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Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Future Of Power Pop


I was asked to write an essay on Power Pop for an upcoming magazine issue which is a Power Pop Special. As always, I took the side of the artist and was told today that the piece wouldn't be accepted because the Magazine was not the right forum for it. So it is published here, unedited, in its entirety.

It may upset some people, but it is what I think and I know many many others do, but wouldn't have the balls to say it. It is about Power Pop, but applies equally to the Indie scene. I won't be responding to comments in the short term on social media, via email or messaging. I will be posting it on every relevant Facebook Group that I am a member of later as I hope it will be read and considered. 

It is not personal nor score settling, but it is a honest opinion. I don't expect some to agree with it, but it does look at the genre from the artist's point of view. It is a long read at 1800 words, but as I said, I decided not to edit it........................................

When I was asked to write a piece about Power Pop, my first reaction was to write about the joys of the genre. It has always been really good to me throughout my listening life. As a young child, I was brought up on Merseybeat and The Beatles due to my parents’ love of both. After discovering my “own” music from Glam Rock onwards, Power Pop appeared again towards the end of the Seventies with the UK New Wave. I was confused by Punk at that age, so it was nice to hear something catchy and riff led again. Then in the late eighties, after an interesting flirtation with Death Metal, I became engrossed in the US Power Pop scene, mainly as a reaction to the Techno Beat nonsense that dominated the UK airwaves. 

Finally, when I began writing more with the advent of the internet and Anything Should Happen, I met lots more Power Pop fans and realised that it wasn’t just a few who liked the same music as I did. I Don’t Hear A Single developed out of ASH as a reaction to Power Pop fans constantly bleating about how all new music was crap. I never expected to become a type of door opener for the new or reminder of the talented but lost old. It was then that I started to become really irritated by the genre. It isn’t the music, it is as good as it has ever been, it is people’s attitude towards it and the practices of the scene. So I figured that other people writing for this Power Pop Special would be talking about the joy and so I would be a counterbalance by looking at the problems.

None of this is personal. I did two versions of this article, one solely about the music, but I felt that these things should be discussed. I don’t say that I am right and it is skewed more to the now than the then. I’ve always spoken openly and in defence of the musician and most of what is going on at the moment is not to the benefit of the musician. If Power Pop does not change, it will be end with our generation. How many younger people do you see on the Power Pop Facebook Groups? There are certainly plenty that could fit into the genre. However, these newer artists either don’t know about it, see it as an old man’s thing or have contempt for the way they are treated. They are more likely to class themselves as Indie Pop or Rock, Guitar Pop or Pop Punk than want to wade through yet more posts about The Beatles or Raspberries.

There are points that I don’t cover because they aren’t exclusive to Power Pop. Streaming for instance and the battle for inconsequential likes being two. Firstly, Power Pop has to get over its fascination and obsession with The Beatles. They are the greatest band there ever was, but other bands are available. The same applies to Badfinger, Raspberries, Big Star and Jellyfish. Comparing everything to these bands helps no one. Everything will sound inferior to them. They were different times. Big money could be spent on promotion, so everyone heard them on Radio Stations that played them. You can love The Beatles and new Power Pop artists, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. 

Home recording has become more professional, cheaper and easier to use, so there will always be the good, the bad and the ugly in all music. Just trust some of the people who write or play it. They have done the sifting for you. More on that later. There is also a tendency to compare everything to something older. Power Pop is always likely to sound like something else. After six decades, there is no new sound to be discovered, everything will be at least a bit like something else. I personally would rather hear something that sounds like something else done well than some algorithm inspired rubbish written by 15 different people. 

Now we get around to earning money. No musician is expecting to become a millionaire. They love what they do and just want to cover costs or earn enough to make the next album. There is however something particularly wrong with a scene were the only people making any money are Promoters and Pluggers. As the lockdown subsides, there has to be a way to pay bands even if it is via a tip jar or streaming the events simultaneously. The days of charging at the door, but the bands playing for free have to end. Playing live is what most bands enjoy and there is an opportunity to sell Merch. But when the promoter is the only person earning money on an event that would be nothing without the artists, something isn’t right.

I have a load of time for David Bash, who has at times kept the Power Pop Flag flying single handedly. The International Pop Overthrow event at The Cavern gives artists the opportunity to play at an iconic venue, something that they could never arrange on their own. Plus The Liverpool IPO is a chance for artists to meet each other face to face from around the world. But surely there is a way to pay the bands something, even if there is a permanent admission fee. The artists are invited, but that isn’t a reason to not pay them. I know many who won’t play IPO because of it which is a shame. Plus the other shows around the States cry out even more for artists payment. Big Stir pay the artists for their monthly showcase. The Power Pop Weekender in London sells out with a daily ticket price approaching £20. 

Whilst on the IPO subject, I am also a critic of the annual compilations. I can’t see how a payment of $300 gets you on the compilation. It seems very Pay To Play. If this charge is necessary to fund IPO, then there must be some other way via increased sponsorship or such. As it stands, 60 bands / artists subsidise the rest on a project that someone like Wayne at Icecream Man does for free. He could easily produce a physical version for considerably less if there was the demand. No one is arguing that David needs to make a living, but does it have to be on the backs of Musicians. Many of us do it for free, there has to be a balance. 

