Over at Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, we proudly broadcast to the planet the Ice Cream Man Power Pop And More show. Each week, Wayne Ford spins a delectable mix of some of the finest Power Pop, New Wave, Northern Soul, Ska, Garage Rock and Mod sounds ever put to wax, tape, disk and 1’s and 0’s. Last September, Wayne assembled a gigantic, free download of some the highlights of the first year of his show. We featured it right here.
Last week, however, Wayne topped himself by dropping a ginormous collection of — hold your breath on this one — 109 tracks that you can download for absolutely free, legally and with no strings attached. This bit of sonic generosity is likely unprecedented in human history. The good folks over at Futureman Records are hosting it right here for your downloading delight.
Many of the tracks on the compilation are by artists that are perennials on this blog, and over at Pop That Goes Crunch radio, including The Hangabouts, Propeller, Gretchen’s Wheel, Muscle Souls, Eric Barao (doing my number 1 song of 2013), Phil Ajjarapu, Chris Richards & The Subtractions, Nick Piunti, Trip Wire, and Watts. But, with 109 tracks in all, you can do a deep dive (or two or three) and discover a whole lot of new artists for further exploration over the wide variety of genres that Wayne features regularly on his show.
Got It Licked is easily the compilation of the year. Nothing can possibly come close in sheer breadth, quality and rocking bliss. You would be remiss not to let your fingers and mouse do the walking over to the Futureman page and download 109 songs for zilch.
Need further prompting? Check out Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders doing “Another Wasted Day,” as it appears on Got It Licked:
I have the pleasure today of reviewing two of the finest longplayers of 2014.
Aerial, Why Don’t The Teach Heartbreak At School: Aerial is a three-piece band from Scotland that produces authentic West Coast Pop of great variety, stunning quality, occasional clever wit and consistently gorgeous harmonies. Although the band last released an album in 2002, the long delay has hardly diminished its skills.
The festivities begin with “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart,” which adds a bit of fuzz to the basic pounding pop approach. The title track is a sing-along, clap-along, bop-along slice of teenage heartbreak and regret. “Japanese Dancer” inserts some call-and-response into a paean to the girl of the title who dances on the street clad in kung fu slippers while brandishing a plastic whistle. “Great Teenager” imagines how great teenage life could really and truly be — if the teenager was actually in his late-20s.
Those are each rockin’ pop songs. Aerial, however, also delivers the goods rather nicely on the more introspective tracks.
“Dear Anna” amps up the harmonizing alongside its basic plea seeking a second chance to explain. “Where Are You” slowly builds tension for a minute-and-a-half before becoming a full-fledged rocker, and back again. The collection closes with “Wave Goodbye To Scotland,” a relatively quiet track about how the love for a person can trump the love for a place.
Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School is a shoo-in for my year-end “best of” list. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a long and otherwise boring commute to and from work. Buy it from Kool Kat Musik — right here — and also get a previously unreleased CD of 4 demo tracks.
Check out the band doing an acoustic version of the title track right here:
* * * * * * * * * *
Edward, O’Connell, Vanishing Act: O’Connell creates smart, unaffected guitar-based rock that sounds instantly familiar upon its initial listen. His recently released long-player, Vanishing Act, has a timeless quality to it, as it if could have been released in 1969, 1979, 1989 — well, you get the point. Although nothing on Vanishing Act advances the march of western civilization, O’Connell nevertheless delivers twelve expertly crafted pop tunes that make perfect use of the occasional string, keyboard, horn or pedal steel to add texture and a full, rich sound to the basic guitar-bass-drums approach.
The opening track, the country-tinged “My Dumb Luck,” sets the tone for everything that follows — O’Connell’s strong lead vocals alternating with plush harmonies amid a hook that will stay with you for hours. “Every Precious Day” took me back to the days of driving around college in a 1981 Honda listening to the local alternative rock station, a very good thing indeed:
“I’m The Man” ups the country quotient considerably and, in the grand tradition of a certain branch of that particular genre, repeats its basic hook –“I’m the man that she wants to kill” — several times. The swaying title track has a slightly baroque feel, and features the backing vocals of Parthenon Huxley. Quite naturally, the collection ends with the slightly jangling rocker, “The End Of The Line,” whose pumping, sunny disposition will make your forget, or not even notice, its bleak theme and inherent sadness. It attests wonderfully to O’Connell’s songwriting chops.
