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Seven Decades Of Melodic Rock & Roll

Archive for the tag “The Beatles”

Dave Caruso’s Tasty Songcraft

Dave Caruso: Carboard Vegas RoundaboutIt’s not all hard-driving Power Pop here at Pop That Goes Crunch. Quieter, more introspective work is occasionally in order. Dave Caruso’s new long-player, Cardboard Vegas Roundabout, fits beautifully into that space and delivers ten finely crafted tunes that sound particularly great on the car stereo (especially with the top down or the sunroof wide open), or on the headphones late at night after a hard day of work or play.

Caruso cites his main influences as “Elvis Costello, Neil Finn, Elton John, Del Amitri, Ben Folds, The Beach Boys and The Beatles.” That’s a rather tall order, but Caruso is more than up to the task.

“Mystery & Sweetness” begins the festivities with a swaying mid-70s vibe and sweet vocal harmonies on top of a beautifully strummed acoustic guitar. The harmonies kick into high gear on the next track, “Champion,” in which Caruso lays down some of the most complex vocal arrangements of the year, and succeeds over-and-over again. “Your Fake Friends” is a relatively driving piece of jangle pop that nicely skewers supposed camaraderie in an age of status updates and social media “likes.” These virtues crystallize in “The Art of Erica,” in which Caruso serves up the bitter with the sweet in a track that likely will find its way onto my year-end “Best Of” list.

Samples of each song on Vegas can be heard on Caruso’s website, where you can purchase the download of the album, as well an extended 22-track CD which includes alternate versions demos, bonus mixes and 12-page booklet with song lyrics, photos, liner notes and credits. Click over there right now, and drink in Caruso’s tasty songcraft.

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Lou Reed’s Pop Genius

Lou ReedThe intrepid curators of the PowerPop blog unearthed and posted a wonderful piece of formerly lost pop music history — a 20 year-old “Lewis” Reed making like Dion a couple of years before the Beatles first landed in the United States. You can check out “Lewis” bouncing his way through the minute-fifty nine “Your Love” right here. It’s a nice surprise.

I bring this up because the tributes to Reed following his passing focused generally on the same things. AP’s tribute to the “iconic punk poet” is fairly typical:

His trademarks were a monotone of surprising emotional range and power; slashing, grinding guitar; and lyrics that were complex, yet conversational, designed to make you feel as if Reed were seated next to you. Known for his cold stare and gaunt features, he was a cynic and a seeker who seemed to embody downtown Manhattan culture of the 1960s and ’70s and was as essential a New York artist as Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Reed’s New York was a jaded city of drag queens, drug addicts and violence, but it was also as wondrous as any Allen comedy, with so many of Reed’s songs explorations of right and wrong and quests for transcendence.

Although I have no real quarrel with that, it forgets that Reed could also pen the perfect melody. The 20-year-old “Lewis” heard on “Your Love” persisted through Reed’s later excursions into “slashing” and “grinding” guitars to write some of the best and most enduring pop music of the past fifty years.

One of the best examples of Reed’s pop instincts in action is “Stephanie Says,” which was recorded in 1968 but did not officially see the light of day until 1985. Its lilting strings and celesta (a keyboard instrument with metal plates struck by hammers to produce bell-like tones) give it a baroque feel. The power of the lyrics derive from the way the words sound together instead of whatever they might mean:

Stephanie says that she wants to know/Why she’s given half her life/to people she hates now

Stephanie says when answering the phone/What country shall I say is calling from across the world

Here it is, complete with lyrics:

The celesta also “propels” another one of Reed’s pure pop masterpieces, the lush and daydreamy “Sunday Morning,” the track that kicks off The Velvet Underground With Nico. Its words are also memorable, and stick in your mind, based on how they sound strung together so simply and precisely:

Watch out, the world’s behind you/There’s always someone around you who will call/It’s nothing at all

Here it is:

I first discovered Reed and The Velvet Underground in the 80s when my I was rocking to The Clash and other kindred spirits. “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin” were, and remain, great songs about “the downtown Manhattan culture of the 60s.” But I always preferred “Stephanie Says” and “Sunday Morning,” as well as songs like “Sweet Jane,” “Pale Blue Eyes” and “What Goes On.”

Anyone can make “slashing” and “grinding” guitar sounds. It takes a pop genius to write, as Reed did in “Stephanie Says,”: “But she’s not afraid to die, the people all call her Alaska /Between worlds so the people ask her/’cause it’s all in her mind/It’s all in her mind.”

A Power Pop Playlist Collected By Algorithm, Assembled By Hand

RecordsGroove” is one on the most used apps on my music device. The best thing it does is scan your music collection to create playlists based on your listening habits and tags in the Last.fm database. A “groovy mix” can be based on a genre of music. or a particular artist.

