Mark Allen Berube
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Mark Allen Berube

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Muse's Muse Review of "Suspicious Fish""

When I took a look at some of the titles of Mark Berube’s songs – “The Naked Guy at the Gym,” “The Way You Smell,” “Your Big But,” “Grandma Gave Me the Finger” – I was reluctant to give Suspicious Fish a listen. I’m not a big fan of novelty music – even though some of my favorite songwriters (Springsteen with “Pink Cadillac,” Neil Young with “This Note’s for You”) have dabbled in silliness.

Then I opened up the disc case and read Berube’s lyrics. I thought they were clever, in fact often brilliantly perverse, and I thought his notes and credits were pretty darn funny. But I was still a bit wary.

And then I popped in the CD and found that Berube’s folk/power pop tunes are catchy as heck, sort of along the lines of Bare Naked Ladies except Berube is a far better lyricist. He’s also a good vocalist (really good on “Cocktails on the Balcony” and “Body Farm”) – he has a nice baritone and he can fit a whole bunch of words into a single line.

Except for “Grandma Gave Me the Middle Finger” (but even that grew on me after a while), ever song on the disc is a winner. Standouts are “Something About” (sample oddball line: “I wouldn’t know reality if it slapped me in the face/And even then I’d probably think it was cole slaw”), “Cocktails on the Balcony (no idea what it’s about, but I love the wordplay) “Your Big But,” (don’t let the title fool you – it’s actually weirdly poignant), the rocker “Come Undone,” and the anti-war yet unpretentious “The Look on Your Face.”

The songs mentioned above are about as straight as Berube can play it, which is to say healthily twisted. Of the really wacky cuts, “Mr. Miyagi” is probably the best (“I had too much absinthe, I was feeling kind of groggy/I was getting my butt whooped by Mr. Miyagi.”) “Body Farm” is nifty, too, a gruesome ode to leaving your corpse to science.

It’s worth mentioning some other contributions: Guitarist Jon Kolleeny rocks on “Something About,” “Come Undone” and “Body Farm,” and Carolyn Solebello’s vocals inject an extra charge into “Come Undone.” Berube, whose acoustic guitar propels almost every track, plucks a banjo on the punchy closer, “Sleep.”

Mark Berube may be one weird dude, but he’s millions of miles from Weird Al and a lot closer (in singing voice, too) to Warren Zevon.

- Chip Withrow

"Rambles Review of "Suspicious Fish""

Mark Berube's Suspicious Fish is funny, smart, elegant and thoughtful. That's not just as a whole; that's every verse on every song. From the title metaphor in the opening "Something About," Berube demonstrates a turn of unusual phrase that purees cliche to reach genuine emotion. "Something About" also displays Berube's musical range and flair for a melody. It's the perfect introduction to the album, and a strong representation of Berube's gift for play with words and instruments.

Despite that, "Grandma Gave Me the Finger" is almost certain to get the most radio attention. That's a shame, as "Grandma," which relies almost wholly on the shock humor of unexpected profanity, is neither the most intelligent or the funniest song on the album. "The Naked Guy at the Gym," "Body Farm" and "Mr. Miyagi" are all just as overtly funny, less juvenile and much stronger musically. "Your Big But" highlights the ambiguity of relationships through the ambiguity of the English language, while never losing the distance necessary to laugh at the whole thing. "The Way You Smell," an ode to an overlooked aspect of love, moves beyond humor by sheer earnestness. "The Look on Your Face," a moment of bitter politics on an otherwise personal album, still finds black humor in self-consolation. "Cocktails on the Balcony" may be the least funny song on the album, but the lack of overt humor is more than covered by the sheer visual poetry of the lyrics.

With a sense of humor on such prominent display, there's a danger Berube will be exiled to the overlooked world of funny music, played only on April Fool's Day or college radio, understocked as a novelty in music stores. That would be a shame, because with possible exception of the harmonica-driven "Grandma Gave Me the Finger," Suspicious Fish is strong enough to match or overshadow the music of any singer-songwriter on the radio today. Berube's music always has a certain upbeat touch, even on such dark songs as "The Look on Your Face."

