Posts Tagged ‘power pop’

Bill Fox – Transit Byzantium

Some great news of a couple of essential reissues out of the Cleveland underground this month. Bill Fox’s name might have swum into your conciseness if power pop fringes ever cross your turntable, having mad some slight amount of acclaim leading The Mice along with his brother Tommy in the mid-80s. Much to his brother’s dismay, Bill left the band behind just as they began to garner acclaim. The band’s sound had the feeling predicting a pop-punk explosion that was to follow in the early ‘90s, but it seems that wasn’t the route Fox had in mind. Bill would keep out of the public eye for quite a few years, but around 1996 he assembled a backing band he called The Radio Flyers and began to focus on a string of solo records that took on a quieter calling, but found their own ardent following in the process. While The Mice’s garage pop was based on huge hooks and a focused snottiness that made them instantly likable, Bill’s solo recordings were more introspective, finding themselves drenched in a home-recorded hue of folk pop and Everlys ease.

There’s still hangover of the charms that Bill brought to The Mice evident in his first solo LP Shelter From The Smoke, but it trades volume for quietude, reclining nicely into an album that straddles its clear Dylan/ Van Ronk roots with the indie-pop and folk waves that were swimming to the fore around the time. As he gets comfortable and leans into his second LP, Transit Byzantium he’s found himself penning a ruffled, but resplendent gem of an album that lays into hooks with the unfussed air of Guided By Voices if they were recording Elliott Smith style lamentations. Under the tape-hiss humbleness Fox lays out his masterpiece on Transit, weaving an album of nasal folk sighs that chaffed against plenty of trends at the time. However, given time to breathe and re-root itself into consciousness, the album proves to be an evergreen record of homespun tales that rattle around the brain with a weathered charm. The reissue, along with an LP issue of its predecessor mark the first time the albums have been on vinyl, boasting a brand new remastering that lets the sound sink into the grooves and grow into the essential release its always been.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Toms – The 1979 Sessions

Anyone who’s been tumbling down the power pop staircase long enough eventually stumbles on the eponymous album from The Toms. Created by longtime studio vet, Thomas Marolda, the record is as solid as anything under the late ‘70s banner of the genre. Marolda was set to record The Smithereens when the band cancelled and instead he used the gap in his schedule to record the sessions that would wind up on his eponymous debut. Through it wasn’t just the tight tracklist that made the cut, he’d actually spent that lost weekend recording more than three albums worth of material. Some of this has made it onto various expanded CD versions over the years, but the material on The 1979 Sessions marks a round up of the remaining material from the weekend.

Marolda would go on to work behind the desk and in songwriting well into the present, and he’s picked The Toms moniker back up in recent years, but it’s impressive that even the third round cutting floor from the sessions in ’79 remain as packed with hooks as the songs included in this set. The set has landed over at Feel It Records who are finally pressing this lot to LP and giving it a good archival home. If you’ve never dug through The Toms’ original album, by all means start there, but if power pop oddities is your thing, there’s a bit more new blood from the band right here.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Supercrush

While it seems hard to start outrunning the year end lists already, there’s still plenty of year left to consider, so I’m gonna keep running through the ones that have gotten away from me up until now. I’m ever the sucker for a good power pop album and Supercrush deliver an LP steeped in the lessons of the ’90s sweater set as they tumbled into the early aughts. The record is soaked in the kind of heartsick pop that could rattle around your brain for the better part of a summer, yet still find the volume knob creeping up when it came on. The band’s gotta have some well-worn copies of Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet, Sloan, and Teenage Fanclub, but there’s a second-tier thrum from the era that comes through in a very good way. I mean that lovingly, as someone who would sift through old promos at jobs and radio stations of my past, finding mixtape fodder among the punch-holed copies of The Long Winters, By Divine Right, post-debut SuperDrag, and Ben Kweller. Sometimes it only takes that one song to hook yer heart, I guess.

