The Blue Eyed Shark Experiment - Aun Aprendo (I’m Still Learning)

Dan Round 04/12/2009

Rating: 3/5

This debut E.P. from Blue Eyed Shark and his band “The Experiment” is quite an exciting proposition before you even listen to it. From the peculiar but strangely attractive, vibrant front cover to the wonderful design of the CD - made to look like a 7” vinyl with realistic grooves - Blue Eyed Shark seems like someone with his finger (…fin?) very much on the artistic pulse. His MySpace 'About Me' too, though a tad on the irritating side (“…has swum with Johnny Cash, dined with Radiohead”, etc. etc., it goes on a bit), also reveals an interesting combo of influences - alongside the man in black and the 'head, Blue Eyed Shark also lists Tchaikovsky, Bon Iver, The Guillemots, The Beatles and the Romantic-era Spanish artist Francisco Goya as those who have most inspired his work. This 4-track E.P. serves as an introductory offering from the Shark who, with glossy production and a catchy sound, aims to impress with his unique brand of piano rock.

Opening song “Generation” is somewhat of a disappointment. With a dramatic, spooky beginning of swirling synths and a repetitive clunking of keys, Blue Eyed Shark embarks upon a cynical ode to a girl who is “too blind to see”. “It's the sound of a generation so fucked-up” he proclaims, before launching into a monotone verbal rant against… banality in general?

(“Television”, “superstition”, “going out every night”, “reading news on the bus”, and many other mediocre, daily routines really do make our Shark friend very, very sad). It's all a bit drab and predictable really, and we will all have heard this kind of thing done before, better. The shiny, polished production is a further hindrance to the song, which is crying out for a bit of raw energy as opposed to the bland, overly-studio direction which does no favour to Blue Eyed Shark in his piano induced tirade.

The following “Sleep Next To Me” is more low key. A semi-spoken, emotive piano ballad, the song is a massive improvement on the E.P.'s dross false start. It sounds like one of the softer moments on Hope Of The States' “Lost Riots” album, with Blue Eyed Shark thriving in a more discreet and less obviously poppy surrounding. His deep voice carries the song well, and the juxtaposition of the soft, gentle piano contrasts to create a moving song with an almost hymnal sound. It works like a soothing charm.

Track number three jolts the E.P. to life however, with a spirited, bouncy pop sound. “Goodbye My Friend”, a bittersweet pop song in the Mark Everett mould (think “Hey Man Now You're Really Living”), switches with ease between quiet piano tinkling and an explosive chorus which features Blue Eyed Shark's only truly soaring vocal of the E.P. “Goodbye My Friend” is fun and catchy, full of memorable hooks to the extent you could imagine the song being on a TV advert. The song finishes unexpectedly at just under 3 minutes with the Shark in mid-flow; perhaps the cliffhanger just makes the song that little bit extra exciting.

The closing “Rain”, like the opener, is also slightly disappointing and so renders the middle songs as the best of the E.P. Though like the previous song it is vibrant and confident, incurring a bustling piano sing-along, it is nevertheless… slightly annoying. “I lost my soul on the side of the road” Blue Eyed Shark croons in a semi-comic fashion in a verse that would fit well onto a Rufus Wainwright or Ben Folds record, before launching into a sing-along chorus that is more in the, well, Mika mould. It's all a bit corny, especially the semi-spoken interlude at 1:55. The 'noise' section (2:24-2:38) is unexplainable and also a bit of a head-hurter. Despite this, the chorus means the song is annoyingly catchy as opposed to simply annoying, and by the octave shift towards the end of the song, Blue Eyed Shark's nursery rhyme style sing-along has jammed itself well into the listener's head, whether you like it or not. The final chorus starts to fade out at just past the 3 minute mark, and five seconds after it has completely faded the Shark begins on a ramshackle, but quite appealing piano warble - “I'm gunna buy tickets and we're gettin' outta here” he sings in the closing coda of the E.P. The forty second ditty is probably better than the entirety of “Rain”, and it gives the E.P. an added raw edge it otherwise would have lacked.

The Blue Eyed Shark Experiment is an experiment which I am not able to say works or not, as of yet. Preliminary tests show the E.P. possesses a disappointing opener, a great ballad, a great pop song, an annoying pop song, and a cute little croon climax. Mixed results, then. A full album from this interesting Shark fellow and his collective might be a step too far at this early stage, but he certainly has some tunes in him and a definite knack for piano balladry. (Worth checking out the MySpace page for “Sleep Next To Me” and “Goodbye My Friend”, as well as the wonderful E.P. cover art which is sprawled across the top of the page.)