Vanishing Act displays O’Connell at the top of his craft. It contains not a single bum track, and its twelve songs ultimately go by in a blink of an eye. It should be available wherever finer music is sold.
This edition of The Big Show time travels back to the 1970s with seventy minutes rockin’ pop, New Wave and old school Punk Rock for your listening pleasure.
It starts with the first song I ever heard by The Ramones, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” from their third long-player, Rocket To Russia. As I mention on the show, I was eleven years old when their first LP was released, and eleven-year olds did not have access to anything like that in 1975. By 1977, however, things had started to change and, aided by the utter derision of an old-school music appreciation teacher that told her classes that they should not under any circumstances listen to that demon music called “punk rock,” I was primed to move beyond the mainstream.
“Back To The 70s” also includes one of my all-time favorite songs, “Teenage Kick” by The Undertones, a track from The Buzzcocks’Singles Going Steady (probably the single best compilation ever put together) a set of less-well-known Power Pop from the late-70s by The Secrets* (the asterisk is intentional), Gary Charlson and The Names, as well as the original version of “Hangin’ On The Telephone,” a classic track by Nick Lowe, The Kursaal Flyers riffing off The Who, and a whole lot more.
“The Big Show” airs on Pop That Goes Crunch radio on Wednesdays at 6 pm Pacific, Fridays at 11 am Pacific and Saturdays at 11 am Pacific. The shows are usually uploaded to Mixcloud on Sunday mornings.
The show can be heard below. The complete tracklist appears below the embed.
1. The Ramones, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
2. The Pranks, “I Don’t Wanna Lose That Feeling”
3. The Flashcubes, “Its You Tonight”
4. The Rezillos, “Top Of The Pops”
5, The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks”
6. The Jags, “Back Of My Hand (I’ve Got Your Number”)
7. The Secrets*, “It’s Your Heart Tonight”
8. Gary Charlson, “Real Life Saver”
9. The Names, “Why Can’t It Be”
10 The Buzzcocks, “I Don’t Mind”
11. The Fans, “You Don’t Live Here Anymore”
12. Eddie & The Hot Rods, “Do Anything You Wanna Do”
The blogroll to the right has long-included a link to the Ice Cream Man Power Pop And Moreblog.
For the past several months, the Ice Cream Man has been rocking the world with a weekly radio show spinning the finest in Power Pop, Mod, 60s, New Wave and Northern Soul tunes for discerning ladies and gentlemen from his perch out in Sweeden.
Now, The Ice Cream Man is coming to the US.
Pop That Goes Crunchradio is happy to announce that it will be airing The Ice Cream Man’s weekly show twice a week for your listening pleasure beginning on February 14. You can catch it every Friday night at 7 PM Pacific Standard Time (10 PM on the East Coast), and every Saturday morning at 8 AM Pacific Standard Time (11 AM on the East Coast).
What will you hear on this week’s broadcast?
Tracks from The Cry! (about whom I wrote recently, right here), The Jam (a favorite of mine for more than three decades), Owsley, and The Surf School Dropouts, not to mention a bevy of Northern Soul, the “brutal garage R’n’B” of TheBeatpack, the “Aggressive Pop Supreme” of Trees and Timber, the Missouri punk-surf-pop of Popular Mechanics and the “bubblegum Fowley worship garage pop rock” of The Ketamines. And much, much more!
You can’t go wrong with that kind of eclectic line-up. So take an hour out of your week and check out The Ice Cream Man on Pop That Goes Crunch Radio, right here, every Friday night and/or Saturday morning. You will be glad you did.
