Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Pugwash - Play This Intimately (as if among friends)

A truly great rock and roll record is supposed to have a bit of violence associated with it. After all, it's built into the name of the genre. We talk about people's worlds being "rocked" when they are turned upside down by turmoil and tumult. Successful records are declared to be "hits" and "smashes!" "Let's rock and roll" has become synonymous with engaging in any sort of decisive action, from starting a long road trip to starting a long war. Even the sexual connotations associated with rock and roll are more violent than not. Rock and roll sex isn't gentle lovemaking, its two, at least, frenzied people trying to screw each others brains out.

However, this music is also about breaking the rules and not giving a damn about what is "supposed" to be. Good thing too, because its how we wind up with records like Play This Intimately (as if among freinds), Pugwash's intricate and subtle triumph.

This isn't to say that the record is devoid of energy. "Kicking and Screaming" starts the album off in glorious pop/rock fashion. It's all chiming guitars and all pop hooks all the time. "Hung Myself Out To Dry" is a bouncy and jaunty slice of pop magic of a vein well mined before in the Pugwash catalog, but welcome all the same. Nobody on earth does this sort of thing better than Thomas Walsh and company. "You Could Always Cry" effects a pop/country/folk vibe complete with chugging train harmonica. When you listen to it you hope someone is back there playing their washboard.

As good as the quicker songs are it is the slower material that pushes the album to its greatest heights. "Lucky in Every Way" offers a lush and tuneful soundscape that floats on your ears like a cool breeze on a summer's day.... or something like that. I swear whenever I hear it I just want to open a couple bottles of wine and sink into bliss. "Oh Happy Days" sounds like it was pulled off the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society sessions, which is probably why Pugwash got Ray Davies to help with the backing vocals on the track. It is damn near perfect.

"All The Way From Love" is a Roy Orbison's style crooner positively dripping with style and substance. The album ending track, "We Are Everywhere," takes the moody mellotron vibe of "Blue Jay Way" and tweaks it into something even more substantial. When it ends, announced by the boom of a last bass drum, you know you've been on one hell of a trip with your good friends in Pugwash.

So go ahead. Rock and roll.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Let's Go Pop! - September 2015

After a long hiatus a new episode of my podcast has dropped. Better late than never? Maybe? Well.... let's go with that for the moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Power Pop Terrorizes Nation's College Students

Norfolk, VA

Four members of the Old Dominion University student body were publicly executed and their corpses summarily expelled from the school when it was discovered the students had callously and deliberately played the song “Stacy’s Mom” at a Opening Week Bar-B-Que. The song, written and performed by the terrorist front group Fountains of Wayne, features lewd and indecent lyrics which insist that “Stacy’s mom has got it going on” and depicts the treasured societal icon is a state of undress (“with just a towel on”.)

While the quick and decisive action by the university, which has a solid reputation for graduating only virgins, was applauded by most, some worried there had been undue haste shown. “It all happened so fast we never even had the chance to publicly flog these vile perpetrators!” lamented Sheri Abercrombisen of the student led organization, Aggrieved Sisterhood of Solidarity (or A.S.S.).  A.S.S., best known for their campaign to place trigger warnings on campus for the Sun (“It is so bright and cheerful all the time. Doesn’t it know some of us are really hurting?”) complained other dangerous conduct was going on right under the noses of authorities. “I know for a fact,” said Abercrombisen at a hastily convened news conference attended by 317 journalists, “that another party was playing a Rock Hit’s of the 70’s compilation which included a vile song which depicts a mother having sexual relations on a living room floor, all the while the song repeats that “we’re all all right” when we very clearly are not all all right.”

Ms. Abercrombisen subsequently had to be sedated and placed under a doctor’s care.

At press time Robin Zander was unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I'm Alive!!!!!

Now, you wouldn't know it to look at this site, but I am, in fact, still among the living. To prove it I today updated the radio station entirely. Yes, that means every track was removed and a new lineup uploaded. Yes, it did take a long time, but it was totally worth it. I've been listening to it all afternoon and it has been kicking serious buttocks!

As for the quiet around here, well, there was a bunch of real world stuff taking a serious bite out of my time. I also recently submitted a music related book proposal to a publisher. If that comes through I'll tell you all about it. (It isn't power pop related, but it is totally cool.)

Hopefully, there will be a bit of a lull that will allow me to be more engaged around here. I'll attempt to reinforce that by putting out something with a bit of substance soon.

Promise. Cross my heart and hope to listen to nothing but boy bands for a year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December III Episode Of Let's Go Pop!

This time I let the chaotic forces of the universe guide me. (Ok, ok, I let the "shuffle" feature on WinAmp guide me. Are you satisfied?)

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Episode: Let's Go Pop!

It's the December II episode where I look, quickly, at the wide world of Australian power pop.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Let's Go Pop! November III 2014

It's another new podcast. Who knows, this may become a bad habit.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Pure Pop Pub Podcast: Let's Go Pop!

Well, as I promised (threatened?) I've gone ahead and made a little power pop podcast. I actually had a lot of fun putting this together. It is bare bones and I'm new to producing such things, but it is a start. I hope I will get more proficient as I keep making these.

So, to that end, help me out by listening and letting me know what you like or dislike about the show.

Let's Go Pop! - November 2014


A couple screw ups.

1) The song I used as an intro is "Step Back, Let's Go Pop" by The Figgs from their Low-Fi at Society High album.

2) Linus of Hollywood's new album in entitled Something Good, not Something New.

3) The second track off of IPO Vol. 17 was "I Before E" by Spinning Jennies.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Nine X Blue - Matter Of Time

Have you ever taken a new trip down memory lane? That would be oxymoronic you say? I beg to differ, and in the new EP from Atlanta roots tinged power poppers Nine X Blue I have a pretty good example of the experience.

