Like the lovechild of Elton John and Freddie Mercury, Mark Mallman uses intense emotion, theatrical passion, and a God-given knack for bombastic melody to turn Mr. Serious into a powerful, heartfelt collection of revealing songs that rise and fall, sadden and excite. “I Just Want to Play Piano” kicks it off immediately, with atmospheric effects floating overhead as the keys move between spine-tingling trickles and pounding dramatics, all as Mallman proclaims, Life is a three-ring circus/Where every fantasy reverses/I just want to play piano. “True Love” builds passionately from sweet confessions to dominating demands. “Simply in the Distance” most clearly recalls the Piano Man, with emotive storytelling keys and impassioned, moving-’cause-it’s-flawed singing. And the catchy “Still Wasted” exposes Mallman’s grittier side with crunching guitar and bohemian lyricism: And the streets are empty/When the city sleeps/I climbed on the roof and wasted weeks.
On “Hard Night,” Mallman notes that Young men do get older/They wrinkle and they gray/They give out the cold shoulder/Then they wither away. With the enormously talented display of starry-eyed songwriting on Mr. Serious, you know that he isn’t yet talking about