The other day, I created a quick “groovy mix” based on Chris Richards & The Subtractions, particularly the track “Sleep All Day” from the wonderful 2012 release Get Yer La La’s Out. I then trimmed the list to 15 songs, spanning 44 minutes — the approximate amount of time that could be comfortably squeezed onto vinyl — eliminating duplication of artists and less worthy songs, but maintaining a couple of the less well-known tracks from compilation CDs in my collection.

After revising the sequencing — but keeping “Sleep All Day” as the lead track — I uploaded the playlist to the 8 Tracks site. It is embedded below, and can be heard in full by clicking on arrow in the embedded image.

What will you hear other than “Sleep All Day”?

For one, there are a number of tracks by artists discussed in prior posts on this site, particularly in this one and this one.

But also included are: (i) “Portland” — one of the best tracks on Always On The Run, the 2011 release by An American Underdog; (ii) the tight and rocking “Above The Blue,” by Vegas With Randolph; and (iii) “Goodbye,” by the should-be-far-better-known Brad Jones.

Three covers are included: (i) Doug Powell’s slightly over-the-top version of “I Woke Up In Love This Morning,” a Top 15 hit by The Partridge Family,” (ii) Stephen Lawrenson’s take on The Beatles‘ “Yes It is,” and (iii) Lannie Flowers’ very cool re-imagining of Orleans’ Top 10 hit, “Dance With Me,” which closes out the set.

Complete track list:

1. “Sleep All Day” — Chris Richards & The Subtractions

2. “Above The Blue” — Vegas With Randolph

3. “My Favorite Revolution” — Eugene Edwards

4. “Last Thing On My Mind — The Finkers

5. “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” — Doug Powell

6. “Goodbye” — Brad Jones

7. “Hourglass” — Starbelly

8. “Portland” — An American Underdog

9. “A Girl That I Once Knew” — Three Hour Tour

10. “Yes It Is” — Stephen Lawrenson

11.”Waiting For A Sign” — Kelly’s Heels

12. “If You’ll Be My Adam” — Skeleton Staff

13. “Don’t Look At The Sun” — Chewy Marble

14. “I’m In Love” — Myracle Brah

15. “Dance With Me” — Lannie Flowers

* * * * * * * * * *

I hope you enjoyed this playlist. Perhaps you just heard your next favorite song.

Starbelly’s Lemonfresh: Still Tasty After All These Years

Starbelly's Lemonfresh

Easy come, easy go.

A piece I wrote last year on the digital download-only reissue of the expanded version Starbelly’s 1998 release, Lemonfresh, has evaporated into the digital ether. So I am updating it and re-publishing it, here.

Back in 1998, three guys put out a limited release, eleven track CD of Rubber Soul/Big Star-oriented chiming guitar pop on Not Lame Recordings called Lemonfresh to great acclaim. The CD sold out, and disappeared. Not Lame reissued the CD in 2009 with twelve bonus tracks and a CR-R of a live show. Not Lame went out-of-business in 2010. You can buy the CD re-issue of Lemonfresh used for about $60 — if you can find it.

But nothing really dies in the age of the internet. So enter Futureman Records. Futureman, though, does not merely issue “records.” It also re-issues lost Power Pop classics, exclusively by digital download, from its perch on Bandcamp. The twenty-three track reissue of Lemonfresh is available now for the princely sum of $10, in virtually any digital format you desire.

Lemonfresh is as fresh today as it was fourteen years ago. The “record” is seventy-plus minutes of non-stop hooks, melodies, chiming jangly guitars, occasional big beats and consistently clean production. It has all of the stuff to be a massive hit in a different world. But in our world, we can just drink down its poppy goodness.

The opening track, “This Time,” sets the tone for all that comes afterward. It’s a one-minute forty-three second look at romantic disentanglement — attempted, imagined or achieved — set amid perfect vocal harmonies, concise guitars and driving beat:

“She’s So Real” is the kind of song that will play in your head for hours after listening, with its direct statement of lyrical and musical purpose, and the tasty interplay between the lead vocals and background harmonies:

“What You Will” might very well have the blueprint for half of everything Wilco has done since 1999’s Summerteeth. It’s all about personal illusion, or delusion — “Look under your bed/it’s all in your head” — punctuated by strings and those pitch perfect harmonies, once again:

Indeed,Lemonfresh features just about the consistently best vocals you will hear on any rock record, well, this year — even though it was recorded in the late-1990s. Guitarist Cliff Hillis and bassist Dennis Schocket trade lead vocals over the course of the twenty-three tracks, lending the songs a distinct yin-and-yang feel that keeps the proceedings all the more interesting over the course of an hour-and-change. And, as is required in this genre, Lemonfresh features a song about a particular girl. “Letters To Mary” closed the original 1998 release, and would have felt at home on Abbey Road:

There truly is not a weak track on the expanded version of Lemonfresh. That’s quite an achievement over twenty-three songs. Play it in your car and it will keep your head bopping throughout that long, boring commute.

