Friday, 30 September 2016
Tuns are a supergroup, a supergroup once of the Halifax underground scene, Most followers here will be most familiar with Sloan's Chris Murphy. He's joined by Inbreds' Mike O'Neill and Matt Murphy from Super Friendz. So what you'd expect is some early 90's College Radio sounds. Not a bit of it. This is great Power Pop.
Throw It All Away has far more in common with Mitch Easter Produced Power Pop from a decade earlier and there are plenty of hints of late 70's New Wave and even Merseybeat. I Can't Wait Forever is a real weepy, nothing like the individual stuff the trio are individually known for. Mind Over Matter, hand claps and all, is so 10CC like that you expect to see Graham Gouldman's face grinning at you.
Look Who's Back is 70's Glam with some great harmonies. To Your Satisfaction is a strum in Teenage Fanclub territory. Mixed Messages starts with a Mod Pop bass line and veers towards Psych Pop. Back Among Friends is bass line driven in the best traditions of 60's UK Beat with a belting Jangly solo. Lonely Life is pure Andrew Gold.
It's a short 27 minute album, but we've been through the benefits of this before, all killer no filler. Imagine if Pilot were on IRS and you'll understand how great this album is.
You can listen to the album here and you can buy it here. You should.
This is a heads up, more than a review. John Howard's new album isn't out until early November and there will be a much fuller piece nearer the time. The album is wonderful.
It was Nick Fletcher who reminded me about John and I'm so glad he did. His 1975 album, Kid In A Big World stands up with any of time and is just as credible now. Elton John had nothing on this guy.
The Cherry Red release of As I Was Saying in 2006, reminded us all of what a talent he is. Taking It All To Heart from that album is just one example of that.
More recently, the quality control hasn't lessened. Last Year's band album, John Howard And The Night Mail is a corker. The new album is a solo affair. Across The Sill is almost Prog like in it's depth. It reminds me of Al Stewart or Roy Harper.
That voice is as sweet as ever. A master at work. So whilst you wait for my full review, here's a reminder of the joys of John Howard's I Got My Lady.
Stevenson Square in Manchester was an area I knew well in the late 80's and Early 90's, mainly because I got the bus home from there. Part of the Northern Quarter, it lost most of it's Textile Industry and became a dead space.
Politburo based their studio there and developed quite an underground scene for all sorts of art. The band themselves have been around for a while. It's largely been Nick Alexander and Dom James with other musicians joining and leaving the fold.
The band developed from an angry kind of punk into an amazing Psychedelic Folk sound and their second album reinforces that. Barrington Way won't be for everyone, but the likes of Mick Dillingham and I have been preaching the benefits of Psychedelia for so long now, it may have sunk in with a few.
It's not the easiest listen to newcomers, but trust me, you will get hooked and when you do, it won't let go. Politburo are one of the best around on the scene. Psych Rock branches into folk and even at times it could be the Bonzos.
Umm, Rhombus kicks in like The Strokes but soon becomes a great Psych Pop listen. French Singer Songwriter, Chloe Sancho adds her sweet tones to the folky acoustic C'est Moi. Breeze is Psych at it's spooky best. The gem though is the title track. A sprawling 7 minute Psychedelic Rock joy, almost two songs in one.
This is a storming album, If you are a Psych fan. you'll adore it. If not, the album is available as a pay what you want, so what have you got to lose?
You can listen and buy here.
Thursday, 29 September 2016
Austin Texas's Tele Novella's debut album is something that should be played on a Dansette. It almost sounds like a soundtrack to an Art Film, the type you watch avidly although very little is going on. Yes, this album is wonderfully moody and all the better for it.
There are some predictable comparisons, Camera Obscura, Belle And Sebastian etc, none are particularly apt. Lyrically adept, the album comes across as something created in the presence of Andy Warhol, at the times the plinkity plonk instrumentation can be very 60's, a path so few take.
There's even hints of Surf, particularly on Even Steven and even Psych Pop. The Snake That Swallowed The Elephant has a vibe similar to Space's Female Of The Species. Natalie Ribbons's Lead Vocals vary at times, but are refreshingly clear. She can be Dusty Springfield or Sandie Shaw, yet just as easily do Julie Driscoll.
The gem on the album is completely out of kilter with the rest of the album, you could imagine Morrissey singing Heavy Balloon, a fantastic pop song.
This is a surprisingly accomplished debut, a great listen. For those who don't want to listen to three chords all day, it's an intelligent splendid listen.
You can find out more about the band and order the album here.
Bad Company on I Don't Hear A Single? Not very hip is it? Well, I had to review this for elsewhere and I thought I'd add a briefer version here. I love Bad Company. Why Wouldn't I? I was a big Free and Mott The Hoople fan, so I was halfway there.
Straight Shooter remains one of my favourite albums over forty years on. A perfect example of Blues Rock that Joe Bonamassa has tried to base most of his career on. It was a four albums love, once Rodgers had gone, it wasn't Bad Company. I also don't like the reinvention of Bad Company more recently, it's not the same and Paul Rodgers has become a bit of a parody with his one for the ladiezzzzzzzzzzz act.
But here the band are superb, they are promoting their third and fourth albums, both not their strongest, but live they were ace, The sound is great and you can get this double disc for around a tenner which is a worthwhile investment for all. 1977 is the better show, simply because the Desolation Angels album was a bit dull.
Sadly no Deal With The Preacher or Wild Fire Woman, but there's plenty here to play air guitar to and the Rodgers pipes are in fine working order.