These days everyone is a Music Journalist. But there are surprisingly few dedicated to Power Pop. As always, there is good and bad writing, but what irritates me most is the spoon feeding. Most of the reviews are spoon fed. They’ve been sent out to everyone, few writers seem to try and discover stuff themselves. Dennis at Poprock Record, Jeff Shelton (as a DJ) and a few others are exceptions rather than the rule. Also maybe the time is right for a collective of writers to have one place to listen to Power Pop Releases that would bring greater variation that would work after cutting out the irrelevant. Reviewers could download the ones that interest them and visit as time allowed. 

Radio wise, I really do have a problem. I have been critical in the past of Internet Radio and it has been taken the wrong way. I applaud anyone who starts their own show whether they have 10 or 1,000 listeners. They are never the problem, they love what they do and give artists a chance to be heard. The problem is the pluggers who feed off them. A perfect example of the wrong people getting the money. I have a real bad taste in my mouth about the activities of some of these. They charge artists $250 to get airplay on stations that anyone could send music to themselves free of charge. The type of stations that say send us your song and we’ll play it. Surely artists must be suspicious of the quality of the station’s output.?

Radio Candy seem the worst. They own some of the stations they charge musicians for getting airplay on. They are also the prime movers behind the ridiculous Radio Indie Alliance Chart. 12 of us writers did a straw poll looking at one of their Top 75 charts. There is a lot of experience gathered in those 12 and the best we could come up with was knowing 15 of the artists. Most were lower. So there is something fishy about such a chart. You have to suspect people paying appear there, maybe with rich parents. To confuse the issue, a few known acts are thrown in who haven’t paid and also a few bigger names. High placings are always there for The Tearaways, Rumbar Records and Jem Recordings artists who coincidentally pay Radio Candy for promotion.

Social media isn’t as vital as it used to be, but there is still a weariness with artists not following up on reviews and promoting them accordingly, just as there is with writers, labels and artists who promote too much. Having a Twitter account that just posts thank you Radio X for playing……….., Thank You Radio Y for playing is soon gonna lose followers. I Don’t Hear A Single used to get over 80% of its hits from social media, now its less than 30%. Learning Google Analytics or keywords is the key.

Finally, many albums are self-released now and that’s great. There are some fine labels out there too. Labels such as Big Stir, Spyderpop, Tapete and Wiretap amongst them. But most albums are self-released. There is a problem with reviewers asking for physical releases and then not reviewing or playing them. Another unnecessary expense for the artist. It gets even worse on Vinyl releases. The cost of manufacture and sending an album is high for it not to be covered. I am a big music collector and as obsessive as the next collector. But I separate my hobby from my writing. I am not trying to build my collection on the backs of hard up musicians. Also what is the point of a three line review? What is the point of everything appearing in an end of year list? 2021 albums are being covered in 2022. 

I know I’ve strayed off the Power Pop point a bit, but it is all relevant. I also assure you that I am not settling scores or hitting personal targets. I always write honestly and I’m more than happy to take criticism or for people not to agree. I’m someone who speaks their mind, but also listens to counter views that follow. It really is time for the Power Pop Community to get together to look for ways around these problems and make the musician central to everything they do. New Power Pop wise, it may be time to open a Facebook group just covering that and finding a way to link to the Indie and Pop Punk scenes. I love Power Pop, I just don’t want to see it die with us.


Monday 28 June 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release.

We do realise that buyers in the UK and Europe can buy the UK Releases cheaper. That is absolutely fine. We want to publish the full Kool Kat weekly update complete, so UK Releases may be for info only to UK Buyers.

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

The Cleaners From Venus - Penny Novelettes (self-released  UK 2021)      $18


Martin Newell has been quite prolific these past few years, issuing a cache of CDs and download-only singles and EPs.  Now comes “Penny Novelettes”, his latest offering under the Cleaners From Venus moniker. His music is like good old-fashioned “comfort food”.  With every release you pretty much know exactly what to expect and what you’ll get – his instantly identifiable voice, his undeniable take on British life and his clever way with chord changes that have the ability to take a left turn during a song.

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Loose Lips - Hung Up On Pop (Outtatunes Records 2021)      $9

Loose Lips was formed in the thick of the Power Pop/New Wave era of the late 70’s by guitarists Richie Mayer and Jeff King.  After early tentative combinations the band’s line up settled with drummer Gary Ritchie of the The Scam, an offshoot of the British band Badfinger, bassist Danny Welch, King on guitar and vocal and Mayer on guitar and lead vocals.  Loose Lips created its own scene for the next two years with a wildly enthusiastic fan base, memorable shows, frequent radio play, and a number of cable and TV performances. Their legacy is one of pure, melodic, unapologetic Power Pop gems. 

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Richie Mayer - The Inn Of Temporary Happiness (Outtatunes Records 2021)      $12

It only took Loose Lips’s Richie Mayer 41 years to release a solo record – but here it is!  And quite a hook-filled one at that. Mayer retreated to the studio and recorded an album that was an affectionate nod to his past musical mentors and the freedom that came with a solo project.

Take advantage of our exclusive 2-fer offer! Get this and loose lips’ “hung up on pop” cd for only $18!  If paying my paypal, you will be refunded accordingly. If paying by credit card, your card will be charged the 2-fer price. 

Bandcamp Link

Joel Tyler Wall - Green Wave (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14

New Release on the Kool Kat label. Recorded at the tail end of 2020, at his own Green Door Studios, Joel Tyler Wall (the other half of Diamond Hands) steps out on his own for the first time with “Green Wave”. The record reads like a Brit-Pop Psych Pop primer and continues to grow on you with each listen!  

