SO LONG FOR NOW: THE FIRE FIGHT SAYS FAREWELL

“Lovers will be the same. Always”

I’m really excited about this gig today. It’s always fun to work with people you respect and love and certainly I’ve been a fan of the Fire Fight since I first saw them open for Copeland and Anberlin at the Far East Glass Pavilion in 2007. Since that time, virtually every Fire Fight performance has been memorable and their invitation to play with them in their farewell (for now) concert today is truly humbling. Not only that but Amanda Ling, Saiful and Song (from Great Spy Experiment) will also be contributing their immense talents and they number among my favorite people so… it’s going to be a beautiful day, for sure!

Yes, I’ll be singing my favorite Fire Fight song as well (come and find out which one!) and the jamming has been something special. Like I said, I’m stoked about this concert… I hope to see you there. Come up and say hello – I’m rather shy so you might have to make the first move.

The concert begins at 4pm at the SCAPE Warehouse. Tickets at $20 which will be available at the door. If you’re in Singapore today, you must come down and witness this special gig.

PERNICE BROTHERS

PERNICE BROTHERS goodbye, killer (Ashmont)

1998 was a bad year. For me. Due to the Asian financial crisis, my employer decided to go on an austerity drive which included cutting my salary (in hindsight, what I’m going through in 2010 is even worse, but that’s another story…) As always, music provided soothing balm for my wounds (real or imagined) somewhat. Most crucially, the debut album of Pernice Brothers, which was ironically titled Overcome By Happiness functioned as a soundtrack for those troubled times.

Twelve years on and multiple albums and side projects later, Joe Pernice and gang are back with their overdue sixth studio album, goodbye, killer. Somehow I do not feel the need to hard sell goodbye, killer too much. I’ve found that Joe Pernice is the kind of artist that seems to get every damn thing right, if you know what I mean. Words, music, instrumentation and arrangements just seem to fit perfectly and create the right tone and nuance that touches me deep within my heart and my soul. The man can do no wrong in my book.

I sense that goodbye, killer is a return to basics – more country-folk-rock and less post-punk vibe – even the vaunted Bee Gees chamber pop of that debut album is also MIA. The overall sound is a little harsher in some respect and rootsier in others. Certainly an album of the year contender and if you want me to name favourite tracks, it would have to be the bright Bechamel, the dynamic Jacqueline Susann, the Faces-channeling title track and the rustic & poignant The End of Faith.

Methinks I will be examining and exploring goodbye, killer more closely in the days to come.

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TREES ON FIRE

TREES ON FIRE Organica (Self released)

Eclecticism. I love it. I demand it. I promote it. But sometimes, at the back of my mind I wonder. Is it a lack of focus? Is it a case of “Jack of all trades, master of none?”. If it’s executed properly it should work right? Like Queen, for example.

Well, this is Trees On Fire’s strength/weakness – depending on your perspective.

This debut album – within the first four tracks – had my head spinning as it began with a U2-channeling rocker (Into The Fire) then turned the tables upside down with a breezy world music nugget (Live Life), urban hip hop jive (Rosa) AND a dance track (Just Because)!!!!

The rest of Organica basically follows this format as the band careens wildly genre-wise and surprising me with their musical choices. That said, my main caveat is that it’s form over substance too many times. The problem that Trees On Fire are dredging out the worst of 80s pop-rock. Y’know, bombastic vocals, cheesy electronics, pseudo-epic arrangements. All they need is the big hair and the pictures complete

So I guess the jury’s out somewhat but given the aforementioned eclecticism, you are bound to find something you may like amongst the 14 tracks found on Organica.

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THE HARVEY GIRLS

THE HARVEY GIRLS The Prisoners of Candy Island (Circle Into Square)

Someone help me out here: If a band says, “Oh, we play bubblegum pop,” are you going to be expecting sprawling, eclectic jungles of drum loops, vocal samples and synthesized swirls? Yet in the weird and wonderful alternate universe that The Harvey Girls inhabit, that’s exactly what they mean. It’s not like someone was trying to be ironic either: the songs on this five-track EP entitled The Prisoners of Candy Island are entirely irony free.

