A transitional year for me. I welcomed the new decade as a National Serviceman having enlisted on Boxing Day, 1979. But more importantly, my musical tastes were changing as well, significantly. Sometime in 1978, I had been exposed to punk when a JC friend played to my friends & I, the Sex Pistols‘ Anarchy in the UK LP (banned in Singapore but smuggled in for good measure) and to be honest I was unimpressed. For a pop-rock lover weaned on The Beatles, Deep Purple, Queen, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols seemed dumb and barbaric!
That said, by 1980 I had begun to cotton on to the post-punk movement and had already started listening to the pioneering new bands of that era, which seemed far removed from the old-school rockers of my relative youth. Fueled by the noises made by rock mags like NME, Sounds & Melody Maker, I had started to abandon the old bands (as irrelevant) and had ‘embraced’ the future of rock.
Hailing from Bueno Aires, Argentina, Baby Scream has been flying the power pop flag for the past decade or so, delivering premier Beatlesque goodness that fans of the 90s Pop Underground would have no problem appreciating. The sardonically-titled Greatest Failures compiles some of Baby Scream’s finer moments (“Slut”, “Mars” and “Morning Light” amongst them) and provides a good starting point. Deeper exploration of the Baby Scream discography is available at Bandcamp. Led by vocalist/guitarist Juan Pablo Mazzola – who himself sings with a Lennonesque authority – Baby Scream is a safe haven for the power pop purists out there who are pining for the good ol’ days of the 90s Pop Underground. Check ‘em out!
Supertramp will always be remembered as a crucial influence on my music making in my late teens. Formed around the nucleus of two brilliantly gifted singer-songwriters Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, this English quintet managed to come up with a successful blend of prog-rock and pop music sensibilities that resulted in two classic LPs in Crime of the Century (1974) and Breakfast in America (1979) as well as a couple of chart hit singles in “Give a Little Bit”, “It’s Raining Again” and “The Logical Song”.
You can listen to the band’s entire discography at Spotify but of course, check out my playlist for the comprehensive introduction to the delights of this iconic band. Enjoy!
I love music of all kinds and generally dislike attempts at pigeon-holing. But of course, when you are trying to write about music it often becomes impossible to talk about ‘genres’. Since 80s “indie pop” has been treated as the artistic superior of pop-rock (which originated in the 70s and included the likes of Styx, ELO and REO Speedwagon – all of which were detested by the snobbish indie pop pundits) with its pioneers including bands like Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, Felt, early Primal Scream and of course, The Smiths. By the late 80s, it was fairly agreed that the defining conventions of “indie pop” was jangling guitars, a love of ’60s pop, and melodic power pop song structures” and pop historian Jon Savage traced the origins back to the 60s (of course!) and to the eponymous third album of The Velvet Underground.
… and we’re back! Power pop is the original basis for this webzine’s existence so I thought it’d be appropriate to highlight all you needed to know about the foundations of true-blue original POWER POP. Enjoy…
Thanks to the Breaking Bad finale, Badfinger is back in vogue. This British band originally consisted of Pete Ham, Ron Griffiths, Mike Gibbins and Tom Evans and were signed by The Beatles to Apple Records in 1968. Badfinger had four consecutive worldwide hits from 1970 to 1971: “Come and Get It” (written and produced by Paul McCartney), “No Matter What”, “Day After Day”, and “Baby Blue” (the song featured in that Breaking Bad finale).
Rock n’ roll will never die! This just might be power trio Colorway‘s manifesto on this eponymous debut. Rollicking numbers like “I’m Still Running” and “Live With Me” get the point across very succinctly. But singer-songwriter F Alex Johnson is also able to shake things up somewhat with the the sweet lullaby “Go Back to Sleep”, the acoustic instrumental “For the Birds” and the luscious ballad “A Temporary Occupation”. Highly recommended.