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

Brinsley Schwarz - Last Orders! (Mega Dodo Records UK 2021)       $14

At the dawn of the internet, Ian Gomm self‐released an album of previously unreleased and hard to find recordings by his old group Brinsley Schwarz called, appropriately enough, “Rarities”. Taking inspiration from this long out of print album, Mega Dodo Records asked Ian Gomm to dig deep into his archive to see what other gems he might have.  “Last Orders!” is the result of his search. The album contains some of the earliest recordings that the band made for radio and television, outtakes, rehearsals, home recordings and much more. For many Brinsley Schwarz remain paragons of British pub rock and public interest in the band doesn’t ever seem to wane.

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

The Beat Rats - Have Mersey! (Kool Kat Musik 2013)      $13    

“Have Mersey” indeed! The follow up to their 2009 Kool Kat debut "A Cellar Full Of Rats!" arrived in 2013. Released in conjunction with Liverpool's Cavern Records, The Beat Rats returned with twelve more catchy, tongue-in-cheek-at-times, Merseybeat inspired pop nuggets. They take no prisoners and offer no apologies on their sophomore effort of 60's-inspired hook-filled gems that are guaranteed to have you dancing while you listen

Kool Kat Link

The Beat Rats - A Cellar Full Of Rats (Kool Kat Musik 2009)      $13


In 1964 it was Beatlemania, in 2009 it was time for BeatRatmania! This New York City-based quartet whisks you back to the days of The Star Club in Hamburg, Germany with only a slight modern touch. Their no-frills brand of Mersey-inspired garage pop is a hook and guitar-filled delight "Scruffy, raw and teeming with danceable grooves, it’s a record guaranteed to warrant repeated listening!" - Beverly Paterson 


Sunday 27 June 2021

Stephen Flint - Onanmatopoeia


This is something of a back to the future as the album was released in November 2020. I can be forgiven though as Onanmatopoeia features a collection of recordings from between 1992 and 2001. I've been meaning to feature it for a while, put it down to my aging mind that I kept forgetting.

This is the Intelligent Pop that I love and crave. It belongs in a select group that normally get lumped in with Power Pop or Pop Rock, but should really be in a category of its own with the likes of XTC and Game Theory, maybe even Robyn Hitchcock. It isn't that the album sounds like those mentioned, it just inhabits similar space.

Recorded on 8 Track in the days before it became the norm digitally. The sound and production is incredibly good bearing in mind that there was no computer trickery around to make the thing sound like it was recorded at Abbey Road. 

Boston's Stephen Flint as gathered a selection of his recordings that are a delight, incredibly listenable and wonderfully inventive. The overall opinion that you come away with is what an incredible collection. Imagine what the guy could do in a studio.

From the gentle obviously one man gentleness of Gotta Get Some to the mesmerising piano on the almost Toytown on Bad Photography, Onanmatopoeia is wall to wall goodness. Life Is A Funny is very Ben Folds whilst Just Another Eddie Vedder is very 90's Indie, like a Matthew Sweet demo maybe.

Wide Open Hole is superb Psych Pop with the Pop bursting to get out and Gotten To sounds very XTC Big Express era. The real pop gem though is I'm Gone, piano pop of the highest order. There is so much to like here that I am really impatient to hear more from Flint. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Mangroves - Songs To Make Your Dad Proud


There's something charming and endearing about the Brisbane Quartet, The Mangroves. As you can tell by the title of this, their second album, they don't take themselves too seriously without ever being a joke or comedy band. 

They describe themselves as forming in 1982 (they weren't) and being cryogenically frozen  under strict instructions only to be revived during Brisbane's renaissance. Their debut album, What's Better Than Brisbane?, was described by critics as "the least accessible album of the decade" (again the band's words).

For all the self depreciation, that charm and wit shine through. You get the 1982 reference because there is a lot here that is very Go-Betweens. The impression is that there is a real "let's do the show right here" attitude and the songs are mini pop gems that stand in their own right.

Bounced Out as a real Housemartins vibe as does a lot of the album. Les Kiss is Jingle Jangle heaven with a Neil Finn similarity in the vocal.  Expat Exports is so C86. Ric's Backyard has overtones of late 50's Rock and Roll, but still comes across as The Proclaimers.

The song that gets the nearest to The Go-Betweens is Same Old Places, an approaching five minutes as phases when it sounds so Glasgow, even Teenage Fanclub instrumentally. There is no doubt that these songs are about Brisbane, but they can easily be adapted to any city. 

A Special mention should be made for Gabbatoir, an instrumental about Brisbane Cricket Ground. It is a lovely piano piece that is only 2 minutes long, but reveals that there is far more to The Mangroves than you realise. Elsewhere it is surrounded by great Indie Guitar Pop. The upcoming Summer may make Songs To Make Your Dad Proud even more relevant. 

A point I'd like to make is that I found it hard to find places to buy the album or find info on the band. This is typical of Distrokid (and CD Baby too). They tend to do half a job. They get some distribution points for albums, most of them free streams, but do little to point anyone in the direction. The Album Cover reveals a CD, yet there is nowhere you can find it. I have no part in Bandcamp, but it really is the place to go to for Indies to sell albums and merch and there is also a stream built in. I've yet to see anyone like Distrokid break or even help a band.

You can listen to and buy the download here. The individual tracks are available in full on YouTube here. The band's debut album and Bounced Out are available on Bandcamp here.