Instead, in their own kooky, adorable way, Hiram Lucke and his wife Melissa Rodenbeek have successfully married the melodic, cheerful sunshine of pop acts like the Beach Boys and the Shangri-Las with the freeform eclecticism of Captain Beefheart. Top that off with bold experimental production that takes a leaf from the book of hip-hop crew De La Soul, and you have yourself a smashing formula.

Don’t just take my word for it: Check out second track Tickle, and try not to fall madly into the love-pit that the hooky piano riffs and synthesizer touches dig. Or the delicious bleep-bloop jangle of Song XLIII (My Roman numerals aren’t all that great, so I won’t bother messing around with trying to figure the numbers.) This is bubblegum pop, all right, but with the gum firmly stretched out and blown to its limits, until everything explodes in a burst of juicy flavour. Tasty.

(Samuel C Wee)

Download The Prisoners of Candy Island for free at the Official Site below.

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PoPINIONS

THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC

Melissa, a fellow music blogger, left me a tweet asking, “What other songwriters/bands would u recommend?” Ooh, how much time do you have, Melissa?

Well, to keep things concise, let’s take a look at what kind of music Melissa listens to now. I understand that she once remarked that Noel Gallagher was her favourite songwriter. So we’ll have Oasis as our starting point.

Gallagher has never hidden his admiration for the Beatles so obviously, the Fab Four has got to be on this list. I would strongly recommend commencing our exercise with the White Album, now available in a remastered edition.

Two more influential 60s British bands that figure prominently in Gallagher’s raison d’etre are The Who and the Kinks. Check out both bands’ singles from this era.

70s glam rock also played a part in Gallagher’s music development e.g.  T. Rex and David Bowie. Their early 70s output is essential listening.

And what about post-punk? The Jam’s Paul Weller is an obvious source of inspiration. The entire Jam discography must be explored.

… and there would not have been an Oasis without the Stone Roses. The first album is all you need…

Only the tip of the iceberg but that should keep you going for awhile, I’d wager…

JACK JOHNSON

JACK JOHNSON To The Sea (Universal)

This is the ultimate commercial folk-pop music. You know the kind that makes the world go round. With unassuming tunes and light lyrical concepts, the soft rock music is so bland and inoffensive that it’s no wonder that it sells as much as it does. And Johnson has not changed the formula remotely over the course of his five albums. Well, I guess that it’s not Johnson’s fault if people continue to buy his music is it?

I mean, I get the surfer dude-beach bum schtick but I’m amazed that after all these years, people have not cottoned on to the fact that Johnson’s has been releasing the same album over and over again! Again, from Johnson’s perspective, if it ain’t broke, why fix it eh?

Basically, if you liked Johnson’s previous albums, you’re gonna want To The Sea as well. Strictly for the fans only.

ADMIRAL RADLEY

ADMIRAL RADLEY I Heart California (The Ship)

No disrespect to Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray (who form half of Admiral Radley) but this debut album reminds me so much of my beloved Grandaddy, I’m beginning to wonder how much influence Jason Lytle and Aaron Burtch (ex-Grandaddy and the other half of Admiral Radley) had on its sound and direction. However, upon closer inspection, the vocal duties are shared equally between Lytle and Espinoza, so definitely the Earlimart portion of Admiral Radley contributed their fair share.

Hey, I’m not complaining, as in the absence of any more new Grandaddy recordings, this is more than an able substitute. Highly whimsical and quirky, the songs on this wondrous debut is simultaneously buzzy, weird, hilarious, charming, dynamic and touching. I mean when you get songs like the distorted I’m All Fucked On Beer and the sublimely gorgeous Ghosts of Syllables, you know you’re in for one heck of a ride.

