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Archive for the tag “Teenage Fanclub”

State Of The Art Power Pop From Ryan Allen

a3676489916_16First impressions of new music are often misleading. The tendency to over-rate, or under-rate, upon an initial listen is ever-present. It has happened hundreds and hundreds of times over the years.

Not so with Basement Punk, the third long-player by Ryan Allen & His Extra Arms. My first reaction was that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another.” Repeated listens confirms that Allen delivers “one-hit-after-another” — no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Basement Punk is an eleven-track, thirty-four minute romp through state-of-the-art Power Pop, with sound checks of old school punk rock, mid-60s pop rock and early-90s fuzz pop. Allen handles all of instrumentation — guitar, bass, drums, keys, percussion and lead and backing vocals — with expert execution. Mixing and mastering by the inimitable Andy Reed ensures that Basement Punk hits all the right sonic spots, particularly when played as loud as the material demands.

And it demands attention from its very first notes of feedback on the rousing, and perfectly titled, “Watch Me Explode,” which splits the difference between Power Pop and Punk Rock — assuming, of course, that the two genres really are that different. That “Watch Me Explode” works so perfectly is confirmed by the unconscious head-bopping and foot-tapping it inspires:

Album flow is often overlooked, but not here as the jangly “Chasing A Song” works as the perfect follow-on to “Explode.” In turn, it sets the table for the brilliant “Alex Whiz,” the best of set to these ears. I’m not a fan of comparisons to the work of others, but, what the heck. Put “Alex Whiz” on Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque or Thirteen and it would feel quite at home with its gentle fuzzy pop stylings:

The hits they keep-a coming.

“Basement Punks” is a spirited paean to the DIY-spirit. The sweet nostalgia of “Mal & Ange” picks up sonically and lyrically where “Alex Whiz” left off, except from the opposite perspective.  “Gimmie Some More” is a straight-up rocker that stays decidedly outside the middle-of-the-road.

Allen ups the tempo nicely on a punkier pair — “Two Steps Behind” and “Without A Doubt.” Two mid-tempo tracks, however, round out Basement Punk with aplomb and grace.

“People Factory” spikes mindless conformity with an unforgettable melody ripped from 1965. The closer, “Everything In Moderation” provides words (perhaps)  by which to live after laying down a perfect initial riff you swear you’ve heard before, but you haven’t. 

That pretty much sums up Basement Punk, a work of great originality steeped in familiar rock ‘n’ roll traditions. If it has any flaws, I have yet to hear them, and it easily will find a slot in my year-end Top 10. Get it right here, digitally, beginning September 30, on or disk from the fine folks at Kool Kat Musik.

And speaking of disks, we will be giving some away, real soon. Watch this space for more details.

The First Of The Late Summer Round-Ups

Sometimes, great music comes flies by at a fast and furious pace, and its hard to keep up. A whole lot of releases worthy of good press have flown across my digital desk over the past several months. Let’s start the discussion by focusing on two that fall into the less aggressive part of the rockin’ pop spectrum.

Gordon Weiss

Gordon Weiss, Its About Time: Weiss’ second long-player finds him frequently exploring the difference between perception and reality, and themes of personal, professional and artistic in-authenticity in our increasingly connected world. He does so to great effect.

In “Saccharin, Aspartame, Splenda, You & Me,” artificial posturing sours a relationship, causing Weiss to sing plaintively toward its close, “I want you to be true via being true/By being you…and me/And me and you.” In “The Great Imitator,” Weiss assays the artistically derivative in the service of entertainment, asking an eternal question in rather direct terms: “is decent derivative worse than original shit?”

Perhaps the best example of Weiss’ ruminations on the fake and and the false is “I’m Your Fan,” where the rather obsessive narrator claims early on that he is merely a “collector, not a stalker.” But he wonders later why he is unable to establish a connection with his idol even though he “friended you on Facebook” and had a backstage handshake after a concert once upon a time. Weiss’ urgent vocals threaten to take “Fan” into the realm of the creepy, but he pulls back just enough to stay on this side of disturbing even as he pleads by the end “please listen to my demo/I’m your fan”:

The largely acoustic orientation of Its About Time — acoustic guitar and piano sit at the center of most of the tracks — supplies a perfect backdrop for Weiss’ often caustic lyrics. All is not negative, however, as the album closes with the ultimately hopeful, “My Love Still Grows,” with its soaring background vocals and simple statement of purpose — “there isn’t any reason, good or bad, but my love still grows.” Its About Time is an album whose charms grow with each listen. Jeff Cannata’s sharp recording and mixing also make Time a delight to hear with a good pair of headphones. Get it via Bandcamp.