Although Hillis left the band after Lemonfresh was released, and the band hasn’t put out anything new since 2002, he has said that the original members of Starbelly, along with his replacement, are working on new songs for a future release. The band also in playing at one of the shows in the New York installment of this year’s International Pop Overthrow.

In the meantime, though, give Futureman 43 cents for each of the twenty-three songs on Lemonfresh. That’s a steal.

The Masticators Doing That 60s AM Rock Radio Thing

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:

Chevrolet Malibu, Late-1960s

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 siteKHJ Top 30.

“Happy Together” by The Turtles 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

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.

* * * * *

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.

Best Listens Of 2012

Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter

This site is not necessarily about the “latest” music. Its about the past seven decades of a certain type of music. It proceeds from the viewpoint that “if I haven’t heard it, its new to me.” And, of course, “if you haven’t heard it, its new to you, too.”

So, what follows is some music I really liked in 2012. It’s in no particular order. Some of it was released in 2012. Some of it was released more than forty years ago. Some of the older music I knew previously — even liked quite a lot in the past — but which nevertheless resonated more over the past twelve months than it did in years gone by:

Cotton Mather, Kontiki (Deluxe Edition): Back in 1998 when Kontiki was originally released, music discovery was not quite what it is now. On-line resources were limited and were accessed largely by dial-up modem. My music discovery in the old days consisted of reading about something new and different, or driving to the Virgin Megastore to use its many CD listening stations.

I first heard Kontiki in its entirety after it was re-released earlier this year, along with twelve bonus tracks, following a successful Kickstarter campaign. The results are glorious, and Kontiki brings to mind The Beatles’ Revolver with straight-ahead pop songs blending seamlessly with more reflective psychedelic pieces punctuated by wood and string instruments, piano and analog tape tricks.

Starbelly, Lemonfresh (Deluxe Edition): This is another reissue of a 1998 release that I heard for the first time in the past year. Actually, this is a digital-only reissue by Futureman Records of an earlier reissue that added twelve bonus tracks to the stew. Its one one of those records that makes you think on its first listen “damn, this is good.” Its more than seventy minutes of non-stop hooks, melodies, chiming jangly guitars, occasional big beats and consistently clean production. There is not a bum track in the entire twenty-three song collection, although the eleven that comprised the original 1998 release remain the standouts.

Michael Carpenter, SOOP Sampler: Carpenter has released five records of “songs of other people” (“SOOP”) over the years. A twenty-one track digital download sampler from Futureman Records (for a whopping $7) is a good place to start exploring this substantial and consistently great body of work. The highlights on this collection include Carpenter’s versions of The Hollies’ “Look Through Any Window,” “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” and “Wild Honey,” which bests the Beach Boys’ original. My favorite, though, is Carpenter’s version of The Zombies’ brilliant and beautiful, “This Will Be Our Year”:

The Supahip, Seize The World: Carpenter recorded this one-off back in 2006 with Mark Moldre. “They set about the idea of writing, recording and mixing a track… arriving in the morning with nothing except maybe some loose snippets of songs, and leaving with a completed track.” And it worked. Seize The World delivers twelve uncluttered, melodic pop songs (you even get “mono” versions of ten of the tracks) that go down easy and will stay in your brain for days, particular the quiet, reflective “No Tomorrow”:

Seth Swikrsy, Watercolor Day: This 2010 release was on my car stereo almost daily for a couple of months this year. Its just addictive. As I wrote previously, the Beatles are an obvious influence on Swirsky’s solo work, yet Watercolor Day feels much more like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Trumpets, french horns, violas, cellos, oboes and trombones appear seemingly out of nowhere, but nevertheless fit perfectly in the mix and saturate the sound with texture.

Cliff Hillis, Dream Good: Hillis wrote, sang and played on Starbelly’s Lemonfresh. His fourth solo outing is my favorite record that was actually released for the first time in 2012. Its a textbook example of perfect pure pop, covering all the necessary territory from mid-tempo pieces with acoustic guitars to full-fledged rockers to grand, more baroque pop, all of which is beautifully sung and played.

Myracle Brah, “Simplified”: Three-chord rock? Think one-chord rock on this one from 2001. That’s why it works. It just pounds its way relentlessly into your brain for a minute, fifty-four seconds and then refuses to leave. Its as simple and as powerful as it gets.