The other highlights include the ELO-channeling G N D N (sounding like an outtake of Sumday), the country-folky soothing Lonesome Co., the melancholic/haunting I Left U Cuz I Luft U and the lovely title track. With last year’s Lytle solo effort and this Admiral Radley album, its almost Grandaddy never left and I for one could not be happier.

I Heart California will be released on 1st July.

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THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS

THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS Together (Matador)

For a decade now, this Canadian “indie” supergroup has been providing to discerning music lovers, sophisticated pop-rock of the highest order. Together is the band’s fifth album and lives up to its illustrous predecessors. As usual, Colin (ex-Zumpano) Newman is the ring-leader of this exotic circus with the usual suspects onboard viz. Neko Case, Dan (Destroyer) Bejar, Kathryn (Immaculate Machine) Calder, John (Evaporators) Collins, Kurt (Age of Electic) Dahle & Todd (Limblifter) Fancey. In addition, the presence of guests St Vincent, Zach (Beirut) Cordon and Will (Okkevill River) Sheff. And if you’ve not heard of these other fine underground bands, then the New Pornographers is a good introduction to their wild talents.

It’s comforting to know that in a world of pre-fabricated pop fodder, a band like the New Pornographers is allowed to exist and thrive and music this inventive and reverent continues to be made. Imagine the inspiration of the Beatles, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Badfinger, ELO, Queen, Jellyfish stirred vigorously to produce a sumptuous pop feast and you get a good idea of what a New Pornographers album sound like.

With Newman and Bejar providing the songs and with Case and Calder supplying vocal counterpoints, the music on Together is a joy to listen to, pure and simple. How else can you describe the lush dynamism of Moves, the powerful confection of Your Hands (Together), the chiming drive of Silver Jenny Dollar, the epic balladry of My Shepherd, the rustic charm of Valkyrie in the Roller Disco and sweet atonal lo-fidelity of We End Up Together?

Pop scholars will spend days and weeks dissecting the myriad levels offered by Together but if you just love good music, you will find much to savor as well.

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SETH SWIRSKY

SETH SWIRSKY Watercolor Day (Grimble)

Sometimes I truly believe that the reason why Power of Pop exists is so that I can ruminate about albums like Watercolor Day.

I’ve heard folks talk about rock ‘n’ roll as “classical music” to modern rock but really its more like the groundbreaking music of the 60s and 70s – y’know true pop music. You know what I mean. And like classical music, true pop music can only be properly performed by accomplished craftsmen, experts in the form.

Someone like Seth Swirsky.

Swirsky is a published songwriter in his own right, having penned notable songs for Taylor Dayne, Al Green and Rufus Wainwright, amongst others. But not only that, Swirsky has – with his debut solo album, Instant Pleasure and with The Red Button – demonstrated an uncanny affinity to distill the key ingredients of true pop music to serve pop lovers a veritable feast of sophisticated melodic gems.

Now with his second solo album – Watercolor Day – Swirsky continues to build on his brilliant work with music that is firmly grounded in the Beatles, Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Kinks, the Zombies, Left Banke, ELO, Harry Nilsson, Badfinger and their numerous followers.

Immaculately produced (by Swirsky and Cloud Eleven’s Rick Gallego), the 18 tracks on Watercolor Day will transport the willing listener to another time, when melody was king and dense arrangements/productions were the order of the day. Drawing from the inspirations of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Lindsay Buckingham and the like, the lush production on Watercolor Day will thrill scholars of the art of true pop.

I’m glad to say that together with Mark Bacino’s Queens English, Watercolor Day is proof positive that true pop is alive, well and kicking ass!

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TEENAGE FANCLUB

TEENAGE FANCLUB Shadows (Merge)

What more can I say about the Fannies? In the 90s, albums like Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain supplied the soundtrack of my life. Building attractive structures from the foundations of the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Neil Young, Gram Parsons and Big Star, the Fannies have been an endearing source of musical epiphanies.

That said, I found the last two albums – Howdy and Man-Made – a little jaded, as if the band had run out of ideas. After an absence of five years, the Fannies are back with their ninth album – Shadows – and by all accounts, the break has certainly done them a world of good.

