To be absolutely honest, Chrissie Hynde was one of the first female rock ’n’ rollers I seriously got into at the very beginning of the 1980s. Considering the times, she represented something very different in rock ’n’ roll for a female performer and fronted an amazing band in Pretenders.
Old school rock lovers will find much to savour on this new album from classic pop-rock revivalists Dr. Dog. And here’s the hook – the band has gone back to their unreleased debut cassette of the same name (from 2001) – to revisit the material and come up with new songs based on that vibe.
Is rock ’n’ roll in 2016 a dinosaur? Yes a fucking T-Rex! And it’s coming to rip your guts out!
But seriously, boys and girls, Seattle trio Night Beats viz. Danny Lee Blackwell (guitar / vocals), Jakob Bowden (bass) & James Traeger (drums), do not quite care whether their music is relevant or not.
I am trying my best to figure what the fuck are Fat White Family supposed to be? This South London outfit – which if legend will have us believe, formed in a squat – defies easy categorisation. At the moment, that might be their biggest advantage.
Happy days are here again cuz The Coral is back! Psych-pop at its best!!
In general terms, the post-punk revival has overstayed its welcome – seriously, stop ripping off Ian Curtis and Joy Division already. But that judgement call does not fall on Savages. It’s fair to say that despite the band’s superficial association with this movement, the all-female quartet really are a class above and unlike their peers, actually have something to say.
The Besnard Lakes are a Canadian indie rock band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Formed in 2003 by the husband and wife team of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, the band also includes Kevin Laing (drums), Richard White (guitar), Sheenah Ko (keyboards) and Robbie MacArthur (guitar).
To be honest, have never quite been able to connect with the music of Mystery Jets, for one reason or another. However, one has to admire the manner in which this English band has stuck to their guns and followed the pop-rock muse, wherever it might have led them.
Inevitably, there is a mixed sense of resigned defiance amongst the obscure fraternity of rock n roll/powerpop community that is holding fast to the influences of 60s/70s classic pop-rock.
Honestly, have never been a fan of Canuck heartland rocker Bryan Adams but on his latest album, producer Jeff Lynne (ELO) is the only reason I am recommending Get Up! And of course, Lynne’s fingerprints are all over this ode to rock ’n’ roll, even though Lynne has only one co-writing credit here – the mid-tempo 80s pop sheen of “Do What Ya Gotta Do” which smacks of Lynne’s collaborations with Tom Petty and Roger McGuinn. Ironically, the most ELO-channeling track of all – the gorgeous ballad “We Did It All” was written by Adams and songwriter partner Jim Vallance.
There’s no denying that Adams sounds invigorated by Lynne’s influence, keeping the songwriting simple, yet allowing the sophisticated arrangements to elevate the basic pop-rock material. That’s no hiding the agenda behind feel good rockers like “Go Down Rockin’” and “That’s Rock and Roll” & the years peel away with ease. Who cares whether the hipster generation will Get Up or not. That’s their problem.
And if you’d like a free CD of Get Up! (and why wouldn’t you?!), Universal Music Singapore are giving away 5 copies if you can answer this question.
Who is the producer of Bryan Adams’ Get Up!?
Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, NRIC No., mobile number and of course, home address and a Get Up! CD is yours! First come, first served. Power of Pop’s decision on who is or isn’t a winner is final and conclusive. (For Singapore residents only)
Now this is what I call rock ’n’ roll! Colorway’s sophomore effort finds the trio once again burning their way through 10 tracks of 100% pure shots of classic pop-rock songwriting brilliance.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist F. Alex Johnson and the steady rhythm section of Dave Hayes (Bass/Vocals) &
J.J. O’Connell (Drums/Percussion/Vocals) have delivered the perfect antidote to those who believe that good old fashioned pop-rock music is somehow irrelevant in 2015.
If you think 5 Seconds of Summer is guitar rock, then you might want to keep sucking your pacifier – this is music for adults – where a penchant for smart lyrics & sophisticated songwriting are married with an honest application of rock instrumentation.