Friday 25 June 2021

Lewis Wilson - Wonderthrill


Lately, everything comes back to Scotland. In music, lifestyle, attitude, in fact most things whilst across the Border, we deal with all the nonsense that is Brexit and political lies. Coming from a Northern Town devastated by the closing of mines and glass factories, I find it so hard to understand how the residents vote in the Top Hatted shysters, but enough of that.

Falkirk's Lewis Wilson releases his eighth album and as you'd expect it is wall to wall Pop Rock excellence. The double bonus for is is Stu Kidd's continued involvement as we at IDHAS are big fans of The Wellgreen and his magnificent Kidd album. 

To say Wonderthrill is chirpy is a real understatement. The charm and joy oozes out and it already feels like Summer. Face Like Fizz makes me want to run merrily in the adjacent field with its gentle jangle and that is where a lot of this album resides.

The Love Is In This Town is another pop gem, a little REM Out Of Time in its feel and You're Lighter Than I heads towards Psych Pop. Find That Place is very 70s Pop Rock, say Liverpool Express and Karma's Gone is very West Coast.

You'd expect some jangle and the likes of Dusty Cloud provides that splendidly. Sugar Hill is Nick Heyward to a tee. However, you could select any of the 14 songs present here and like each for a different reason and that is the album's strength.

Beautifully produced, gentle but able to break out and Wilson has a great voice. There is a lot of great Scottish music around at the moment, particularly Jangle and Dream Pop, but Wonderthrill feels much than that. Certainly more substantial. Pop Rock is on the up and an album that like this certainly leads the way.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 23 June 2021

Quivers - Golden Doubt


Golden Doubt is a master class in writing and performing Indie Pop. After hearing the opener, Gutters Of Love, you think surely everything else on the album can't be as great, well it is. The concern whenever I see the Indie Pop label, part of me hopes that isn't going to be another earnest twee affair. Again, this isn't any such thing.

The Melbourne based quartet consist of Sam Nicholson, Bella Quinlan, Michael Panton and Holly Thomas. Nicholson is the lead vocalist, but all four sing and this is particularly relevant in the Backing Vocals of Quinlan and Thomas.

This vocal variety and interplay is one of the reasons that the album appeals so much, but the major strength is how the boundaries of the genre are stretched. The band have a reputation for Jangle Pop excellence, but the actual Jangling content here isn't that high.

When it does Jangle on a song like the splendid When It Breaks, it hits the spot and more, but it is the variety that hits home most. The title track is a melancholic man at the piano thing that is very Paul Heaton. You keep expecting it to break out, which thankfully it doesn't. That would just spoil the mood.

Videostores is part nostalgic, part regret and chugs along and mesmerises and Hold You Back could be Philly Soul. Nostalgia Will Kill You is a gem of a Pop song that would in most cases be the album stand out, but then there is Gutters Of Love.

Everything that you need to know about Quivers is contained in these precious four minutes. Initially, the song sounds very Deacon Blue, but then breaks into an incredibly chipper instrumental break and returns with an all sing along chant. An incredible song on an incredible album that will be up there in the IDHAS Best Of Year. 

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about Quivers here.


Tom Thiel - Armchair Astronaut


Wisconsin Singer Songwriter Tom Thiel specialises in a sort of Acoustic Folk that would make many I Don't Hear A Single readers run for the hills. It isn't the type of thing that I would be listening to. I've heard so much of this sort of thing and albums start to get tedious after the third song. All a bit here is another song, sounds exactly like the last one.

But wait! There is far more to Mr Thiel than meets the eye. He does appear to be a bit of a Troubadour, but the songs are stories and have real depth. There are more than hints of Americana and paths towards Country, but all are done in an interesting enjoyable way.

There are also times when he breaks out and that is when the album gets particularly splendid. These Pop Rock moments are magnificent. Sunshine And Lemonade 2.0 is one such song, gentle, very Bruce Hornsby without the Piano. All enhanced by a great chorus. 

The title track is a tip top song. The arrangement and additional instruments provide a much wider panorama and Thiel thrives in this splendour. It is a song that builds and builds without quite ever letting loose. Moody yet enthralling.

The real killer song though is Satellite. Wonderfully mixed by Marc Golde, the song morphs into a splendid climax with a driving rhythm accompanied by layered vocals that make the song so big. It is a magnificent affair and I'd love to hear much more in this direction.

Tom Thiel reminds me of Steve Earle at times, although the vocal is much clearer. In some moments, he comes across as, heaven forbid, Bono on U2's slower songs but without the earnest nonsense. Thiel definitely has stories to tell and he relates them really well.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about Tom Thiel here.


Tuesday 22 June 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release.

We do realise that buyers in the UK and Europe can buy the UK Releases cheaper. That is absolutely fine. We want to publish the full Kool Kat weekly update complete, so UK Releases may be for info only to UK Buyers.

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

Electric Looking Glass - Somewhere Flowers Grow (We Are Busy Bodies Records 2021)      $17


One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small – go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall. Follow this LA quartet down the rabbit hole and you’ll find this technicoloured Electric Looking Glass, a charismatic Carnaby Street concoction, taking a dose of The Left Banke with a dash of The Beatles and a sprinkle of Small Faces. The baroque pop quartet bring us a 1967 springtime reverie with “Somewhere Flowers Grow”.  You might easily mistake them at first for an obscure Apple Records signing but Electric Looking Glass insist they are forward thinking tomorrow-people making music for NOW!  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

The Rubinoos - The CBS Tapes (Yep Roc Records  2021      $15 

For most true, long time power pop fans, The Rubinoos need no introduction….  On November 3, 1976, co-founders Jon Rubin (vocals) and Tommy Dunbar (guitar) entered CBS Studios in San Francisco with drummer Donn Spindt and bassist Royse Ader to get a feel for the studio prior to the recording of their first album for the legendary Beserkley Records.  It shows the huge talent and energy of a young band near the beginning of their career, who believed they were unstoppable. This never before released recording is the perfect way to kick off the band's 50th anniversary celebration. 11  previously unreleased tracks!

