Friday, 27 January 2017
John Davis's Title Tracks are back after a five year absence. The good news is that those who enjoyed the band's second album, In Blank, will love this, but the jangle is also taken on a pace. It's a cracking example of Jangle Power Pop that is easily at home in any decade from the 60's on.
Easily compared to 60's Beat, The Byrds, 70's New Wave, 80's Postcard, Teenage Fanclub and the poppier side of Brit Pop. I certainly felt the likes of The Bluetones here, even the jaunt of The Housemartins and there's a Psych Pop slant at times that reminds me of 8x8 or The Junipers.
You'll notice that many of my references are UK, you wouldn't necessarily think that the Power Pop Trio are from Washington DC. Long Dream is a really jaunty album, it will make you feel much more chipper, which is all good.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Today was gonna be a version of The Garden Of Earthly Delights, but my concern is that the four artists who appear in that regular column don't get the attention that they derserve, so I've gone for four shorter stand alone reviews.
Josh Berwanger was part of The Anniversary, a great underrated band who developed from something that was more like EMO to Classic Rock. Well Berwanger is his now his muse and they take that Classic Rock and Pop it up considerably. Don't be fooled by the album cover this is great Pop Rock.
The title track, above, starts with a Power Metal riff but advances into a great FM song with a singalong chorus and a great solo from Ricky Salthouse. Rats And Cats is great Power Pop. Booty Shake is pure Tom Petty and Guess You Weren't Wrong could be The Raspberries.
It's the mix of killer guitar mixed with Power Pop choruses that makes this such a fine album. That guitar is much harder than the usual Pop Rings, Chimes and Jangles and that's what distinguishes Exorcism Rock from the every day.
A stomper of an album!!!
You can listen to the album and buy it here. You should do one then the other.
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Martin Newell's short lived band in between Gypp and The Cleaners From Venus and their 1979 - 1980 recordings. Barricades And Angels gets a remaster and a Bonus Track, Mrs. Killer added. Newell is so wonderfully lo-fi, however the sound on these Octopus Studio Recordings was always pretty good and the remaster moves them on a pace.
The direction to The Cleaners From Venus is signposted, although these recordings sound more New Wave at times, rather than how beloved and rustic the great man became.
In keeping with the years in which they were recorded, a couple of the songs are reggae, even ska tinged, others such as No Static are Beat driven and Governors Only Daughter is wonderful Psych Pop.
The recordings were a marked step away from what Newell was doing with Gypp, quintessentially English. They are as great as you'd expect. The Governors Only Daughter stream below is from the unmastered album version as the new version isn't up on Bandcamp yet.
There's been a rash of Martin Newell related releases lately and the world is better for it. With no XTC or Andy Partridge to feed our habit, The Greatest Living Emglishman is the nearest thing.
You can buy the album and other fine Newell stuff here.
Although Washington DC's Dot Dash are very much known for their excellent Garage Rock, they've supported quite a few Power Pop Legends and with Searchlights you can see why. Their fifth album in five years feels far more like The Replacements if they were a UK New Wave Band.
Don't get me wrong, they've not ditched Garage Rock, there's enough here and I wouldn't want them to, it's what has given them the live reputation that they have. However, the riffs are more frequent, it's not all a hundred miles an hour and you get more time to appreciate the quality of the songs.
The Infinite is the best example, those Bass Lines and Riffs are straight out of the Power Pop Book Of Essential Songs, but there's far more of an edge and lyrically it's not my girl has left me and I'm sad.
Summer Light is wonderfully moody with it's chatty verse, Holly Garland has a riff that would be at home on an album by The Vapors or even The Only Ones. Something In-Between could be prome time Jam era Weller. In fact, Hunter Bennet's Bass Playing on the whole album reminds me of Bruce Foxton. Daddy Long Legs is Dr Feelgood to a tee.
The only time the album lets up is the closing smooch In The End. What you have here is one of the best Power Pop albums of last year. I've known of the band for quite a while, but Searchlights has gripped me. a corker of an album and if you get the chance to see them live, do.
Just to show they haven't forgotten Garage Rock, here's Lonely Serenade.