 

Caddy -- The Better End

Caddy, The Better EndTom Dahl does 95% of the playing and singing on this quite fine release, which finds him in a decidedly Teenage Fanclub state of mind. As such, Dahl serves up rather liberal doses of layered, often jangling and chiming guitars, entrancing mid-tempo rhythms, swirling harmonies, beguiling tempo shifts and sunny, relaxed vibes straight out of early-70s Southern California. He does, however, throw in a substantial number of unexpected twists and turns to keep The Better End from becoming a paint-by-numbers facsimile.

“Beautiful Strange” sways by breezily, and quite beautifully, with a deliberate beat and swaying, rhythmic undertone before launching into a distorted guitar conclusion. Just when you think “Something About Carina” is about to hit “Norman 3” head-on, Dahl makes a quick left turn, adds a sweet chorus and cool guitar solo and takes the song to a different part of town. The main riff in the lazy “Here It Comes Again” is straight out of a lullaby, and plays off nicely against the increasingly intense percussion. The more upbeat “Into The Sun” and “Wherever You Go” sound check classic Power Pop. The latter even features a sax solo that would have been at home on any number of lite rock releases in the 70’s. “Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer” transports the listener to a sunny, late afternoon at the French seaside town of its title.

Dahl has crafted the perfect accompaniment to a day at the beach, a drive up the coast with the sunroof open or the top down, or a day sitting around doing nothing other than drinking lemonade or cocktails. The Better End is simply a beautiful record from start to finish, and a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can download it here, get it on disk (with bonus tracks) from Kool Kat Musik, or on vinyl from Sugarbush Records. A sample can be heard below:

 

The Big Show #9: Good Rockin’ Today

Vintage StereoThis edition of the Big Show spins cool rockin’ pop songs old and new.

A “mini theme” of music history, nostalgia and looking to the future emerges in the second set. The Paul and John chime in with “Long Way Back,” a look at a punk rock summer from days gone by. Sunrise Highway defy aging by continuing to make music as time goes by in “Foreverland.” The Barracudas check in with their classic celebration of the music of the mid-60’s with “(I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again.”

Show #9 also features a rare, acoustic version of Teenage Fanclub’s “Don’t Look Back,” Matthew Sweet covering the single best Paul McCartney solo song, Martin Luther Lennon’s wonderfully titled “Armageddon Surfer Girl, Rock On,” the Go-Betweens doing “Surfing Magazines,” and a whole lot more.

So, why not give it a spin, and check out the main mix at Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming 24/7.

The complete track list appears after the embed.

Track List:

1.  The Lyres, “Help You Ann”

2.  Martin Luther Lennon, “Armageddon Surfer Girl, Rock On”

3.  Nushu, “Precious To Me”

4.  The Paul and John, “Long Way Back”

5.  Sunrise Highway, “Foreverland”

6.  The Barracudas, “(I Wish It Could Be) 1965 Again”

7.  Orgone Box, “Judy Over The Rainbow”

8.  Future Clouds & Radar, “Hurricane Judy”

9.  The Bopp, “Why Didn’t You?”

10. Teenage Fanclub, “Don’t Look Back” (acoustic version)

11. Matthew Sweet, “Every Night”

12. Keith Klingensmith and the TM Collective, “Hairshirt”

13. The Grays, “Very Best Years”

14. Agony Aunts, “Family Drugs”

15. The Bon Mots, “Galahad”

16. The Bye Bye Blackbirds, “Elizabeth Park”

17. Kelley Stoltz, “Are You My Love”

18. The Newds, “Mr. Happy Sunshine”

19. The Go-Betweens, “Surfing Magazines”

20. Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band, “Tell Me What You’re Dreaming”

The Big Show #7: Going Themeless

The Big Show #7The next several installments of The Big Show are “themeless.” They simply present 20 hand-selected rockin’ pop songs (new, old and in-between) for your music discovery and distinct listening pleasure.

Show #7 kicks off with an alternate and slightly more rocking version of one of favorite songs by The Grip Weeds — “Rainy Day #3” — “pre-titled” as “Rainy Day #1 & 2.”