The Portland, Oregon band, The Cry! was kind enough to send a track from their soon-to-be released long-player, Dangerous Game, to the new streaming radio station as a pre-release “exclusive.” The track, “Shakin,'” is now playing in-rotation on Pop That Goes Crunch! Radio, along with some eight-hundred other melodically-driven rock ‘n roll songs spanning the past seven decades. Take the new station for a spin around the block, kick the tires, look under the hood for a while, and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, though, if you don’t yet know The Cry!, now is a great time to meet them. When I first heard the track “Modern Cinderella” from their self-titled debut record, I thought I was listening to a long-lost Power Pop band that released a couple of singles on the Titan label back in the late-70s. “Modern Cinderella” has everything that gives those songs such a timeless appeal — chiming guitars, pounding rhythms, non-stop hooks and a chorus that you’ll sing to yourself all day long:
Please girl please, stay with me Tonight’s for lovers like us And you don’t seem to love like me So I’m heading home on the bus Oh no I’m heading home on the bus
“Modern Cinderella” is also spinning in rotation on Pop That Goes Crunch! Radio, but you can also take a listen right here:
In advance of the release of Dangerous Game, the band just released a 10-track “name your price” digital download recorded live at the Banana Stand recording space in Southeast Portland. Among the tracks in this collection is “Discotheque,” the lead track on Dangerous Game. You can hear the live version right here:
As a bonus, and since we are talking “live,” check out the band doing a knock-down, kick out the jams version of The Records’ classic “Starry Eyes” at an International Pop Overthrow show in Seattle:
The Cry! deliver real rock ‘n roll steeped in the past but rooted in the present. Find a place in your collection for them.
Tapped out by the holidays? Here are two brief recent releases that deliver big bang for small coin.
Quiz Kids, Dynamite!: Quiz Kids is a three-piece “supergroup” of sorts recording for the “micro label,” February Records. This three-song EP was produced, in part, by Mitch Easter, who previously helmed long-players for R.E.M., Game Theory and Velvet Crush, among others.
The Velvet Underground is the most prominent reference point here. The band blends elements of noise pop with strong melodies and an occasional jangle. A lo-fi, analog feel permeates the EP. To that end, Easter assists with an electric sitar on one track, while the other two feature an Electone organ and a Moog synthesizer.
The best of the three offerings, “I Want You To Know,” recalls The Velvets’ “I Can’t Stand It,” with its persistent, steady rhythm and minimal changes:
Dynamite! won’t actually cost you any coin at all, since you can get it free right here, or you can name your own price and drop some cash into the tip jar.
The New Trocaderos, S/T. This is a two-sided single from Brad Marino and Geoff Palmer of The Connection (which released the No. 14 song on my year-end list of the 20 best songs of 2013), and Kurt Baker. There is nothing fancy at all here. It’s just good old-fashioned rock and roll done flawlessly.
The lead track, “Money Talks” is about as old school as they come, with its Chuck Berry-style lead guitar over a basic rock rhythm and blues structure bolstered by perfectly placed harmonies. “Well money talk and boo–she–waw,” Marino sings a couple of times in this tale of love lost to the guy with the much bigger bank account. Words to live by.
Baker takes lead vocal on “The Kids,” a thematic update on the MC5’s “Shakin’ Street” set amid a tight and shiny New Wave/Power Pop groove ripped from the late-70s. “The Kids” is a paean to the potentially transcendent power of rock and roll. No matter how bad things can get growing up in a seemingly nowhere place, there’s always the music to lead the way: “Sometimes my parents take my records away/But that don’t matter, they’re all in my head/Playing all night and all day, yeah.” Yes, indeed:
So, what are you waiting for? Plunk down a couple of dollars, and get five cool songs you probably haven’t heard yet. Your wallet will hardly notice the difference.
If I were to compile a list of my all-time favorite songs, The Flamin’ Groovies‘ “Shake Some Action” would easily land in the Top 20. Released in 1976, the track was inspired by The British Invasion while incorporating strands of nascent punk rock and new wave. It is “beat music” in the best sense, with chiming jangling guitars, loud riffs, pounding drums and a chorus that will stick in your mind for days on end.
“Shake Some Action” was simultaneously ten years behind the times and ten years ahead of the times. While that kind of positioning is hardly a prescription for chart success, the song’s influence on the guitar-driven “alternative rock” of the 80s, 90s and beyond is unmistakable:
My eleven-year even old loves “Shake Some Action,” more than thirty-seven years after its release. Talk about your timeless music.