You can listen to and buy the album here. Holly Garland and Woke Up Saturday Night are available as free downloads. You can also tuck in to the band's Back Catalogue.
Monday, 23 January 2017
The death of Pete "Overend" Watts has particularly saddened me. I can understand the people who bemoan Facebook's Professional Grievers for people they have never met. I can also see the argument, as someone in his Fifties, that these musicians are now at an age when death should be less of a surprise. However, we keep being told that people are living longer, doesn't always seem that way to me.
I recently suffered a heart attack that caught me, family and friends by surprise. There was no indication of it and the after effects are not physical. I did everything I was asked of, stopped smoking, lost three stone, ate differently, but what it has left is on the way I think. No longer the resident wit, it's made me more reflective, more aware of what is around me and the things that I do and don't appreciate.
That's one reason that I may feel his loss more than I perhaps should. Another is to understand the teenage era around Mott The Hoople. The internet may have made music harder to make a living from, but for the fan it opened up a new world. I come into contact with people I would never have met in any other way.
But in the 70's, 80's and plenty of the 90's, you didn't have this access to artists. Where as now you may exchange emails, messages with the bands themselves, drink in the pub with them before the gig and know everything that they are doing daily, then you had to dig to find out more. Music Press News, Radio which wasn't force fed playlisting, fan clubs, fanzines, school mates, you devoured music from any source you could. You usually only met fans at gigs.
Because of this you became fanatical about the bands you liked. Single releases were great, but the true fan knew every word on every album and couldn't understand why everyone else weren't into the band. If you liked a band, you bought a single, if you were a fan, you bought the album. Bands were held on pedestals, demi-gods, you'd rarely meet them and if you did, it was like talking to royalty.
Mott The Hoople were a fans band. From All The Young Dudes onward, the songs were about the fans, the songs were for the fans, ticket pricing was cheap, the fans were encouraged to interact at gigs. People like Mick Jones of The Clash confirmed that as he tried successfully to make his band have the same bond with people. You felt closer to the artists.
Of course, it's easier to be like this when you are selling records and times were very different. I don't yearn for those days, you can't change change. Indeed as a Mott The Hoople fan, I listen far more to the Island Years than the Glammed Up CBS times these days. But all this gives an explanation of why I feel his death more than other artists.
There's also a realisation that with Buffin gone and Mick Ralphs very ill, there's not much left of MY band, Ian Hunter and Verden Allen fly the flag.
I first came across Mott The Hoople as a very young nine year old. My dad took me to see them at Liverpool Stadium. It was all a bit loud, but the gig was fantastic. I'm not sure if I was supposed to be allowed in, but my dad knew a lot of the people from Liverpool Venues and I was staying over with him that night, so it may have been take me or don't go.
Overend saw me and rubbed my hair playfully, saying shouldn't you be in bed. It stayed with me forever. A couple of years later, I was a fanatic, led by those glam singles. We had tickets for Preston when Ronson was in the band, but of course Hoople had gone and the UK Tour was cancelled.
Overend was everything that Mott The Hoople were about in those years, the Bass Guitars, the platform boots, the whole look. He was a star. I collected everything Mott The Hoople, Mott and Hunter solo and still do. I bought bootlegs wherever I could get them, Bluecoat Chambers, dingy houses in Hazel Grove after adverts in Melody Maker.
As the internet began, I joined the Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople Yahoo group and managed to get more stuff and arrangements were made for meet ups at Hunter gigs. I still say that the best ever internet fan group was that Yahoo group. Lovely people, all loving the band in the same way that I did, but all objective. I still hate Ian Hunter's Overnight Angels album.
I felt Mick Ronson's death, he was and still is my guitar hero, but Overend's seems even more poignant. He defined Mott The Hoople and 69 still feels way too young.
Those 2009 Reunion gigs will stay with me forever. The people you met, the musician fans who attended and seeing grown men crying. We never thought we'd see them again and I'm so glad that we did. 2013 saw them tour again, but it didn't feel like 2009. Ian Hunter continues to release great albums and tour, but it doesn't have that Hoople effect.
So this is an unusually self indulgent article, I'm far more for discovering the new, but it's fair to say that it feels good remembering my past and the rock and roll star that was Overend Watts.
