Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

We’re Giving Away Three Copies Of Ryan Allen’s New CD!!

allenBasement Punk, the new long-player by Ryan Allen and His Extra Arms, is a shoo-in for our year-end Top Ten list. You can read the full review right here.

Early reviews are in full agreement.

Alan Haber wrote on his Pure Pop Radio blog that Basement Punk “takes charge with strong melodies and ace playing and never lets up.” Don Valentine wrote of Allen on his I Don’t Hear A Single blog that “[m]any of you know how I bang on about Dom Mariani and Tommy Keene, well they now have a contender and a serious one.” Powerpopaholic gave Basement Punk an “8” rating, calling it “Highly Recommended.” The Soul of A Clown blog stated that the songs on Basement Punk “create the perfect blend of melody with a bit of attitude.” Power Pop News proclaimed, “[s]imply put, Basement Punk is great rock ‘n’ roll.”

It most certainly is, and we are giving away three copies of Basement Punk on disk. Among other things, our review notes that the album’s lead track, “Watch Me Explode,” “splits the difference between Power Pop and Punk Rock — assuming, of course, that the two genres really are that different.”

Are they different? If so, how?

Tell us by sending an e-mail to popgoescrunch@gmail.com by 3:00 p.m. Pacific time on Friday, September 30, and perhaps you will walk away with a free copy of Basement Punk. There are, of course, no “right” or “wrong” answers.

In the meantime, you can stream the entire album, in full, right here.

Enough chit chat. Start entering.

 

State Of The Art Power Pop From Ryan Allen

a3676489916_16First impressions of new music are often misleading. The tendency to over-rate, or under-rate, upon an initial listen is ever-present. It has happened hundreds and hundreds of times over the years.

Not so with Basement Punk, the third long-player by Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms. My first reaction was that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another.” Repeated listens confirms that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another” — no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Basement Punk is an eleven-track, thirty-four minute romp through state-of-the-art Power Pop, with sound checks of old school punk rock, mid-60s pop rock and early-90s fuzz pop. Allen handles all of instrumentation — guitar, bass, drums, keys, percussion and lead and backing vocals — with expert execution. Mixing and mastering by the inimitable Andy Reed ensures that Basement Punk hits all the right sonic spots, particularly when played as loud as the material demands.

And it demands attention from its very first notes of feedback on the rousing, and perfectly titled, “Watch Me Explode,” which splits the difference between Power Pop and Punk Rock — assuming, of course, that the two genres really are that different. That “Watch Me Explode” works so perfectly is confirmed by the unconscious head-bopping and foot-tapping it inspires:

Album flow is often overlooked, but not here as the jangly “Chasing A Song” works as the perfect follow-on to “Explode.” In turn, it sets the table for the brilliant “Alex Whiz,” the best of set to these ears. I’m not a fan of comparisons to the work of others, but, what the heck. Put “Alex Whiz” on Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque or Thirteen and it would feel quite at home with its gentle fuzzy pop stylings:

The hits they keep-a coming.

“Basement Punks” is a spirited paean to the DIY-spirit. The sweet nostalgia of “Mal & Ange” picks up sonically and lyrically where “Alex Whiz” left off, except from the opposite perspective.  “Gimmie Some More” is a straight-up rocker that stays decidedly outside the middle-of-the-road.

Allen ups the tempo nicely on a punkier pair — “Two Steps Behind” and “Without A Doubt.” Two mid-tempo tracks, however, round out Basement Punk with aplomb and grace.

“People Factory” spikes mindless conformity with an unforgettable melody ripped from 1965. The closer, “Everything In Moderation” provides words (perhaps)  by which to live after laying down a perfect initial riff you swear you’ve heard before, but you haven’t. 

That pretty much sums up Basement Punk, a work of great originality steeped in familiar rock ‘n’ roll traditions. If it has any flaws, I have yet to hear them, and it easily will find a slot in my year-end Top 10. Get it right here, digitally, beginning September 30, on or disk from the fine folks at Kool Kat Musik.

And speaking of disks, we will be giving some away, real soon. Watch this space for more details.

We’re Giving Away 3 Copies Of Nick Piunti’s New Release!

piuntiNick Piunti is on a roll.

