MONEY MARK Push The Button (Mo Wax)

Legend has it that keyboardist Mark Ramos-Nishita was making a living as a carpenter when fate sent him to fix the Beastie Boys’ fence, since which he’s been involved on their last two albums (the excellent "Ill Communication" and "Hello Nasty", as raved about by me in the last ish) and released a solo album, "Mark’s Keyboard Repair" (which I found intensely irritating, ideal for people whose limited attention spans can’t cope with something like The Beach Boys’ "Smiley Smile", for instance). His second album was preceded by the rather fine "Hand In Your Head" single: worth another listen?

Surely. Instead of containing seemingly hundreds of scratchy song fragments and in-jokes, "Push The Button" is as ‘proper’ an album as you’d want/expect from a Beasties alumnus. The prevailing wind seems to be from Beck territory, although Money Mark confines himself to around three or four ideas per track, rather than Beck’s customary three or four dozen. (No slight intended to either artist, just an indication of their relative differences.) Things are smoothed out even further by a few acres of mellow Fender Rhodes and contributes from legendary session percussionist Jim Keltner.

"Push The Button" is still a satisfyingly long way from normal, though: Money Mark swings wildly from a homage to Elvis Costello in his "Armed Forces"/"Get Happy!!" period ("Tomorrow Will Be Like Today") to 21st century Sinatra crooning ("All The People"), stopping off at Indian music ("Dha Teen Ta") and hilarious hip-hop/jungle parody ("Powerhouse") along the way. If Beck is your bag then I reckon you’d enjoy Money Mark’s chilled-out version just as much, and if you enjoyed the singles "Hand In Your Head" and "Maybe I’m Dead" rest assured that the other 16 tracks are just as fine. And if you’re a Beasties fan...well, you’ve probably bought this already.

MONEY MARK Change Is Coming (Emperor Norton)

The third album by Money Mark (a.k.a. Mark Ramos Nishita, erstwhile carpenter and Beastie Boys keyboardist) is, according to the cover sticker, "a brand new bag of instrumental mayhem to put the fun(k) back into your record collection". According to my ears, however, "Change Is Coming" is a dozen surprisingly flavourless instrumentals that are desperate to convince the listener that there's still some mileage in merging samba with 70s cop show soundtracks. The excellence of Money Mark's last outing, "Push The Button", which mixed Beck weirdness with straight pop, absurdist humour and uncannily accurate Elvis Costello impersonations, only makes "Change Is Coming" look even less nourishing.

If anything's worth salvaging from this uninspiring pudding it would be the mournful cabaret Hammond of "Love Undisputed". And Sean Lennon and Los Lobos appear on some tracks, if that interests you. But otherwise, stay away, until Nishita can be bothered to knock together a 'proper' follow-up to "Push The Button" that will hopefully be more deserving of your, uh, money.