Saturday, 21 January 2017
Mark Bacino - Not That Guy
It's great to hear that Mark Bacino is back. Pop Job and The Million Dollar Milk Shake remain two of the great Power Pop albums and it's been over six years since his last album Queens English. Mark has spent that time as a television, film and Ad composer, as well as producing and mixing for other artists and writing for music publications.
Not That Guy marks a return to the Power Pop that he is most noted for. This is the first of a number of planned singles and it hits all the right spots. It's jaunty catchy pop, the type we all love. Recorded with Jay Sherman-Godfrey and Joe McGinty at Sterling Sound, it's great to have him back and hopefully these singles will soon be accompanied by an album.
You can listen to Not That Guy here and buy it for the bargain price of 99 cents.
1881 - Action EP
I have my great friend Nick Fletcher to thank for directing me towards Burlington Vermont's 1881. This is their third EP from 2016, this was released towards the death of 2016. The previous two are Lights and Camera, so you catch the drift.
What we have here are a corking six songs that show off the versatility of the band. True, the vocals are set in the Pop department that we all love, but the songs veer all over the place. They could be Jellyfish, at time Explorers Club like and then it sounds like 60's Beat or even Country.
The most straightforward song is the opener, Not Quite As Good, but the real gem is the splendid, Give Love. I urge you to try out this and the other two EPs. A great find for me personally.
You can listen to and buy the EP here and then head to the earlier two to complete the set.
Mystery Jets - The Whole Earth EP
The Mystery Jets return last January after four years away was welcome and the offering, Curve Of The Earth is a strong one. Following up on this is this fine six track EP that leads with The World Is Overtaking Me from the album, but adds four non album songs.
All four additions are strong, particularly My Centurion. but The World Is Overtaking Me is such a strong song so I've gone with that as the one to listen to. Hopefully, the summer dates supporting The Maccabees will finally bring the paydirt that the band deserve.
The EP is available everywhere. You can listen to the EP, the album and loads of other stuff here.
Pezband - Waiting In Line EP
Don't get me talking about Pezband, keeping this to two paragraphs is hard enough, I am a true fan boy of all things Mimi Betinis. That Voice! Therefore I'm gobsmacked that this 12 Inch Vinyl Release from last year is still available.
Recorded in 1981 and previously unreleased, it reveals the last four songs from the band. Shockingly they couldn't get a deal to release the songs and so have relied on Frodis Record to do the right thing now. When you buy the EP, you also get a download code. This is Power Pop at it's very best.
You can buy the EP from Ray at Kool Kat here. You can buy the download at the likes of Amazon here.
Friday, 20 January 2017
I first came into contact with James Styring as leader of Lincoln's excellent The Popdogs. The band's mini album, Cool Cats For Pop Dogs is a fine Power Pop offering and Live, the band took on a further dimension. You can listen to The Pop Dogs here.
Whereas The Popdogs were more straight ahead pop, James's new venture, B-Leaguers conjure up much more crunch, a rockier, maybe punkier sound and it certainly plays out well. Styring's distinctive pop vocal is still there, but the band are a much meatier affair.
The band remind very much of late 70's New Wave and that can vary between UK on Amnesia and Lemonade. Both songs provide stomping melodic rock and both contrast vividly with the closing Bass led strum of Rise And Line.
I like them best when that melody takes hold. The two tracks that I've put up here are examples of that, a real commercial slant that should bring the band many more fans. Death Of A Western Heart is a really accomplished debut mini album and I'm looking forward to hearing much more.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can also find a link there to buy the album from Ray at Kool Kat Musik. Ray is one of the great supporters of Power Pop Bands.
I've been enjoying The Molochs for a while, Lucas Fitzimmons's mixed his Los Angeles upbringing with his Argentinian roots to offer up fast paced Garage Rock. The new album, America's Velvet Glory, is a journey into great 60's Psych Pop and UK Beat.
Jangling Guitar on The One I Love is almost Merseybeat, could even be The Searchers. New York breaks out into a Blues Riff from it's initial strum. I Don't Love You could be The Stone Roses. The album is at it's best though when Ryan Foster adds his Inspiral Carpets type keyboards on the likes of the album opener.
