Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “ELO”

Toxic Melons Deserve Your Support

Toxic Melons -- Bus ThearpyThe last post on this site discussed five tracks that proved to be quite popular in the inaugural month of Pop That Goes Crunch radio. One of the highlighted tracks is “Diffidence” by Toxic Melons. I’ve now had a chance to listen to the soon-to-be released Bus Therapy by Paul Fairbairn and pals in its entirety. It is one of the most wildly eclectic pop albums you likely will hear this year, or any other year for that matter. A Kickstarter campaign is nearing its conclusion. Here’s why you should happily contribute to this effort, as I did last month.

Fairbairn says on the Kickstarter page “if you’re a fan of The Beatles, Jellyfish, Queen, The Beach Boys, E.L.O and Power Pop in general, I think you might enjoy the album!” Indeed you will as Bus Therapy takes you on a dizzying roadtrip through the last five decades of pop music in just thirty-three minutes.

The festivities begin rather quickly with “More Or Less,” a song about accepting that not everything in life is black or white but enjoying the “bumper ride” anyway, propelled by swirling keyboards and copious harmonies. “Journey” takes us on the first of many wide left turns — a slow instrumental right up front. “Let Me Sleep” is, well, a rather sleepy track about begging to sleep for another ten minutes and features a nicely placed glam flourish here and there.

The two best tracks come soon thereafter.

“Change The World” is sung beautifully throughout by Linus Of Hollywood. Fairbairn’s keyboards and accordion, and the overall waltzing tempo of the track, give the whole thing a wonderfully circus-like feel.

Keith Klingensmith lends his pitch perfect vocals to the rather jaunty “Not In Love?” which, as far as I can tell, must have knocked an Elton John song off of the top spot on Billboard charts back when I was in elementary school. Like “Change The World,” it also has been added to Pop That Goes Crunch radio.

“Getting Old” wraps piano, strings and trumpet around decidedly craggy vocals about fighting the inevitable. Quite naturally, then, the track is followed by the closer, “Take Me Back” a bit of sublime Beach Boys pop nostalgia about days gone by.

You can stream the whole thing right here:





5 More Songs You Will Hear On Pop That Goes Crunch Radio

RadioMore then 500 hours of music was heard in the first month at Pop That Goes Crunch radio. More than 1,200 individual streams were launched, and the station page itself was visited more than 1,000 times. Its the third most popular “Power Pop” station on Live365 — not bad for the first month.

Here are five more tracks spinning in rotation that proved to be among the most popular songs in the first month. This is music that should be heard. You can hear it in this post — full tracks are embedded below — and you certainly can hear it on the station.

The Bye Bye Blackbirds — “All In Light” — This Bay Area band had the Number 10 song on my Best of 2013 list. “All In Light” opens their We Need The Rain long-player in a pounding, fist-pumping fashion before settling into three-plus minutes of hooks and harmonies:

And The Professors — “Our Postmortem” — This collective led by Adam Levy of The Honeydogs snagged the Number 8 song on my Best of 2013 list. The title track of their 2013 release closes that effort with a bit of Wilco-meets-ELO string-based rock:

Toxic Melons — “Diffidence” — Paul Fairbairn and friends mix West Coast Pop, strings and some tasty 70s-style lead guitar into an epic piece of melancholy:

The Shivvers — “Teen Line” — Now we’re shifting gears radically. This piece of stripped down old school Power Pop from 1980 becomes increasingly brilliant each time its heard. I could have embedded a simple audio track. Here, however, is the band kicking out the song sometime in the distant past on WMTV in Madison, Wisconsin:

The Loud Family — “Chicago And Miss Jovan’s Land-O-Mat”: Scott Miller’s original band, Game Theory, is a favorite and is well-represented on Pop That Goes Crunch radio. Although there is not necessarily anything “Midwestern” about this track that appears on Volume 4 of the Yellow Pills collection, this perfect piece of AM pop rock somehow transports me to Chicago whenever I hear it:

So, there’s another five rather popular tracks getting some serious airplay over at the radio station. Why not take a few minute and check it out?

An American Underdog And Brandon Schott Leave Us Wanting Much More

The A/B EPAlways leave them wanting more.”

That venerable quote perfectly describes the “joint” EP just released by An American Underdog (basically, Andy Reed) and Brandon Schott. The four-song teaser, titled simply The A/B EP, originated online through the artists’ shared admiration of ELO, Elliott Smith and Harry Nilsson.

A virtual collaboration ensued as Reed and Schott contributed to each others’ songs from more than 2,000 miles away. Despite the technology baked into the four tracks, each song nevertheless displays all of the handmade, artisanal qualities of the analog age evident on Reed’s and Schott’s prior efforts, such as this one and this one. The A/B EP delivers four tasty morsels of pure pop goodness to savor until Reed and Schott release their next full-length products.

The digital version of the collection kicks off with Schott’s “Henry,” a joyous romp through three-and-a-half minutes of swirling keyboards, ukeleles, kazoo, glockenspiel and lots of well-placed “la la’s.” What’s not to love?:

Reed’s more wistful “The Show Goes On” follows. Its the perfect vehicle for his gorgeous vocals:

Reed’s “Good Girl” comes next. It’s the emotional center of the collection, as the tension builds steadily throughout the track to a rocking, almost operatic conclusion:

A darker, contemplative mood also marks Schott’s “Verdugo Park (Part 2),” which closes the digital collection. A lot will be written about the many influences at play on this EP, and on the full-length records both artists subsequently release. This one caused me instantly to think of The Zombies’ Odessey & Oracle, particularly (and most fittingly), “Beechwood Park”:

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The A/B EP is a stunning preview of what’s to come soon enough from Reed and Schott. You can download it for $4 or get it on vinyl for $7, right here. You certainly will want more — much, much more.