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Brent Seavers - BS Stands for Brent Seavers (Kool Kat Musik 2021)      $14

Brent Seavers of The Decibels steps out with his first solo effort!  These tunes were a mix of songs Brent had written over his entire time with The Decibels, ranging from a few songs written in his early teens (“Me and My Melancholy Face” and “All The Better”) to newer songs (“Flatline” and “Play”) that were contenders for the latest Decibels’ album. Mostly out of pandemic-fueled necessity, he played and sang everything on this album.

Bandcamp Link

Hanemoon - Last Thing I Heard (Jigsaw Records 2021)      $12

Once again, Hanemoon have served up a dozen perfect midtempo jangly guitar pop hits in the style of later Teenage Fanclub, Dropkick or Cosmic Rough Riders, with the utmost attention given to melody and harmony.  Hans Forster is one of the better power pop songwriters around today.  Forster has always had an intense appreciation of exactly where the beauty lies in his music. With the little bit more clarity in this release, it has never been so apparent. 

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Del Amitri - Fatal Mistakes (Cooking Vinyl Records 2021)      $14

Throughout their entire career, Del Amitri have mastered the art of timeless, melodically focused Pop Rock “Fatal Mistakes” was recorded over three weeks in March in a country house in deep England, and is their first studio album since 2002’s “Can You Do Me Good”!  It's a bizarre collection of stories powered by guitars, drums and keyboards played entirely by the quintet. Granted, Justin Currie never retired, in the interim releasing four solo albums which could have been lost Del Amitri albums. His song writing chops are still sound, and his voice hasn’t lost a bit in 20 years. 

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

The Vandals - I Saw Her In A Mustang (Beatrocket Records 2021)      $16       

A whole lotta profane!  Some pretty cool Florida garage punk that could have been massive if their single wasn’t banned from so many stations.  Finally The Vandals get a retrospective. The band originated in Hollywood, Florida in 1964 and several original songs distinguished The Vandals from the plethora of local groups at the time. The risqué “I Saw Her In A Mustang” was the catalyst that created a huge South Florida following for the group. Sadly it was the incendiary title track’s racy lyrical content that likely kept the band from being much bigger.

Kool Kat Link

Various - Party For Joey : A Sweet Relief Tribute To Joey Spampinato 
(True North Records 2021)      $18 

The Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians and music industry workers who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems. That life is hard is true, and yet we’re graced with gifts that make it easier. One of those gifts is Joey Spampinato, the singer, songwriter and bassist was co-founder of NRBQ, a rock quartet who released their first album in 1969 and whose genre-defying music inspired a generation of music fans and especially other musicians.  Many of those musicians answered the call to help raise funds for Joey when it was revealed he was battling Cancer.  These musicians included Ben Harper with Keith Richards, Benmont Tench, Don Was, Bonnie Raitt and NRBQ,  The Minus 5, and Peter Case,  All for a great cause (hence the slightly higher price)!


latewaves - Hell To Pay


I'm currently at the back end of a long piece, for print, on the future of Power Pop and a point I've often made is the connection to the much younger audience that Punk Pop enjoys. Asbury Park New Jersey trio latewaves are probably a  bit too noisy for Power Pop. But they do demonstrate that as Punk Pop gets older, the melodic choruses are taking over the scattergun verses traditionally associated with the genre.

They are a power trio that I'd love to see live. You can imagine the energy and vibe that they create. They can get a bit shouty at times, but that always adds to the song. Hell To Pay has killer riffs, great guitar solos and top notch choruses. 

There are also some great Pop Rock songs present too. Send Me To The Moon is an absolute winner with a massive chorus and a Power Pop solo that tries desperately wants to get out on a couple of occasions.

Too much has another big chorus and when they slow it down, the band prove equally adept with Hell To Pay. I'm Alright instrumentally is even in Muse territory. But there is no doubt that latewaves are at their best at pace.

The grunge of Extra Pale has a shouted chorus, but is still surrounded by a great riff. Sympathy (and Validation) is fine College Rock. Enough Is Enough is right in your face and Guaranteed Burnouts is the nearest they get to Punk.

This may not be the usual sort of thing that Power Pop fans would listen to, but they should. Call it Power Pop Rock if you like/ Never more so on the wonderful Stroke Of Luck. You will be amazed at how addictive the riffs are. There's no a duff track here. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can also listen to it at the various places listed here


Sunday 20 June 2021

IDHAS Audio Extravaganza


Quite a few of you have been asking about the Audio Extravaganza. We have decided to put it on hold for a short while. It will return and we will use the downtime to have a look at different formats. We are constantly asked about syndication and would only do this if it had intros rather than be a mix. We would keep the mix option available on Mixcloud.

We've decided this simply because Jim and I are so busy. My commitments to Big Stir and Spyderpop continue to grow and the growth of those labels fills me with delight. I also have I Don't Hear A Single which continues to have a record following month by month and has picked up a whole new audience. The amount of time needed for listening grows with it.

