Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Alt Country”

Late Summer Roundup, Volume 3

The calendar, and the weather, says it’s still summer. So here’s the third installment of my roundup of some of the finest tuneage to find its way to my digital desk over the past few months. This time, the focus is on the more rocking end of the spectrum.

Mono In Stereo

Mono In Stereo, Long For Yesterday: Back in the summer of 1984, I combed the traffic-clogged streets of Los Angeles working as a car messenger. College radio was my constant companion. The Minutemen, Husker Du and The Replacements ruled the airwaves, and brought order to those mean streets.

Those days have long since left the rear-view mirror. However, Mono In Stereo, a four-piece band out of Rockford, Illinois, has managed to capture the Spirit of ’84, and has sprinkled it brilliantly over twelve quite fine tunes that run the gamut from blistering punk rock assaults, to pounding anthems that shout their way out of the speakers, to mid-tempo reflections on the past, the present and the future, to Americana-tinged Power Pop, and more. The band calls its approach “Midwest Punk,” and cites its influences as ranging from “Springsteen to Mould, Earle to Costello.” It’s an apt description.

The band lays its cards on the table in the opening track, the rousing “Late Night Confessor” which tips a hat to The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” before veering off in its own direction. The pounding title track will have you yelling out its chorus in no time. “What We Sang” is a paean to doing what you love, knowing that others out there certainly feel the same way:

The mid-tempo, “Woke Up In Haight,” has the band showing off a more expansive sound aided, in part, by some sneaky piano supplied by the seemingly ubiquitous Kris “Fingers” Rogers. “Bakersfield” is an eminently catchy Power Pop romp with a country backbone. The closing track, “Another Man’s Time,” is a quiet rumination on crime, punishment, family and mistaken identity:

Long For Yesterday is overflowing with hook-filled, guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll that knows no real boundaries. That’s how the best did it back in ’84, and that’s how Mono In Stereo’s influences do it as well. You can get this timeless music via Bandcamp. You will be glad you did.

Travel Lanes

Travel Lanes, Let’s Begin To Start Again: This four-piece band out of Philadelphia also digs deep into the history of American rock ‘n’ roll, spiking its catchy tunes with liberal doses of R&B swagger, Americana and seeming bar band sloppiness. Travel Lanes, however, is no amateur act. Accomplished playing is instead the order of the day, lifting Let’s Begin toward the head of the class.

Low, crunching guitars and Frank Brown’s menacing vocals let the listener know immediately that the field trip at issue in the opening track, “Class Trip,” might not be the kind of happy event normally associated with elementary school. The next track, “In The World,” lightens the festivities considerably, with its memories of a “summer so sublime.” “Little Out Of Love” sports a mellow, melodic vibe with 70s’s country undertones. “100th I Told You So” is melodic rockin’ pop at its finest. It would climb the charts in alternate universe:

The band returns to darker themes on a couple of slower, largely acoustic Americana tracks,”The Year” — the one where “everything fell apart”– and on the “Death,” both of which are standouts. Hope is not entirely lost, however, as the band quickly serves up the sweet, upbeat “Cream Soda.”

If there are any bum notes, or boring filler, anywhere on Let’s Begin To Start Again, these ears were unable to detect them. Get this highly recommended longplayer from the good folks at Kool Kat Musik.

 

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The Big Show: Season 2, Show #3

The Big Show, Season 2, Show #3

The third installment of the second season of The Big Show included a truck load of new music, including new rockin’ pop by Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders, Nick Piunti, DC Cardwell, Lannie Flowers, The Weeklings, The See See, The Explorers Club (doing a live cover of The Zombies’ “Tell Her No), Tenterhooks and Watts.

Perennial favorites — XTC, Elvis Costello, Teenage Fanclub and Big Star — also were on tap, as was a bit of Alt-County via Lucinda Williams and Golden Smog.

The complete track list appears below the embed. Turn it up loud, and tune in frequently to Pop That Goes Crunch radio, spinning the finest slices of melodic rock ‘n roll released over the past seven decades.

 

Track list:

1.  Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders, “Another Wasted Day”

2.  Nick Piunti, “It’s A Trap”

3.  Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms, “Keep Me Around”

4.  DC Cardwell, “The Sun, The Moon, The Stars”

5.  XTC, “The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men”

6.  The Power Cords, “Luxetine Dreams”

7.  Chuck Oney, “Dear Miss Roberts”

8.  Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “Lip Service”

9.  Lannie Flowers, “Radio Sweetheart”

10. King Kartel, “Run”

11. The Turnback, “Beyond Belief”

12. The Slapbacks, “Looking For The Magic”

13. The Weeklings, “Breathing Underwater”

14. The See See, “The Rain & The Snow”

15. The Explorers Club, “Tell Her No”

16. Coke Belda, “Looking For”

17. Marjorie Cardwell, “When We Both Fell Down”

18. The Byrds, “Lady Friend”

19. Teenage Fanclub, “Nowhere”

20. Big Star, “You Get What You Deserve”

21. Gretchen’s Wheel, “Why Try”

22. Lucinda Williams, “Side Of The Road”

23. Golden Smog, “V”

24. Tenterhooks, “Lucy”

25. Watts, “Trick”

Far From The Old Mainstream

I just checked the Billboard Top 200. The top-selling long player? The latest by Usher. No. 2? The latest by Rush. Really? Who wants to hear a bunch of old prog rockers with high voices and phony libertarian politics? Here’s how the AllMusic guide describes that one, which is a “concept” album:

It centers on a loose narrative about a young man following his dreams. He struggles with inner and outer forces of order and chaos; he encounters an expansive world where colors, images, territories, and characters are embodied by pirates, strange carnivals, rabble-rousing anarchists, and lost cities. His enemy is the Watchmaker, a ruthless authoritarian presence who attempts to rule the universe and all aspects of everyday life with fascistic precision.

Yep, unicorn rock. Come sail away, lads.

But in the meantime, I recently downloaded some long players from Rhapsody for a couple of coast-to-coast flights. They feature real electric guitars, real acoustic guitars, real pianos, real cymbal crashes, an occasional mandolin, finely crafted melodies, and occasionally perfect harmonies.

One of them was “Down By The Old Mainstream” by Golden Smog, a supposed alt-country supergroup. Yes, they plowed some country fields. But this long player from 1995 is chock full of pure pop hooks and wistful melodies via Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks. It was so far out of the mainstream in 1995 that it didn’t even make the Billboard Hot 200 album chart. Seventeen years later, its downright obscure.

But it shouldn’t be. It starts with a bit of pure melodic brilliance powered by piano hooks, a paean to a long-gone girl simply named “V.” Its worth a listen — or many listens — even if you have to watch a silly cell phone commercial first:

Two songs later you get “Pecan Pie,” Jeff Tweedy’s decidedly un-serious folky, extended metaphor for the girl of his dreams: “And a piece of pecan pie. And you that’s all I want. Just a piece of pecan pie. And all I want is you.” Then he sings about the whipped cream.

And that’s the other big joy of this long player. Its loose. Its ragtag. It never takes itself seriously. Its not about pirates, ruthless authoritarians and fascistic precision. Its just, well, fun. What else can you say about a collection with a song called “He’s A Dick,” about a guy that borrowed some cash from you years ago, did not pay it back and then looks away whenever he sees you? That happens in real life. But its not weighty enough stuff for those intellectuals in Rush and their Number 2 record in the nation.

But back to this music. Also check out “Friend,” which shifts nicely between casual mid-tempo mellowness and pounding power pop. “Down By The Old Mainstream” does that simply because it can. Its all over the place. By design.

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