I've long been a fan of Kool Kat Musik. Ray has long been a supporter of the kind of Pop that we know and love through his online store and his Kool Kat label is just pure class. In our world, he's probably the most important person left since the end of Not Lame.
That Kool Kat label has promoted forgotten gems from the likes of True Hearts, The Genuine Fakes, John Wicks, Andy Reed, Cloud Eleven and the magnificent, The Idle Wilds. He also released Somerdale's debut album and you know how highly I rate their latest, Shake It Maggie.
So I'm delighted to be reviewing a Kool Kat release from a band close to where I live in the world. Rob Clarke And The Wooltones are from Woolton (Get It?), a suburb of Liverpool.
Mind The Gap, Henry Beck is a a classic slice of Psych Pop, but that's not only what the band is about. There are hints of loads of different influences contained here. Certainly Merseybeat, definitely the later 60's UK Beat, but I hear The Plimsouls, The Byrds, even the wit of Brit Pop's The Bluetones and The Supernaturals.
Butter is another Psych Pop gem, you can imagine Austin Powers grooving to Monkey Mind. Iron Eyes Cody has a great lazy vocal to an early The Who style beat.
Colours (Of The Sun) has an hypnotic riff with a CSN like vocal. Pancake Cupcake is pure Merseybeat. Peas is really bluesy and Mystic Room has a Bo Diddley beat. Our Business has a real glam guitar feel, almost Spirit In The Sky. Are You Wooltoned? has plenty of jangle.
It is the Psych Pop that appeals most and this is ably demonstrated by Ambrosine which is very Orgone Box in it's feel.
It's brilliant to note that the spirit of Scouse Pop isn't dead and this compilation is certainly one of the better releases that I've heard this year.
Kool Kat's CD Release has a 7 Track bonus disc that is equally as excellent. This includes covers of Stepping Stone and Pushing Too Hard. You can order the CD and discover more of the Kool Kat delights here.
You can find out more about Rob Clarke And The Wooltones and listen to the whole album here.
An album I'm really enjoying at the moment is Butch Young's Mercury Man. I have it for review. However, my colleague Mick Dillingham has published an interview with Butch on his Art Into Dust Blog that includes a track rundown from Butch and it's a great read.
Much more in-depth than I had planned and I'd recommend both the album and the review to all. You can find it here.
Apologies for the delay in getting reviews up, a mixture of real life stuff and suffering from a particularly bad bug. Lots of Reviews to come from tomorrow onwards.
Monday, 26 September 2016
Icarus Peel is a busy boy. He's the leader of West Country Psych wonders, The Honey Pot, a band where Peel's exceptional guitar skills come tho the fore in beat driven 60's Psych. He also writes and performs with Crystal Jacqueline, a more Renaissance like affair.
His solo work is largely very anglophile storytelling. the exception being his rustic rock album, The Sunflower Army. This is his fourth album and it's a concept album and the world is certainly ready for more concept albums.
The album is very much in the territory of quintessential albums by the likes of Todd Dillingham, Syd Barrett and Martin Newell. Great storytelling. The story here is one of Good Vs Evil and a chance to surround great Psych Pop with Rock and Folk. Some great songwriting and more importantly, real wit. This is demonstrated to full effect in the opener, Forget-Me-Not
The album is released on John Blaney's superb Mega Dodo label.I rate this as high as I do, Sugarbush. Mega Dodo is releasing some superb Psych lately, a real competitor for Fruits de Mer. The label is a real resting place for the unusual and should be heard.
Forget-Me-Not Under Pussy Willow is a perfect example of this. It's to be listened as a whole, across all 13 songs. Each is different and adds something to the whole. The CD adds the magnificent, Auntie Powders Her Nose as a Bonus Track.
The album is also available on 180g Vinyl and as part of a very limited 4 CD Box Set with remastered versions of the three previous Icarus Peel albums, Tea At My Gaffe, Sunflower Army and Sing!!.
You should investigate Icarus Peel more, an eccentric talent, talent being the operative word. You can find further details on the album here.
Saturday, 24 September 2016
A Blog that celebrates the new and seemingly majors on Power Pop celebrating the "unknown" Randy Newman. Whatever Next?
To these ears, the man is a genius songwriter, under celebrated when people deem to compile their lists. Many will know his songs, but not know that they were written by him. Mama Told Me Not To Come anyone?
The format of these Songbooks is that Newman plays his songs, just him and a piano and to be honest, that's the format I prefer the great man in. You tend to listen to the lyrics more without all that accompanying noise and it allows you to marvel at the way with words he has. Humour, bite and utterly memorable.
Over these 16 songs there's a mixture of the relatively known, Short People, Simon And The Dancing Bear etc and lesser noted songs. Over his body of work, soundtrack stuff and songs covered by others, the observational skills shout out.
If there is a finer singer songwriter out there over the past five decades, I can't think of them. I'd love to plump for the four LP Vinyl Box Set, but I'm having trouble convincing the Queen Of Burtonwood that this is vital when I have the CDs.
I live in hope.
You can and should buy the album to hear a genius at work. You can buy the album on Amazon and much as I'd like to direct people to some emporium more independent, you can get the CD and download for £9.99 there.
The Vinyl Box Set can be found at Nonesuch Records site here.
David Brookings is seven albums in with his latest album, this is the first with The Average Lookings after six excellent solo albums and it's Power Pop in the style we all love to love. Badfinger and in particular, The Monkees spring to mind. Catchy Tunes of the highest order.
Eleven great pop songs are here, but there's more to them than just trying to please those in the know. The guitar is largely jangly, but the solos are varied and incredibly good, note the weeping end to Don't Stop To Doubt Yourself or the countryish twang on This Is The Life.
