I had the good fortune recently to spend an hour or so chatting with power pop songwriter and performer Mark Bacino. During our conversation I learned a few things. For starters, his family Americanized the name back in the day so it's pronounced "Bah-see-no" and doesn't rhyme with "Al Pacino" at all. Oh, and if you want Willie Wisely to sing on your record you can start by simply asking him to sing on your record. (Who knew?) I also learned Bacino takes a broad view of his brand of music making. To my ears Bacino's music has always put me in mind of 70's AM radio, with a touch of Todd Rundgren and Marshall Crenshaw thrown into the mix.
On hearing this Bacino laughed and said, "Yeah, thanks. Most people when they think about my stuff say the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and, sure, I love that music and it is definitely an influence.... I'm not saying it isn't.... but yeah I love that 70's stuff... Harry Nilsson... early Hall and Oates records... all that kind of thing."
Certainly the breadth of Bacino's interests can be heard in his output to date. After releasing two well regarded power pop records in the classic vein, Pop Job (1998) and The Million Dollar Milkshake (2003), Bacino returned with a quieter and more lyrical song suite, Queens English, in 2010. During our conversation I mentioned I considered this album his Village Green Preservation Society.
"Exactly!" he responded. "Or Muswell Hillbillies. It's funny that album got mostly positive reviews, but I did hear it from a few of the hardcore power pop guys. I never got that. I was exploring a Ray Davies kind of thing on that record. How is that not part of this kind of music?"
Luckily, Bacino is more interested in following his instincts when it comes to the music he wants to make. This is evident on the first listen to his new single "Not That Guy" (available at Amazon and iTunes.) For the opening few seconds the music sounds as if it is coming straight out of a transistor radio from 1971, before Bacino's vocal comes in over a bouncy piano that propels the song forward. The lyric is a take on the whole "nice guys finish last" scenario, which all of us nice guys have lived through often enough to add the appropriate level of poignancy here. The songwriting is top notch, and the singing and production are also excellent. It certainly should bring a smile to anyone who loved Pop Job.
There is also the good news to report that there are more sounds coming from Bacino. "I've got my own studio space now. Someplace I can go at 3 p.m. or 3 a.m. where I can work and not be annoyed with outside noise..... Actually, the next single is almost ready to go. It just needs to be mastered. The plan is to release a couple more singles and, hopefully, record the balance of tracks for a new album in the future."
If "Not That Guy" returns, at least a little bit, to the Pop Job sound the next single promises a slightly more Queens English vibe. After mentioning this to me Bacino laughed and stated, "The power pop guys might not be happy about that."
I don't know. This power pop guy will be pleased as punch.