Pop That Goes Crunch!

Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “Rod Stewart”

Late Summer “Mini” Reviews

Time does have a tendency to fly away. Here are some short takes on some of the best albums of 2013 that have been recently spinning on my music device:

Eric Barao, Eric Barao: Barao’s lushly produced debut album recallsĀ Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom with its swirling melodies, complex arrangements, occasional instrumental flourishes and tales of broken hearts. The lead track, “On Holiday,” with its tension-release structure and Barao’s strong vocals, is a candidate for song of the year:

 

Nick Piunti, 13 In My Head: Piunti’s debut evokes one of my other all-time favorites, The Replacements. He employs a more basic approach. Bass, guitars and drums propel succinct bursts of timeless powerpop that could have been recorded at any time since 1972. Piunti’s Paul Westerberg-meets-Faces-era-Rod-Stewart vocals, and pitch-perfect backing harmonies, should make this a car stereo favorite for years to come. Selecting a “best” song is difficult — there is not a misfire among the ten tracks — but the mid-tempo “On the Way Out” is a good place to start:

 

The Dead Girls, Fade In/Fade Out: Think Big Star, but about a dozen pounds heavier. Fade In/Fade Out has all of the requisite melodic rock elements discussed throughout this site, but amped up with big riffs and occasionally even bigger percussion. “Find Your Way To Me (Oh My Soul)” is the best six-minute plus song Big Star never recorded. For good measure, the band closes the collection with a perfect, harmony-filled cover of Chris Bell’s enduringly beautiful “You And Your Sister”:

 

Scott Brookman, Smellicopter: Brookman has been quietly self-releasing sunny pop gems for quite some time. His 2000 release, For Those Who Like POP, has gotten quite a few spins on iPhone. Smellicopter, though, is his best excursion to date into Beach Boys/Bacharach territory. The second track, “Summer’s Two Weeks Notice” might be the best exemplar of Brookman’s basic style with its decidedly Pet Sounds vibe, but I’m kind of partial to more jaunty “Very Anne”:

 

Lisa Mychols, Above Beyond & In Between: I’ve written previously about Mychols as a member of the Masticators and Nushu. Her third solo album is a perfect distillation of everything that was once great about AM radio, transported to 2013. Its twelve tracks of non-stop hooks and melodies that would sound great on a long, sunny day at the beach. It proudly flashes its influences, but is no mere nostalgia project. A proper, well-produced video for the terrific ballad “Ferris Wheel” can be found here, but Mychols’ own homemade, low-fi clip for the upbeat “Foolin’ The World” is far more endearing:

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So, there’s five of my favorite albums of 2013. Each are worthy of extended play. Tell me what you think.

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The Shazam’s Rev9: Far Better Than 2 And 1/2 Stars

The Shazam -- Rev9

I really like The AllMusic Guide. Its pretty comprehensive. Its usually accurate. The reviews are often informative. I find myself consulting the site frequently to get more information about something, or someone, I’ve heard for the first time.

Here is one, however, they got wrong — massively, ridiculously wrong: 2 and 1/2 stars (out of 5) for Rev9 by The Shazam from 2000.

O.K., I know. Rev9 is just an EP. It clocks in at less than twenty-eight minutes. Six of those minutes are consumed by the title track which is, shall we say, a creative “re-imagination” of perhaps the single worst song in the entire Beatles catalog (“Revolution 9”). Rev9 is far from perfect.

But before we delve into what is actually quite good about Rev9, check out some of the works of great artistic merit that also received 2 and 1/2 stars from the AllMusic Guide:

  • Jessica Simpson, In This Skin: “[I]ts heart is in the mature middle of the road but its sound is still pitched too young, making this a record that satisfies neither audience.”
  • Kiss, Kiss Symphony: Alive IV: “The full orchestra shows up, in Kiss makeup of course, for the whole of the second disc. It sounds more bloated than bombastic as the mix ping-pongs between crunchy guitars and disco-style string and horn flourishes.”
  • Rod Stewart, It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook: “[T]he whole project has an artificial undercurrent that’s hard to shake, especially since the song selection, the arrangements, and the performances play it so safe they’re largely undistinguished.”

“Unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial undercurrent,” “undistinguished” — is that what Rev9 is? AllMusic isn’t exactly fond of its experimentation: “[D]o we really want to hear experimental collages and progressive rock from one of America’s leading power pop bands?”

Well, Rev9 starts off with “On The Airwaves.” Sure, it has some weird noises and affected radio sounds, but it was nevertheless sufficiently rocking to be “The Coolest Song In The World” for a week on Little Steven’s Underground Garage:

“Wood And Silver” is also about radio, or to be more precise, an old trusted transistor from days gone by: “It ain’t worth nothin’ but it works just fine/After all this time, you’d think I would have thrown it away.” As AllMusic notes, “Wood And Silver” certainly has a trippy feel to it and is washed occasionally in mellotron. Sometimes, though, you just have to say “more mellotron.” “Wood And Silver” still flashes some pretty tasty, chiming guitar and a catchy chorus. You know, like in Power Pop.

The next track, “Okay,” sounds like something off of Big Star’s Radio City. I guess that would be some more Power Pop.

“Periscope” is a mid-tempo rocker punctuated with banjo.

“Month Of Moons” would have felt at home on one of David Bowie’s early-70s long-players.

“Take Me,” the second-to-last song, is a dreamy, simply gorgeous track with mandolins, strings, mellotron and nearly perfect vocals. It alone is worth the price of admission.

I like The Shazam’s rocking, head bopping exercises in pure Power Pop — think “New Thing Baby” from 2002’s Tomorrow The World — as much as anyone else. But Rev9, replete with “experimental collages,” beats the living daylights out of the “unsatisfying,” “bloated,” “bombastic,” “artificial” and “undistinguished” product of Jessica Simpson, Kiss and Rod Stewart. Its not a 5 star record. 4 would be good.

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