Puerto Rico Flowers’ “7 LP” chronicles a psychological journey of unforgotten grudges and fevered disdain. This labor of love, or perhaps of angst, was constructed by musician and singer John Sharkey III. Sharkey was formerly a member of Clockcleaner, a punky band that had the gumption to decry Nirvana and the confidence to forge a path for the seemingly un-marketable “skull music,” the purposeful, calculated acoustic equivalent of being hit over the head with a hammer.
His solo efforts run the gamut of emotions, and embrace several different strands of rock and electronic beats. Sometimes the lyrics and the accompaniments express an unadulterated primal anger, as in “The Pain Comes Slowly,” and sometimes they feature frigid refrains like “Why am I freezing?” in the track “Freezing Tears.”
Sharkey’s at his best when he’s letting his disaffected vocals reinterpret the voluptuous rock beats with which he surrounds himself. The track “Keep Me Around” is a strange fusion of strong rock rhythm and moaning neo-metal undertones. The ironically distant vocals and the relentless drums lend this song a harsh grittiness.
Sharkey uses some tracks to showcase the sounds of Clockcleaner’s post-punk “noise rock” past. The hung-over “After the Weekend” is dominated by gloomy buzzing tones. The sounds of a sad electric piano create a sedated post-weekend effect. The sighing lyrics are secondary, in keeping with the noise rock tradition. At first, the synthesized cross between a bee and an airplane crafts an interesting texture. Soon, however, the noise stops being hypnotic, and instead feels too grating to sustain an entire track. This tendency to overdo the unsubtle permeates the entire album.
Puerto Rico Flowers slithers through genres, sometimes arriving in the eerie land of gothic rock. This influence is particularly apparent in the track “I Feel Good,” in which minor tones are coupled with lyrics that wax poetic of death and violence. Here, Puerto Rico Flower’s biggest fault may be its utter sincerity. Sharkey may possess a smirking detachment from the world, but he lacks any apparent sense of irony about his music. This track becomes weighed down by its own sense of seriousness.