/songwriter. Few music critics worth their salt would begrudge the former Skankin' Pickle frontman the opportunity to reinvent himself, but after repeated listens to For the Love of Music, one can't avoid the conclusion that Park's experience in ska hasn't given him the proper skill set to make that transition.

Not that Park can't or doesn't hit his emotional marks: For the Love of Music is an extraordinarily intimate record, filled with personal ruminations on racism ("From Korea"), Raymond Carver-esque sketches of life in the rock underground (the cello-tinted "Supposed to Be There Too") and, of course, declarations of love. Trouble is, he borrows the wrong page from the emo songwriter's handbook: the one that teaches budding authors to transmute their private diary entries verbatim into songs.

When Park croons "Extend my hand and I hope you will, too/My culture bleeds but I'm shaking it on through" during "On That Stage," the direct maudlin sentiment collides with obtuse lyricism in a way even fans of early Ani DiFranco would find awkward.

But if Park has trouble reining in his prosaic instincts, he shows an undeniable knack for driving, sing-along melodies. Most promisingly, "Just Like This" rides along on a poppy, mod-friendly beat that augurs well for his future as a songwriter -- if he can learn to sufficiently expand his lyrical scope.

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