Piano rock has gone through various stages of relevance and, let’s face it, quality, from Elton John to Billy Joel to Tori Amos to Ben Folds. Minnesota songwriter Mark Mallman recalls a more seventies rock ‘n’ roll approach with his consistently pounding songs—which also feature his breakneck speed on the keys. He studied classically as he learned the instrument, and he uses his talents from that genre here—“Between the Devil and Middle C,” his new record, sounds like classic rock from start to finish, cathartic, catchy choruses and all, but, like most classic rock, it’s also fairly shallow as far as lyrics are concerned and simple in its song structuring. When Mallman uses the synths and electronic beats, he’s the most entertaining, but when you start a song with the line “All is quiet on the Midwestern front,” you really can’t go anywhere good from there. Unfortunately, there’s many more lines like that all over the record, and after only a few songs, even Kurt Cobain seems Shakespearean. (Tom Lynch)
September 20 at Double Door.