Mike Park - Challenging Me [7 inch] (Cover Artwork)

Mike Park

Challenging Me [7 inch] (2008)

Simple Stereo

I don't think I need to introduce Mike Park. A few years before a bunch of southern guys thought it would be a good idea to strap on some acoustic guitars and pose for pictures on porches / in the woods, Mike was making a few low-profile acoustic records that managed to feel punk, or maybe even indie reminiscent of Lemuria in some ways, instead of folk.

The A-side of the record is "Challenging Me," one of the best songs on Mike's first solo record, 2003's For the Love of Music. I like that record quite a bit, and this song is fairly representative of it. It's a simple stripped-down piece featuring just Mike and his guitar, and a great chorus that doesn't sound that great on paper. In fact, the entire song doesn't sound that great on paper unless you're some kind of Park devotee, and that's a fantastic quality that the man brings to his songs. There's a certain warmth here that more than makes up for any shortcomings. It's hard to ignore the fact that Mike's vocal range and guitar skills aren't amazing, and his lyrics can be fairly basic, but with songs like this (and his entire first record, honestly) it doesn't matter. It just works. When Mike sings "I'm shaking down to the rhythm of a lost cause, but certainly it's found by me," his sincerity makes me smile every time.

The B-side is a previously unreleased one called "This World Is Fucked," which to me sounds like it was recorded in the sessions for his second record, North Hangook Falling. It opens with a few chords and a brief horn intro, and for a second it sounds a lot like it could have come off of the Colossal record. This makes sense, as some of those guys have made appearances on quite a few of Mike's songs, especially from the second record. There are also a few backing vocals sprinkled throughout. Despite some lyrics that are funny in Mike's usual deadpan sense and a timely message, the song isn't anything that will win over anyone undecided on Mike's music.

Now, here's the problem with this record: We've got two songs, one released in 2003, and one likely recorded in 2005. That in itself is a bit of a disappointment, but it gets worse! If you buy this straight from the label, it will cost you about $10 after shipping -- an insane price for any 7".

Attribute the costs to the fact that this is also an art print, screenprinted on a really heavy recycled gatefold. The idea was to bring art and music closer together, and in that aspect it succeeded. It's a really nice piece, and it would probably look pretty nice on a wall. It's limited to 500 and signed by both Mike and the artist, Kevin Varner, if you care about autographs. For some odd reason they pressed the record on a variety of No Idea-esque vomit colors instead of some that would fit nicely with the art, but these things happen. It also comes with a download code, which is a nice touch. Bottom line, collectors only. If you want to check out Mike's music, pick up For the Love of Music.