New music checks in with a wonderful track by the reconstituted Cleaners From Venus and a rather fun song by newcomer Joe Sullivan, whose long-player (produced and engineered by the great Andy Reed) can be purchased for a mere seven clams from Futureman Records.

Show #7 also includes Teenage Fanclub and the Pernice Brothers doing songs that rank among my favorites by two of the Greatest Bands of All-Time: “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” and “The Weakest Shade Of Blue,” respectively. The festivities conclude with The Zombies doing one of the Greatest Records Ever Made, “This Will Be Our Year.” Superlatives abound.

So, give it a listen, and tune in frequently to the main mix at Pop That Goes Crunch radio, streaming 24/7.

The complete tracklist appears below the embed.

 

Tracklist:

1.  The Grip Weeds, “Rainy Day #1 and 2”

2.  20/20, “Yellow Pills”

3.  Grant Lee Buffalo, “The Shining Hour”

4.  The Cleaners From Venus, “Cling To Me”

5.  Ballard, “I Know That You’re Watching Me”

6.  The Who, “So Sad About Us”

7.  And The Professors, “Turn Of The Century Recycling Blues”

8.  The Sharp Things, “Flowers For My Girl”

9.  Husker Du, “Could You Be The One”

10. Redd Kross, “Sick Love”

11. Velvet Crush, “Time Wraps Around You”

12. The Jayhawks, “Waiting For The Sun”

13. The Byrds, “Its All Over Now, Baby Blue”

14. Joe Sullivan, “Rock Star Boyfriend”

15. The Maureens, “Outta Sight”

16. Pernice Brothers, “Weakest Shade Of Blue”

17. Teenage Fanclub, “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From”

18. The Green Tambourine Band, “I’m Free”

19. The Orange Peels, “Grey Holiday”

20. The Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year”

 

 

Some More New Music For A Sunday

Propeller

Another Sunday brings another five new and cool songs now spinning in rotation at Pop That Goes Crunch radio. Check them out there, and right here:

Propeller, “You Remind Me Of You”: A future dictionary could identify this song as an example of the classic Power Pop sound. Its three-minutes of hooks and harmonies designed undoubtedly to ring around in your head for days. It’s also is a shoo-in for my year-end list of the best songs of the year:

Attic Lights, “Known Outsider”: This previously unreleased track is available as a B-side to a special release of the band’s tribute to Roy Orbison, a track also spinning in rotation over at the radio station. “Known Outsider” has that peaceful easy guitar pop feeling of latter-day Teenage Fanclub, which means that you should embrace it immediately:

The Green Tambourine Band, “I’m Free”: This Scottish band creates “garage/psych folk-rock” on “vintage analogue gear.” That’s a perfect description. “I’m Free” is a bit of jangly guitar pop enhanced by Mellotron flourishes. Catch this vintage groove:

The Smoove Sailors vs. Ballard, “Piece Of The Dream:” I wrote recently about the one-man band called Ballard. Smoove Sailors is a band out of Jersey City, New Jersey. Here, the man behind Ballard, Darren Riley, says that he would write a song, such as “Piece Of The Dream,” send the band an acoustic demo “and they’d send me back a full backing track for me to put my vocals on.” That inter-continental collaboration works quite well. “Piece Of A Dream” is delightfully uncomplicated Power Pop that will cause unconscious head-bopping:

Dr. Nod, “Walking The Dog”: I know absolutely nothing about this act, except that its double-sided single was released by The Active Listener, whose blog is listed in the Blogroll to your right. That means that it will at least be interesting. “Walking The Dog” has a kind of early-90s “alt rock”/psych/noise pop feel to it and creates a nice hook out of seeming monotony:

* * * * *

So there’a another five new tracks to check out on a lazy Sunday. Listen, support the artists and check out Pop That Goes Crunch radio, where the playlist has grown to more than 1,000 songs.

Putting iTunes Radio To The Test, Indie Pop Style

iTunes Radio

I listen to a lot music during my two-hour daily commutes to and from work. Each way involves going over a bridge, through three tunnels and zigging and zagging down narrow streets with seemingly perpetual construction. There are many opportunities to go stark raving mad. Good music therefore is key. Its essential.

I decided the other day to put iTunes Radio to the test. The cool kids are not supposed to like this. Gizmodo says its a “sucky money-maker,” “boring, and packed with shortcomings and missed opportunities.” Its a mere Pandora clone, but with about twenty-seven times the number of tracks.

Meh.