His 2013 release, 13 In My Head was one of the best long-players of 2013. The title track landed at No. 3 on our list of the best songs of 2013. His 2015 release, Beyond The Static was our third favorite long-player of last year.

Piunti’s 2016 long-player, Trust Your Instincts, hits the retail outlets on September 9. It may be his best effort yet: ten tracks featuring his increasingly sharp and incisive writing, tough and shiny guitar riffing, and the best damned vocals in the entire rockin’ pop world. Even better, Piunti is expertly assisted by some of our other faves: Donny Brown on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Andy Reed on bass and synth; and Ryan Allen on guitars, backing vocals and percussion. In reality, this is classic rock ‘n’ roll with big hooks and expert production. It is also a candidate for album of the year.

Even much better, you can win a free copy of the CD! That’s right, we are giving away three copies of Trust Your Instincts, courtesy of the fine folks at JEM Records.

Here is what you need to do:

Send an e-mail to popgoescrunch@gmail.com by 3:00 p.m. Pacific time on September 8, and answer two questions.

1. Why do you like Nick’s music?

2. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Be creative. The best three submissions win. We’ll announce the winners on the morning of September 9.

In the meantime, you can stream the first two tracks from Trust Your Instincts, in full.

Here’s the title track, in all of its Power Pop glory:

 

And, on “One Hit Wonder,” Piunti pens a tale of a music industry shooting star that nevertheless has universal applicability:

 

Enough chit chat for now. Get e-mailing!

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze Take 4

File Aug 27, 3 39 20 PMHere’s our discussion of five more essential tracks from the 139 track download available from the fine folks at Futureman Records, via our very good friend, the Ice Cream Man. You can get it right here, absolutely free. And, you don’t even need to give them an e-mail address. So, commence downloading. You have nothing to lose.

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Vista Blue, “Davey Got Drafted”: Vista Blue produces hook-laden rockin’ pop out of Nashville and Cincinnati. Their influences include The Ramones, Fountains of Wayne and Weezer, which tells you everything you need to know about the sound of this pounding earworm about the sorrow and the ecstasy that ensues when one pal gets the chance to make it to the big leagues, but the other does not. Baseball and Power Pop? You can’t beat that:

 

Braddock Station Garrison, “Forgotten Teenage Dream”: This bit of old school Power Pop by this D.C.-based band has spinning in regular rotation on Pop That Goes Crunch radio for the past year, and for good reason. Its got almost everything we love most: tasty, clean guitars, strong lead and background vocals, and a tinge of Americana:

 

Building Rockets, “Inverted Jenny”: The sound of Building Rockets is described as “a little like The Pixies and Wilco covering Fountains of Wayne songs while ‘Abbey Road’ plays in the background.” “Inverted Jenny” is head-boppin’ rockin’ pop featuring a perfect, slightly deranged surf guitar solo, kind of like the Pixies made semi-famous:

 

David Brookings and The Average Lookings, “The Basement Room”: “The Basement Room” might be the single best track on the entire Power Popsicle Brain Freeze collection. Brookings’ sharp vocals, the melodic interplay of the guitars, the propulsive yet not overpowering percussion give “The Basement Room” a great sense of movement that sounds best while speeding down the highway:

 

The Lost Boys, “December Forever”: The Lost Boys produce melodic indie pop in Southampton, England with a decided British feel. “December Forever” builds tension through the entirety of its short stay on your listening device, concluding with a virtual wall of sound:

 

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The twenty songs discussed over the pas four posts make for a fine hour-long playlist. We are not done yet. Check back soon for additional highly recommended tracks from Power Popsicle Brain Freeze.

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, Take 3

File Aug 20, 9 20 35 PMSpend a few minutes with us today s we continue our deep dive into the 100% free and legal, 139-track extravaganza put together by our pal, The Ice Cream Man, and “distributed” by the fine folks at Futureman Records. Get it right by clicking this.