If you are of a certain age it is damn near impossible to listen to Matter Of Time without travelling back to the early 1990's when these sorts of sounds were everywhere. "Falling After You" kicks things off in a decidedly Gin Blossomy fashion and in a disarmingly kick ass fashion. It is also a wonderfully recorded song. Just crank it up in the car with the windows rolled down this summer and you will believe you are twenty years younger, (right until the moment another damn text hits your phone and rudely brings you back to the present....or is that just me?)

"Sometime" is a gentle number with a Toad The Wet Sprocket feel, especially in the verses. The chorus is all Nine X Blue, however, and catchy as all get out. The title track, co-written with the wonderful Cliff Hillis, might not grab you on first listen but give it a few plays. It has a way of growing in stature at the same time it is burrowing into your brain.

That is fitting as the entire EP has a way of doing that very thing. By the time the terrific finale of "Only Lonely (The Shovel Song)" ends you will be cursing the fact this effort is only six songs long. Then again maybe that's okay. After all, my wife might not appreciate my travelling back to the 90's without her.

Grade: A-

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: Greg Pope - Pop Motion Animation

Truth be told, I'm a goddamn cultist at heart. I'll gladly argue about arcane pieces of music history all night long, if I could only find someone local who knows what the hell I'm talking about. I would also happily contribute to the building of a modern pantheon of power pop demi-gods as long as there is a spot reserved for Greg Pope. The former front-man/song-writer for Edmund's Crown is quietly (and loudly) putting together a resume of pop music that can stand proudly among the best of the last twenty years.

You can add the splendid (and pithy) Pop Motion Animation to the ranks of first rate Pope releases. Pope certainly knows what he's doing in these solo albums. There is a surety and a confidence that carries each song to exactly where it needs to go resulting in another rewarding listening experience.

The album begins with a terrific one-two punch with the sparkling "Partner In Crime," another in a string of Pope lyrics looking at the dynamics of friendship, and the marvelously tuneful "More Like You," a perfectly realized jewel of a song.

"The Mattress" is a driving piece of southern tinged rock and a top-notch example of the genre. "Don't Wait" and "The Hope Of Escape" are both lovely acoustic ballads, the former being a hell of a nice sing-along as well. "The Yeti" is a tone perfect bit of 1970's AM radio melodrama shlock, made all the more effective by Pope's dead straight performance. Even a hint of a knowing wink would have totally ruined the whole thing, but Pope is far too assured to allow that to happen.

Indeed, Pope's sense of himself is directly expressed in what feels like, to me at least, the heart of the record: "Rebel Inside," nicely encapsulates the position any part-time power popper must confront in a full-time world that doesn't know or appreciate what may lie below. When Pope sings "I'm just another worker bee, well isn't that nice? But what you probably can't see is I'm making a fist that wants to punch through the box you're putting me in!" it's damn hard not to make that fist yourself. That to me is the sign of an artist that is doing it right. We are invited along and given the inside scoop, so much so that we cannot help but to identify with the artist.

I'm not sure exactly how he does it. I'm just glad he does.

Grade: A-

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: A Man Called Destruction by Holly George-Warren

This review must begin with an admission. I am not a member of the Church of Chilton.

Well, my power pop cred has just been blown to hell... but let me explain. It isn't that I don't dig Big Star. I do. It's just that in my view there are two, and only two, Big Star albums that are worth a damn, #1 Record, and Radio City. The dreariness that is Sister Lovers ( or 3rd or whatever the hell you want to call it) never, ever did a thing for me, nor did the majority of Alex Chilton's subsequent solo work or odd things like Panther Burns. In the end I simply was not impressed by the air of curmudgeonly pop/rock Svengali that swirled around the persona of Chilton during the 80's and 90's, iconic Replacements song notwithstanding.

That being said I approached this biography of Chilton (A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton from Box Tops to Big Star to Backdoor Man, by Holly George-Warren, Viking Penguin, 2014) with a certain amount of circumspection if not downright skepticism. Would the author approach her subject with the zeal of a true believer or would there be room for a critical eye? The answer to that question would determine if the book would be a worthwhile read for a person like me or not. Authors of rock biographies have often been of the "enthusiast" variety, and if George-Warren fell into that category, well I would be in for a long uninformative ride.

Happily I can report that while this book is written by someone who obviously knew, liked and admired Chilton there is not even the hint of a trace of a sycophantic voice here. George-Warren also does a nice job of not over-selling or over-determining her topic. She provides a wealth of information and invites the reader to come up with their own conclusions as to why Chilton took the path he did. This is a particularly wise choice as even Chilton himself never seemed to be exactly sure when it came to his motivations. His mercurial nature, probably reinforced by his predilection for astrology, only meant wherever he was one day didn't necessarily have a bearing on where he would be the next.

The book does a fine job of covering the biographical necessities, providing a wealth of interviews and anecdotes to flesh out Chilton's early life and music career. George-Warren handles important but somewhat extraneous information well, such as the convoluted troubles with Ardent and Stax Records which ultimately doomed the initial Big Star releases to commercial failure, giving us enough context to understand what happened without drowning the narrative in waves of unnecessary detail.

There may be moments where there seems to be a bit of a hole in our understanding, but that seems to be the way Chilton wanted it. Seemingly he could be perverse for the sheer hell of it. It is a testament to the quality of this book as a biography that it doesn't degenerate into "one damn thing after another" even if the life Chilton lived invites us at times to adopt such a view. It is also a big part of why this book is so enjoyable, even for those of us who are not acolytes in the Church of Chilton.