Summer Pop pleases the majority of us here and there's a mass of it on offer here, but this shouldn't detract from the writing skill and David can certainly write a chorus. The Basement Room will have you singing along loudly.
The Jangle delight of Place We Can Go is at complete odds with the acoustic moody orchestrated Come Back Home. Time To Go is more traditional Power Pop with a great hook. There's even time for a jaunt into Country Territory with the excellent I'm In Love With Your Wife.
If things don't feel up to kilter, this album will chirp you up and make you realise that things ain't so bad. It's Power Pop of the highest quality and a great addition to the shelves marked "Great Pop"
You can find the details on how to buy the album here. Before you buy, you can listen to all 11 songs here.
Friday, 23 September 2016
The excellent You Are The Cosmos is a label specialising in vinyl releases. Based in Spain, it's bringing Power Pop to the masses as you can see here. Coming up amonst these releases is a smashing little album from Los Angeles's Diamond Hands.
Jon Flynn and Joel Wall are Diamond Hands and they perform a brand of sugary pop that always goes down well in these circles. Jingle Jangle with great harmonies, it has all the melodic hooks you need and shows Power Pop is still beloved of the young.
A really good pop album and a big round of applause for Pedro Vizcaino's continued celebration of great Power Pop.
It's largely true that wherever I go Power Pop seems to follow me. I don't mean it to, Power Pop is not the major part of my collection at ASH Towers, it's just that you get noted for it and if there was great music coming from different avenues at the moment, I'd review it, but there isn't. Guitar in mainstream music seems a dirty word at present.
I assure you all that I'm not trying to show how incredibly versatile my taste is that I decide to review a Jazz CD. I review it because it's great. Let's get it straight, I am not particularly a Jazz fan. Far from it. Too much Jazz is free form noodling paint stripping boredom. I like structure. I do however like some Piano Jazz, in fact I love Piano.
I suppose most people think of Piano as Jools Hollands' boogie woogie tedium, this album is proper Piano. Horvath has assembled a Jazz master class with support from the likes of Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Ray Obeido and many more.
The playing reminds me so much of Herbie Hancock, funky, melodic, rhythmic and just enough notes, never too many. Jazz Funk is an over used word, but this is proper laid back Jazz Funk. Ten instumentals of the highest quality.
You can find out more about Peter here. An ideal opportunity to widen your musical tastes.
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
There is a theme developing in the last quarter of the year. Following on from Nick Piunti's superb Trust Your Instincts, Greg Pope follows up by releasing the best album of his career. We all know that he is a Power Pop God, but Guiding Star reaches out far further than anything that's gone before. The familiar hooks are there, but there is far more variation than you may expect, this is an absolute belter of an album.
Sun Is Gonna Rise is riff after riff to one of his most melodic songs ever, Pretend It's Alright is in classic 70's Singer Songwriter mode, far more laid back than you may expect with a great chorus, driven by a great bass line. I Think Not is Jangle Heaven and what about this for a song, the wonderfully lazy, Four Leave Clover? Great 70's style pop.
If You Want Answers is an acoustic stomper, almost Folk Rock with a Glam Guitar Hook. If You Want To Go varies again, with it's 60's pop heartbeat, a joy of a song. Flaming Arrows, begins with a whistle, yes a whistle and transcends into psych pop. Oppressive Invisible Something is so Beatles time McCartney.
I'd recommend any Greg Pope album, but the beauty of Guiding Star is the variety. Greg Pope could put out any Power Pop album and it'd be ace, but he's opened many boxes here. In doing this, he's shown that he doesn't deserve to be just lumped in with verse verse chorus verse solo chorus. It is one of the great pop albums of this year and any year. The album closer, Eggshells is glammy wonder and a fine end to a fantastic album. I know quite a few people like the subject matter.
As a side issue, there is a running joke on Facebook, where our aging Lurcher, Crash, displays albums to show what a Power Pop Expert he is. Only Nick Piunti and Greg Pope have been "blessed" in the photos so far. I suspect that this album and the vinyl release of Nick Piunti's Beyond The Static will be battling for his next masterpiece. He may settle on both.
You can and should buy this album here. I could have put any of the songs up here, but you can listen to them all before you buy. The CD is available for 10 dollars and that can be ordered here.
I've been blabbing on about European Power Pop and how it largely gets ignored. Well today we have an example of a corking Austrian Band. The Boys You Know's third album is an absolute belter. It's like a noisier Teenage Fanclub.
The opener has a glam Pilot type riff all over it, really jangly, Never Home is a great start. Have a listen to Teenager Of The Year, how TFC is this?
Elephants has a wonderful lazy drawl of a vocal with great brass accompaniment, Rainy Days has a fake vinyl needle drop intro and is laid back and jazzy. Garden is almost Lou Reed in it's vibe and The Change has another glam like lead leading into more jangle. I Should Have is Jonathan Wilson like. There's a great guitar solo on Morals.
There's so much great stuff coming out from those we know at the moment, that there is a danger of not looking deeper at what's emerging. Elephant Terrible is a smashing little album. It's hooked me into finding their first two releases.
For those who like their Indie Pop a bit more moody, this will be a great addition to your collection.
You can buy the album from Amazon and it's well worth a punt.
I suspect those in the know probably own most of the songs on this compilation and so it's largely for those who need directing. There;s enough here to please those who think the band was all about '74 - '75, that's the only song a lot of the European general public will know or remember.
It's also going to confuse people looking for the band's development that the track order isn't chronological, but that's a minor quibble as the track listing shows the band's variation. There's something from every album up to Still Life, with the exception of the debut album, Darker Days.
