Dusted Reviews

Mark Sultan - The Sultanic Verses

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Mark Sultan

Album: The Sultanic Verses

Label: In the Red

Review date: Jun. 21, 2007

If one were to think of Montreal’s current music scene as Gotham City, the Arcade Fire and other earnest, melodically bombastic pop bands (the Besnard Lakes , the Dears, Wolf Parade, etc.) would form a sort of collective Batman & Robin. While they’re all perhaps a tad too dangerous for God-fearing society types, they’re out there fighting the good fight; they’ve garnered the respect of a sizable sector of the public and are indeed heroes to the indie community at large. Montreal-as-Gotham also has its own Arkham Asylum, though, with its share of depraved masterminds waiting to unleash a tried and true rock-&-roll crime spree on Hab City. Much at the center of it, though reluctantly I’m sure, sits Mark Sultan. In addition to fronting his own one-man-band as BBQ and teaming up with psychedelic-soul shaman King Kahn as the King Kahn & BBQ Show, he’s also been a member of garage skronk combos Les Sexareenos, Mind Controls and the Spaceshits. Too elusive to be the ringleader, he’s the scene’s de facto Two-Face if you will.

As BBQ, Sultan plays a primitive yet deeply soulful brand of garage punk, mixing fuzzed-out guitars and a stomping switchblade beat with vocals that are easily the closest thing a white boy from French Canada will ever come to sounding like Sam Cooke. When King Kahn’s on board, the results aren’t especially different, with the end result sounding slightly fuller and the songs a bit more stylistically diverse. For his first album under his own name, The Sultanic Verses, Sultan likewise doesn’t deviate much from what is quickly becoming a trademark sound. For one thing, there are no true sidemen on board, and although he doesn’t quite do everything himself (cheating with overdubs and a few helping hands), it remains entirely his show.

Still, there’s a clear if subtle transmogrification happening here. BBQ at his best is a blaring, heart-on-the-sleeve explosion, boosting melodies left and right from the soul/R&B vaults and plunging straight into their blood-and-guts core. And while Sultanic Verses is also rooted in vintage ‘60s melodies and punk grit, there are certain understated musical touches at play that offer a distinction between the Sultan and BBQ personas. Tracks like “Beautiful Girl,” “100 Little Women,” and “Two Left Feet” are typical BBQ-style stompers, replete with bruised-up sock-hop lyrics and “ooh-ah” backing vocals, but the appearance of toy piano and hand claps show an almost cheery artist at play. “Cursed World” is something entirely new, however, evoking a darker Nuggets-style psychedelia and employing pre-recorded drones that add a previously absent layer of tension to the music.

That might not sound like much, but for a one-man band those are dramatic steps. Sultan diversifies even further as the album progresses, singing in French on “Je Ne Savais Pa,” recalling Buddy Holly & the Crickets on “We’re Sinking,” and closing out the album with “Unicorn Rainbow Odyssey,” an excellent slice of lo-fi girl-group pop. Yet, truthfully, even this track, perhaps the album’s most distinctive, isn’t all that shocking of a departure from the BBQ template.

Sultan’s virtue is that he finds a hook – whether inspired by a soul song, a doo-wop tune, or a straight punk jam – strips it to its essence and puts everything he has into it. At its best, it’s an awfully powerful, awfully cool sound, and by its very nature limited. If you’re just now beginning to check out Sultan and BBQ, you’ll be fine with either guise. Just flip a coin.

By Nate Knaebel

Other Reviews of Mark Sultan



Read More

View all articles by Nate Knaebel

Find out more about In the Red

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.