Doug Powell, “When She Awoke”: Powell wrote and performed this one from 1998 on cassette 8 track with Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick. Despite using a recording process that Powell calls “the audio equivalent of drawing in the sand with a stick,” the song nevertheless occupies the opposite end of the pop spectrum from “Simplified.” It’s  lush, elaborate and dreamy, and filled to the brim (actually, far beyond the brim) with gorgeous harmonies.

The Jayhawks, Mockingbird Time: “Waiting For The Sun” from 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall ranks in my all-time Top 40. The Jayhawks, though, were never quite the same after Mark Olson left the band in 1996 to follow his inner-Gram Parsons. His return on Mockingbird Time, released in September 2011, marked a return to form for the band. All of the trademark Jayhawks elements are present — the sharp songwriting, the full sound and, most importantly, the beautiful harmonizing of Olson and Gary Louris.

Big Star, “The Ballad Of El Goodo”: I’ve written about Big Star on this site, and I have liked “The Ballad Of El Goodo” for years. But this year, I really came to love this song about hope and perseverance against “unbelievable odds.” It features one of Alex Chilton’s finest vocal performances, great backing harmonies and is one of the band’s best songs. It also directly or indirectly influenced everything else on this list.

So, that’s a capsule of the music that made me the happiest over the past twelve months. How about you?

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.

The Replacements’ “I Will Dare”: Punk Rock Grows Up

Replacements -- Let It Be

The passage of time can give clarity on whether a particular song, or a particular album, that in “real time” influenced your taste in music years or even decades later. For me, that song is “I Will Dare” by The Replacements, the lead track on the classic 1984 release they rather audaciously titled Let It Be.

Before they released Let It Be, The Replacements mostly produced sloppy, loud, fast rag tag stuff. That all changed in the first few minutes of Let It Be, when “I Will Dare” came chiming out of the speakers with its shuffling beat, its mandolin and its twelve-string guitar. The band took the British Invasion and The Byrds, stuck them both in the middle of the punk scene of the mid-80’s, and pointed the way to the future. Its leader, Paul Westerberg, also proved arguably to be the best songwriter of the decade, penning perfect lines like this one that punctuated “I Will Dare”: “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings/Around my eyes.”

But it was the chorus that made “I Will Dare” unforgettable, with its almost tongue-twisting rhythm: “Meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime/Now, I don’t care/Meet me tonight/If you will dare, I will dare”:

Let It Be ultimately stood between two worlds for The Replacements. Westerberg sensitively tackled confused sexual identity in “Sixteen Blue” and “Androgynous” alongside old-school punk silliness for which the band was known previously in “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out” and “Gary’s Got A Boner.”

But “I Will Dare” is the standout of the set. Its Big Star-influenced power pop would define the band’s next long-player, Tim, and make it one of the single best records of the 1980s. “I Will Dare” is where punk rock grew up and realized it could write and play beautifully. Almost everything I listen to today, and which is discussed in these pages, reaches back to that time in 1984 when I first heard “I Will Dare.”

Hearing The Grass Grow

I made up a category of music: Blatantly Psychedelic Songs.

Sometimes its the sound. Sometimes its the title. Sometimes its both. Most of the songs hail from the late-1960s, of course. The songs are not only “psychedelic,” but they are “blatantly” so.

Some of the finest examples of this entirely made up genre include:

“See Emily Play” — Pink Floyd

“Incense and Peppermints” — Strawberry Alarm Clock

“Pictures of Matchstick Man” — Status Quo

“Paper Sun” — Traffic

And, of course, “Strawberry Fields Forever” — The Beatles

A particularly cool exemplar, however, is “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” by The Move.  Hearing the grass grow? Now that’s blatantly psychedelic.

The Move, unfortunately, did not achieve success in the U.S. as “The Move,” although they were all the rage in the U.K. in the late-60s. They did achieve success in the U.S. when they later morphed into “ELO,” but that’s another story.

Back to listening the growing grass. Here’s some choice verbiage:

My head’s attracted to/Magnetic wave of sound/With streams of coloured circles/Makin’ their way around

I can hear the grass grow/I can hear the grass grow/I see rainbows in the evening

Not the stuff of normal consciousness.

But there’s also the sound:

That’s not only “psychedelic” in a 1960’s sense, but it sounds a lot like “modern rock” or “alternative rock.”

Ahead of its times? Yes, and quite influential on what came next.

“I Can Hear The Grass Grow” and two dozen other choice cuts can be found on an import remastered “Very Best Of” disk:

http://www.amazon.com/Very-Best-Move/dp/B001PP9STI/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1333220087&sr=8-5

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