If you didn't know the band, these 16 songs would stand up as a testament to what a great band they are. They wrongly get labelled in the UK as Country Pop with the likes of The Jayhawks. Lest we forget, they were College Radio Favourites and their second album, Boylan Heights, produced by Mitch Easter, is a masterclass in Indie Jangle Pop. You get Scotty's Lament and Over There from that album.
Throughout the 12 years, that sweet voice of Doug MacMillan and the songwriting quality of Mike Connell shines through. Fun And Games is REM or even Morrissey like. Yet, Lay Me Down is so different, that riff is a killer.
Ring was the breakthrough album over here, so it's understandable that there are four songs. '74 - '75 is obviously here, but compare that to the rock out of Carry My Picture or Slackjawed, which has more in common with Brit Pop. Both are from the same album.
The band's 8 album career deserves further investigation by all and this is a great start for the beginner. Fans will argue about what isn't included as we always do, but as a stand alone offering, there's not much wrong here. It shows their versatility and is a great listen start to finish.
The band have also been playing a few dates, so there's hope maybe of a tour extension and ideally, a new album.
What also gets forgotten is what a fantastic Live band they are. As good as anyone on their day, certainly one of the better gigs that I attended and attested by the FM Discs that circulate, I do hope they return. I suppose it makes sense to leave the final You Tube clip to show this and it might as well be '74 - '75. This is a cracking compilation and it's to be hoped that it drags many new fans in.
The past few months have been a mixture of established artists coming forward with their best albums yet, great comebacks and real surprises. The Tyde fall into the middle category and thank goodness they are back.
Darren Rademaker's The Tyde are back with Album Number 4 after ten long years and it's as though they've never been away. You know what you are gonna get and thank goodness you get it. That Los Angeles mix of late 60's Laurel Canyon and early 90's UK Indie is a delight. Darren, you have been missed!
That Lloyd Cole like voice drawls through 28 minutes of excellence. The supporting cast is wonderful, including brother, Brent, from Beachwood Sparks and Neal Casal. The real surprise though is the inclusion of Bernard Butler on the stand out, The Curse In Reverse.
I think many people know how highly I rate Bernard Butler as a guitarist and in particular his People Move On album. The duet works beautifully and Butler provides some blistering guitar. Wonderful!
Away from this, Rainbow Boogie, is a romping jaunty number that catches you completely with a Marc Bolan like vocal. Situations is an aching weepie and pedal steel of It's Not Gossip If It's True. The centrepiece though is the epic, The Rights. A sprawling panoramic 8 minutes that is very different from the shorter songs that surround it.
Very few people can make an album like this, even less get it so spot on. The last couple of months have been notable for some fantastic albums. This is yet another.
You can listen to and then buy the album here. It is also available as a limited vinyl release.
Monday, 19 September 2016
After getting all moody with Damien Binder's album, Ed Ryan is a return to more familiar ground. Ed was the leader of late 70's CBGB's band, The Rudies. He was even managed by Hilly Kristal, heaven help him, in the late 80's as part of Jupiter Jets. None of those Power Pop chops have gone astray with the Power Pop excellence that is Roadmap.
The album drifts between Late 70's UK and US New Wave. It could be The Records, it could be The Knack depending on which song is up next. The opener, Everything's Gonna Be Alright starts off with a Huw Gower like riff and with the odd exception, the album just doesn't let go. The Bluesy start to Heartbreak In Disguise soon turns into a sing along Power Pop chorus.
Bridges are Burning could be Pilot or Jigsaw and has a delightful Harmonica accompaniment and a great solo. Rising Sun has such a Knack riff, it's untrue.
Clementine's Lead Guitar reminds me so much of prime time Mick Ronson. Darker Side is much more mellow, unusually so, starting with a Shooting Star opening lead. Elvis' World is New Wave in a sort of Split Enz way. Then Roadmap slows everything down to finish. Neil Young like sentiments with an amazing "rawk" solo to end it.
For all that Ed knows about writing a Power Pop chorus and riff, the guitar playing on this album is just sublime. You sense he really wants to be a Mick Ronson or Jeff Beck, but his ability to write a song holds him back.
This album is a fine lesson in how to write a Power Pop Hook and play Guitar. You can listen to it and buy it here.
At Anything Should Happen, we've long championed artists who don't always get the attention they deserve. It's mainly been a looking back thing, which is why this place was opened. The two things that have stuck with me are the Swedish Power Pop scene and the Singer Songwriters.
There is nothing like a great singer songwriter whether that be Neil Finn, Michael Penn, DonMcGlashan, Matthew Sweet, Jason Falkner or Ian McNabb. You can add Damien Binder to that list.
The Sydney based Singer Songwriter offers up his fourth album and the ten laid back jangly songs are a fine listen. I don't no what's in the antipodean water that allows them to master these sort of albums. Great catchy songs that just ease your mind. The album reminds me a lot of Bryan Estepa and Don McGlashan, yet there are parts that sound a bit Pete Yorn.
The involvement of Michael Carpenter, a real ASH favourite certainly aids the sound, although this isn't Carpenter's Power Pop / Alt Country direction. Binder's melancholic voice is aided beautifully by the production and you can spot Wayne Bell's drumming anywhere.
We may talk about chiming guitars most of the time, but every now and then you need a rest from all that riffery and this is just the album to do that.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
When people reminisce about CBGB's, The Fleshtones get forgotten about. Thankfully they are still here and are on album no 21, four decades on. Although, there have been line up changes, Keith Streng is thankfully still around, Bill Milhizer has been there since 1980 and the four piece line up have been stable since 1990.
