“Rock 'n roll is here to stay, it will never die/It was meant to be that way, though I don't know why/I don't care what people say, rock 'n roll is here to stay.”
--D. White Tricker, 1958
Indeed!Forty-six years later, rock ‘n’ roll – in all its varied permutations – is still here with us. It may not be the same kind of music Danny and the Juniors sang about in the late fifties but there is no doubt that it is alive and kicking despite the efforts of the major labels to put it into a nice teen-friendly box. So recognize the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll in the releases featured right here, right now.
Sweet Sinsations (Rev Ola)
Finally! The sensational Ms. Mychols has a new album out. Last time out Mychols was either fronting the late lamented Masticators or playing bass with the Waking Hours. This time, it’s all Lisa and how! Sweet Sinsations lives up to its promise of sugary melodies, sinewy rhythms and sincere emotions! So it’s straightforward organ-drenched power pop (“Living Doll,” “Gonna get That Boy,” “Cycles Per Second”), shimmering folk rock (“Rocket to Mars,” “Sweet Sinsations”), pleasing salsa-inflected (Brasil 66) soft pop (“Oh! To Be In Love”) and heartfelt balladry (“Las Brisas Sun” and “Waiting For Me Out There”) to the fore and there’s absolutely no reason not to be besotted with Lisa Mychols. None at all.
This five-track sampler is a revelation. BC Camplight is a handy quartet led by Brian Christinzio and their choice of weapon is a jolly piano and designated methodology is music hall, soft rock and chamber pop sensibilities. Thus, “Parapaleejo” is a jaunty treat, “Blood and Peanut Butter” is a quirky rocker in the Ben Folds vein, “Hide Run Away” is sheer Bacharach-ian genius (complete with Nathan Salbaugh’s trumpet), “Wouldn’t Mind the Sunshine” is a baroque classic that would fit perfectly on The Bee Gees’ Odessa and “Couldn’t You Tell” is an exotic bossa nova gem. Understand that BC Camplight are readying a full-length album soon. In the meantime…
Demos (Self released)
Just got this in the mail a couple of days ago and it’s a 4-track demo of a British quartet that absolutely personifies our beloved medium. Mini is rather unabashed about flaunting its influences, to wit: the chiming jangle guitars and the heavenly harmonies of Teenage Fanclub is evident in the opening “Make You Feel,” the sweetest soft pop this side of Burt Bacharach (complete with Fender Rhodes) is unmistakable on “Did You Know,” Beatlesque cod-psychedelic basslines and Townshendian power chords inform “Undone” and the Kinks-styled jaunty music hall that permeates “His Best Friend,” proudly announces that Mini is a powerpop band and how! All that is left is for me to say – “please kind sirs, can I have more?”
Gothenburg Rifle Association (Sounds of Subterrania)
You know, I’ve got a sixth sense about these things, but when I first came across this Swedish band’s moniker, I instantly thought – Jam acolytes! So little surprise that the singer is a dead ringer for Paul Weller! I mean, only thing missing from these mod revivalists are the Vespas! You got to admire their gumption and good taste even if the actual music making, whilst painfully honest, could do with a little more inspiration and less perspiration. That said, tracks like “Brand New Order,” “This Is The Time” and “New Sensation” merit greater investigation by fans of late 70s British post-punk.
The Green Pajamas
Ten White Stones (AHA!)
Well, by now, you’d think you’ve got bands like Green Pajamas sussed. After all, Jeff Kelly and company has had a distinguished career as consistent flag-bearers of the neo-psychedelic rock scene. So how come most of Ten White Stonescomes across like Neil Young on a trip? Maybe it’s the nature of the recording, which I understand was basically live in the studio (in the Neil Young style). So tracks like “The Cruel Night,” “Gazelle,” “Holden Caufield” and the 11+ minute-long “For S” are refreshingly raw and skate the surfaces of folk rock, slowcore, ragged roots and marginal freakbeat sensibilities whilst firmly on the road to sincere artistry.