There's so much variation on the album with just the hint of the band's initial Garage beginnings. You can imagine No More Cryin' with it's harmonica riffs being played at some London Beat Club, yet You Never Learn could be on a Lou Reed album.
This album caught me completely by surprise. Plenty for everyone, it's a storming 33 minutes.
You can listen to and buy the album here and everywhere.
For those who aren't scholars of the IDHAS Blog, I Do Hear A Single is the Singles And EP's Review Section of the blog. We haven't had one for a couple of months, so the current feature will be a two part affair, each featuring four artists.
Here's the first four :
The Kickstand Band - Summer Dream EP
Michigan seems to be the centre of the Pop world at present and Detroit's Gordon Smith and Allison Young are adding to that reputation with this third Summer EP. The Kickstand Band offer up great dual harmonies to chirp up your life.
The lead off on the Five Track EP is Stay Inside. A great two minute slice of melodic pop. You know our feelings here song wise, say what you've got to say and move on to the next song. The final days of Brit Pop when two minute songs were fleshed out to six are long gone.
The great news is that the EP is available as a Name Your Price here. You can find all the band's back cat there too plus an opportunity to buy the bands three Summer EPs on one CD for 10 dollars.
The Drywall Heels - The Drywall Heels EP
More great pop from Toronto's The Drywall Heels. I've loved all that I've heard from the band this year, culminating in this poptastic five track EP. Great harmonies, the band groove a bit more than hook, but it's really enjoyable listening.
This EP is available as a Name Your Price, so what have you got to lose?
You can listen to and download the EP here.
Red Cabin - Willow Tree / Falling Apart
New York's Jonathan Foster is the man behind Red Cabin. He writes great Pop Rock that compares well with the mid 70s heyday of the genre. Memorable choruses are the order of the day here. Willow Tree was one of my favourite singles of last year.
The feel at times is Alan Parsons Project without the pomp.
You can listen to the EP and download as a Name Your Price here.
Allen Clapp - Six Seasons
The last of the four is someone more familiar to many of you. Psych Pop genius, via The Orange Peels, Allen Clapp. Six songs of the usual quality, few serve the genre better. simply because of the hooks he provides.
This storming EP deserves your attention.
You can listen to and buy the EP here.
Wednesday, 18 January 2017
I wrote about my envy of Los Angeles's Big Stir monthly event here. Since then things have gathered apace. There are plans for a tour in the UK and Sweden in conjunction with appearances at IPO in Liverpool and Sweden this year.
The Big Stir compilation from last year, the quality of all 22 bands is exemplary, it's a disc that I return to almost daily. The compilation is available to buy at Ray's excellent Kool Kat site here.
I could feature any of the 22 artists in this review. Due to the rarity of many of the tracks, the availability of streaming links and the fact that I will feature all 22 as new releases occur, means that I've limited my choices to six. Any of these artists are worthy of your support.
Brandon Schott writes and performs great gravitas pop. Lyrically excellent with great hooks, these songs are real mood lifters. Following on from 2015's superb Crayons And Angels, one of my favourite albums of that year, Brandon has recently released a pause point compilation, (Revisited). You can listen to and buy that compilation here. You can find out more about Brandon here.
Fernando Perdomo has developed a glowing reputation as a singer songwriter and producer. Initially with the excellent Dreaming In Stereo and onto solo excellence. His last album, Voyeurs, was released last year and was the first album recorded utilising Facebook Live. His band album from 2004, This Can Be You has just been made available. Both can be listened to and bought here. You can find out more about Fernando here.
Rob Bonfiglio is noted for his work with Wilson Phillips and more importantly for his time in Wanderlust in the mid 90's with Scot Sax. Wanderlust were one of the great lost Power Pop bands and their reunion for 2012's Record Time delighted this writer.
Rob's solo career has continued that excellence. His work reminds me a lot of Jason Falkner, a compliment, I do not hand out lightly. His 2014 album, Freeway is a stormer and you can listen to and buy that here. You can listen to and buy Wanderlust albums here.
Plasticsoul are currently recording a new album, The Girl Of Many Tribes that can be pre-ordered here. Their 2009 album. Peacock Swagger remains a favourite of mine, very reminiscent of Cotton Mather and that can still be bought here.