Here are five more essential tracks — we are now up to fifteen — that should be spinning in regular rotation on your favorite listening device:

The Mayflowers, “Move Over”: The Mayflowers have been turning out rockin’ pop from Japan since 2003. “Move Over” gets the compilation’s festivities started with a bang as it offers serious riffs, pounding beats, and spot on harmonies. Cue it up after a late night. It will kick out the jams and melt the accumulated fog:

 

Merry Widows, “Password”: Merry Widows is an Australian-based band that traces its roots to the early-90s, and cites the Go-Betweens, R.E.M. and Crowded House among its influences. “Password” sounds exactly as those influences would indicate — jangling guitars, descending basslines and non-stop harmonies — and they do it quite well. “Password” also features a great tag line for the digital age — “I’ve got your metadata on my mind”:

 

Donny Brown, “Now You Can Break My Heart”: Donny Brown crafts meticulous pop music that is beautifully written, sung and arranged. “Now You Can Break My Heart” uses a gorgeous melody as a platform for an affecting and original take on romantic disappointment:

 

The Armoires, “Double Blades”: The Armoires, hailing from Burbank, California, contribute the most musically ambitious track on Power Pop Brain Freeze. Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome sing the entire song together — their main inspiration is the New Pornographers — thus providing a unique, almost singular, voice, and the song is propelled by a relatively simple, but quite effective and memorable, piano line and an exquisite viola courtesy of Bulbenko’s daughter, Larysa. The overall effect is upbeat psychedelia. Give this one a careful listen. There is a whole lot going on:

 

Orbis Max, “Without Love”: This track by an “internet recording collective” is full-on, late-60s styled psychedelia, down to it its chorus of “without love, we are nothing/without peace, there will be nothing.” It also has great hooks, and a wailing guitar, to compliment its genuine trippiness:

 

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So, there you have it, another five stellar tracks into which to sink your teeth, each of which are highly recommended.

Check back soon for five new suggestions.

 

Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, Take 2

File Aug 17, 4 24 13 PMToday, your humble servant supplies a second helping of some of the finest bits of rockin’ pop spinning on the Ice Cream Man’s ginormous compilation — Power Popsicle Brain Freeze — available for zero dollars and zero cents from the fine folks at Futureman Records. You can get the 139 track collection right here.

The rules are the same as on the prior post: the order of the tracks means absolutely nothing, and the focus is on artists and bands not previously discussed in these pages.

So, without further adieu . . .

Rob Clarke and The Wooltones, “End Of The End”: This delectable slice of updated mid-60s jangle pop by this Liverpool-based band features subtle psychedelic undertones along with Clarke’s smooth lead vocals and understated background harmonies. Cue it up and bask in the late-summer breeze:

The Floor Models, “Letter From Liverpool”: The Floor Models are a “re-born” 80’s combo. “Letter From Liverpool” is bittersweet jangle about faded memories and the enduring power of familiar sounds as the years march by. It is, quite obviously, a great companion to “End Of The End,” and could even cause your eyes to moisten as it winds to its close:

The Shinks, “Golden Leafs”: All I know about this band is that they hail from Stockholm, Sweden. Whoever they are, they have released one heck of a song from deep, deep, deep in left field. The opening, simple piano medley in this swaying, mid-tempo track will grab you immediately and not let go for nearly four-minutes:

That Driving Beat, “Wishing And Hoping.” The Driving Beat is an eleven-piece band from Stockholm, playing in the Northern Soul, Freakbeat and Garage playgrounds. “Wishing And Hoping” has a cool, mid-60s cosmopolitan flair with soulful horns and even more soulful vocals:

Soulbird, “Soulwater”: Soulbird produces subtly soulful pop music, with an occasional country infusion, in London, England. “Soulwater” imparts an early-70s Southern California vibe, punctuated by barque flute stylings:

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So, there’s another five excellent tracks from Power Popsicle Brain Freeze to add to your personal playlist. Check back soon for news on another five standout tracks.

The Ice Cream Man Scores A Hat Trick

a0153222958_16Pop That Goes Crunch radio has now streamed more than 100 editions of the Ice Cream Man Power Pop And More Show, on which Wayne Ford spins a beguiling mix of Power Pop, New Wave, Punk Rock, Mod, Ska, Garage Rock, Northern Soul, etc., etc., etc.  The show airs three times a week — Thursday at 7 pm Pacific, Friday at 1 pm Pacific, and Saturday at 8 am Pacific.

