Review: The Mr. T Experience- King Dork Approximately

Posted: November 22, 2016 in Reviews

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I have got to admit that the Mr. T Experience (MTX) is one of my favorite bands and I am such a big fan of both the band and the novels that this review will be quite biased. If I’m going to be honest, I feel like I would’ve liked this album no matter what. For anyone not familiar with King Dork, it is MTX frontman Dr. Frank Portman’s literary character Tom Henderson (found in King Dork and the sequel King Dork Approximately). He is a high school student struggling to find his place in the world and to deal with the normal people and other sadists. He also has a strange obsession with J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which he hates even if he has more in common with Holden Caulfield than anyone. The album starts off with “Cinthya with a Y”, an ode to female names with unusual spellings, and ends with “Down with the Universe”. The former was released with a lyric-video on YouTube (how modern!). The verses in the song are great, but the chorus falls a bit short to be Dr. Frank. The rhyme “Djulia” and “peculiar” is stellar. The latter is a great closer that easily could have been on 1999’s Alcatraz and pretty much symbolizes anything that the books stand for (“We’re gonna kill the Catcher in the rye”). In between there are lots of great tracks, as well. The title track “King Dork Approximately” was released along with the book and after hearing the album a couple of times, it’s still my favorite song on the album. The bridge always gives me chills and is one of Dr. Frank’s greatest achievements as a songwriter, in my opinion. I’ve heard the song through the single release on Spotify, but it was also released as a kassingle (how not modern!) with the B-side “O’Brien is Tryin’ to Learn to Talk Hawaiian” and never getting the kassingle, I didn’t get to hear it before listening to the album. It is a lovely little Folk song with a cool finger-picking pattern. It is so catchy your ears will hurt and scream with joy at the same time, if ears were able to do such things. The song is actually a WW1 era song written by Al Dubin and Rennie Coromack and if I remember correctly Tom learns it from his stepfather (Little Big Tom)’s hippie friend. “Robot Rag” also has a cool finger-picking thing going on.

A lot of the songs are quite Rock n’ Roll and it’s fitting to the book and Tom and Sam (his friend)’s taste in music. “Still Not Done Loving You Mama” sounds like early 70’s Rock n’ Roll and not in an awful way. The bass line is great and it could possibly be a future MTX classic. Another highlight is the 60’s sounding song “High School Is the Penalty for Transgressions yet to Be Specified”, it has a great melody, fantastic backup vocals and clever lyrics (“a sex alliance against society”) “Sadistic Masochism”, “I Wanna Ramone You” and “Thinking of Suicide” are all classic MTX. “I Wanna Ramone You” is a song that comes from the first book and is about the word Ramoning as a euphemism for sex, it’s a French word and the song also includes lyrics in French similar to those in La Belle’s “Lady Marmelade”, which is probably the only sentence most people know in French and probably the origin to the idiom “pardon my French”. It’s a catchy song! “Thinking of Suicide” is also from the first book and a great song. It stems from a hilarious incident where Tom’s mom finds the lyrics to the song and thinks Tom is suicidal when, in fact, he is just in love with a girl who hands out suicide pamphlets. It has the fantastic line “(…) think of suicide when I think about love”.

“King Dork Redux” is just a re-recording of the old MTX classic “King Dork” that predates the books. I do prefer the old version, but there has been added some sweet back-up vocals to this one that makes the re-recording worthwhile. One thing I do miss on the album is a song about Sam Hellerman (I would imagine something like “Even if his plans are heinous, Sam Hellerman is a genius). Maybe the only significant downside to the album is that the band sounds so great that it loses the authenticity of a high school band that changes constantly, both when it comes to their line-up, name and basically everything and has a drummer that needs to play another song to keep the right beat, but this is not a big deal in my overall view of the album. Another downside to some could be that you have to buy the book to get the album, which is unfortunate if you’ve already bought the book. The album has already grown on me a lot during the times I have listened to it, even if it’s not the best MTX album by any means, it’s not the worst either! And to sum it up I think it’s a tremendous album, if tremendous means what I think it means.

RH

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