Album Review: Mark Duda – Bodega Flowers

I’ll be honest: this one confused me. From the Halloween-themed font to the woman on the cover (is that Mark Duda?) And the Japanese(?) lettering, I had no idea at all what to think about this CD. So of course I did what one should do in such cases: play the thing.

Thank goodness. It’s high-powered meat-n-potatoes rock, with echoes of Bruce Springsteen, Asbury Jukes and even a bit of Smithereens. (I know those are all Jersey artists, but as it happens, Duda is based across the river in NYC, and he sounds like it.) Chunky, spirited guitars, gutsy rhythm section, impassioned lead vocals and passionate backing vox. “Ambulance Song” kicks the album off in fiery style, and through the 11 tracks on Bodega Flowers, Duda rarely lets up.

The rhythm guitars have just the right amount of jangle, and the choruses are of perfect length: not Raspberries-short, not Dylan-long. Every song feels like a statement of purpose. Duda wrote all the songs, sings lead and plays guitar.

Yet part of the album’s success doubtless comes from the rhythm section. Kasim Sulton is best known as a member of Utopia and a longtime Todd Rundgren associate, but his extensive and impressive credits go far beyond that. And one overlooked chapter in Sulton’s musical saga is Lights On, a 1986 LP he made with Thommy Price. As it happens, he’s reunited on Bodega Flowers with Price, who plays drums on this record.

Anyway, Bodega Flowers is powerful stuff, the kind of music that one can point to with pride when some wag asserts that rock is dead.