Picks and Pans Review: The Mona Lisa's Sister

updated 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/30/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Graham Parker

Parker, one of rock's most angry middle-aged men, is back. And the passage of time seems to have had a softening effect. There is a brighter, more carefree sound to this, his first record in three years. Many of the songs are built on a cushiony organ and acoustic guitar foundation. Don't Let It Break You Down wouldn't be out of place on a John Cougar Mellencamp record, which is saying something for this often corrosive pub rocker. On closer consideration, it's obvious Parker has not completely changed. Many of his lyrics have a decidedly bitter cast. Under the Mask of Happiness may have a feather-brushed folkie surface, but the lyrics are about a family's cheerful facade and the ugly reality it cloaks. The words of O.K. Hieronymous paint a jagged, nightmarish picture of reality that Bosch would have appreciated. Once again the melody breezes along rather jauntily. Ah well, maybe Parker is mellowing bit by bit. You know: today the sounds, tomorrow the lyrics. The next record of his that comes out could resemble something by, say, Raffi. Knowing Parker, even that would most likely still be well worth listening to. (RCA)

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