Stylistically, Shadows sounds closest to Songs From Northern Britain with its mellow, pastoral approach. No distortion, no modern-day special effects, the production is kept very clean and is highly reminiscent of Big Star’s #1 Record, with its gleaming guitars and sparkling vocal harmonies.

I don’t want to highlight any particular track because Shadows very much hangs together as a singular entity. Meaning that its an album in the former sense of the word, like Rubber Soul or Revolver was in the good old days. Warm memorable melodies are the order of the day enveloped with the appropriately lush production. So, check out Shadows and do listen from start to finish… best swallowed whole!

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POPLAND – CAMOUFLAGE

Here it is – a nostalgic look back at the Crowd/Popland via the final Popland single, Camouflage. You can download the Camouflage EP at Bandcamp. Thanks for the support through all the years!

ROONEY

ROONEY Eureka (Califonia Dreamin’)

Is powerpop making a big return in 2010? The last time power pop impacted the public consciousness was in the 90s when bands like Weezer, Superdrag, Fountains of Wayne and Sloan had hits in the Billboard Charts. In the 00s, power pop went seriously under the radar although bands like Phantom Planet and Rooney kept the US power pop flag flying.

NB. I don’t include the likes of Plain White Ts or All-American Rejects into the powerpop equation as the word “emo” crops up too much in association. Whatever…

With the critical acclaim that the retro-leanings of Free Energy is getting now, it seems appropriate for Rooney to release their new album, Eureka, which I believe is their finest yet, brimming over with catchy melodies, sophisticated arrangements and hooks galore.

Eureka certainly lives up to its name and to its obvious influences – the Beatles, the Beach Boys, ELO and Raspberries – and as an album stands up to closer scrutiny. Individually, the songs explore the diverse spectrum of the classic pop-rock of the 60s-70s milieu – crunching guitars, moody pianos, lush orchestration, sweet harmonies and crucially, hummable tunes.

Highlights for me include the dynamic All Or Nothing, the breezy Holdin’ On, the (blue-eyed) soulful I Can’t Get Enough, the jaunty (John Barry channeling) Only Friend and the frenetic Hunch. But seriously folks, this album is a keeper and for fans of driving, smart, melodic pop, a sheer pleasure to have and hold.

Check out a “behind the scenes” video of I Can’t Get Enough over at MTV.

Eureka will be released on 8th June.

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ADMIRAL RADLEY

Here’s a new band to get really excited about. Admiral Radley consists of members of two great alternative rock bands viz. Jason Lytle & Aaron Burtch (Grandaddy) and Aaron Espinoza and Ariana Murray (Earlimart) and the band is issuing its debut album on The Ship label come July 13th.

Listen to I Heart California, the title track of the upcoming album, and you will be assured that this new aggregation will certainly do justice to fans of their parent bands. Four plus minutes of Lytle’s quirky vocals, buzzy guitars and sweet keyboards with Lytle waxing lyrical about his home state. Bliss!

Review to come…

Official Site

KEANE

KEANE Night Train (Island)

In the good ol’ days, an album could actually only be 30 minutes long. Well, this new EP from British piano-rockers Keane clocks in slightly over 31 minutes. Is that progress or what?

Well, in terms of Keane’s musical development, based on the music on Night Train, the jury’s still firmly out. To their credit, the band attempts to expand their songwriting by incorporating synth-pop, hip hop, folk and R&B elements to their repertoire. Though I cannot honestly say those attempts have been all that successful. By and large, songs like Back In Time, Clear Skies, Stop For A Minute and Your Love (which includes the theme from Rocky!) sound like second-rate knock-offs of the originals they’re trying to emulate.

Night Train is a messy collection of seriously average tracks and will only appeal to diehard fans.

HOLE

HOLE Nobody’s Daughter (Mercury)

“People like you fuck people like me/To avoid agony/People like you fuck people like me/To avoid suffering.”