Wayne has just released his third annual, 100% free and 100% legal compilation downloads. This one, cleverly titled Power Popsicle Brain Freeze, delivers a whopping 139 tracks. That is nearly seven hours of music! You can get it from the Futureman Records site on Bandcamp, and they won’t take your money even if you were so inclined to offer it. Get it right here, no risk at all.

So, where to start?

Well, your humble servant is here to help, with the first in a series of posts on some of the finest spins on Power Popsicle Brain Freeze. We’ve happily added many tracks from the download to Pop That Goes Crunch Radio. The scientific word for the actual number is “oodles.”

So, without further chit chat, let’s start digging. The focus will be on artists and bands that have not been discussed previously on this site, and the order is pertinent to nothing in particular.

The Stoplight Roses, A Bomb Goes Off. The Stoplight Roses hail from Atlanta, Georgia, and take their name from the Nick Lowe tune of the same title. A Bomb Goes Off lays out a bit of personal history, and nicely encapsulates the band’s overall mix of vintage Power Pop, Garage Rock and Alt-Country. Its also one of the finest songs of the year:

Arvidson & Butterflies, Tired Of Running. Roger Arvidson and crew hail from Gothenberg, Sweden. Their self-titled debut is a must buy for jangle-holics who also like the occasional stomper. The relentlessly uptempo Tired Of Running jangles with them best of them, and features some nice harmonizing to boot:

Butch Young, Persephone. Butch Young’s long-player, Mercury Man, achieved a rare feat on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio — we added the entire album. Young spends his time in and around the pop-psych genre. “Peresphone,” one of the standouts on Mercury Man, finds him in decidedly Beatle-y territory, without succumbing to cliche:

Solarflairs, Stereo Alley. Solarflairs is a Power Pop-inspired band from Memphis, Tennessee. They have two tracks on Power Popsicle Brain Freeze. We’re partial to the sharp guitar that propels Stereo Alley, which would feel quite at home on a mid-late 80’s indie pop playlist:

Ed Ryan, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright: Ryan’s recently-released long-player, Roadmap, is a rocker with nonstop hooks. You know, a characteristic of almost all rock ‘n’ roll back in the day. That makes it timeless, not timed out. Everything starts with a sharp guitar riff, which gives way to a classic, fulsome Power Pop sound:

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So, there’s five stellar tracks to get you started with Power Pop Brain Freeze. Check back soon for five more.

New Perfect Harmony From The Legal Matters

artworks-000173869094-rrhrps-t500x500We’ve been very, very busy with real life these past six months.

But, we’re back with some exciting news.

The Legal Matters dominated our year-end lists for 2014, capturing the top slot on our album chart, and the number 3 slot on our singles chart. For good measure, band member Andy Reed grabbed the top slot on our list of the best EPs of 2015.

The band’s new album, Conrad, is being released by the very cool Omnivore Recordings, on October 28. However, a free “preview,” of sorts — an “intro” — is available for free at the Noise Trade marketplace. It is highly recommended that you check it out. Immediately.

What will you get?

First, there is a track from the new long-player, “Anything,” which features all of the elements that propelled the self-titled debut to the top of our 2014 album list: strong, bittersweet, lead vocals by Chris Richards, perfect swirling group harmonies, and clean, often jangling guitars. By the time a slide guitar kicks in at the 2:27 mark, you have all the makings of an instant classic.

You will also get a previously unreleased version of the sublime Teenage Fanclub track, “Don’t Look Back,” which is the best kind of cover. It remains generally true to the original vision, but the band spikes its version with loads-and-loads of harmony at which the original only hinted.

The “intro” is rounded out by two tracks from the 2014 release.

“The Legend Of Walter Wright” is the aforementioned Number 3 song of 2014. “We Were Enemies” is one of the more dramatic tracks from the previous long-player, as it alternates effortlessly between low-key acoustic sorrow and pounding, pulsing storm.

Now, stop reading this, get over to Noise Trade, and download  The Legal Matters: An Intro immediately. Another link is right here.

