Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Jellyfish”

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:

 

 

 

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Tweaking The Top 200 Power Pop Albums

Shake Some Action“If you’re a power pop fan, you’ve got the book, and quite a labor of love it was. But if you could tweak John Borack’s 200, what albums would be #1-#10?” So went a question posed in an on-line discussion group.

The book in question is Shake Some Action, a photograph of which appears to the left. It’s out-of print, but a list of the Top 200 can be found (with an occasional Spotify link) here

Lists of “the best” of anything can be difficult to compile. A fine line distinction between, say, Number 4 and Number 5 can be agonizing and, ultimately, quite arbitrary.

But this assignment was different. It used someone else’s list as a jumping off point. There were also “rules,” most particularly that there could only be one entry per artist on the list, and that “two-fers” could be included.

So I was game. Have I listened to every album in the Top 200? Of course not. That limited the playing field even more.

So here’s my quick, down and dirty tweaking of “John Borack’s 200.” No agonizing over fine line distinctions went into creating this list:

1.  Big Star, #1 Record/Radio City: All roads lead to and from this “two-fer.” If I created a list of my Top 100 songs of all-time, it would include “September Gurls,” “Thirteen,” “The Ballad of El Goodo,” “When My Baby’s Beside Me,” etc., etc., etc.

2.  Myracle Brah, Life On Planet Eartsnop: 20 songs meant for blasting out of an AM car radio in 1972 while driving around town with windows open and without a care in the world. The lead track, “Whisper Softly,” sets the tone for everything that comes after:

3.  Cotton Mather, Kontiki: The yin and yang of melodic rock. Slow, dreamy stuff (“Spin My Wheels”) slides effortlessly into full-throttled Power Pop (“My Before and After”). And it does it over-and-over again.

4.  Jellyfish, Spilt Milk: Some bands fly under your radar and are never noticed. Some are simply overlooked. Some are purposefully avoided. Jellyfish fits into the last category for me. No way, no how was I going to listen to this “hippie” stuff in the early-90s. That was just so wrong. Spilt Milk is simply the most brilliant collection of self-indulgent, over-the-top, bombastic circus pop ever released.

5.  Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend: This grafts some of the greatest guitar playing in the entire Power Pop universe onto fifteen almost perfect songs. More than twenty years after-the-fact, it sounds like it could have been released last month.

6.  Wondermints, Wondermints: Beautifully encapsulates almost the entire history of rock and roll as it existed in 1995. The finesse with which the band handles such a wide variety of styles is all the more remarkable because it seems so effortless:

7.  Chris von Sniedern, Big White Lies: One meticulously crafted pure pop gem after another by one of the true craftsmen around. A slightly softer version of the recreated AM rock experience of the early-70s than Life On Planet Eartsnop.

8.  Eugene Edwards, My Favorite Revolution: It grabs you immediately and refuses to let go. And it shouldn’t. Its un-fancy, bass-guitars-and-drum rock and roll, smartly written from start to finish:

9.  The Plimsouls, The Plimsouls . . . Plus: Some of this supplied one of the soundtracks to my high school years. Its Power Pop, but with some R&B and garage rock sprinkled into the mix. “Zero Hour,” “Now,” “Everyday Things,” “Great Big World,” “How Long Will It Take” and “Great Big World” remain perennials for me more than thirty years later.

10. The Merrymakers, Bubblegun: This is pretty sounding Power Pop. Not only is “April’s Fool” one of the best songs of the past two decades, it is easily the most exuberant song about being “dumped” that I have ever heard. For good measure, Andy Sturmer of Jellyfish (see No. 4) assisted with production and percussion — and is listed as co-writer of “April’s Fool” — so my circle is entirely complete.

And that’s my current tweaking of the Top 200. These things change over time. Who knows, maybe there is a to-be-discovered gem in the 200 that I have not yet heard.

The Sun Sawed in 1/2’s Rational Exuberance

Elephants Into SwansSometimes I’m in the mood for straightforward bass-guitar-drums and voice rock and roll. Other times, though, I reach for more elaborate, intricately arranged and lushly detailed pop. Elephants into Swans, the new record by The Sun Sawed in 1/2 — their first in thirteen years — fits squarely into the latter category. Its one of the best, most exuberant releases in quite some time.

The Sun Sawed in 1/2 is (very) often compared to Jellyfish, and for good reason. Its sound is equal parts brash, quirky, serious, not serious, psychedelic, fun, and purposefully over-the-top. Elephants into Swans is all of that. It’s also smart, melodic and filled with hooks that increasingly grab your attention upon repeated listening. And, for good measure, it picks up steam as it proceeds, making it the rare record that does front-load its virtues.

It all kicks into high gear by the third track, “Brittle Star,” a sunny up-beat tune about a mercurial girl made of “lightning, passion and rope.” “Countess I Fear Something’s Wrong,” probably my favorite track in the set, is about stolen opportunity –“they cut your song out/with pinking shears and rusted years/they gauged and gauzed it/I press to make repeat then I scan and pause it” — that concludes with a nice Beach Boys flourish for no real reason other than it just sounds great. There’s never anything wrong with that:

Indeed, “sounding great” is the partly the reason for Elephants into Swans to be. “She Offers Her Heart” adds horns to the chorus to up the exuberance factor: “She offers me her heart/and now I’m in love and now I’m in love/and now I’m in love and now I’m in love.” You can’t get any more enthusiastic than that.

Horns also help give “This Girl’s My Lullaby” a swinging, 60’s adult pop feel that veers into decidedly Bacharach territory:

The record closes with more horns on the unrelentingly upbeat and optimistic “Waltzing In Clover.” What else can be made out of these words: “I’ll marry the whole of you/Ten ways amazed for the rest of my days/I’ll marry the whole of you/I’ll drink your gaze sunlit sparkly glazed/I’ll marry the whole of you/You you you you you you’re my love”:

By the end of it, with the words “waltzing in clover” sung over themselves in a dizzying carousel of joy, you can’t help but think: “all you need is love,” in the words of one of The Sun Sawed In 1/2’s other major influences. Indeed, that could very well be the point made by the entire record.

Elephants into Swans can be downloaded for $9 on Bandcamp, a cheap price for such gleeful happiness.

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