Portions of the band have reunited, and they are playing a number of shows in November in the Midwest and on the East Coast. They are also working on an EP. The first song, “End Of The World,” can be streamed through a wonderful profile of the band posted this morning on Rolling Stone’s website.
Take a listen. “End Of The World” picks up where tracks like “Shake Some Action” left off long ago. Its chiming guitars are instantly recognizable, and its pounding rhythms flow smoothly seamlessly into what could prove to be an equally memorable chorus. Rolling Stone describes “End Of The World” quite nicely:
[It] blends proto-punk energy with power-pop melody. A certain rawness permeates the band’s dedication to pop rhythm, making it sound like it could have been recorded today or in 1972.
Or, for that matter, 1982, 1992 etc.
There’s something for everyone in “End Of The World,” whether you are in your 60s, your 50s, or your 20s. Or, if you are an eleven-year old sitting in the back seat of my car.
I’ve come into possession lately of a lot of old-school Power Pop from the late-70s and early-80s. Most of it would have been called “new wave” or “punk rock” at the time, although some of it pre-dates the invention or popular use of those two terms. All of it, though, featured bright guitars, driving beats, close harmonies and a rejection of the slurry mass of goo that most commercial “rock and roll” had become in the 1970s. “New Wave” was a misnomer. This stuff was retro. It sounded like 1965, but often on speed.
One such frenetic retro rocking Power Pop outfit was The Fans. The were formed in Bristol, England in 1978, and released a couple of singles on the wonderfully titled “Fried Egg” label before disbanding after a couple of years.
Try not to move, bop your head, tap your feet, etc. while listening to “You Don’t Live Here Anymore.” Its as simple as it gets — “I don’t want you ’round here anymore/I don’t want you knocking on my door/I don’t want you ’round here in the morning/’round here in the evening/around here any time at all” — and propelled by a pounding beat, crystal clear vocals and no adornment whatsoever.
All of that, of course, makes it brilliant, and far better sounding thirty-five years later than its much more popular “album oriented rock” contemporaries:
Unlike a lot of old school Power Pop, the Fans’ short-lived output is not lost forever to history. A 17-track of odds and ends, including “You Don’t Live Here Anymore,” is available from CD Baby for $16.97. It’s worth checking out.
The Effection released its sole long-player, Soundtrack To A Moment, in 2003. Although they hailed from the region in which I live, I can’t say that I paid any attention to them. Neither did too many people, apparently, and Soundtrack To A Moment went out-of-print.
In the digital age, however, what’s old can become new again, and that great resuscitator of given-up-for-dead Power Pop, Futureman Records, recently made Soundtrack To A Moment available for digital download for the ridiculously low price of $7. Go get this one right now, and bask in the glow of its punk rock/new wave Power Pop ripped from the glory days of 1979.
This is apparent from the first line of the opening track, “The Sound Effection,” where the words “this is the sound effection” announces the driving guitar rock that follows, just like The Jam opened its second long-player with the call to arms of “this is the modern world”:
The title track covers similar sonic ground in the mold of The Jam, but spins it with a decidedly American take on the proceedings in a song about “nothing to do around here”:
But Soundtrack To A Moment is not all loud and thrashing punk rock. Its best track, “Somewhere Souvenir,” takes the mid-tempo approach and adds breezy guitars and gorgeous 60s-styled vocal harmonies:
The band even slows it down completely on “Agony,” while throwing in some slightly jangling guitars to go with those great harmonies that fill the entire album:
To say that Soundtrack To A Moment is a “find” out of nowhere is an understatement. Like the best bands of the early days of punk rock and new wave, The Effection move seamlessly from full-fledged high energy rockers to more “sophisticated” and contemplative stuff. It takes you back in time, moves to 2003 and yet sounds entirely fresh a decade later. My only regret is not getting hip to this sooner.