Then, wake up real early on October 28 and get the long-player. You can’t go wrong. It is simply not possible.

We Get More Records And The Hits Keep Coming

Today brings reviews of three more fine recent releases that found their way to our virtual desk.

PropellerPropeller, Fall Off The World: Propeller’s third long-player shows Greg Randall and Will Anderson to be masters of the pithy, hook-filled pop song set amid a wash of punchy guitars and non-stop boisterous rhythms. “Pithy” is an operative description here. The ten-song set clocks in at less than thirty-minutes, just enough time for the guys to say their peace.

And they say it quite well.

They get it started with “Can You Hear Us Now,” which sounds instantly recognizable. A couple of extra bass notes in the intro, and you’ve got Bram Tchikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams.” Is that a bad thing? Not if your are sound checking one of the great pop songs of the late-70s. Randall and Anderson only use “Girl” as fleeting template, before taking “Can You Hear Us Now” to a louder place and more than justifying the Husker Du tag on their Bandcamp page. The next track, “Mismatched Shoes,” sounds as though it was blasting from a local college radio station non-stop, all summer long back in ’86.

All of this, however, is just warm-up for the show-stopping, three minutes of pure pop goodness that is “Wish I Had Her Picture”:


The hits, though, keep coming at breakneck speed.

“She’s So Alive” jangles its way into your heart, mind and soul. The bopping “It’s Kinda Why I Like You” attests to the power of simplicity when employed by the right hands. “You Remind Me Of You,” which made one of my previous “Year End” lists, injects liberal doses of sugar into the basic rocking mix:


Fall Off The World concludes, quite fittingly, with “Turn On The Radio,” a lyrical and sonic paean to The Ramones and the power of rock ‘n’ roll radio. It gets in and gets out at 1:55 — a perfect ending to Propeller’s best longplayer to date.

You can get Fall Off The World, right here as a “name-your-price” download. Chip in some cash, though. You won’t regret it.

 

TrolleyTrolley, Caught In The Darkness:  The latest release by this venerable Milwaukee-based band time-travels effortlessly from the 60s to today, making the occasional pit stop at a number of places and times in-between. Trolley is usually characterized as purveyors of “psych-pop.” For the most part, though, Trolley’s brand of psychedelia is more of the 1966 variety, than of the trippier experiments of 1968, with its swirling keyboards complimented throughout by relentlessly pounding beats.

Those beats get the festivities underway, as a short drum roll announces the start of the title track, an exposition of a darkened heart playing off, in yin-yang fashion, against an exuberant, sunny soundtrack. The happy “Thursday Girl” has a thoroughly sunny disposition. The opposition of darkness and light returns on “Step Into The Clear,” whose soothingly sweet opening soon gives way to a more sinister feel. As tinkling bells struggle for supremacy against gloomy guitars, the singer notes in a bit of bored resignation that “I’m wasted/but such is life”:


The band’s penchant for mixing it all up is evident throughout Caught In The Darkness. Complex rhythms take the fuzzy keyboard-oriented “She Has It All” to unexpected places.  The British Invasion feel of “All The Way” is spiked with a more contemporary array of sounds. “She Helps Me Celebrate” is Power Pop, circa 1980. What I noted about the generally less “trippy” feel of Trolley’s overall approach is, however, thrown completely out the window on the closing track, “Take My Love,” a seven-and-a-half minute excursion into the dreamy unknown.

Caught In The Darkness is a album conceived from great ideas, and executed with great care. You can strap yourself in for the fantastic voyage right here.

 

The PulseThe Gordy Garris Group, The Pulse: The Gordy Garris Group hails from Saginaw, Michigan, and enlisted Andy Reed to record their second studio longplayer. The Pulse is, for the most part, a set of acoustic guitar-based indie rock about loneliness, heartbreak and self-realization.