You’ve got to hand it to Courtney Love. She knows how to push the right buttons when it comes to controversy. Yet, it seems that with the shit storm swirling around her, she appears to be as calm as the proverbial eye.

How else do you explain the bizarre attraction and appeal that Nobody’s Daughter (Hole’s first album since 1998) will undoubtedly hold for longtime fans and the brand new audience that Hole will surely gain.

Strangely, for songs that dwell in uncomfortable lyrical territory all too gleefully, there is a strong country-folk vibe (acoustic guitars particularly prominent in the mix) that gives Nobody’s Daughter an intensity and passion (and an unlikely soulfulness) which rises above the soap opera that is Love’s life and times.

Crucially, the core of the material on Nobody’s Daughter was created in collaboration between Love, Billy (Smashing Pumpkins) and Linda (4 Non Blondes) Perry and the strength of such combinations is clearly evident in songs like Pacific Coast Highway, Samantha, Letter to God and Loser Dust.

I must admit that I was a little weary about Nobody’s Daughter but despite my initial reservations, I am pleasantly surprised that it is a gritty, honest work that delivers on many levels.

FREE ENERGY

FREE ENERGY Stuck On Nothing (DFA)

Now once in a while, a band will appear to polarise music purists at the same time. Well, welcome to Free Energy, a Philly-based band that revels in classic pop-rock circa the seventies! Which really means that in today’s modern rock landscape, listeners will either love or hate Free Energy with pretty much nothing in-between.

Detractors will argue that Free Energy retrogarde and irrelevant in terms of modern rock. That said, avid supporters will point out the lucid fact that not only are Free Energy signed to hip label DFA but Stuck On Nothing was even produced by cool dude James (LCD Soundsytem) Murphy and thus, hip and cool cred is assured.

Personally, I am tired with all the labelling and pigeon-holing that gets worse with each year – the only thing I care about are the songs – do they speak to me, touch my heart and soul? Well, on that count, tracks like Dream City, Bang Pop and Free Energy certainly recall the heady days of Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, T Rex and Tom Petty but are imbued with sufficient freshness and energy (sorry) that screams – THIS IS POWERPOP FOR 2010!!!! Meaning – yes I dig Free Energy and you should too!

Check the clip below of Dream City live.

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MARK BACINO

MARK BACINO Queens English (DreamCrush Music)

When I first started the Power of Pop – back in 1998 – I focused pretty much on the US Pop Underground which was vibrant at the time. One of its chief proponents was New Yorker Mark Bacino and his wonderfully sweet powerpop album Popjob, an album which was prominent on my playlist back then.

Five years later, Bacino released Million Dollar Milkshake, which moved me to describe it as “a 12-track journey into the heart of soft pop bliss where the aim is to please, sooth and caress (all in a family-oriented way, of course!) the jaded rock and pop enthusiast”.

Well, it may have been seven long years but on 18th May, that third Bacino album – Queens English – will finally be released and I am glad to report that it’s definitely worth the wait!

It’s been a while since a “traditional” powerpop album has excited me in this way. With Queens English, Bacino has developed his craft even further with the inclusion of baroque instrumentation (strings and horns) to imbue his soft pop leanings with chamber pop elements.

Much of Bacino’s lyrical concepts deal with his family life especially in songs like the jaunty Muffin in the Oven and the cheeky piano ballad  Camp Elmo. In fact, there is an altogether welcome absence of angst throughout Queens English, which is indeed refreshing. Songs like the funny rockin’ title track (Queens, NYC not Queen of England, heh!), the music hall-channeling Happy, the lushly orchestrated Bridge and Tunnel and the folk-poppy Ballad of M and LJ, complete this picture of contentment.

Musically, Bacino never strays too far from his strengths, keeping faith with his fabulous melodies and the inspirations of the Kinks, Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach and Jellyfish. Which is fine in my book. If there is only one powerpop album you pick up in 2010, it would have to be Queens English.