Made Easy For Everyone/The Best of ES 1996-2002 (Wizzard-in-Vinyl)
All right, so this has been out for some time now – 2002, in fact – but still merits highlighting, I believe. Einstein’s Sister is a quintessential modern powerpop band, which by definition suggests obscurity so this Japanese-only compilation is literally heaven-sent for fans of the medium who may have missed out on this wonderful combo. Shades of Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Split Enz, Crowded House, XTC abound – yes, boys and girls, very 80s new wave – thus the production values are top notch and the songcraft very involved which guarantees that the pleasures of Einstein’s Sister would be better appreciated if you’re a student of our beloved genre.
Big Time (Jam/Jealousy)
Jaimie Vernon – Bullseye Records head honcho – pointed out on the Audities List that much of Big Time sounded like Styx--and hey, Jaimie’s right! And no, that’s not a bad thing! Especially on dynamic tracks like “Don’t Follow Me,” “Emily,” “Best Laid Plans,” “Black and White” and “Give Me A Reason,” James uncannily evokes Dennis De Young and ably reminds all why Styx was a household name once upon a time. A classic rock edge sharpens James natural melodic strengths to considerable effect. The rest of Big Time is more quintessential powerpop – the Cars’ tribute that is “Shiver and Shake,” the self explanatory “Ode to A Jellyfish,” the edgy new wave “Too Cool For School,” the breezy “Summer Song” and the like. I think the tagline goes – something for everyone!
Move All You Wanna (Self released)
Like the Carnation, the Shivers are knee deep in all things mod. The foundation of mod is the dance music of early 60s R&B viz. Ray Charles, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Impressions, etc. married to the beat music sensibilities of the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks and the Who. So yes, everything on Move All You Wanna is eminently danceable – from the choppy guitar attack of “Tiramisu,” the swinging shift rhythm of “She’s Got the Thyme” to the driving Motown backbeat of “Pixydust and Voodoo.” The Shivers’ purist attitudes keeps them focused so much on mod that there is no room for punk distractions and their ability to keep it authentic is to be lauded.
Milkshake Jones (Paisley Pop)
I hesitate to paint Milkshake Jones with the alt-country brush, as it’s not totally accurate. After all, when pop/rock bands decide to express themselves in the country-folk vernacular, it’s probably closer to country rock (even if that suggests the Eagles rather than Gram Parsons). So would it be okay if I said that Milkshake Jones imbue first-rate rock songwriting with a dash of cosmic Americana? Listen to the shimmering “California In Your Eyes,” the stomping “Daylight Savings Time,” the hypnotic “Stop Me From Falling” and you’d realize that these songs originate from a sincere, bleeding heart rather than a cynical marketing ploy. And in this day and age, what more could you ask for?
Reddy Teddy/Matthew Mackenzie
Teddy Boy (Not Lame)
The history of rock ‘n’ roll is littered with bands that should have been ‘number one’. Instead, fate conspired to leave them on the rock ‘n’ roll scrap heap. Boston 70s rockers, Reddy Teddy released one album, recorded many that never saw light of day and called it quits before the end of the decade, even as punk exploded. This two-CD retrospective collects the best of Reddy Teddy as well as the solo work of Matthew Mackenzie, the band’s guitarist, who died in 1988 and is a veritable treasure trove for fans of that classic rock era – like yours truly. Reddy Teddy is in every respect, a quintessential 70s rock band, referencing the likes of the Stones, Aerosmith, New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople et al with aplomb. Kudos to Not Lame for making this hitherto obscure material available again. Highly recommended.
… and on that note, I take my leave. Believe me, boys and girls…still there’s more…
Kevin Mathews, an expert and enthusiast in the world of Power Pop, would like you to visit his website to learn more about his favorite music. www.powerofpop.com
Read other power pop revies by Kevin Mathews at NT:
Going Underground: October, '04
Going Underground: August, '04