My profile on a now-defunct site said that one of my earliest memories of music involved sitting in the backseat of my parents’ avocado green late-60s Chevy Malibu listening endlessly to 93KHJ while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles. The Chevy Malibu, with its black top and black vinyl seats, looked like this:
KHJ ruled the roost in Los Angeles for many years. Its Boss Radio format was copied all over the country:
On May 3, 1965, KHJ was the site chosen for the birth of the new format designed by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault. Ron Jacobs was selected as the first Program Director. BOSS RADIO utilized a tight rotation, top drawer talent, and the elimination of almost all non-essential talk. The Johnny Mann Singers’ jingles didn’t hurt either. Within months, the format spread from coast to coast, and Boss Radio was the king in most markets.
The blogsite 93 KHJ/Boss Radio collects an abundant amount of old Boss Radio material, including images of the station’s weekly Top 30 “Records In Southern California.” These weekly Top 30 lists were available for years “wherever records are sold.” Back then, that included department stores. I remember picking them up at the May Company on Pico Boulevard.
The top songs were, of course, played several times a day. Spending a lot of time in the car, or listening to KHJ at home with the flu, would sear those songs forever into your memory.
It wasn’t just repetition that glued those songs to your mind. It was also the nature of the two-and-a-half minute pop song of the-late 60s and early-70s. They were hooks and melody, hooks and melody, hooks and melody. They were intended to stay in your mind for hours, days and weeks.
Here is the Top 30 from February 22, 1967, as it appears on the Boss Radio site.
“Happy Together” by TheTurtles was No. 1.
“Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones was No. 3.
“There’s A Kind Of Hush/No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits was No. 7 (although “No Milk Today” is the vastly superior track).
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes was No. 10.
“Gimme Some Lovin'” by The Spencer Davis Group was No. 17.
“(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” by The Blues Magoos was No. 23.
The greatest double-sided single of all-time, “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” debuted on the chart that week at No. 13.
The following week saw the debut on the chart of “Live” by The Merry-Go-Round, one of the greatest pieces of Southern California “sunshine pop” ever put to wax.
Just reading that list, and looking at other late-60s, early-70s lists on the Boss Radio site, will cause an endless number of songs to run through your mind for a very long time.
This all changed by the mid-70s. Melodic rock on the AM dial was replaced by Bloat Rock (Boston, Kansas, Supertramp), Cock Rock (Foreigner) and Plain Old Boring Rock (Bad Company). Kiss and Queen are certifiable geniuses in comparison. Punk and New Wave were cultural imperatives. They just had to happen.
Fast-forward to today. A company called Zikera has created a wonderful application for iOS and Windows 8 devices called “Groove.” Among other things, it sans your devices to create “Groovy Mixes” of songs that work well together based, in part, on data supplied by Last.fm users. It has become my most used “app” since it automatically creates an endless array of playlists.
I was driving to work the other day and a particular “Groovy Mix” played three consecutive songs that, combined, perfectly capture the essence of the melodic rock that comprised the Boss Radio of the late-60s and early-70s.
The aptly named “Pop Sound” by The Masticators came up first. The Masticators were a late-90s Los Angelers-based Power Pop band made up, in part, by Lisa Mychols, about whom I wrote recently. Futureman Records has issued a 33-track compendium of the band’s entire recorded output. Its worth checking out in its entirety for some of the tightest, most head-bopping-est Power Pop around. “Pop Sound” is just that — a joyous, three-chord celebration of rhythm and melody anchored by Mychols’ confident, sexy vocals and a driving, basic beat:
Next up was “Pete Ham” by Crash Into June, a tribute to the late Badfinger singer/songwriter/guitarist. It begins with this bit of resonance: “What’s that song it sounds like heaven/I heard it once when I was seven/You could say it reminds me of summer days/Summer days.” True that, true that. It continues shortly later: “It’s got the 60’s British feeling/Hooks that keep me on the ceiling/I hear it now, its got that pure infectious sound/It keeps my head all spinning around/Spinning around.”
“Pete Ham” is three-and-a-half minutes of pure jangle pop perfection:
The final song in my commuting trilogy was “She Dreams,” from Michael Carpenter’s 1999 debut Baby. “She Dreams” is perfect, joyful “sunshine pop” that gives “Live” a run for its money:
So, there you have it. The old AM rock radio groove hasn’t disappeared in these days of overly processed, mechanical dance pop. You just have to know where to find it. When you do, you will be transported to another place