Gizmodo really isn’t very cool, anyway. Its “review” is pretty lame and closes with a suggestion to make the service better in a way that it acknowledges probably “can’t be profitable.” Apple, of course, is in the business of not being profitable.

Nevertheless, anything with twenty-seven million tracks sitting on its servers has the opportunity to be pretty interesting. Pandora has about a million. It gets pretty boring, pretty quickly.

So, for my little test, I created a radio station from the music of Stephen Lawrenson, whose recent work, Obscuriosity, is a candidate for album-of-the-year. You can check out the gorgeous twelve-string driven brilliance of its best track, “Words To Say,” right here. That was the vibe I was trying to achieve for my morning commute.

“Stephen Lawrenson Radio” certainly delivered the goods . . . for a while. I got cool tracks from Greg Pope and Throwback Suburbia. Some tasty mid-60s vibes were delivered by Marco Joachim, whom I had never heard previously. His song “Those Days” sounded great on the freeway.

The Connection, about whom I wrote recently, chimed in with some more hook-filled goodness right out of 1964. This one is so good, in fact, that you should listen to it in this post:

And, who out there would not smile when being served up Kurt Baker doing Nick Lowe’s classic “Cruel To Be Kind“? Listen to that one right here, too:

So far, so good.

But when iTunes Radio starts veering off course, it can go haywire.

Although I don’t have much of an interest in hearing Nirvana these days, “Come As You Are” remains a great song. But, two songs later, I was “treated” to Bruno Mars. Whatever Bruno Mars has to do with Stephen Lawrenson is far beyond me. That then gave way to Linkin Park (great stuff if you were 17 about 10 years ago), The Fray, some dull latter-day Alice Cooper, and Mumford & Sons. Weird, but perhaps understandable in some far-off way. There is no rational explanation, however, for trying to make me listen to Pink. Not gonna happen. Ever.

Order, though, was quickly restored to the world by Teenage Fanclub doing “I’ll Make It Clear”:

Perhaps iTunes Radio needs to learn the user’s preferences. There are some twenty-seven million tracks from which to choose, which is quite a collection. I skipped the Bruno Mars to Mumford set entirely. I trashed the Pink tune immediately. Maybe they’ll be sent to my digital oblivion.

Nevertheless, on what was its second day of its availability to the public-at-large, iTunes Radio wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good. Indie pop listeners can certainly dig getting big doses of the likes of Throwback Suburbia, Kurt Baker and The Connection selected algorithmically for them.

Big Star’s “Breathtakingly Beautiful Music”

Today I am reblogging a piece from last month on Big Star. As Brian Westbye notes, they indeed put out “breathtakingly beautiful music.” My earlier post on the band, and “September Gurls” in particular, can be found here: https://popthatgoescrunch.com/2011/12/19/the-greatest-song-you-probably-never-heard/

brian westbye

This is the third installment of a series. Due to the subjective nature of what quantifies a One Hit Wonder, how much of the band must be dead to be a One Hit Wonder With Dead Guys, etc., etc., etc., there will be some shifting of the goal posts across these essays. Such is life and rock ‘n roll.

Goal Post Shift 1: Big Star never got anywhere near a hit. Big Star’s singer/guitarist Alex Chilton did have a #1 – “The Letter” – with his previous band, The Box Tops, for four weeks in the summer of 1967, when he was sixteen (with a much older voice). But the closest Big Star got to the charts during their existence from 1971 – 1974 was nowhere, and the closest they got to public acclaim was in 1998, when the song “In the Street” was appropriated as the theme song of…

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The Greatest Song You Probably Never Heard

big-starSometimes a song seems in retrospect to be “ahead of its times.” That usually means that the song or band proved to be influential. The song thus sounds contemporary, even though its old.

Rolling Stone picked “September Gurls” as the 180th greatest song of all time. “A nonhit from [Big Star’s] second LP . . . ‘September Gurls’ is now revered as a power-pop classic.”

“September Gurls” was destined to be a non-hit, coming out in 1974 as rock became bloated and self-important. Instead, Big Star looked back to the British Invasion with concise, elegant guitar pop. In turn, they influenced everyone that followed — REM, The Replacements, Matthew Sweet, Wilco, The Posies and Teenage Fanclub, just to name a few. What sounded old gave birth to the new.

“September Gurls” sounds as fresh and as beautiful as it did 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, etc. That is one of the makings of a great song.

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