Garris, who has already written more than 200 songs at age 2o, has a knack for penning tunes that sneak their way into the subconscious. I drove around town with The Pulse on the car stereo one day, only to find myself humming one of its tracks unknowingly a couple of days later. The track in question, “Energy,” is the standout in the collection, a rumination on romantic longing set against strummed guitars and a pounding beat:


Other tracks mine similar territory, but manage to remain fresh. “Night Fall” begins with ethereal harmonies, and is enlivened by subtle keyboards. A muted acoustic guitar and a nice string arrangement compliment Garris’ vocals perfectly on the winsome “You Got Me.” “Bad News” is driven by staccato rhythms. “Perfect” features gorgeous steel guitar playing.

Garris says his influences include Green Day and Coldplay. I hear a lot of Josh Rouse on The Pulse. That might just be me, but its a good thing in any event. You should stream and buy The Pulse right here.

 

The Sloan Tribute: It Sounds Great, Get It

Sloan TributeVarious Artists, If It Feels Good Do It — A Sloan Tribute: On-line searches for “tribute albums” will yield numerous rants bellyaching about the very concept of the “tribute album.” Its kind of cool to trash tribute albums, even if the music they impart is good, or even great. Snooze.

The good folks at Futureman Records have assembled a collection of thirty-one covers of some of the finest songs released by the Toronto-based quartet, Sloan, over the course of their two+ decades of releasing consistently tasty works of melodically based rock ‘n’ roll. Call it Power Pop, if you like. Indeed, many of the contributing artists to If It Feels Good will be quite well-known to visitors of this site. Many have placed high on my lists of the best songs, LPs and EPs over the past three years.

Undoubtedly, one approaches an album such as If It Feels Good from an inherently biased perspective based on one’s assessment of the source material. My personal collection counts more than 150 tracks by Sloan. I would be predisposed to enjoying If It Feels Good.

Never mind, though. Futureman has succeeded in releasing the finest tribute album I have heard. The collection is expertly curated and assembled, down to the artwork which is reproduced at the top of this post. The performances on If It Feels Good are, without a fault, first-rate. The interpretations of tracks from Sloan’s large catalog are thoughtful and remain, with one exception, generally “true” to the originals, even while the artists put their own spins on the soundscapes. The recording, production and mastering are superb throughout, and glue the collection together into a cohesive whole. If It Feels Good is more than worth your valuable time and money.

I could easily write about each of the thirty-one tracks on If It Feels Good. There is not a duffer in the bunch. I’ll focus, however, on some of my favorites.

Stereo Tiger, which grabbed the number 7 spot on my list of the best longplayers of 2015, kicks off the festivities with a nice version of “C’mon C’mon,” that is slightly brighter than Sloan’s original. The drums also kick in a bit stronger and the vocals, like most on the collection, shine throughout the track.

The Hangabouts, another top 10 finisher on my 2015 list, manage the seemingly impossible. They sweeten a Jay Ferguson track — the brilliant “The Answer Was You” — by adding acoustic guitars and smoothing the vocals relative to Ferguson’s naturally smooth style. You should hear this one right now:

Paul Melancon contributes a strong vocals in front of The New Insecurities on the bittersweet “It’s In Your Eyes.” Chris Richards handles the complex lead vocal on “Coax Me” with aplomb. It would be easy to mistake “Right Or Wrong” as a Nick Piunti original. The voice and sound are unmistakable, yet the final result is rooted firmly in the source material. The Well Wishers pull off a similar feat, to great effect, on “The Lines You Amend.”

Another standout is Pop 4’s expanded version of “Flying High Again” (the original clocks in at less that a minute-thirty). The male-female vocal and harmonizing lift the virtual supergroup’s version to the top of the collection:

“Misty’s Beside Herself” ranks as one of my favorite Sloan tracks. Paul Myers adds electronics to the track, and pulls it off brilliantly. Phil Ajjarapu contributes a nice version of “Set In Motion” to the collection. Head Futureman, Keith Klingensmith, shines brightly on “I Wanna Thank You.” A track from my Number 1 EP of 2015, Andy Reed’s version of “I Love A Long Goodbye,” also appears here, and is, of course, essential.

Will you find yourself firing up If If Feels Good, and listen to start to finish? Maybe, maybe not. At the very least, stick the thirty-one tracks into a big playlist, hit shuffle, and marvel at the great skill, care and love devoted to covering some of the finest songs released by one of the best bands of the past two decades.

You can get it right here.

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