But aside from that light touch and a liquid coherence of composition, Suspicious Fish is a study in musical variety. "Something About" and "The Naked Guy at the Gym" share a melodic levity and strong guitar hooks reminiscent of early Blues Traveler. "Always the Same" and "The Look on Your Face" are lowkey tunes with bruising emotional numbness that provide an elegant counterpoint to the irreverent lyrics. And "Body Farm" is a straight-out rocker, with such enthusiastic high-power guitar work and hip-shaking rhythm that the wry lyrics almost get lost.

Suspicious Fish is an album built to satisfy the music snob and the casual listener, one that can tickle the inner comedian and the inner intellectual. It is in fact just possible that Suspicious Fish can be all albums to all people. It's guaranteed to be a lot of fun for just about everyone.
- Sarah Meador

"Mark Berube: The Catcher in the Wry"

Sometimes it rains CDs. As one who purports to know a little something about acoustic music and is willing to plunk down my dime to express my opinion, songwriters offer, send and beg me to listen to their musical philosophies. There are periods where no one clicks. Then, out of the fog of hundreds of earnestly sincere singer/songwriters bemoaning their lost loves and eager to impart the wisdom of their “coming of age,” a cool breeze of bracing cynicism cuts through the mist. Wrapped in sarcastically clever rhyme schemes and bouncy melodies, someone expresses my point of view on a whole array of subject matter better than I ever could. The talent of some performers will sneak up on the listener, insinuating itself into the subconscious. Then, suddenly it explodes in the frontal lobe, like a rising 98-mile per hour fastball too close to a batter’s head.

It’s one thing to point out situations that range from mild annoyance, to apprehension, all the way to pure rage, in terms that blister paint off walls. Angry expression can be edifying, but taken straight up, it can also be very uncomfortable. To do it with a sense of comic irony and appear to not break a sweat with the effort, is an achievement worth noting.

All the above strives to explain how recently, the musings of one Mark Berube pressed into my awareness with a joyous jolt.

I first encountered Mark when he was a steady performer in the late
1990s at the open mic at The Fast Folk Café with his friend and collaborator, Scott Wolfson. He always exuded the air of an old soul. Last year, at the Acoustic Live booth showcases at Falcon Ridge, when he played “Mr Miyagi”, his ode to the Karate Kid, found on his 2005 release SUSPICIOUS FISH, I jumped to offer an appreciative response and an offer of a feature. Someone who pairs words such as “Mr Miyagi” with “conspicuously soggy” and “beef stroganoff” with “wax on and wax off” is going to get my attention. A cornucopia of absurdity and surreality like this makes one wonder where it all comes from.

His first CD, SHUT UP SO I CAN PLAY, was recorded live at the now-defunct Sun Music Company on the upper East side of Manhattan. The initially unrelenting enthusiastic audience applause prompted his sarcastic response that became the CD’s title. While Mark states that his playing on this recording seems too fast, I find the torrent of barbed wit on this to be a delirious romp. The machine-gun strumming and waterfall of words are exhilarating. His song, “I Don’t Wanna Smell Your Butt,” (an appropriate double-entendre) is a riotous joyride, especially for someone such as me who finds cigarette smoke abhorrent, along with the odor that clings to smokers’ clothing.

“…Your hands smell
Your hat smells
Your glands smell
Your cat smells
Your car smells
Your wife smells
This bar smells
Your whole life smells
And now I smell too
Thanks a lot!…”

He says it’s his most downloaded song on iTunes.

On Suspicious Fish, he forays into more serious territory.
The ode to the current illegal occupant of the White House,
“The Look on Your Face,” is as well-expressed as anything
currently being stated or sung.

“...Sally sat silent
Saddened by what she saw
Dictators for Democracy
Living above the law
Forget the constitution
Don’t you know we’re at war?
We're the ones in charge here
That's what we're fighting for...

Be a good American and show some blind trust
It really isn’t torture as long as it’s done by us…

Do you really believe what you say is true
And you can say what would Jesus do?
I think you'll find when the rent comes due
That he’s got a big surprise for you
I’d love to see the look on your face on your first
day in Hell…”

Even Mark’s love songs have a bit of sarcastic bite. “Sleep” is, overall, a sweet paean to his lovely wife, Carolann Solebello (of Red Molly) and how he feels at peace with her by his side as he slides into slumber. However, that peace gets
compared to a (perhaps a bit exaggerated) version of his
hellish childhood, suffering torturous parnks at the hands ofhis younger brother. Thus, we learn that he’ll:

“Never worry that you’ll kill my hamster
Never worry that you’ll put the corpse next to my head
Never worry I’ll wake up to find all of my toenails
painted red…”

When the audience picks itself up off the floor, they find that they’ve been treated to a very warped, but effective declaration of love.