Michael Simmons’ Its The End Of The World: The Ultimate DIY Recording

Michael SimmonsIt’s The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Live may be the ultimate “do it yourself” recording. Simmons is a member of Sparkle*Jets U.K., a Southern California band, whose sound is described as “a distinctive marriage of ’60s and ’70s rock and whimsical guitar pop.” That’s close enough. It certainly sounds something like that.

It’s The End Of The World is a collection of covers — some acoustic, some not– that Simmons performed “live” entirely by himself. How does one person play “live,’ particularly on the several multi-part tracks that comprise the collection? Here’s what Simmons says:

My tracks are usually still ‘live’ with all the normal mistakes you’d expect, but I play all the instruments. It’s what it would be like if I could clone myself and got together to jam on songs I don’t really know. Most of these songs were first attempts of songs I don’t know how to play.

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Recording was typically done on multi-track equipment, but each take was done ‘live’ in one go, with a camera running. Some songs (mostly the 2nd half of the album) were recorded live with a webcam or iPhone, which is why they don’t sound as good.

Okay, I know what you’re saying. This guy recorded a bunch of songs that he doesn’t really know how to play. He admits that his record contains a number of “mistakes.” He acknowledges that some of the songs sound crappy. Why on earth should you spend your time listening to this “recording”?

Well, you should. Its darned good, and chock full of excellent interpretations of classic pop rock gems.

The first track, Squeeze’s “(This Could Be) The Last Time,” sets the tone for the entire loosely constructed and playful set. Simmons starts with a riff from the original that sounds like the opening riff from “Is That Love,” also by Squeeze, before getting down to business in the song at hand. “Spooky,” done originally by Classics IV and then by The Atlanta Rhythm Section, breezes along quite jazzily before Simmons outdoes himself by singing all of the parts of the Brothers Gibb, and harmonizing with himself to great effect, on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” Simmons’ self-harmonies by virtual cloning are also quite tasty on his superb version of ELO’s “Bluebird Is Dead”:

Two tracks later, Simmons gives “She Said, She Said” a slightly heavier, bassier treatment than The Beatles’ original version. It works quite well:

The acoustic iPhone recordings kick in soon thereafter. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” made famous by Charlie Rich back in 1973, gets a dramatic, stripped down and soulful reading by Simmons devoid of the schmaltz of the original hit. Perhaps even better, however, is Simmons’ version of the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach-penned “Toledo.” Simmons notes at the outset that “I don’t have a flugelhorn,” thus requiring him to hum a couple of the brass parts amid his gorgeous vocals:

It all comes to a close four songs later with 25 seconds worth of The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye,” a perfect ending to a set that does not even come close to taking itself too seriously. It’s just “good, clean fun,” and Simmons’ obvious love of the songs he covers is readily apparent. What more can you want in the middle of winter?

You can “name your price” for a digital download of It’s The End Of The World on Bandcamp. Simmons also has posted videos for each of the tracks on You Tube. Check ’em out.

Chewy Marble’s “Reasons Why”: Digging That 70s Bar Mitzvah Dance Music Groove

Chewy Marble -- Bowl Of SurrealMusic sometimes comes full circle in your life.

I went to a whole lot of Bar Mitzvahs back in 1977. There was one band that played at almost every one. It was composed of four or five guys who worked as dentists during the week. They played these weekend parties in three-piece suits — or, sometimes, open vests over puffy shirts — that went quite nicely with their well-trimmed beards. This was, of course, 1977.

For some reason, the song that got everyone on the dance floor, at every party, was “Evil Woman” by ELO. I never pegged the song as a “dance” tune coming, as it did, in the middle of the disco age. Maybe it was the jazzy, scratchy guitars, or the slightly funky keyboards that got everyone moving. The whole scene still seems kind of mysterious even after all these years. A truly “live” (meaning not “lip-synched”) version of “Evil Woman,” culled from The Midnight Special television program, best captures its essence and Jeff Lynne’s not-so-well-trimmed hair:

Fast-forward a couple of decades.

Brian Kassan, who played bass and guitar in the Wondermints before they backed Brian Wilson, founded a band called Chewy Marble in 1995. The All Music Guide described its 1998 self-titled debut as:

a sparkling power-pop effort spotlighting founder Brian Kassan’s versatile songwriting skills, which touch on influences ranging from Badfinger (‘Loneliest Man’) to the Zombies (‘Peculiar’) to even contemporary chamber-pop revivalists like the High Llamas (‘Teacher’s Pet’).

When you listen to the band’s follow-up effort, 2001’s Bowl Of Surreal, you can add “mid-70s Bar Mitzvah dance music” to their range of influences. “Reasons Why,” the tenth track on the longplayer, makes me think back to those days of dancing to “Evil Woman” on Saturday afternoons and Saturday evenings. The song is all about swing-y keyboards, lounge-y lead vocals, scratchy guitars, dreamy background vocals and string instrument sounds. You know, kind of like ELO, even if Lynne often sang with more conviction that your basic lounge singer:

A couple of years ago, Kassan discussed on Power Popaholic his early early days in the Wondermints playing a “small dive bar” called The Irish Mist:

we were playing tons of fun covers that most bar bands wouldn’t attempt or even know for that matter…’Magic’ ‘Go All The Way’ ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ ‘Telephone Line’ and many others!

“Telephone Line” was, of course, recorded by ELO and released in May 1977 — the peak of the Bar Mitzvah season that year. The Wondermints’ version of the song, if you can find it, is awesome. And so is “Reasons Why.” I feel “all 70s” whenever it comes on, which Kassan obviously intended.

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