Feb 142012


Dangerously Uncool

Seriously folks, when was the last time power pop was considered ‘hip and cool’? The 90s maybe, when power pop bands still got major label deals e.g. Weezer, Jellyfish, The Grays, Wanderlust, Semisonic et al. NYC singer-songwriter Jeff Litman makes no bones who inspires his craft – Tom Petty, Elvis Costello & Paul Westerberg have all been favorably mentioned – and in this day and age, that just about might be career suicide! After all, if the kids of today don’t even know who the hell Sir Paul McCartney is then how in the world would they be able to connect with songs that trickle down from the seminal work of the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Byrds?

But I will emphasize – who cares, right? Call me a blind optimist but for me, holding on to the melodic ideals is really what it’s all about. So yes, I will champion a talent like Jeff Litman who (on his second album – Outside) puts such loving detail in every chord, arrangement and lyric without cynical pandering to attention-deficit young people. Elvis Costello once put his songwriting into perspective by describing it as “creative plagiarism” – the key word being “creative”. So whilst it is clear that the tools Litman utilizes comes from a kinder and gentler age (crafted tunes, organic instrumentation, thoughtful arrangements) but with these implements, Litman has fashioned an album that has enough flair and verve in it to maybe sway the shallow, casual music fan.

So the joy and pleasure comes in equal measure in the soaring chorus of “Over and Over”, the rollicking rhythm of “Runaway”, the hypnotic chord progression of “Chasing My Tail” and the way the melody falls comfortably together on “Don’t Want to Talk About It”. It is easy to discern that with the elements of country-folk, rock n’ roll and power pop prominently featured that the kind of music that Litman deals in is so out of synch with everything that passes for modern pop music in 2012 that there is an almost contrarian appeal working here.

And why would you be content to be lemmings hurtling down sharp cliffs at the bidding of the hipster pied pipers (mixed metaphors whoa!) when you can – if you so choose – broaden your minds to rock music that is timeless and will never ever date. Even as I allow the sweet balladic tones of “Time Heals Nothing” to sweep me away, I realize that I do not need to succumb to the principle that just because classic pop-rock is unfashionable, we can ignore the quality songwriting and arrangements that this kind of music invariably possesses in favor of image and ‘indie cred’.

So here I am again drawing a line in the sand – yes Outside isn’t perfect and it may not even be 100% original but it sure has enough heart n’ soul to encourage this foolish lover of ‘old school’ rock to continue to keep the faith. Indeed.

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