From the opening driving “Gen Exit” to the closing epic “Telephone”, it’s all tight as a drum without any flab whatsoever. No mean feat. Highly recommended!
Nothing wrong with going all retrodelic like (as someone once described the music of Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians) if the music is as good as Perth band The High Leary’s new single “Letters to Alice”. Evoking the glorious mid-60s psych-rock majesty of bands like Pink Floyd, The Doors and Deep Purple, “Letters to Alice” will appeal to fans of modern day psych-rock revivalists like Temples and Tame Impala. “Letters to Alice” will be released on 4th September but you can preview the track now streaming at Soundcloud.
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Will we ever see a band like Nirvana again? It’s hard to believe that the Nevermind album – which changed the face of the music industry in the early 90s – is now 24 years old! And since the decline of rock ‘n’ roll music in the late 90s, no other rock band has come remotely close to replicating the impact of Nirvana. Yes, we have had successful rock bands since viz. Nickelback, The Strokes, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay et al BUT relatively speaking, these have been minor successes when compared to the seismic pop culture impact of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonce and the like. Artistically as well, most of these aforementioned bands have failed to deliver.
Curiously enough, the last time critics declared the demise of rock ‘n’ roll was in the late 80s, when Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston ruled the roost, but as the wheel turned rock bands like R.E.M., Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene ascended to the top of the charts. Well, it’s almost 25 years now and there appears to be no sign of rock ‘n’ roll ever returning to those levels of influence in the mainstream pop industry.
Still, that does not mean that good rock ‘n’ roll music (whether in the guise of pop-rock, indie pop, hard rock, electro-pop, blues rock, garage or punk) wasn’t being made in the last 15 odd years, it’s just that the environment of the music industry has been altered so drastically that it is virtually impossible for what happened in the early 90s to occur once again. The decline in record sales, the rise of singing contests (American Idol, X-Factor etc) and the ubiquity of Youtube, has meant that the major labels have had to hedge their bets and cynically control the musical output and fan appreciation thereof.
This has resulted in the most basic pop formulas viz. hip-hop/R&B accounting for the lion’s share of the chart action. These are 3 of the top 5 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 right now.
The one main thing connecting all three singles is a highly designed discipline to present the melody/rhythms as simplistically and repetitively as possible so that the hooks are very easy to remember. A deliberate lack of musical sophistication that dumbs down to the lowest common denominator creating an audience that is not able to appreciate anything that does not sound like what it hears on a non-stop basis on the radio. The perfect marketing tactic.
In fact, guitar rock is totally absent for the Top 20, with the nearest example being Maroon 5, and even though the music video for “Sugar” shows the band with guitars, it does not sound like there are any guitars on the song itself! In fact, it adheres greatly to the hip-hop/R&B formula with Adam Levine’s vocals heavily auto-tuned. Talk about soul-less! Going down the rest of the chart will depress any fan of rock ‘n’ roll with the genre’s utter lack of representation.
So, are the rumours true? Is rock ‘n’ roll dead? Well, not at the grass roots level of course, as both in the USA and the UK, there continues to be scores of bands who create great rock ‘n’ roll music, it’s just that even with the oft assumed ability of the internet to connect bands and fans, it’s the major labels leveraging on radio stations, streaming services and Youtube (again!) who will have the attention of mainstream music fans.
There’s the rub. If the major labels feel that the new rock ‘n’ roll have the fan base to make them sit up and notice, then they might feel the need to throw money that way. The question is — will the youth of today ever get tired of the formulaic pop stars being paraded before them? Will they ever hunger for something different enough to alter their listening habits? The signs have not been encouraging. The irony is that whilst the internet is always being trumpeted as the champion of free and alternative choices, the harsh reality is that the internet is still ultimately the tool of our corporate masters to dictate what food we should eat, what clothes we should wear and of course, what music we should listen to.