Yep Roc got hold of the band in 2003 and this is the seventh since. The bands brand of Garage Rock with added Farfisa organ is a joy and all through their career the songs remain joy filled and surprisingly catchy.
Through this post, I'll put up three songs from the album from their Sawyer Session. Theis 2016 offering is simply great. Everything you'd expect and more. I don't hear many bands sounding as relevant as they did in 1976.
The organ driven Rick Wakeman's Cape is organ driven good time rock and roll, The twang of Respect Our Love is fab with female vocal backing. Too Many Memories is just wall to wall fuzz. The Fleshtones can be whatever you want, Garage, Glam, The Ramones, UK Punk, Surf, rockabilly,they have it all.
Love Like A Man could be B52's or even Fred Flintstone rocking in Bedrock. Stupid Ol' Sun is pure Power Pop, The Sinner is The Fleshtones take on the Blues, How To Make A Day is a piano led song that could be on the Postcard label and the closer, Before I Go is ace, imagine Nick Cave smiling behind an organ driven 60's band.
There's so much variation, yet the album remains a good time breeze through all 12 songs. There are so many good Fleshtone albums, but this could very well be the best, a testament to their dedication and greatness,
Highly Recommended! You can buy it on CD, Vinyl or from all the usual download sites. These are summarised here.
Allah Las - Calico Review
Many people thing Psychedelia is easy, that it's just doodling needlessly pretending everything is just alright man. Others turn to it when they want some background music, whilst some just can't see the point.
The difference you'll notice when you hear a good psychedelic album. Los Angeles's Allah Las' third album is such a beast. It's very Drop Out in it's sound, Syd Barrett fronting The Velvet Underground, but the album makes you listen rather than using it as some background noise.
Psychedelia isn't for all, but if it's for you, you'll love this.
David Dundas - David Dundas
David Dundas's 1977 debut album has been released on CD and many may ask why. All will know Blue Jeans, well that gives you a taste, but there is far more to him than that. The album is a real chipper affair. Piano Pop Rock that jollies along in a Gilbert O' Sullivan manner.
If I had to compare him to anyone, it would be as a male Lynsey De Paul. Songs like Another Funny Honeymoon are really catchy affairs and Stick On Your Lollipop is a real piano stomp. The trouble is that this album would have hit paydirt three or four years earlier. It's not what 1977 listeners wanted to hear.
Dot Dash - Searchlights
Ottawa's Dot Dash offer up their fifth album in as many years. For those who like the quiet life, it's not an album that will offer such. It's loud, brashy with riffs all over the place. Great garage, very comparable to The Replacements. Yep Mats fans will definitely love this.
It'll add real variation to your collection. The riffs are great and if you want to let your frustration out, this album will do just that for you. I like it a lot.
You can buy it here.
Zane Drake - American Venus
You Tube's region restrictions are a pain when you are trying to help an artist. So there's no sound clips for this, US Viewers may be able to catch up with the songs here.
This is an enjoyable romp through the late 60's mixing psych with Classic Rock. At times it's the MC5, the vocals are more The Strokes, but most of the album grabs you. A real rock out, particularly the title track. Worth investigating more.
Friday, 16 September 2016
Ahh those Not Lame days! There was so much good from Bruce, but the two bands I always think of when I think of the label are The Shazam and Myracle Brah. The latter's debut, Life On Planet Eartsnop remains one of the great Power Pop albums.
After it all ended Myracle Brah wise, I lost touch with what Andy was doing, even though the band was largely him anyway. I'd heard a couple of things since, but not enough to move me massively. Well, Blisters And Thorns changes all of that and has got me digging backwards. This album feels more like a Myracle Brah album, but more importantly it is as good as any in that band's discography.
It's so damn catchy!!!
The riffs are there, plus there's a mix of style, pedal steel, banjo and of course those Rickenbacker riffs. Most of important, he still has one of the great pop voices. A voice that's so easy on the ear. This is ace Pop, but there's plenty of variation.The Roy Orbison like Simple Thing has a banjo intro, the Beatle-esque Broken Ties starts with a lovely jangly Rickenbacker riff yet has a steel guitar solo.
The haunting Limousine, the psych pop of Grey Matter, the bass line driven Red Eye, all add to the variation. Broken Highway is a real weepalong, Minneapolis is chorus led with a wonderful solo. Hello is magnificent, but the stand out is the orchestrated acoustic joy of Maybe, Just Maybe that just breaks out into an awesome solo,
Andy Bopp is as relevant as two decades ago and he's produced a pop masterpiece to be proud of. You can listen to and then buy it here.
Don't get me started on Dom Mariani, I may never shut up. I place him on the same pedestal as Tommy Keene for services to Power Pop. From the blistering live act The Stems to the Power Pop joy of DM3 via The Someloves and latterly the bluesier Datura 4, he is never less than interesting.
The Majestic Kelp displayed his guitar prowess and Homespun Blues And Greens is his pop album. I'm delighted to report that the excellent Sugarbush Records have released a vinyl edition of his solo masterpiece.
This 2004 gem, his only solo album, was released with a whimper and that's really irritating because it's an absolute stormer. Power Pop is at times looked upon as boys with guitars, if that's the case then this is Mariani's grown up album.
Don't get me wrong the riffs are still around on the likes of Bus Ride and Cold Cup, but it's a much gentler album overall. If anyone can perfect a riff it's this man, but they are used in a much less in your face way. The whole album is just great pop. Homespun Blues is a great opener and it's more traditional DM, but there's great brass accompaniment.