Thankfully Supercrush has far more than just one that sinks the barbs into the flesh.The band avoids a lot of pitfalls of inconsistency that might have plagued their forerunners, and they pack the hooks tight against the fuzz on SODOpop. Songs trickle in on velvet pleas of understanding but just as often let the wall of amps fry away the melancholy buzz on a magenta plume of electric oblivion. They get out before their welcome could ever even be considered overstayed. At 36 minutes, this one leaves the listener wanting to the point of checking the player to see if it is indeed done. Sometimes that’s the best way, though — a whirlwind crush that’s a blur of color and heat that’s over before it ever began. Though this record feels like I’ve been there before, I’m not mad at the nostalgia rush one bit.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness – “Play (On My Mind)”

Scottish/Spanish duo The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness let out the first single from their upcoming sophomore LP. Despite the Feelies-nodding band name, the duo push much further into the sunshine soul of power pop here, dipping into the ‘90s earnestness of Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush, Sloan, and early Big Star or The Hot Dogs out of the Ardent camp. The band recorded this record apart, trading takes from their respective encampments in Edinburgh and San Sebastián. The song is dazzlingly bright but with a light afternoon haze that bends the colors in muted golds and yellows. Crackling drums propel the song, but its the swooning ‘90s guitars and full-sail vocal harmonies that really sell this one. The band’s new album Songs From Another Life is out February 5th from Bobo Integral.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

The Red Lights – S/T

It’s always nice to get a little more context on rock’s mythical figures. For some, The Gun Club looms large as a totem of punk that refused to fit the format and hew towards any set of agreed upon standards. Their 1980 debut is often seen as the match strike for Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s career, but the unearthing of these demos from The Red Lights give just a touch of context and background to his songwriting. Pierce was West Coast based at the time and writing for Slash Magazine — enamored with reggae and helming a Blondie fan club. With reggae’s looseness and power pop’s pulse he began writing songs and opening some gigs at The Whisky. The Arena, and The Rock Corporation. The five songs here are a far cry from the sweaty, possessed visions of The Gun Club, but Pierce’s persona still comes rippling through.

With an earnest approach that lets all the light of power pop into the picture and occasionally at white reggae bounce that would make even The Police blush, he sketches out the start of a career that would get much deeper and darker quite soon. The voice is undoubtedly the focus. It’s raw, but its Pierce finding his bearings and getting ready to rip a punk hole into blues for us all to enjoy. Lovely to have this archival EP out into the world. Probably one for the collector’s but any punk upstart would do well to see how a career gets going. Split pressing here between In The Red and Spacecase.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Daniel Romano – “A Rat Without A Tail”

You certainly have to hand it to Daniel Romano, the dude’s got a work ethic. After holing up during the pandemic with a band that was already slated to be on tour for the next few months, the man’s pumped out an astonishing string of albums over the half a year, producing a digital-only catalog that would cast a shadow over most band’s works instantaneously. This marks his 9th release of 2020 and it’s a proper distillation of his sound — rooted in the ‘70s road-worn sound that could hop from Midwest roadhouse to L.A. main stage with ease. The songwriter’s dashed through country corners and let the buttons draw tight on a sound that’s practiced but not so polished that it feels manufactured. The Outfit, as he’s want to call his band, keeps the stew bubbling to a simmer and it all comes to a head on “A Rat Without A Tail.”

Romano’s songwriting is dashed across the stars, with a touch of power pop threading through, but ragged enough that it feels like the songwriter’s still got the marks of crashing on a couch in his recent past. It’s clear that this album might be the launch point for an artist that’s already built up a heavy live reputation and with the last year, a fervent Bandcamp following as well. This is just the very hint of Romano’s prowess and I implore you to dig in further with abandon.





Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Home Blitz – “What We Wore”

Home Blitz has been bubbling sub-underground for years, perhaps sticking their necks out most notably on a pair of Mexican Summer releases in ’11/ ‘12 back when the label was throwing a few darts at the wall to see what stuck. The band has since stuck it out around the Richie / Gulcher axis and on their own, but they jump to Sophomore Lounge for an upcoming EP that starts out strong with the bright, infectious, though all too brief, “What We Wore.” The song is wrapped in an ‘80s power pop aura, but where it could have dug in and let the hook draw blood the band gets in and out like Tony Molina playing things loose on the East Coast. The band has never shied away from brevity, but this one knocks their tightness up a notch. Still, its a bright, buoyant slice of Home Blitz that’s hard to resist. All Through The Year is out August 7th from Sophomore Lounge, as I mentioned.





Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Jacuzzi Boys – “The Pits”

I will alway be a sucker for the outsized garage pop that Jacuzzi Boys have been crafting for over a decade. The band’s sound only gets bigger with time and, while they’ve been a bit silent since 2016’s Ping Pong they hit back today with a new single backed by Third Man. The song’s off an upcoming 7”, and in the drought of Jaczzi gems I’ll take whatever they’ve got to give (though one can hope for an album, right?) The song springs off of the power pop with grit formula that they’d brought to a head on the last album and its hard not to bump this one right up the ranks of some of their best. The song blares from the speakers with a summertime glee. Fuzz, hooks, a little bass jab that knocks the gearshift down at just the right time – what more are you looking for on a Friday afternoon?

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Kelley Stoltz

This one slipped out so silently I almost did’t catch it. News came out via Kelley’s seldom-used personal Bandcamp and it’s a crushingly scant run. Last year’s My Regime had quite a few nuggets of garage-psych goodness stashed away between the grooves, but this one comes along and swings the Stoltz agenda in a new direction with superb results. Apparently inspired by power pop with a heavy pub tab, a $75 dollar Japanese guitar, and the Jedediah Smith (Jeanines, My Teenage Stride) side-hustle curiosity Mick Trouble — this is not quite the usual fare from the always mercurial Stoltz. He’s never been less than a harbinger of hooks, but usually there’s a debt to Ray Davies-draped ‘60s pop or in the case of the Willie Weird saga, something skewing hard into the R. Stevie Moore cut-out bin. This time he’s lacquered it all down tight, laying out a record that doesn’t dip into his usual wells.

Here the focus is on the elastic snap of power pop that’s just slightly sanded off from the pure punk formula. Think Advertising, The Quick, The Phones, or The Undertones goofing with undeniable effect on Hypnotised. I can see where the Mick Trouble tie-in crops up. Though this is under his own name, it does feel like Stoltz is pulling a persona here. There’s a power chord crimped slacker swagger. Yet, like The Apples in Stereo before him, he can slide on a power-pop pullover but his songwriting can’t help but inject the form with a certain quirkiness that perfects the formula while breaking a few of its boundaries in delightful ways. Stoltz has long been a legend among those sifting the spit-upon ranks of deep cut, skewed pop fodder, but he hasn’t sounded this wholly energized and invigorated for a few records. Front to back this one is possessed with the ‘70s third-set swagger — crumpled like a crudely drawn flyer and stinking of stickered bar bathrooms with no lock. It doesn’t miss a beat and I’m having a hard time keeping it off the speakers.




Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments

Hypnolovewheel – “Parallel Universe”

Growing up through the ‘90s it seemed that those of us in more remote areas had to scrap a bit harder to find music outside of limited shelf space in the few stores that existed in the area and the FM dial. I’m still coming upon pockets of bands that seem like they should have had prominence that were just completely lost on the wider net of listeners. Long Island band Hypnolovewheel definitely falls in this category. The band suffers from the ‘90s phenomenon of “horrible cover art overshadows the music inside.”. There was plenty of this trend at the time, but maybe see their collection of covers for yourself. It’s too bad, though, because the band embraced a wide swath of sounds prevalent at the time and made them all work.

From their alt-jangled beginnings on Turn! Turn! Burn! that recall The Embarrassment, to the smudged shoegaze blare of Angel Food and their final stop at power pop swagger on Altered States, the band had an enviable aural trajectory but never seemed to grip too long. Even with a bit of push through ‘90s Marvel (Hypnolovewheel would feature in at least one Spiderman comic at the time) and with opening slots for plenty of large-scale NY headliners, they seemed pretty contained to the East Coast. There wasn’t a huge push behind them. Their first two albums appeared on Fabian Aural Products and they moved to Alias for the rest of their output, but would dissolve after Altered States in ’93. The band’s Dave Ramirez would play with King Missle for a bit while they were still active and following their demise he’d work with James McNew in Dump.

Aptly this collection from Cara Records really ties together their catalog, with selections across their spectrum of sound plus some exclusive demo cuts that haven’t appeared elsewhere. Its a good primer and tends to wrap up some of the band’s most interesting singles and cuts, but their whole catalog is worth perusing at length as they do have plenty of deep cuts that don’t appear here. This is a nice spotlight on a band that seemed to get lost in the cracks like so many swallowed by the ‘90s.



Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

0 Comments