Chris Kittrell aka Baby Alpaca is yet another Brooklyn artist aiming to make a significant impact on the American and world indie rock worlds. Whatever commercial successes might be ahead of him, this eponymous EP at least demonstrates that Kittrell has a pop-savvy musical head on his shoulders. ‘Classic Rock N Soul’ is how Kittrell chooses to describe his music and yet again, it is refreshing to find a songwriter pulling together the myriad strands of rock and pop references at the disposal of a smart pop artist in 2013.
These four songs will keep rock scholars reaching for their stock lists of influences and inspirations as they attempt to pigeon-hole Baby Alpaca’s agenda into neat little packages. But that is ultimately a futile and frivolous exercise. For me, it’s the manner in which Kittrell manages to take 70s R&B rhythms, 80s power chords, folk harmonies and post-punk melodies to forge reasonably distinctive songs. But even without such anorak-like analysis, it’s a simple pleasure to just enjoy the infectious “On the Roam”, the svelte “Run With You”, the smoky reverb-drenched “Sea of Dreams” and the soul-inflected “Wild Child” for what they are – quality pop songs!
Zallen (aka Mike Jones) has been laboring as an alternative pop artist for 15 years now and I have been awfully privileged to have been one of the few ‘in the know’. Zallen is a pop alchemist – able to take key 60s/70s pop influences and transform them into something personal and unique.
This is obvious from the get-go. The opening track of Zallen’s latest album – “Which Way Up” – manages to splice together the DNAs of 60s psychedelia (Barrett’s Pink Floyd, The Move and Traffic) with 70′s powerpop (Raspberries, Cheap Trick), not to mention a healthy dose of Bowie.
Ah yes, Bowie. This time around, it seems that Zallen has filtered much of the songwriting, arrangements and instrumentation through the lens of the legendary iconoclast. Tracks like “Grime”, “Stolen” and of course, “Bowie The Android Boy” are the clearest examples of this approach, without ever sounding outright derivative.
Indeed, Zallen utilizes Bowie’s penchant for eclecticism to spur him into expansive territory as the clean and uncluttered pop sounds of “Happy Puppy” and “Shy Boy” provide a wonderful contrast to the darker, buzzier compositions that pervade the album.
The CD comes with bonus enhanced portion with video, photos, lyrics and Zallen’s excellent artwork as well.
By now you should be aware of Power of Pop‘s quest to find the courageous bands out there who buck the current post-punk revival trend and mine the coolness of 60s/70s classic rock n’ roll. Talk about risk-taking! So add Dead Boots to the list. With influences identified as Cheap Trick, White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Who and the Velvet Underground, it’s not too difficult to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that the band - Tony Perry (Guitar), Adrian Perry (Vocals, Bass), Ben Tileston (Drums, Vocals) and Lou Jannetty (Guitar, Vocals) – have poured into its debut LP, Veronica.
Songs like the psychedelic “Violent Vows”, the rollicking “Wrecking Ball” and raucous “On the Rocks” truly hit the spot for true-blue rock n’ roll lovers. There are numerous delights here to be savored by fans of 60s pop- rock – “I See You Coming” has a lovely Californian vibe whilst “One of Me” has a dirty bluesy approach that Black Keys fans will dig.
‘Old school indie rock band’ – has a certain ring, don’t it? The phrase has an air of authenticity that distinguishes its proponents from the hipster poseurs that dominate the modern rock world at the moment.
Tri-State hail from Essex County, NJ and consist of Mason Rather (bass/vocals), Jeff Zelevansky (guitar/vocals), Brady McNamara (drums), Julian Brash (guitar/vocals). In its email request to us, the band claimed an affinity for “Built to Spill, Guided by Voices, Pavement, and so on”. All fine references!
In actual fact, it’s probably more accurate to describe Tri-State as classic rock n’ roll band in the grand tradition of The Rolling Stones, The Band and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers where the stylings of country, folk, rock and pop meld together to produce a heady, melodic groovy brew.
This six-track debut EP may be low on production values but that doesn’t detract from the integrity of sound and vision, an open-minded rock lover will definitely discover. An attitude that prioritizes substance over form pervades the EP with songs that are lovingly crafted to be the best they can be. It’s always refreshing to listen to a band that ignores artifice and pretense in favor of honest music-making.