However, for those of us who are able to think critically for ourselves, the internet provides a means of escaping these corporate shackles and we can only do this by supporting the bands that do not conform to the grand masterplan of our overlords. Then, these bands might have the opportunity and liberty to create the kind of music we desire and love. So, is rock ‘n’ roll in a crisis? Not if rock ‘n’ roll fans continue to support the right bands and be evangelistic about the music they love.
Yes, PoP visitors, the ball is in YOUR court…
In the meantime, check out the Power of Pop playlist at Spotify highlighting 30-odd British guitar rock bands you should be supporting! Please FOLLOW!
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On new album The Monsanto Years, Neil Young seems re-invigorated with new backing band Promise of The Real, to deliver one of his feistiest works in recent memory. Rather like Living With War (2006), the politics might be a little too obvious but there’s no faulting the songs that Young and gang have come up with – full of vim and vigour.
Full of country-folk inflected rock ‘n’ roll, songs like “A New Day For Love”, “People Want to Hear the Love”, “Workin’ Man” and the title track come across like vintage Young, except with very modern references (highly anti-corporation rhetoric against Monsanto, Starbucks etc) – which I suspect will endear the evergreen Young to a new generation of music lovers. But of course, for Young, the album reflects the continuation of the hippie dream, which has been part of Young’s raison d’être since the 1960s.
Years in the making but definitely worth the wait. 10 tracks of such instrumental sophistication and erudite witticism that it is barely imaginable that the former cultural desert of Singapore is able to produce an album that absorbs the wondrous legacy of 60s rock and pop so well.
With the songwriting template pioneered by the likes of Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band the band have also adopted the production values of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson to deliver a unique aural experience that will please rock scholars and casual music fans alike. An additional distinctive element is the band’s ability to incorporate East Asian sounds and melodies into the mix to create a East meets West amalgam that is surprising and pleasing.
Believe me it’s difficult to point out any particular highlights here as every track is an entity to itself but I will say that songs like the ghostly Beatlesque “Mercy of Cain and Abel”, the atmospheric folky “Patriach”, the country bluesy “Blood the Prize” and the Orbison-Teresa Teng channeling “Honeymoon” certainly deserve special mention.
In an amazing year for Singapore rock so far, this eponymous album is a definite standout and a statement of intent that hopefully will bring forth more exciting music from this wonderful band in the years to come.
CDs and digital albums will be available on cheatingsons.bandcamp.com and CDs also at Curated Records and Roxy Records & Trading.
Power of Pop is always on the lookout for new music that stays faithful to the 60s/70s template for melodic pop-rock or rock ‘n’ roll or power pop. Ransom and the Subset – one fine example of this – is the brainchild of singer/songwriter/guitarist RanDair Porter. It’s latest album, No Time to Lose, was released in September 2014 but it’s always better late than never when it comes to great music. For Pop Underground fans, this is really a no-brainer – from the opening Jellyfish-referencing power chords of the infectious “Anna”, it’s clear that Ransom and the Subset has got what it takes to hypnotise like-minded fans of The Cars and Weezer. In particular, the single “Million Out of Me” is an effective ear-worm that will have melody junkies hitting repeat. Read what RanDair has to say about the band and the music.
How did the band get together?
I had a cover band together for the last few years – The band was called “Subset”, because the members were a subset of a band I had in High School. The bass player lived in San Diego and me and the drummer up in Seattle. I had become interested in recording some of my originals but, for whatever reason the project wasn’t something the of the other members were able to participate in. I called the project “Ransom and the Subset” – I did this because I wasn’t sure who would be singing on the project and I did not want to name the band after a single individual. There is no one named “Ransom” in the band.
Regular visitors to Power of Pop will be aware that I am always harping on there not being enough bands/artists parlaying classic pop-rock styles into modern rock. Well actually, that’s not entirely true. I mean, in the sense that there certainly are bands/artists who like me are rather besotted with the pop-rock music of the 60s/70s, it’s just a question of discovering them. And discovering these bands/artists I have been in the last couple of days (thanks in part to Ed Khoo’s recommendation of Tobias Jesso Jr). So, of course, I’d like to share just some of these discoveries with you, kind reader.