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THE BIRD & THE BEE

THE BIRD & THE BEE Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates (Blue Note)

It’s a good time to be a Hall & Oates fan. What with the recent 4CD retrospective set and now, TWO tribute albums. Of the two, this tribute from indie pop duo The Bird & the Bee is infinitely more palatable and possibly closer to the spirit of Hall & Oates. Basically, eight Hall & Oates songs are covered with the opening Heard It On the Radio (which strangely sounds like ABBA!) the only original.

Basically no risks taken with the Hall & Oates songs selected to be given the Bird & the Bee treatment viz the hits. Therefore, we get gorgeously straight versions of some of my all-time favourite music i.e. Sara Smile, Kiss on my List, She’s Gone and One on One. I mean, folks, the main attraction of this tribute is hearing the wondrous vox of Inara George singing those lovely melodies.

And the version here of Kiss on my List will bring you to tears… no contest. Highly recommended.

Official Site

CARI CLARA

CARI CLARA It’s Our Hearts They’re After LP/You Better Run EP (Deep Elm)

As a music writer, being offered hundreds of new albums/EPs for review, I sometimes rely on press releases of publicists/labels to determine which request I want to accept. My guiding principle being that I try my best to review every review request I accept. So with Cari Clara, I was somewhat intrigued by the band’s purported list of influences viz. Radiohead, Muse, Pink Floyd, Elliot Smith, Big Star, Grant Lee Phillips, Beta Band.

Cool, huh?

And so here I am pretty much astounded by this album and EP by Cari Clara i.e. Eric Diedrichs (vocals, guitar), Mark Diedrichs (keyboards, synth), Jason Arbenz (guitar, backing vocals), Greg Tudor (synth, glockenspiel, percussion, backing vocals) and Josh Hagen (drums). Why so? Not only do those cited inspirations make sense in the context of their music, they write amazing songs as well.

It’s Our Hearts They’re After is chock full of midtempo, slow burning torch songs that embrace the arcane and arty agendas of post-punk and psych-rock bands throughout the ages. It’s one of those rare albums that you’d want to swallow whole, a complete entity that must be savoured from start to end. Gorgeous.

You Better Run actually ups the ante somewhat, going all epic and gothic with the inclusion of strings and Edge-like guitar histrionics on the title track, groveling in swampy voodoo blues on Neither Weapon and A Hand To Shape) and channeling dark ghostly balladry on the Great Departure.

If you wanna know what genuine indie rock sounds like in 2010, listen to Cari Clara and you won’t go far wrong. Scintillating mope rock, angels would dance to…Simply magnificent.

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SLASH

SLASH s/t (Universal)

It’s a measure of Slash’s stature as a rock guitarist that he has managed to rope in the services of legendary vocalists like Ian Astbury (Cult), Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Lemmy (Motorhead) for this, his debut solo album.

Three years in the making, the album reflects everything that Slash stands for – hard rock, glam and old school punk (and big FAT guitars) – and fans of these genres will find much to boogie to here. And Slash (and his management team) has ensured that all bases are covered by also inviting the likes of Fergie (Black-Eyed Peas), Andrew Stockdale (Wolfmother), M Shadows (Avanged Sevenfold) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) for that modern pop-rock appeal.

By all accounts, this is a feisty listening experience, with the highlights being Promise (with Cornell), Back From Cali (with Myles (Alter Bridge) Kennedy), Doctor Alibi (with Lemmy) and We’re All Gonna Die (with Iggy Pop). Good ol’ fashioned rock music which traverses generations of rock music lovers, every home should have a little dash of Slash…

POWER OF DREAMS

POWER OF DREAMS Immigrants, Migrants and Me (100% Music)

Irish band that formed at the end of the 80s, released a couple of albums to acclaim and then disbanded in the mid-90s. By all accounts, rather obscure on the world stage but certainly ripe for re-examination. 1989’s Immigrants, Migrants and Me was the band’s debut LP and this 20th Anniversary edition is the perfect time to discover the joys of the Power of Dreams.

