Villan’s New Ep Is Not What We Expected
VILLAN, (AKA Mario Cuomo), Experiments With an All New Sound in “Dark Days For Rock & Roll”
On the morning of Halloween, I was really looking forward to hearing VILLAN’s new EP. I had been waiting to hear what he had come up with and was curious to see what kind of sound it would have because the EP would be Mario’s first official solo release, and he had previously mentioned he would be experimenting out from under the umbrella of rock & roll. I also expected to hear some of the creative influence of The Orwells’ instrumentalists drop off, exposing a more raw and individualized side of Mario Cuomo.
The first song that had been uploaded to his Youtube account was titled “Nothing 2U” so naturally that’s the first song I listened to. The first thing I noticed is that the title of this first track struck me as slightly uncharacteristic to his previous work, and it didn’t really go with the darker overall quality I was expecting from the EP. The song itself surprised me a lot for a few different reasons. It’s got an electronic feeling, due mostly to the heavy use of synths and distortion on Cuomo’s voice, which is something I definitely didn’t see coming. Structurally, the song seems relatively oversimplified and somewhat repetitive, reminiscent of minimal wave. The song seems to be built on a foundation of loops and samples, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do personally miss the authentic feeling that seems to be lost when transitioning into this more homogeneous sound. This could be an artistic choice on Cuomo’s part, as it does add to the minimal wave electronic vibe I’m getting from the song. It could also be explained by Cuomo’s lack of a band at this point. I would find it hard to believe that after being an active musician in the Chicago music scene for as long as he’s been, he couldn’t find someone to play with him. He might have felt that he would have more creative control if he did everything on his own since he’s not an instrumentalist himself. He stated that his goal was to create the EP on his own and move outside of the realm of rock & roll- and I think it’s pretty safe to say he accomplished that with this track.
"Night to Kill"
The second track of the EP, “Night to Kill,” maintains the heavy use of synths, but seems to veer away from the minimal electronic sound of the previous song. The vocals in this one don’t seem as distorted and, paired with darker lyrics, seem reminiscent of a lot of Cuomo’s previous work. As far as vocals go, the track sounds like it could have come off the album Cuomo released earlier this year. The lack of that signature guitar sound is what really separates this track from his older work with The Orwells. Previously catchy bass lines and guitar-based hooks have been replaced by synthesizers and layered vocals. I actually really like this track and it seems to be the most similar sing to his older work. The instrumental still takes a backseat to the vocals in the song, which I suppose highlights the lyrics and pushes them forward. I’d say this is my personal favorite song from the EP.
The final track of the EP, “Walking Disaster,” has a stripped-down feel, and lyrically seems to be the most emotional song off the record. Cuomo loses the electronic vibe of the previous tracks and a lot of the song is simply his vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The tender instrumental of this track is somewhat deceiving, as the lyrics seem to be pretty angry- but I think this works to the song’s advantage. Cuomo’s voice isn’t as buried in the music as it usually would be, and bringing it forward really highlights the emotion in the vocals itself. Cuomo’s an awesome vocalist, and I think it’s really refreshing to hear a vocal that’s pretty raw and not so hidden. I think this track, along with the rest of the EP, showcases Cuomo’s talent; he’s great at conveying emotion with his voice and just listening to him feels somewhat cathartic. I’m impressed with what he’s done on his own, and although I’d like to see him put out more rock music in the future, I can totally get down to VILLAN.