Band Leader, Steven Wilson is heavily involved with Big Stir and all that it is trying to acomplish.
The Armoires are responsible for the wonderful Incidental Lightshow album from last year. A great slab of west coast harmonies via twin vocalists Rex Broome amd Christina Bulbenko. The hints of Psych on that album make it an album I return to regularly.
Rex and Christina are also the people behinf the magnificent Big Stir Project, both this album and the monthly showcase. You can listen to and buy that album here and find out more about the band here.
Los Angeles's The Living Dolls are a newer band to these ears and they are right up my street. It may be how UK influenced they appear or my love of Psych Pop, but whatever it is, I love what they are doing.
You can listen to more from the band here. Four of the songs are available as free downloads.
You can find out more about the Big Stir Compilation here.
Monday, 16 January 2017
I first discovered Jonathan Lea and Dennis Davison in 1994. As a Material Issue fanatic, I'd read that they were going to be on a Bee Gees Tribute album. I've never been that fond of Tribute albums, I've rarely seen the point, but I bought that and it was a revelation. Melody Fair is probably the best album of it's type, the quality of the songs and the artists who covered them.
Lea and Davison produced that album and I was so enamoured with the content that I wanted to find out more about them. Finding out that they were in The Jigsaw Seen, I managed to get hold of the My Name Is Tom EP and I've never looked back since. Los Angeles's finest have never let me down. They are one of the great Psych Pop bands and now the quality has never let up.
The cover of Melody Fair is here and a wonder it is too. It is included as one of 12 songs in this Rarities collection. Their new single is included (above) and their first single, Tom Currier and Teddy Freese joined the band in 1993 and all four have been a constant since.
Songs Mama Used To Sing remains one of my favourite albums ever and I've been delighted that the band have been fairly prolific in the past few years. The four albums since 2010's Bananas Foster have all been top notch. They are masters in their field.
So here is a fantastic opportunity for the people who picked up on the band more recently to own these rarities and for older fans to get hold of these songs and not bust their wallet. I'd also add that people who trust my opinion can dip in here as the whole collection stands up in it's own right.
In these harder times for bands, The Jigsaw Seen have also been inventive with their marketing, including a fairly unique subscription service which provides back catalogur, future releases and exclusive items. You can find out about that here.
The album is available to buy as a download everywhere. My preferred method is always as a CD, which you can buy here. You can find out more about The Jigsaw Seen here.
I've long been an admirer of Ken Sharp as an author, musician and supporter of Power Pop. His books on Cheap Trick and The Raspberries are ones I return to regularly and his 1997 Power Pop Conversations tome is essential.
It's been almost 10 years since 2007's wonderful Sonic Crayons album and New Mourning is worth the wait. I knew what to expect, a real upbeat sound, what I didn't expect were such sad lyrics. Listening to the lyrics isn't usually a prerequisite of Power Pop, it's usually a dash to the chorus, but these words are dark and aching. a welcome departure, contrasting with the joy of the hooks.
Don't be put off by Sharp bearing his soul though, because these 14 songs are an object lesson in how to build a Power Pop album. Everything is present, the sweet vocals, the riffs, the harmonies and the solos,
Fernando Perdomo and Rob Bonfiglio, from the wonderful Wanderlust, are ever present and Perdomo's co-production with Sharp is, as expected, spot on. Both know their way round a Power Pop Song.
It doesn't end there though. Pop Rock royalty also make guest appearances. Sharp is assisted by Rick Springfield, The Babies' Wally Stocker, The Knack's Prescott Niles and my beloved New England's Jimmy Waldo.
My only request of Ken Sharp is not to leave it nine years until the next one. New Mourning is Power Pop at it's best.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Farewell Milwaukee's fourth album is their most accessible yet. That's not to say that what has gone before wasn't. The previous album, Can't Please You, Can't Please Me is every bit as good. FM should allow the band to break away from that Americana / Alt Country label and on to a much wider audience.
A lot of the stuff I listen to is Pop that can cross over into Country, Farewell Milwaukee are coming in the other direction and the melody that has always been present in their material seems so more prominent here. Figure You Out could be something from ELO's Face The Music.