Hard to discount the inspirations of fellow countrymen U2 and the Waterboys on this collection of acoustic guitar-favoured Irish-accented rockers and those are good reference points to take into account when listening to this excellent album. Songs like the breezy The Joke’s On Me, the bouncing Does It Matter, the dreamy Had You Listened and the dynamic Stay, are reasons enough for fans of 90s alt-rock to check this out.

And there’s a 2nd disc of bonus material as well, consisting of demos recording, singles and live tracks to provide a fairly comprehensive picture of Power of Dreams’ music during this period. One definitely for the fans but neophytes should also consider jumping on the bandwagon as well.

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THE LUCY SHOW

THE LUCY SHOW …undone (Words On Music)

Rock history is littered with the debris of promising bands who never quite fulfilled their full potential. You could say that The Lucy Show certainly qualifies. During their brief existence (from 1983 to 1988) the band released two critically well-received post-punk/new wave albums that never got the label marketing support required to sustain the commercial momentum to survive the cut-throat music industry.

US indie label Words On Music has done its part in re-issuing the two Lucy Show LPs in an attempt to expose the band to the modern day rock audiences. …undone is the band’s debut (1985) and is reminiscent of the Cure and the Comsat Angels in its use of sonic atmospherics and affected vocals.

Tracks like the REM-channeling Remain, the other-worldly Ephemeral (This Is No Heaven), the fragile Wipe Out, the dynamic Undone and the psychedelic Dream Days are excellent representations of the kind of post-punk that continues to be deeply influential to this day on bands like the White Lies, the Editors and the xx.

A relic from a different age.

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RICH MCCULLEY

RICH MCCULLEY Starting All Over Again (Self-released)

Over the years, I’ve reviewed a couple of Rich McCulley’s albums here at the Power of Pop, simply because McCulley manages to get one main thing right – he writes great country-pop melodies.

In this respect, latest LP – Starting All Over Again – may be McCulley’s best collection of songs yet. McCulley doesn’t stray too far from the formula, but it’s one that totally works. Fans of Gram Parsons, Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Wilco, Blue Rodeo, BMX Bandits and the Jayhawks et al will have absolutely no problems with enjoying this well-crafted album. And neither will you.

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THE GET UP KIDS

THE GET UP KIDS Simple Science (Self-released)

The quintessential emo band – The Get Up Kids – are back, after an absence of six years. The band have decided to go independent i.e. to release their own music. The idea is to issue three 4-track EPs in 2010, rather a 12-track LP. Makes perfect sense to me. The album has been dead for awhile now. Long live the EP!

That said, I am a little underwhelmed by the new material featured here on the 1st EP instalment. Inevitably comparisons with last album – 2004’s Guilt Show – will surface and frankly the 4 tracks here pale somewhat. Almost by-the-numbers cookie-cutter, songs like Keith Case and Tommy Gentle come across like Get Up Kids pastiches.

To be fair, final track – How You’re Bound – has enough heart in it to slightly compensate for the lacklustre nature of the three preceding tracks. But only just. I’m hoping the band is saving the best for last.

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STEREOPHONICS

STEREOPHONICS Keep Calm and Carry On (Mercury/Universal)

This Welsh band is one of the few bands (that emerged out of the mid-90s Britpop era) to still be commercially successful in modern UK rock scene. In the 13 years since the release of the debut LP, Word Gets Around, Stereophonics’ sonic approach has remained intact – classic UK rock which retains the hookiness of 70s British rock (e.g. glam, blues rock) and the post punk edge of the 80s.

Album number 7 – Keep Calm and Carry On (a slogan from WWII) – contains many vibrant, catchy tunes (e.g. Innocent, She’s Alright, Could You Be The One? and Trouble) to keep casual pop fans happy. Serious themes like alcoholism (Beerbottle) and fake hypocritical people (I Got Your Number, Uppercut).

An excellent album that will appeal to both serious and casual music lovers. Music video of Innocent below.

Oh, and Stereophonics return to Singapore to play at Fort Canning Park on 30 April at 8pm. Tickets available at SISTIC.