The slide on Yuri is ace, Prove is great Sixties Pop complete with La La La add ons and then there's the unusually moody closer When It Ends. The stand out though is Priest, the trademark riff is there. but it's a real cracker of a song with a superb solo.
It feels as though this album is one that Dom had always wanted to make and the mighty Mitch Easter has proved his mixing worth. I'd recommend any Dom Mariani related album, but this is not what you'd usually expect from him and that's the reason that it is essential listening.
You Tube's recent purge, making videos region specific, means I can't provide songs, but take my word for it, the album is highly recommended.
You can buy the album direct from Sugarbush here and you should jolly well do so. It's a one album reason to buy a turntable.
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
First off I'm a big Sloan fan, through great and mediocre I'll always stick by them. I'm like that with Cheap Trick, the band always gets the benefit of the doubt. If an album is disappointing, I'll just wait for the next and these aren't the times of an album a year.
Secondly, I am not that keen on tribute albums, they've been done to death and I've never really seen the point. This is different, I love it. Why? Because it's got a line up of many who are hot in Power Pop land at the moment and secondly, because not all versions are faithful to the originals.
I happened to mention in my Gretchen's Wheel review that not many people dare to cover Sloan and Keith Klingensmith quickly corrected me on this. The 31 song collection is on his label Futureman Records . Incidentally Futureman are one of the more exciting labels around, celebrating the best of new and old Power Pop.
The cast is great including Stereo Tiger, Nick Piunti, The Well Wishers, Chris Richards, Andy Reed, The Anderson Council, Paul Mellancon, Gretchen's Wheel and Ryan Allen plus many more.
Nick Piunti makes Right Or Wrong sound like a Nick Piunti song, Stereo Tiger reinforce their reputation as one of the best around at present and Chris Richards handles Coax Me beautifully.
King Radio cover the title track in a sort of lounge lizard style and Kristin Von B becomes Kim Wilde as if she was backed by the Go-Go's with Devo interruptions. The album is great fun and great value at 31 songs for 10 dollars. The killer though I've already praised in my review of Behind The Curtain. Gretchen's Wheel's cover of Try To Make It is absolutely inspired.
You can buy the album here and then have a look at what Futureman Records are doing. Anyone who is trying to recreate interest in Gladhands is fine and dandy with me.
People who have known me a while, know how much I go on about The Orgone Box and chunter on about wanting a new album. Rick Corcoran and I live quite close to each other and I might just form a picket line outside his house until that new album comes out.
I mention The Orgone Box because I hold Beaulieu Porch in similarly high esteem. In fact Simon Berry, in my eyes (and ears), owns the Psych Pop Shoppe lock stock and barrel at present and album number four continues the journey of that mastery.
Let's get the good news out of the way first. You can buy this album for £5 BUT for a limited time you can get all four albums for £10. £2.50 an album, the finest value in the Poptastic Mall this week.
You can imagine Berry in somewhere like Abbey Road, recording an album in double quick time and insisting on playing every instrument and using every effect on the board and then forgetting where he'd left his afghan coat. He'd then troop off to see what Magic Alex had for him today.
There's everything you'd expect from a great Psych Pop album here, funnelled vocals, backward guitars, sitar, choruses coming from nowhere.
The album is as great as I expected, he's never let me down thus far. An album to listen to from start to finish. Psych Pop doesn't get any better. The closer, Burn is simply superb.
You can buy the album, or all four if you've been late for the bus, here. This album is wonderful!
Lost Souls follows hot on the heels of Pongo vs Corporate Vampires but the quality doesn't suffer. It must be something in that North Wales coastal air. Guy Latham's brooding voice is soothing in a 70's Singer Songwriter way, however the variation and humour allow Junebug to differ from some of the ten a penny stuff that's around.
The jaunty Please Don't Be Cool could be in a Glam Top 10 from 1974.
I Got Sanctioned continues the 70's comparisons, Gallagher And Lyle maybe, even hints of Medicine Head. The moody The Homebody is stripped down and delightful, A Greek Tragedy hints at Art Garfunkel. Light Sleeper is so catchy, laid back with a great little riff. The Andy Kaufman tribute sounds so REM.
The general problem with albums like this is that the lyrics can't the tunes, no problems on that score here. There is a real lyrical depth and great humour in the likes of the countryish I Lost My Wife To Candy Crush, which could easily be Paul Heaton.Then there's the sleepy It's Nice To Know You.
A truly gentle singer songwriter album, a kind of which you don't hear too often these days. Highly Recommended at the bargain price of a fiver. You can listen to it and download it here.
At Least We're Not Dead Yet came out late last year, but it's an album I return to often. The Raleigh NC five piece have been labelled as Americana or Alt Country. I just don't see that, they rock and riff far too much. Indeed across the great 11 songs on offer here, only Home Tonight is anywhere near that label. Perhaps the vocal could be a tad that way, but it is very much a tad, this album rocks. The occasional Pedal Steel adds melody rather than countryfying.
There seems a thinner line these days in Nashville between Power Pop and Country. Take, for instance, Nick Piunti's Dumb It Down from his splendid new album, that could fall into either camp. But if this album is country, then buy me a Cowboy Hat and get me a ticket to Nashville. To these ears, it has far more in common with the likes of Superdrag.
It's a big production which brings out the twin guitars to great effect. It's loud and proud of it. This is Pop Rock with a Twang. The album never lets go. Home Tonight is the halfway point and you think it's gonna mellow out, only for This Is Nowhere just to raise the riff count higher. The album just shouts more and more till the closing Awake Now.