Rock music is a genre of popular music that originated as “rock and roll” in the United States in the 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. (W. E. Studwell and D. F. Lonergan, The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from its Beginnings to the mid-1970s)
So yeah, rock came from 40s/50s rock ‘n’ roll, which in turn is a form of pop music. So even The Carpenters or ABBA is rock, by that definition. So I am always comfortable to use the terms “pop” and “rock” fairly interchangeably, and get rather annoyed by the insane categorizations that is now so common.
In that light, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of pop music, I am confident to label as ROCK!
In celebration of The King, Spotify has created The Elvis Influence, a web app that connects any artist to Elvis based on artistic influence, as well as an Elvisulization audiographic that maps his influence to famous artists of today. By entering any name into the web app, you can see and hear how they have been influenced by Elvis, directly or through other artists.
Listen to the ELVIS 80 Playlist on Spotify now….
John Lennon was my very first musical hero back when I first started listening to pop music and remains to this day, in my humble opinion, the ultimate embodiment of rock n’ roll. As a songwriter, Lennon has always been my primary inspiration, equally at home writing rockers and ballads whilst expressing topics ranging from love to politics to the whimsical but always personal and honest.
Thus, it was good news this morning, when I discovered that Lennon’s back catalogue is now available at Spotify. Finally! Yes, of course, I possess virtually every single track that Lennon ever made, either with The Beatles or as a solo artist but it’s so convenient to have all these wonderful songs at a finger click now. So, here’s my John Lennon Spotify playlist. Enjoy….
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PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR
Back in the 70s, the Government conducted a smear campaign against rock n roll and labeled it as ‘yellow culture’ meaning it was decadent and unsuitable for nation building blah blah fucking blah. But to be fair, many countries worldwide were unable to accept the hippie generation (including its originator, the USA) – it’s just that it was possible in Singapore to utterly destroy the thriving local music scene in order to stamp out this undesirable phenomenon. Which they duly did.
MUSIC… OR NOTHING
Being involved in the music scene in Singapore is all about what one makes of the situation. Compared to a mere five years ago, there are many opportunities to fill your time with life-enriching activities. You just know where to look…
On Thursday (21st August) I met up and interview Julie Edwards (above, left) and Lindsey Troy of LA-based blues-rockers Deap Vally and found them to be intelligent, beautiful women who knew exactly what they wanted out of life. Mightily impressed with them in that short space of time we chatted.
Regular visitors to PoP will know how much I dig Deap Vally. Made up of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards – guitar, drumkit and two wild voices – it is no exaggeration to suggest that Deap Vally’s sound is a “breed of visceral, heart-churning rock ‘n’ roll”. So imagine my excitement at discovering that the ladies will be playing in Singapore on Friday, 22nd August courtesy of Doc Martens’ #STANDFORSOMETHING event at Beep Studios.
Craziest part of all? It’s FREE. All you need to do is simply visit Dr. Martens stores to pick up a complimentary pair of tickets* to see Deap Vally. (*While stocks last, limited to 2 tickets per person; no purchase necessary; 18 and above only.) Don’t miss this!
The simple joy of honest rock ‘n’ roll is what EdTang & the Chops achieve on this, their eponymous EP. Anyone who loves the committed, down to earth music making of Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements, The Pogues, The Gaslight Anthem and the Hold Steady will definitely like what they hear from EdTang & The Chops. Authentic country-folk-roots songs that are delivered with rock ‘n’ roll gusto by The Chops.
These five tracks – “When Death Should Find Us”, “Willy Loman”, “Brother in the Way Back”, “A Lapsed Catholic” and “Leaving of Liverpool” – all speak of heartfelt issues that the everyman has to face each and every day. Unsophisticated these songs might be, but when the tunes ring out and touch the souls of all rock ‘n’ roll lovers, then one barely notices. All one can do is smile in agreement, punch the air and groove to the lusty rhythms and the relevant sentiments.