Whether it be the working class invocations of “Hawk in the Fog”, the gleeful jangly abandon of “All Different”, the balladic whimsy of “Search Party”, the Westerberg-channeling “Muddling Thru”, the dynamic earthiness of “Back Before” or the quirky folk of “Country Squire”, Tri-State hit the right notes, by and large.
In the final analysis, good songwriting and a dogged determination win the day for rock n’ roll excellence! Recommended.
Underworld’s Karl Hyde has been in the music business since 1980 and Edgeland is Hyde’s first solo album!
Having fronted Underworld through different genres within the electronic music sphere – before making the big time in the 1990s with techno dance music – it’s refreshing to consider Hyde’s musical approach to his debut solo work.
On Edgeland, Hyde takes his new role as singer-songwriter seriously with a clutch of well-crafted pop-rock songs which exploit his electronic music background to the hilt. The result – memorable melodies, thoughtful lyrics and fresh song arrangements/instrumentations and a worthy addition to the essential listening pile for 2013.
Outstanding tracks include “Angel Cafe” with its ‘found sound’ percussion and heavenly atmospherics; “Your Perfume Was The Best Thing” with its chorus synth hooks and textured harmonies and “Cut Clouds” with its ambient stylings and fragile demeanour. Brilliant.
The 90s alt-rock revival continues apace with singer-songwriter Sam Page weighing in with a knowing album of edgy melodic rock n’ roll numbers that bring to mind the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Gumball, Sebadoh and Buffalo Tom. There’s little doubt that J Mascis weighs in heavily as a positive influence on Page’s work as evidenced on tracks like “Hold On” and “Now I Know”. Page is less slacker-rock-intensive with more casual swagger that suggests several nods to Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
There’s an easy going charm in songs like “Tumbleweed in the Grand Scheme” and “Crush (Lovin’ You)” whilst other tracks like “I Don’t Want To Think About Her Anymore” and “Pheromones” have a cockeyed tongue-in-cheek attitude that recalls Canadian smart rockers The Pursuit of Happiness and even Elvis Costello, on some level.
All told, Breach is a solid rock n’ roll album of the old school variety, where the songs serve each other and the greater good as a whole. The lyrics are clever and pointed, the music is rollicking good fun and the attitude is always spot-on sardonic. Much to admire on Breach and always encouraging to see artists unafraid to follow their own muse, wherever it may take them, without too much notice of current trends.
Other Sounds has a second show and this time the featured band is Australian garage rockers Dune Rats. The Brisbane duo will be bringing their raucous and energetic live show to Singapore at Night & Day Bar, alongside local garage pop favourites The Pinholes.
Date: Friday, 31 May 2013
Venue: Night & Day Bar (139 Selegie Rd)
Tickets: $15 at the door (includes one drink)
Here are the details of Bored Spies‘ debut 7 inch single “Summer 720″ from KittyWu Records.
Title: Summer 720 b/w 沙鼠E
Artist: Bored Spies
Street date: 20 April 2013
Format: 7″ Single
Genre: Minimalist Pop Rock
Label: KittyWu Records
Catalog No.: KWR015
A. Summer 720
Recorded and produced in the summer of July – August 2012 at Seagrass Studios (Los Angeles) and Snakeweed Studios (Singapore) by Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Sunny Day Real Estate, Pete Yorn, Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo) with engineering support from Leonard Soosay (Snakeweed Studios). The recording was mastered at SAE by Roger Seibel.
‘Summer 720′ is pressed on gorgeous sea foam green vinyl, and is backed with the b-side ‘沙鼠E’ (shāshǔ E) and is a 7″ release in an edition of 100 with KittyWu in Singapore/Asia, Deer Island (edn. of 150) in N. America and Damnably (edn. 250) in Europe.
You might say that Rich McCulley has been a fixture of sorts over here at Power of Pop. The good news is that McCulley is still going strong, as his official bio explains – “after six albums and twelve years of solo music making, roots rocker Rich McCulley is still finding fresh beginnings and new inspiration in life”.