At Least We're Not Dead Yet is astonishingly good album as a debut. One for the Car. CD is definitely the way to go with it. You can listen, download or buy the CD here.
Juan Pablo Mazzola's Baby Scream has been responsible for some great Power Pop for a decade now, way back to 2007's Monsters EP. Argentina isn't that well known for Pop, but Baby Scream may just change that impression. His voice at times, reminds me of Per Gessle with more feeling, but the music is wonderfully late 60's early 70's. Great harmonies, gentle well played riffs, all in all a great listen.
Jokes is a lovely short joy of a song, aching piano, great harmonies, a pleasant little guitar accompaniment and a Nilsson like vocal. Wish You Were Here leads on a spacey keyboard before breaking out into a great fuzzy guitar solo. The Ballad Of Music Biz has some great orchestration and harmonies on it.
The album is a bit top heavy on a more melancholic sound which suits Mazzola's voice, but perhaps it could do with a little more of up tempo songs similar to the opener. However, that's a minor quibble and it doesn't stop this album from being one of the more pleasant things I've listened to this year.
Well worth a punt! You can listen to and buy the album here.
Monday, 12 September 2016
I've always felt that being labelled Pop Punk is not that beneficial, unless of course you are an insider or big fan. It's not that it's bad, it certainly isn't, it's just that bands don't seem to be able to break out of it readily. There are exceptions of course, Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Fall Out Boy to name three, but the term labels bands as something they are not.
Fans know that it's more Pop than Punk, but outsiders see Punk and run. Jimmy Eat World are probably the best of the bands to break away from the tag and Worth Taking remind me a lot of them.
I suppose the one problem I have with Pop Punk is that it all seems to sound the same.
Well Worth Taking prove that wrong, Hangman is an album that has far more in common with classic Power Pop than anything else.
There's a real maturity in the songs, the riffs fit in beautifully with the whole song, they don't seem as an add on to display technical ability. That said, the riffs are also killer. Songs like Counting On You and Stay In Love stand up with many Power Pop songs that you'd care to mention. The band can break out though on the likes of Different Now and Make This Right.
Let Me Try Again sounds like a heavy Downtown Fiction, Sinking In is a real thrash. This One's For You is a real melodic joy with a big chorus. The opener, Honestly is wonderfully slow with a top notch riff.
Hangman oozes great Power Pop licks, I'm not sure that it will appeal to all of their Pop Punk fans, but it should open up a whole new legion of guitar pop lovers.
What's even more great is that the album is currently reduced on the band's Bandcamp site from $10 to $3.49. A ridiculously cheap price for an album this good and one that should have the moths flying out of your wallets.
You can buy the album here.
Friday, 9 September 2016
Marjorie Fair's Self Help Serenade was one of the albums of 2004. Evan Slamka's aching voice, the haunting melodies mixed with something bordering Psych, but far too great to pigeonhole as that. Like Doves thrown in with Nada Surf with a bit of Jim Noir. It is a wonderful album and all should own it.
The band played Glastonbury 2004, but the album never took off. It had a delayed release in the States and despite constant touring, Slamka was left on his own by 2007. I remember one band tour in the States when Marjorie Fair were with Mellowdrone making me so jealous that I was stuck here in the UK.
Evan hadn't stood still, he's been involved in numerous bands and projects, most notably Square On Square. Indeed three of the songs on the new album are from the Square On Square days.
In early 2015, a new Marjorie Fair was trailed and it duly appeared in late March this year. The resulting I Am My Own Rainbow is every bit as good as you'd expect. In fact it's better. For someone known for Psych Folk Pop, here the album has been more or less split into both factions.
The dreamy Psych Pop is front ended and that aching voice sounds as great as ever. The first five songs just stack up one after the other, but the stand out is 14th Century Man.The last three songs are slowed down to virtual acoustic mode and here that voice just shines out.
Fields sounds like the songs McCartney used to write. Haven't You Heard could be Ron Sexsmith or Rufus Wainwright.
The album is available on Noise Trade with a suggested Tip of 6 dollars. You can also listen to the songs before you buy here.
It is also available to buy on iTunes or Amazon.
My good friend Curt Vance at the badly missed Power Pop Overdose has long been a supporter of Milwaukee's Trolley and as usual he's right. Trolley are a one band Power Pop compilation.You name it, they can do it, it sounds familiar, yet it's distinctively their own.
The 60's Psych Pop of Thursday Girl, the Mod Pop of the title track, Step Into The Clear is pure Paisley Pop. Crying All The Time is Brit Beat at it's best. She Has It All is vintage psych of Dukes Of Stratosphear vintage.
All The Way is 70's US New Wave, Losing That Madly In Love is Syd Barrett Pink Floyd like or something you'd hear at the UFO Club. We All Fall Down starts off like mid 60's Beat, but ends up being very Shazam era Move. The Kids All Sing is late 70's UK New Wave. She Helps Me Celebrate starts with an Another Girl Another Planet style riff.
The closing track, Take My Love is even more different, seven and a half minutes of pure Heavy Psych, mesmerising in a Luck Of Eden Hall way.
Caught In The Darkness is a splendid album, I must catch up on the rest of Trolley's stuff, just as you can do. If I had one slight criticism, it is that the drum sound can get a bit irritating at times, but that's a minor when you compare it to how good this album is.
You can listen to the album and buy it for download or on CD here. You can also catch up on the band's back catalogue at the same place.
Ah those heady Brit Pop days! Looking back two decades, I know, I know, it wasn't all about Blur v Oasis and Jarvis waving his backside at Michael Jackson. There was some great pop to come out of it and that can get forgotten amongst the images of Liam gurning.