Till We're Afraid and Caught In The Abyss could be Doolin' Dalton Era Eagles. Ben Lubeck's vocals remind me at times of The New Radical's Gregg Alexander and those pop sensibilities can be compared to a Travis or fellow Minneapolis's Semisonic.
I've seen Counting Crows comparisons and I can hear that, but largely Farewell Milwaukee have produced an album that balances their past with what they can become. This is a great "full listen" album that deserves much wider attention.
You can listen to and buy the album here
Saturday, 14 January 2017
It's been a while since I've done a feature on an older album and as I'd been listening to a lot of Jason Falkner lately and in particular The Gray's Ro Sham Bo album. I thought I'd go down that path.
However, my great friend, Mick Dillingham, had interviewed Jason Falkner in 2008 and when I re-read that interview, I realised it was far more interesting to read than me blabbing on like a Fanboy. So here is Falkner's take on The Gray's album.
Lets talk about The Grays.
When I was in Jellyfish, I'd made a tape for my girlfriend at the time, who worked at this coffee house. It had a lot of Odessey & Oracle and some Imperial Bedroom and XTC demos and she played it at work. One day this customer says to her "Who made this tape?"And she tells him and he's like "Oh Jason Falkner, I know Jellyfish".
So he passes on a tape of his demos and I liked some of his stuff. It wasn't where I was coming from, it didn't have the same urgency, but it was very musical. So we met and hung out a little bit and this was Jon Brion. I remember, day one, thinking there's no way I want to be in a band with this guy and then all of a sudden I'm in a band with him, how did that happen? What did I do wrong?
He called me six months after we'd first met and asked me down to this rehearsal studio. He knew that I was demoing, getting all the pain out of the Jellyfish experience. So I went down there and there was Buddy and Dan.
So we had a play and Jon goes out and calls this guy from Capitol Records and says "You'll never guess who I've got here playing together" and he says "I'll sign them sight unseen" and all of a sudden we're being dangled the carrot and I'm like "wait a minute, I don't want to be in a band anymore, I hate bands right now!". Every record company you could name was flying out to set up a showcase. We had this whole attitude too, we didn't have a name or a manager.
We didn't make a demo tape. All the record companies are going "we'll pay for a 24 track demo tape" and we're like "if you don't like us live, then fuck off. We were being total brats. That's when I discovered being a brat really works. In the music business they expect that of you. We were offered five deals and we went with the one that gave us the most creative freedom. I called Jack Puig because I loved him from the Jellyfish stuff and we started making the record. but that band was imploding from day one.
I'm really proud of parts of Ro-Sham-Bo, but it was hard to make. Jon and I were too similar in that we can play all the instruments, we were both really arrangement orientated and it was like only one of our visions was going to win. We both couldn't be served. He wanted to make a record that was....... I really don't know if even he knew what the wanted. We ended up competing to be the antithesis of the other, really unhealthy.
When my vision started winning out, which was making a pop album, with arrangements, interesting parts hopefully, then he's like "I want to make this really loose thing, just jamming" and I'm saying "I don't really jam". I write songs, I orchestrate these parts for him and they are not really open to that much jamming. He would like solo over a verse like Beavis, I mean like, settle down!
I ended up arranging most of Buddy's songs with him and arranging most of Jon's with him to too. I was very specific in what I wanted and the rest had an idea that we would be an anti-band, like a total democracy and it doesn't work in art. There's no such thing. Whoever's song it is will be king and they have ultimate veto power. But as it turned out the other guys kind of backed out of their own stuff, because I guess my will was so strong I just took over
So are you happy with The Grays album?
There's elements of that record I'm really pleased with, some of it is a little to pristinely recorded, in that Jack was at that time trying to win engineering awards, which he absolutely should win because he's phenomenal. You should see where we recorded that. It was like a rat infested studio which shouldn't be able to produce something that sounds like that.
So how did The Grays finish?
We were in Chicago, we'd been touring solidly for the last six months. Our record company guy flew out to see the show and we broke up that night. Jon was leaving and we had a big meeting and the record company guy said "Jason, if you stay with the band then they'd do mainly your songs and a few by Buddy". I didn't want to do it because when Jon said he was going to split I thought good, so finally, I can get to my real business.