Ten years ago, I had written that McCulley had – with his sophomore effort – discovered roots rock, “lining his obvious pop-rock chops with a rustic country edge” and which made McCulley’s music, worthy for “all lovers of melodic rock ‘n’ roll, country rock and everything in-between”.
This assessment rings through for The Grand Design as McCulley continues to emphasize rustic melodicism, which rings out loudly and proudly his influences viz. Elvis Costello, Gram Parsons, Marshall Crenshaw, Tom Petty, Squeeze et al.
Songs like the wistful “Let You Go”, the dynamic “The Most Beautiful Thing”, the smooth “Just Begun To Run” and the heartfelt “She’s Like a Tattoo” will please country-folk-rock lovers. Yet again, McCulley pulls off yet another loving toast to the power and beauty of Americana-based rock n’ roll. Long may he run.
Check out the video of “The Most Beautiful Thing” below.
Truth be told, I am pretty sick and tired of the ubiquitous generic contemporary hipster synth-pop sound already. Man! So yeah, right now, I am aching for sweet rock n’ roll music that features real instruments, real vocals and fucking real songs. Y’know, songs I can sing along to (intelligently) and shake to (without looking stupid).
So Mooner! A self-described powerpop band from Chicago which new EP is like balm to my electronically sated ears. This EP only has four tracks but I’d rather listen four tracks that hit the spot over an LP’s worth of meaningless drivel trying to pass itself off as 2013′s version of hip and cool. Don’t what I mean?
Indeed! It’s comforting and re-assuring to hear a new band take the tired-and-tested influences of Television, Elvis Costello, The Replacements and early Wilco and fashion distinctive material. Certainly, powerpop fans are totally gonna fall in love with the midtempo groove of “Shapeshifter”, the twangy goodness of “White Lines”, the knowing country-soul balladry of “Never Alone” and the new wave raunch of “Overrated”.
Chicago quintet Great Divide (Teddy Grossman – vox, guitar/Josh Teitelbaum – drums/Jeff Leibovich – keyboards/Josh Kahle – bass/Jeff Burke – guitar, vox) takes the rock and roots maxim to its logical conclusion. If a cursory listen to the band’s eponymous sophomore album suggests to you The Band, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Tedeschi Trucks Band and the like, then you’d probably be better off exploring Great Divide, don’t you think? Yeah!
Funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Great Divide is a evocative, soulful rock n’ roll record in the old fashioned way. In other words, it is as smooth as you like, bringing together a veritable buffet of influences, spanning soul, folk, country, pop and rock with the dynamic horn section providing the proverbial icing on top.
First-rate musicianship, competent songwriting and the honey-dripping pipes of Teddy Grossman make Great Divide, essential listening for the true-blue pop-rock fans out there. How can one argue with genuine articles like the slick opener “Ain’t No Roads”, the lush “Easy Chair”, the gospel-tinged “Moorie” and the Stevie Wonder-channeling “Shine”? Simple, you don’t!
The great thing about rock music is that the maxim that “what goes around comes around” holds true, most of the time. For those of you getting a little tired of tepid synth-pop, it would only be a matter of time before the power chords and melodic hooks came back with a vengeance! And I am glad to report that a cool wave of a 90s alt-rock revival bands is slowly but surely making their mark on the music world.
Add Warm Soda to this burgeoning list – for want of a better word, its BEATLESQUE to the max. But seriously, the astute rock listener is going to be able to string together a slew of the right influences for this fun-loving POP outfit, no problem. The band has released its new album – Someone For You – on March 26th, which is currently being streamed in its entirety at Paste.
Check out the official video for “Busy Lizzy” below. Review to come.
