While many would hasten to describe former White Lion axman Mike Tramp‘s solo project Cobblestone Street as drivel, prattling rubbish, or exhaustive fritter we here at StGA believe in best intentions and so will not relentlessly mock this minor ’80’s icon with clever tongue in cheek turns of phrase designed to inflict as much pain on the artist’s ego as he has on our eardrums. No, we are far above the cheap word play of describing the lyrics as ill planned verbal diarrhea and the music as an attractively priced sleep aid. Not us, because when life hands us lemons we don’t just sit around complaining, we look on the bright side and trade those lemons for cigarettes. We realize a great number of you, dear reader, are struggling musicians yourselves. So instead of breaking down this album fault for fault in some sort of masochistic litany of indulgences and self-gratifying hand holding we’ll exemplify how not to write an all around, no questions asked shitty record.
Step one: Know your audience.
Listening to Cobblestone Street it becomes clear Mike Tramp has no idea who he’s writing for. Another way to say that would be Mike Tramp spurns the consumer and writes for himself. Sure, it might be popular to say, “I don’t read the reviews.” but at the end of the day if there isn’t a point to the track, a unifying theme that is ultimately identifiable in some capacity, people aren’t going to be scratching their heads and tuning out because they don’t ‘get it.’ It is far more likely there was nothing to get in the first place. One popular format for relating to your audience is storytelling (think the Kinks‘ classic “Lola”) another is political commentary (see Dylan‘s “Hurricane”) still another could be genre exploitation (think NWA‘s “Straight Out of Compton”). What these three songs share, in addition to a pointed narrative, is a specific audience. While white suburban kids and straight laced vanilla sex listeners might have also enjoyed these tunes the songs themselves weren’t necessarily intended for that demographic, yet there was a market in mind all the same. The entirety of Cobblestone Street is nothing more than a boring reflection on the boring life of Mike Tramp, and thus will not find much of a following outside friends and family members.
Step two: Accompaniment shouldn’t be a burden or an unavoidable vehicle for lyrical showboating.
Too often these days, and on Cobblestone Street, musicians confuse themselves for poets. Yes, we understand you have the basic grasp of pentameter and rhyme scheme, however you aren’t Springsteen and your grade school like compositions probably aren’t enough to carry an entire track. That’s the beautiful thing about pop music though, you don’t have to be profound as long as the music makes people want to dance, or screw, or throw a brick through the local cop shop. Empires have been founded off of three chords, but its likely you aren’t the right architect for such matters. If the music isn’t entertaining without lyrics, odds are it wont be entertaining with lyrics. There is a wealth of musical schemes out there, everything from call and response, hooks, breakdowns, swelling crescendo, false starts, time signature changes, false stops, etc. etc. etc. to choose from, so don’t be surprised when the mid tempo three chord standard strum pattern relied on throughout the entirety of your work fails to register with the Billboard Top 40.
Step three: No one cares about your broken heart -or- make the personal universal.
Its a revelation to most people that laws don’t keep us safe. You don’t have to worry about assault, murder or theft throughout 99.99 percent of your life not because of the protection of the law, but because people generally have the smallest modicum of respect for you as a human being. Mike tramp doesn’t display this respect in his lyrics, and its precisely why no one will listen to this album in any critical capacity. That’s not to say Mike Tramp wants to assault or murder you, but he will steal from you. It is your time he wants and Cobblestone Street offers no reimbursement. Don’t make this mistake! While that break-up or betrayal may spell out apocalypse to you, your neighbor can only offer his sympathy, and that will be quickly exhausted if the details aren’t juicy enough. Writing songs from the first person p.o.v. is the bread and butter of the amateur lot and it offers no reciprocation to the listener, rather it says point blank: “Listen to my problems because yours trials aren’t important.” Well, Mr. Tramp (Great stage name choice b.t.dubs,) for your next project I would consider keeping the angles you’ve attempted on tracks like “New Day,” “Revolution,” or “Once,” while adding a bit more of an open mind. The little people out here, like me and your audience have had our hearts broken, we’ve been trampled and degraded and treated with less dignity than we deserve, so why not try to relate to us on these points instead of just callously delivering your own life story as psuedo-tragedy?
Step four: Let Beethoven rest in peace.
An orchestra doesn’t make a mediocre song sound like anything but a mediocre song with orchestral accompaniment. ‘Nuff said “When the Children Cry.”
All in all, this is a horrible album. From conception to execution to finished project Cobblestone Street, begs to be forgotten as pointless, soulless decoration. You’ve sold a lot of records Mr. Tramp, you’ve gone platinum so I know you know a thing or two about the music industry and song writing. So c’mon, just suck it up and try. You’re hungry days have long been over, but you can do better. And if you can’t, why don’t you just stop making music and let us remember you as that fun sex, drugs, and rock n roll ’80’s persona somebody used to love? As Neil Young said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away.”