So finally I said to this guy, I'll do another Grays record if you let me do this album of cover versions. I made the mistake of saying I could do this cover record very cheap. I learnt from that that you should never say you can do something for cheap. Why do it cheaply when you can spend a lot of money!
So I did that record in a week, 14 songs recorded and mixed in a week. I didn't have a budget approved I just went in and started recording and I got a call on the fifth day. "What the fuck do you think you're doing in the studio?" "What do you mean what am I doing? I'm making the record that we talked about".
He's saying "you haven't had the budget approved, this isn't supposed to be happening". I'm like "it's happening, it's going to be finished in two days, you should come down and listen to it and somebody's going to pay for it, because I'm not". So the album got shelved and that was about it with The Grays.
You can read the full length interview with Jason here. It will also give you a chance to read many of Mick's other fine interviews.
Friday, 13 January 2017
Brain Circus - Brain Circus
Brian Curtis is one man band, Brain Circus and he's produced a great Pop Rock album. You'd swear it was Utopia on many of these songs and the vibe is definitely Mid 70's Pop compared to the likes of Jigsaw, John Miles and Pilot.
Try to Ignore Me and I Don't Know If It's Love are pure Rundgren. The album thrives on it's mellow vocals and harmonies. The album definitely strays into Jellyfish territory without deliberately trying to. There are different styles, The Man who saw tomorrow is distictly Jazzy.
What shines through most are Curtis's vocals, am absolute joy. I'm well impressed with the album, it left me wanting more. You can listen to and buy Brain Circus here.
California - California
I was first pointed towards San Francisco's California as a great of example of the San Franciscan sound. I love the album but don't see that connection at all. The sound is, at times, refreshingly UK Mod Pop and New Wave, particularly on the likes of Hate The Pilot and Almost Home.
Woodson Lateral agreed is more in that SF laid back vibe and To The Airport is a wonderful acoustically moody duet with Rachel Haden. Bad Directions is almost Del Amitri, another good thing. It's the guitar bass drums rock outs that I continually return to.
California is a corker of an album and hard to believe that it wasn't recorded in a Soho Studio, You can listen to and buy the album here.
The Tuts - Update Your Brain
Hayes, The Tuts have plenty of attitude, but they have the songs, reminiscent of The Vaselines or even early Go-Go's. It's raucous pop. almost a London version of Shonen Knife in Ramones mode.
Great noisy pop with tons of riffs, these, I can imagine them to be quite a live draw and most importantly, they can play, Let Go Of The Past, Con Man and What's On The Radio are pure New Wave Power Pop gems.
The revelation is that great guitar pop is not exclusive to the 40 Plus brigade. This is definitely Hey Ho, Let's Go and all the better for it. You can listen to and buy the album here.
The Secret Songs Of Us - Moments In Slow Motion
Although I'm no expert on metalcore, but I felt that Everyone Dies In Utah were one of the better bands in a derivative field. It was with some surprise, therefore, that Justin Yost's solo career as The Secret Songs Of Us takes him firmly into melodic pop.
The album risks getting labelled Pop Punk, which as you know is a label that I think does the bands little good. Moments In Slow Motion is a really adept debut album, plenty of hooks, very much in Butch Walker territory.
The album doesn't always work, A Dark Core Through The Glass Floor is overblown. But fans of Melodic Rock will love the album. I certainly enjoyed it. You can buy the album as a CD or Download here.
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Chicago's Nick Bertling was primarily known as a drummer until his solo career revealed what a multi instrumentalist he was. Previous releases have included The Flehman Response, Matilda And 12 Others and Installation Piece No 1. The latter two albums are available as Name Your Price on his Bandcamp site here.
Bertling's great pop voice translates itself to whatever direction he takes and across an album that can be melodic rock stompers, acoustic and into the left field. What's more it is available currently as a free download.
The Nilsson reference in the album's title gives away a lot of what the album is about. The album is a great set of covers, released by the wonderful Futureman Records. Like the A Little Touch Of Schmillson In The Night album, there are timeless songs, but there are also plenty of what we know only too well.