“Beatlesque” is one of my favorite music terms. I mean, who wouldn’t want to listen to music that sounds like The Beatles, eh? Of course, the key is not slavish imitation but to use the influence of The Beatles as a springboard for (hopefully) fresh ideas. Here are some bands that certainly come to mind, when the term “Beatlesque” is brandished about…
THE BYRDS – ALL I REALLY WANNA DO
Yes, I am aware that the song was written but by Bob Dylan, but The Byrds arranged Dylan’s folkie “All I Really Wanna Do” deliberately to reflect their love of the Fab Four, especially on the bridge. And let’s not even get into the hairdos…
BADFINGER – DAY AFTER DAY
A little cheatin’ here cos Badfinger was actually signed to Apple Records and this single was also produced by George Harrison so the comparisons with their heroes were always fairly obvious. Great song still…and certainly a foundation for numerous power pop bands to come…
ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA – THE DIARY OF HORACE WIMP
ELO was formed by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood to re-create the Beatles psychedelic classics (like “I Am A Walrus”) live. When Wood left, Lynne turned the band into a hit-making machine in the 70s. Beatles inspirations always began as a starting point (like here, the rhythm of the middle section to “A Day in a Life”) to something entire new and different. In a league of its own.
OASIS – ALL AROUND THE WORLD
To the current generation, the closest one is going to get to The Beatles reference would probably be through Oasis. Often derided as Beatles copyists, in fact, the Gallagher brothers succeeded in copping the imagery and look of The Beatles, rather than any creative impetus. That and Liam Gallagher’s ludicrous attempts to imitate John Lennon’s singing style. Best forgotten.
To be honest, it is almost impossible to escape the influence of The Beatles in modern music, whatever ‘genre’ you may choose to discuss. The legacy of The Beatles was not merely four chords, clever bridges and three-part harmonies but constant experimentation. When that stopped (listen to Let It Be, folks), then it was time for The Beatles to end. The above examples only highlight a very simplified perception of what the term “Beatlesque” means and usually referred to by people as Beatles music pre-Revolver, when The Beatles was much much more than that… but that’s another story altogether.
“Old Fart Music” or “Dad-rock” are two derogatory terms that the music press might use to brand a ‘genre’ or band as past its sell-by date. But this is all nonsense, of course. All rock music is derived from “Dad-rock” as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy was quoted in Rolling Stone in 2011 –
“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock. There are a lot of things today that don’t have anything to do with rock music, so when people hear something that makes them think, ‘This is derived from some sort of continuation of the rock ethos,’ it gets labeled dad rock. And, to me, those people are misguided. I don’t find anything undignified about being a dad or being rocking, you know?”
Indeed, I hate to break it to you, kids, but EVERYBODY grows old. The true artist is someone who still has something to say even when he or she is much older. Every youth culture is based on something that came before so kindly refrain from these ageist pronunciations.
For this bright Saturday morning’s PoPTV, we’ve decided to bring you some of our favourite OFM or Dad-rock for your edification and information. Enjoy…
Australian based Dancing Heals has just releasing the gorgeous track, “Always on My Mind”, and are currently finishing up their second album, that captures more of their live sound and draws from longtime influences such as Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. The band loves to wave the nostalgia flag and “Always On My Mind” is no different. A sonically raw reflection on the confusing emotions of letting someone go… and never forgetting.
Pony Boy, aka Marchelle Bradanini, puts a seductive, modern twist on the Americana sound with sultry vocals atop twangy, buzzing guitars. “Greatest Unknown” is simultaneously beautiful and eerie, sounding as though it belongs on a Twin Peaks soundtrack. Catch her live show in March and April as she opens for Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rockettes:
3/23: Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
4/8: Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
4/9: Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
Modern Soul singer-songwriter Dru Chen will be on tour in Singapore and Malaysia from March 8 to March 17 to launch Intentions EP. Successful lead single “You Bring Out The Best In Me” (http://youtu.be/LGi6Q5WsvtM) has been played on Australian radio stations Southern 88.3FM, Triple R 102.7FM, Joy 94.9FM and is looking to hit Singapore radio/blog soon. Dru Chen will be performing 8 shows, radio spots and filming 2 videos during this trip, including collaborations with Charlie Lim, Kerong Chok, For This Cycle, Charles J Tan and an appearance at Mosaic Music Festival.