PoPINIONS: IN PRAISE OF SOPHISTICATED POP-ROCK

Pugwash

So what is the old fart on about again?

“Sophisticated pop-rock music” – isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Maybe, in this day and age, when today’s version of “pop-rock” is labeled as “indie-alternative rock” and is designed to appeal to the hipster set. As regular PoP visitors will be fully aware, yours truly believes (as the late great music writer Ian McDonald expounded in his book The People’s Music), all the good music happened in the 60s and 70s – okay I am seriously paraphrasing here – and therefore the principles laid down by those magnificent music makers of that special epoch must be adhered to if you want “sophisticated pop-rock”.

So who is out there in 2012 who qualifies as purveyors of “sophisticated pop-rock”. Listen and learn.

PUGWASH

Tasty harmonies, lush strings, guitar arpeggios and a melody that will worm its way into your sub-consciousness, if you just give it a chance. The beauty of “Fall Down” is taken for granted in Pugwash’s oeuvre and leader Thomas Walsh never hides his admiration for the Jeff Lynne/ELO school of songwriting. Essential.

METRIC

Ah, I see that you’re scratching your head! “Isn’t Metric a hipster band?” STFU! Sure, superficially Metric draws from post-punk/new wave influences but never forget where these influences come from – 60s/70s music. After all, it’s clear that Emily Haines and co are huge fans of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Robert Wyatt (who?!?) and “Gimme Sympathy” is a good example. As it is, new album Synthetica is as well-crafted a piece of modern pop-rock as one is likely to get in 2012. Highly recommended.

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE

No surprise here. FOW’s straightforward deceptively simple songs belie the sophistication that lies within each lyrical concept and instrumental constructs. A wondrous blend of power pop, folk, country and rock wrapped up in a homespun veneer that is approachable and accessible. 2011’s Sky Full of Holes was a major return to form. Power!

COSMO JARVIS

I have been raving about young Cosmo Jarvis for his last two LPs which have been magnificent. His eclecticism is astounding as his production acumen. Brian Eno is a fan and that says it all for me. Jarvis makes pop-rock cliches sound fresh and dynamic – a true renaissance man. One to keep a close eye on!

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

Wainwright is as ‘0ld-school-referencing’ as one can possibly get in the mainstream circa 2012. Something to do with the man’s genes (google it) – his latest album Out of the Game (review to come) is one of those triumphal sophisticated pop-rock singer-songwriter opuses that come once in every blue moon. And as obvious as his influences may be, there’s no mistaking Wainwright’s own distinctive voice. Take note!

And yes, there’s more…

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