That Pop included the likes of The Lightning Seeds, The Bluetones, The Supernaturals and many more, but one band more than any lit up Brit Pop. Dodgy were kings of summer pop and lest we forget became rather big, noting their Glastonbury 1997 slot.
Three fantastic albums and a run of singles from So Let Me Go Far to Found You that stands up with any fine pop you'd care to name. Live they were a great trio too, they could play, All are equal in that effort, but a special mention should go to drummer Mathew Priest, one of the most underrated drummers around. Those harmonies were ace too, testified by their acoustic performances.
Before we get to the now, kudos should be given to Nigel Clark's excellent solo album, 21st Century Man.
Comebacks are always dicing with danger, but 2012's Stand Upright In A Cool Place was great. The trademark harmonies were there, but it wasn't a continuation of the past. More acoustic, certainly darker, without insulting the band, it seemed a really grown up album. There was plenty of sterling guitar from Andy Miller. An all round cracker of an offering.
So what of 2016? Well the three piece have been expanded by adding Stu Thoy on Bass and Ultrasound's Vanessa Wilson is on four of the tracks.
The new album certainly isn't acoustic dominated, as demonstrated by the opener above. Now Means Nothing is the 60's of early Who and California Gold is West Coast wonder down to Any Miller's trippy solo. Are You The One is superb, harmonies and jangling are all present, a great song and probably the best track on the album with another great Miller solo.
Demonstrating the variety, The Hills could be any great 70's Singer Songwriter, Al Stewart springs to mind. Never Stop is pure Psych Pop. Mended Heart could be CSNY What Are We Fighting For, the title track, is a six and a half minute behemoth. a splendidly orchestrated anthem, absolute joy.
The 2016 Dodgy could very well have provided their best album yet and have certainly provided a contender for anyone's Top 20 albums of the year.
Tuesday, 6 September 2016
I loved Garfield's Birthday's 2010 album, Tea And Sympathy, it's great feel good pop of the Dodgy, Bluetones, Posies variety. In fact I've slapped myself around the head a few times, for not owning more of their stuff and I will remedy that rapidly.
GB's main man, Simon Felton, has a new album out and it's really really good. In his liner notes, Simon describes the album as erratic, which is really unfair and a bit self depreciating, because this variation is largely a good thing.
There is a fair bit of introspection, but the instrumentation and arrangements offer every slower number something different. Whether Piano or Guitar led, the tempo changes are enchanting at times.
This is his fourth solo offering and the fact that you can pick this up with his three previous albums for less than £12 seems the greatest bargain in the shop today.
It's fair to say that there isn't the volume of jaunty stuff that makes up a Garfield's Birthday album, but that's what makes this album special. Fear not there is enough up tempo stuff present.
(It Must Be A) Nightmare could almost be Al Stewart. Indeed, there are plenty of comparisons to some of the better 70's Singer Songwriters present. Falling To Pieces provides more content listening with it's Supertramp like keyboard.
Waiting reminds me of prime time Eric Stewart and Missing Action is great melodic pop, probably the best song on the album.
The variation and melody on the album is admirable. Simon Felton may be bearing his soul at times, but I, for one, am certainly happy that he has.
You can buy this for a five pound note here, but as I mentioned earlier, getting the other three albums for an extra £7 seems the sensible purchase. You can listen to all before you buy. CD Lovers can buy Return To Euston Square for £6.
Mike Daly And The Planets - Never Too Late
I'm hoping for a full length album from the excellent Mike Daly And The Planets. The Ex Lead Singer of New Jersey Power Poppers, Every Damn Day has followed up the splendid EP, The Cosmic Adventures Of ManBoy with a new single.
Never Too Late was originally written for the CBS Comedy Drama, That's Life.
It's poptastic and here;s hoping the full length album appears soon.
You can listen to Never Too Late here and buy it from Amazon, iTunes and all the usual digital emporiums. You can also listen to six other songs from Mike here with links to buy. His website is here.
Beaulieu Porch - One Last Summer
The Psych Pop delight that is Simon Berry's Beaulieu Porch have a new album out. Sarum Sounds will have a much bigger write up in days to come. In the meantime, the lead single is Giant Superman and it's as good as you'd expect.
B Sided with Thursday Sound Revival, both songs are available for a pound. They are also on Sarum Sounds. Three albums in and I don't think I've been as excited about a Psych Pop band since Orgone Box.
You can buy the single and Sarum Sounds here. You can also pre-order the album on CD.
The Stoplight Roses - Starlight / A Bomb Goes Off
Atlanta's The Stoplight Roses take their name from the Nick Lowe song and it shows. Although, you can see the connection in their sound, probably more to Brinsley Schwarz, they have a sort of TFC riff groove. It's a great laid back listen.
The double A Sided single is out now and you can buy it here as a Name Your Price.
The double A Sided single is out now and you can buy it here as a Name Your Price.
Merries - Travel To Sun
I'm personally gobsmacked at how much great Pop is coming out of Finland at the moment. Merries are another example. Power Pop of the highest order.
Although Travel To The Sun has been released as a single and can be downloaded separately, I'm recommending the whole mini album.
Although Travel To The Sun has been released as a single and can be downloaded separately, I'm recommending the whole mini album.
It's the sort of heads down Power Pop that many of us love, but there's also plenty hints of Psych Pop, particularly on the likes of I'm Sorry Ace.
You can listen to and then buy the self titled album for 5 Euros here.
You can listen to and then buy the self titled album for 5 Euros here.