You've heard Todd Rundgren's Forget All About It, well there's also One More Day. Rundgren is the only writer who gets two songs, Big Star's Thirteen is present as is Elvis Costello's I Hope You're Happy Now. There's even a Nilsson song, the splendid 1941.
Standards include Words, Scarborough Fair and Black Is Black. Most intriguing of all though is a cover of my beloved The Move. Not too many would take on Cherry Blossom Clinic (Revisited) on, Nick Bertling does.
A great album to start the new year, covers lovingly crafted, a sort of instant record collection.
You can download the album for the bargain price of nothing at the Bertling Noise Laboratories Bandcamp site as linked above or from the Futureman Records site here. You can find out more about Nick and Bertling Noise Laboratories here.
You know that feeling that you get when an album catches you completely by surprise, well this is definitely one such album. I knew of Benny Maradones only for the AOR standard, Into The Night, a song I'm not that fond of. So I approached Timeless with a bit of trepidation.
Well Timeless is nothing like AOR, it's an absolute stormer of an album. Maradones was cleaning out his storage unit in Woodstock when he rediscovered some old reel to reel tapes with demos that he and DL Byron had recorded when they played together.
Having restored the tapes, he decided to record some of the songs with his current band, The Hurricanes. He also added some new songs, written with Into The Night co-writer, Robert Tepper. The Hurricanes are a cracking band and have helped produce a laid back gem of an album. Technically excellent, riffs a plenty, the album hits a groove that never lets up.
The vibe reminds me of Ian Hunter's Rant Band, it's absolutely splendid. The title track has a killer riff and Me And Johnny Red is one of the best songs that I've heard in recent months. I'm loving the album. Power Pop it isn't, but if you like the likes of Ian Hunter and how the Rant Band have made his songs lower key but just as memorable, then you'll love this. I certainly do.
You can buy the album at the likes of Amazon here. You can find more about Benny here. This album certainly caught me by surprise and I'm well pleased about that.
Wednesday, 11 January 2017
Good to be back after an extended break. Lots of reviews to get through in coming days, but my return reveals my envy of something that goes on over the water.
The Power Pop scene has never been massive over here in the UK. That's not to say that there aren't a great number of fans, they are just spread so far afield. We get IPO in Liverpool once a year and that's a great way to pick up on new bands, but when a band come over here at other times, at best we may get a London gig. There are honourable exceptions such as The Posies, but these are few,
I don't blame the bands, it is just not viable to tour the UK these days for the majority of artists we like. Record Companies used to support tours and they are inconsequential these days. Record Sales, the same.
There are some great music venues in the North West and Liverpool is thriving, but the bands don't seem to have the money to play them all. Music is largely a secondary income, if that, for most now and so main work gets in the way. The likes of James Lee's Hangar 34 in Liverpool bodes well as a venue. James has long been a supporter of the Liverpool Indie Scene and I can see that venue becoming something special.
What I'd love to see over here is a monthly night of great Power Pop / Guitar Bands at whatever venue. That's why I am so envious of Big Stir in North Hollywood. Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko run this monthly event and as it reaches it's first anniversary, some of the artists who have appeared make me wish that I could be transported there.
Plasticsoul, Cait Brennan, Butch Young, Fernando Perdomo, Brandon Schott, Rob Bonfiglio, Jason Berk, The Cherry Bluestorms, Blake Jones. These are names we can only dream of seeing over here. Yes we get their music, usually as downloads, but how we would wish to see them live. A Liverpool or Manchester night with a mixture of the known and local bands as a regular monthly meet up. How cool would that be?
Rex and Christina don't only organise Big Stir, they are also The Armoires and what an excellent affair that band is. I'm made even more miserable by looking at the line up for the two night First Anniversary shows on the 27th and 28th January. I've a good mind to make them stream it to me Live.
The Anniversary shows include Plasticsoul, Blake Jones And The Trike Shop, Robbie Rist, The Armoires and Rick from Maple Mars. The events are DJ'd by John Borack and I'm told David Bash will be present. All this for 10 dollars a night. Liverpool loves it's IPO, but we are greedy, me more than most. Can we not have a monthly thing too?
Well done Rex and Christina, you'll have me in tears by the end of the month.
You can find out more about Big Stir at the Facebook site here.