Jim does all the mixing and mastering and he has less and less time due to am incredibly busy real life job that has got busier and busier as the UK comes out of lockdown. As stated, the Extravaganza is not going away and expect it to return sooner than you think. 

It made sense to give it a rest temporarily. You won't miss a thing as there will be a big catch up of songs that you've missed when we return.

Thursday 17 June 2021

Daydream Time Machine - Mirrors Of Time


Daydream Time Machine are from California and if you glanced at the album cover, you would expect them to be part of that state's burgeoning Psych Rock scene. Look at the odd review and they appear to have been lumped in with Prog.

Well Ladies and Gentlemen, the band largely sound nothing like either of those genres although there are the odd ventures into both. Mirrors Of Time is essentially a Pop Rock album, although more on the Rock First Floor.

Chris Simonian's vocal has far more in common with Scouse Pop than anything far out there man. The material is built on mesmerising riffs, the band go for a vibe rather than an all out assault and the guitar solos are not plentiful. This allows the album to grip you even more.

Have no doubt about it, this is an album to be listened to from start to finish. The arrangements are melodic, when in the wrong hands they could go into Jam Band wankiness. The strength of the vocal also helps to keep the songs in line as do the occasional backing vocals of Katie Hudson.

Listen to the complete album and you will be saving the best until last. Begin Within is a magnificent song, a twanging Guitar riff accompanied by a killer beat that morphs into a chiming close. Laughter And Dismay is a slightly heavier affair, but just as effective.

Trials Is Trails is almost Acoustic Folk Rock and Always edges towards one of those big Brit Pop album closers. There really is so much to enjoy here. It may not be the sort of thing that some of you listen to often, but you should give this a whirl. It is one stormer of an album. Highly Recommended.

You can listen to and buy the album here.  You can also find out more about the band here.


Sunday 13 June 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release.

We do realise that buyers in the UK and Europe can buy the UK Releases cheaper. That is absolutely fine. We want to publish the full Kool Kat weekly update complete, so UK Releases may be for info only to UK Buyers.

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

The James Clark Institute - The Colour Of Happy (Room 5 Records Canada 2021)      $13

The record was terrifically produced by Mo Berg (The Pursuit Of Happiness).  “The collaboration with Berg is a marriage made in heaven. ‘The Colour Of Happy’ is 34 minutes of joy.  The album contains such confident mature power pop and sounds very UK, wonderfully so.  At times it seems very scouse pop, when the brass kicks in I think of The Ragamuffins and it’s great to hear the odd Farfisa run or two.  The main comparison that I come away with is Roddy Frame and Aztec Camera.  There is also a lyrical excellence, not often seen in the genre.   

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Crowded House - Dreamers Are Waiting (BMG Records  2021)      $12  

Crowded House’s first album since 2010. Like Neil Finn’s sometimes esoteric solo work, these songs are more detailed, more subtle and take more time to reveal themselves.  There’s no instant gratification, but on much of this record, the songs get under your skin like an itch you just have to scratch, almost subliminally addictive.  It doesn’t just retain the intimacy that made them so cherished, but makes it their signature sound.  ( 


Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

Gary Louris - Jump For Joy (Thirty Tigers Records 2021)      $13

Gary Louris’ first solo album in over decade is a decidedly low-key affair, one that’s decidedly disengaged from the roots rock sound that he helped establish with the band the Jayhawks during the birth of what became engrained within the modern Americana sound. “Jump For Joy” finds Louris leaning more towards the music he makes with his “other” outfit, Golden Smog, a band whose membership also includes members of Soul Asylum, Wilco, \the Replacements, and Big Star.  

Apple Music Link

Mark & The Clouds - Waves (Gar du Nord Records UK 2021)        $18

Since relocating from his native Bologna, Italy to London in the early ’90s, Marco Magnani has been a stalwart of the city’s underground scene where 60’s pop and folk meets psychedelic rock. His previous band Instant Flight worked for several years as the backing group of Arthur Brown as well as releasing a string of meticulously crafted and well-received albums themselves.  Now fronting Mark & The Clouds, Magnani continues to write produce, and release great psych-pop n roll records, with a list of bandmates and collaborators from the UK/Spanish/Italian psych music scene and centered around the three-piece nucleus of Marco on vocals and guitar plus John O’Sullivan (Instant Flight/The Snakes/Limozine) on bass, vocals and guitar, and Shin Okajima on drums (Shin and Marco formed The Smokers in 1994).  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Sunbourne Rd.                                     Manners maketh man                 2021/Kool Kat Musik               GREAT!!              $14

NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL – AVAILABLE JUNE 18 – ACCEPTING ORDERS NOW!!  Alex Siodmak is from Casale Monferrato in Northern Italy and with the assistance of friends, Davide Ghione, Sebastiano D'Alessandro and Riccardo Marchese, he is Sunbourne Rd.  Now available on CD and previously only available as downloads, the 19 tracks present  represent all of the 18 tracks included on Sunbourne Rd.’s three digital releases plus an exclusive bonus track “Sunflower”! Whilst the UK indie guitar scene seems to be a multitude of bands trying to sound like each other, Europe is releasing more and more interesting offerings. The beauty of this collection is that repeated listening unveils even more layers. 

