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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Mars Hall

Is Anybody Out There?

Review by Gary Hill

I have never heard of this Madison, Wisconsin band before. Well, I am definitely glad they are on my radar now. Their hard rocking, power-pop based sound is so strong. This album was released in December of last year. Had I heard it then it probably would have made my "best of 2020" list. It really is that strong. They have labeled the music as sides, like a vinyl record, so that's how I'm listing it here.

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Track by Track Review
Side 1
Get In The Car

Drums lead the album out. Some screaming hot guitar comes in from there. As the vocals join this feels a bit like something Alice Cooper might do. There are healthy helpings of both psychedelia and heavy metal.

L.I.A.R. (Love Is A Road)
Another hard rocking cut, this has some cool hooks and a lot of meat on the bones. If anything, this is even more dramatic and powerful than the opener was.
A punk rocking number, this has some power-pop in the mix, too.  It's another powerhouse, but perhaps not as strong as the two tunes that preceded it.
Falling Apart
The whole power-pop concept is in the driver's seat here. This actually reminds me to a large degree of my hometown heroes, Cheap Trick.
One Chance
There is a hard rocking, punky edge to this stomper. This is another that definitely makes me think of Cheap Trick. In fact, I'd say that is even more true here than it was on the last piece. The vocals even sound like Robin Zander.  (I would add that in the video for "Eleanor Rigby" which is later on the album he even looks a little like Zander).
Over Kill (The Ballad of Sid & Nancy)
I love the meaty guitar grind on this tune. This has some really powerhouse musical elements at play. I can hear some psychedelia in the mix here. This is so meaty and dramatic. It's one of the best tunes on the album, and it does have more of that Cheap Trick angle to it.
Side 2

Classic power-pop sounds and hard rocking edges drive this screaming hot tune. I really love this tune.

You've Got No Soul
Bouncy power-pop is the concept here. This is playful and fun. It's less heavy and meaty than a lot of the music here, but it brings a sense of fun in place of those aspects. There are Beatles-like elements at play here.
I'm Gone
The hard rocking guitar sound that brings this into being makes me think of AC/DC a bit. As Beatles-like elements join, I'm again reminded of Cheap Trick. This is another that's a lot of fun, but it also has some real meat built into it.  The guitar solo on this is very tasty and rocking.
Eleanor Rigby
And, here we get that Beatles cover. This is a great updating of the number. They preserve the heart and magic of the piece while infusing some serious crunch and fire at the same time. This is so strong.
Is Anybody Out There
A dramatic and powerful tune that asks the age old question "are we alone in the universe?" The guitar soloing on this is melodic and rather magical, and the whole tune really works so well. There are definitely some Beatles-like elements as the cut approaches its end.
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