This same love also gets declared in another way. In all of the lofty phrases penned by poets and songwriters, what gets left out is a basic animal essence. Playfully working around the subject of unadorned body odor, in his song, “The Way You Smell,” Berube dives into the primordial ooze.

Some people he notes,
“...give off a screamin’ foul aroma
That’s enough to put every living person in a coma
From Edmonton, Alberta down to Tulsa, Oklahoma…"

While he acknowledges the modern amenities, like the way
his main squeeze sings and dances, he’s got a “jones" for her “truly awesome odors and fantastic

That’s clever enough for me.

Whatever the roots of his impulses, Acoustic Live is very happy they’re there and we’re rooting for Mark to keep it coming.

---by Richard Cuccaro - Acoustic Live in NYC

"Sellout Magazine's Review of "Suspicious Fish""

Mark Berube comes across like a clever mix of Barenaked Ladies and Loudon Wainwright III. Funny but intelligent lyrics and sing-along melodies are his calling card. Don't go thinking it's all for shits and giggles for Mark, though. He takes on the injustices of the Bush administration on "The Look On Your Face". And as singer-songwriters generally lay on the melodrama pretty thick, it's good to see an artist that can be serious when needed, but can also laugh at himself a little bit. It's only life after all, and Mark deals with it with a sharp wit and a smile. - Sellout Magazine

"'s Review of "Suspicious Fish""

When I first looked at the track list on Mark Berube's 2005 CD Suspicious Fish, my mind filled with the dread of facing a sophomoric, Wierd Al experience. And while some of these tracks don't quite rise to the stellar musical and creative levels of other more accomplished novelty acts such as Ween or They Might Be Giants ("Body Farm" and "Grandma Gave Me the Finger" are groaners), other tracks come closer.

For instance, "Your Big But" goes far beyond the immediate gag of the title and employs clever lyrics and a great tune to create a wholly original song about the lame excuses people give to one another to forestall intimacy. It is a jewel.

Another good track, "The Look on Your Face," features 800-point SAT verbal vocabulary sprinkled into a commentary on network news and how it sucks. When's the last time you heard "syllogism" used in a song? Anyone? Anyone? Thought so.

"The Naked Guy at the Gym" is sheer genius; for all us regular worker-outers, the locker room lurkers are an omnipresent bother and having a song to sing in my head when in their presence will no doubt help laugh the situation off next time.

"Always the Same" is a unique take on the perils of love. "I can't tell if you're really being serious or not" is a lyric from that track, and it may be a listener's reaction to this record. But I have to believe that, given the production value, the musicality, the creativity of the lyrics, that Berube is dead serious.

With liberal doses of both electric and acoustic guitar, harmonica, upright bass and banjo, this record sounds a little country-fried at times. Most of the numbers are pleasant, poppy and straightforward with only "Come Undone" (not the Duran Duran song, mind you) really rocking out.

Mark Berube's work reminds us that not all clever rhymes are in rap music today, and that humor can be a powerful force for telling a unique and serious musical story. I laughed. I cried. It's better than Cats. - Todd Beemis


Suspicious Fish (2005) CD
Nobody Likes You (2002) CD w/ The Right Bastards
Shut Up So I Can Play (2000) Live CD



Originally from Western Massachusetts, Mark now calls Brooklyn home. Brooklyn just calls him "Mark", although he prefers "Big Rig". Weened on such characters as Elvis Costello, They Might Be Giants, Randy Newman and Talking Heads, Mark has an eye for the absurd and an ear for the hook.

Far more entertaining than a single human being with an acoustic guitar is allowed to be under current law (pending in Delaware), Mark is a performer who refuses to be anyone's background music. His punchy, well-crafted songs and rapid-fire delivery allow audiences little time to indulge in the laughter he frequently provokes without feeling like they've missed something.

This, apparently, is okay with Mark, reluctant as he is to be labeled a comic songwriter. Not that he disdains laugher. Far from it. He'd just rather write a good song than a funny one. But hey, if it makes you laugh, that's cool too.