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

Various Artists - Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave (Big Stir Records 2021)      $12

“Big Stir Singles: The Tenth Wave” is (for now) the final instalment in the current series of CDs collecting their celebrated weekly digital singles, the A- and B-sides of which were issued in October and November of 2020.  While it's the sterling example of the best music on the global pop rock scene that listeners expect, it's also an essential document of the turbulent times of its making. This is top flight musicianship in the service of radio-ready tunes, but it also tells us a great deal about the world as it is today, as seen by the represented songwriters and performers.   As with the other nine volumes in the series, “The Tenth Wave” stands as a testament to the fact that “the single” has lost neither its relevance nor its magic ability to thrill with musical craft and unparalleled immediacy. 

Ram On: The 50th Anniversary Tribute To Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram  (Spirit Of Unicorn Music  UK 2021)      $20

Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram” album from 1971 is covered in its entirety by a collective of musicians lead by Denny Seiwell, the original drummer on the record (and Wings member from 1971-1973) and producer/multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo.  The album features all 12 tracks from the album, plus a few bonus numbers at the end.  The idea for “Ram On”, was born in 2020 from a discussion between Fernando Perdomo and Denny Seiwell. The pair are joined by original guitarist David Spinozza and Marvin Stamm (who played flugelhorn on “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”).  

Davey Johnstone (Elton John Band) and Will Lee (The Fab Faux) also play on the record which features contributions from over 100 musicians!  Each song has a guest vocalist including Brian Wilson’s daughter Carnie Wilson (Wilson Phillips), Dan Rothchild (Heart, Sheryl Crow) Pat Sansone (Wilco), Joey Santiago (Pixies), Eric Dover (Jellyfish, The Lickerish Quartet) and Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd, Blue Pearl).  

Thursday 10 June 2021

Negative Album Reviews


I've had more time on my hands this week and so it has been great to catch up with fellow writers, DJ's, friends etc and one constant topic came up. It was about a Negative Album Review that I wrote on here. Two points came up. The first was asking if IDHAS had changed its policy of only writing positive reviews and ignoring the albums that don't float my boat. The second was telling me that they had heard that I Don't Hear A Single had got a massive amount of complaints about it.

I'll answer the second question first. IDHAS did not receive one complaint about the review. It also had over 4,000 views making it the most popular monthly post for a while. I know bad news travelling fast may have helped readership, but my point is not one of those readers reacted via a complaint or any disagreement. 

One of the IDHAS Team didn't disagree with the opinion in the review, concurring that the album was a real turkey, but thought that I had gone way too far. Another opinion on Facebook said the same. Both could be right. I would also state that the Record Label didn't mention the review in any way. They ignored it and moved on which was exactly the right reaction. Everyone assumes that a big postbag followed. I can assure all that it didn't. 

On the other point, I Don't Hear A Single hasn't changed its policy. It will as always only carry positive reviews from albums that I truly think other people will get a similar kick from. If I don't like it, I won't be telling others, I will just ignore it. That is a lesson learned. For approaching five years, IDHAS has kept to that policy and confusing people with the negative one wasn't the right thing to do. If I feel so strongly about an album in future, I will hold my tongue or publish it elsewhere. 

Just a small explanation of why I decided to write the review is in order. As the album was sent to reviewers, the general opinion amongst the many fellow writers that I talked to was that the album was laughable. There were running jokes about how bad it was. Yet there was not one comment on Blogs or Social Media, quite the opposite. There were positive comments from people that I knew were slating it which really irritated me.

Then a couple of people kept chipping away at me saying that I should put a positive spin on the album, that somehow Power Pop needed me to support it. That seemed overboard. Power Pop doesn't need my opinion on anything, it can handle itself fine. I am not the voice of the masses, quite the reverse, it places too high an opinion on me and is unwarranted and undeserved. Secondly I don't really consider myself a Power Pop writer. I was at the beginning, but I Don't Hear A Single grew and evolved into something far more Indie. It majors on Pop Rock, but isn't afraid to cover Psych or Prog. That Indie direction is one that happened, it was never planned. 

I stand by the review 100%. It is an honest opinion on what I think about the album. A few others disagree and think the album is great, that's absolutely fine. I'm glad they like it. I think people don't realise that IDHAS gets about 200 submissions a day. It also prides itself on covering the uncovered, opening doors for artists and then moving on. It covers artists that aren't in the PR mass email circle. A lot of listening is involved in this. It has always been an honest Blog and I think the lack of coverage I give to Big Stir and Kool Kat albums endorses the integrity.

The mistake that I did make was publishing the article on I Don't Hear A Single which made the review look personal and may have made other artists afraid that they might get the same treatment. I'm not going to take the review down as that would be hypocritical, but I can assure you that future reviews will follow simple rules. If I really love the album, I will tell everyone about it. If I don't, I will just ignore it.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday 9 June 2021

Extended Play Part 2

Divest - Mercury Retrograde EP

When I think of Norwegian Pop Rock, I think of Candy. Now Tom Dahl has some real competition from the Oslo duo of Andreas Heinesen Kase and Hans-Ole Sponberg Larsen. Divest are at the poppier end of Pop Rock as demonstrated here.

Mercury Retrograde is released on Friday and By My Side is an absolute gem of a lead track. It is like Russell Mael fronting Jellyfish. Knock On could be even better, slower, but wonderfully melodic. I can see these two songs being lapped up by the Indie Pop Internet Radio Stations.

Something's About To Chase is mid 80's synth pop and Wasteland, Sunshine is a much moodier affair. All four songs blend beautifully. New great Pop isn't that easy to find, Mercury Retrograde is definitely that. You can find out more about the band and pre-save the EP here.

All Over The Shop - All Over The Shop EP

Detroit Trio, All Over The Shop have released a masterful Power Pop EP. The vibe is very late 70s / early 80s New Wave. What makes the band that bit different is Todd Wilks's unique vocal which comes somewhere between Doug Fieger and Feargal Sharkey. 

The choruses are big, the hooks are plenty and singing along is compulsory. Movin' Too Slow has an urgency that just grips you and If That's Magic has a real Lindsey Buckingham vibe. Brand New Summer is very UK New Wave Beat Pop.

Tongue Tied is a little different, a song you can imagine in an 80's Teen Movie and the chorus is killer. I'm told that All Over The Shop was just a lockdown project. I do hope not because I want to hear much more from these three. You can listen to and buy the EP here.

Silvertwin - Ploy

As a side issue, researching Silvertwin underlined my frustrations with reviewers, particularly UK writers. Every article on the band said the same. It was obviously copy and paste PR. I do wish would look to draw their own opinions on new music and not be so lazy. Too many wait for the PR to arrive in the Inbox and listen to just a track or two. Less is more. Quality rather than quantity!

Back on Topic and the London five piece are led by Isaac Shalam and specialise in 70's Pop Rock that edges towards Soft Rock. Songs are beautifully arranged and unashamedly celebrate the decade. People could claim cloning, I don't go for that at all.

Original songs played with heartfelt sincerity need applause, particularly when most raid Glam Rock. A song like Saviour reminds me of the likes of Jigsaw and Pilot, maybe even John Miles. Doubted and to a lesser extent, Ploy are very Andrew Gold and you can't complement the band more than that comparison.

Promises takes the Piano Pop one step further and would easily fit on John Howard's Kid In A Big World. It really is that good. This is a top notch EP. The album may need a touch more variation, maybe something that picks up the pace, but this is a splendid listen. You can listen to and buy the EP here.

The Cudas - Alien Vacation EP

I've watched the development of Cape Town's Reinhard Leon van Biljon via The Cudas's singles and thought he was on to something that would result in a killer EP or Album. Alien Vacation is just that. The man loves Power Pop and this is unashamedly killer Power Pop. 

The production has come on apace and these four songs are as good as anything you are likely to hear in the genre. Autorama has a hint of The Records' debut and I Don't Wanna Go Out is very Tsar like, all it really needs to be perfect is Steve Coulter on the drums. 

My Summer Song should really be on Not Lame and early Weezer dominates Space Coast. People still say there are no new great Power Pop artists. Here is one. This is poptastically great. A reminder of how positive great Power Pop can be if people would stop taking it so seriously. You can listen to and buy the EP here.


Extended Play Part 1

 Lost Ships - Nostalgia

Portsmouth's Lost Ships release their third EP for the excellent Subjangle label. Nostalgia is cleverly written classic Brit Pop. This EP seems less jangly than the previous two and is very reminiscent of The Bluetones, a real compliment.

Weight Of The World is the obvious lead track, a catchy chipper Supernaturals like affair. Shirley From Shirley is a slower storytelling song that quietly builds while Inside My Head is very Glasgow with a riff that is so The Coral. 

Come To Me borders on Americana, almost Campfire like until the short closing cinematic instrumental. A cracking listen. I can't wait for a full length Lost Ships album. You can listen to and buy the EP here.

The Stick Arounds - Waiting For The Click

Waiting For The Clouds is a 4 Track RP that acts as a sampler of how varied, the Michigan five piece are. Redtail Hawks is all fuzzed up, US New Wave Power Pop that comes across as a popped up The Successful Failures. It is a very fine thing indeed.

In a completely opposite direction, Easy To Take has a real Country Rock Doolin' Dalton vibe. Close To Being Cool edges toward a Pete Wylie big sound and Ode To Kid Marine is built on a Guided By Voices sort of riff and aches beautifully and more than a little noisily.

Hearing four songs that are very different act as a great showcase, but may confuse new listeners who may want to dig into the band's back catalogue to learn what a great outfit this lot are. You can listen to and buy the EP here.

Tripper and the Wild Things - Boomerang Kids

Predictions of the next big thing usually end in tears, but Hamilton Ontario's Tripper And The Wild Things have a certain something that may just break down the barriers. They master a brand of slacker Indie Rock that appeals to their generation in a way that may just take the previous one along for the ride. 

The band can be a little noisy and shouty the odd time, but this is built around big hooks and memorable choruses. Plus a song like Juno shows that they have more than one gear and work equally well on slowed down songs. 

There's no doubt though that they are at their best when the pace ramps up and a song like Boomerang Kids encapsulates what the band are about. A built up verse, a great chorus and a killer riff. I can't wait to hear more. You can listen to and buy the EP here.

Portable Radio - Should've Bounced

Portable Radio draw attention to their magnificent self titled album, reviewed here. Should've Bounced, the lead track is from the album and underlines the band's vocal strength of harmony in a gentle catch all listen.

The two B Sides are more than worthwhile inclusions. Happy Coincidence is a  little more basic than what has gone before, more keyboard led 80's twee than previous songs, but still underpinned by a wonderful vocal arrangement. 

Never Tell A Soul is the original mix of Kick Me Out and is part Piano Bar schmooze, part Explorers Club. Portable Radio's strength is the vocal interplay and this EP is a great addition for buyers of the album, It is an album that everyone should own. You can listen to and buy the EP here.