Going Underground
Kevin Mathews
2/19/2006 6:00:45 PM

Going Underground
February, 2006

Good and bad, I define these terms/Quite clear, no doubt, somehow/Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
--Bob Dylan, circa 1964

I write this on my 45th birthday, thanking God for all my blessings – good health, a loving family, a steady job and the ability to express myself through rock music. Believe me, music makes me as young as I want to be. It connects me to people of all ages and it is a universal language that can serve to unite the world even during this time of turmoil. So, for this month, I want to get though as many capsule reviews as I possibly can. Please strap yourself in tightly.

The Mockers
The Lonesome Death of Electric Campfire (Zebra)

Sixties pop is high on the agenda for the Mockers as the band specializes in channeling the Beatles and the Byrds through a 70s power pop filter that is as enjoyable as it is fun. Lonesome Death is presented as a concept album but that’s all just tongue-in-cheek, this is a pop album to celebrate. Hooray!

The Pilot Episode (Self-released)

Aidy is singer/songwriter/producer Adrian Killens and The Pilot Episode is a simple and understated Britpop album released a year or two too soon (ie 2003) for the current new wave of the new wave of the new wave sweeping the UK. More a collection of demos, The Pilot Episode works as a statement of intent. Someone please sign Aidy.

War On Sound Mini Album (A Hidden Agenda)

Yet more pop excellence from Sweden from this electro pop duo of Ola Frick & Carina Johansson. Setting aside the old school synth sounds for a while, Moonbabies concoct a delicious sonic feast here that includes two fine covers – Midnight Oil’s “Stars of Warburton” and Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne.”

Randy & the Bloody Lovelies
Lift (Cheap Lullaby)

Randy plays the piano and the closest reference point that is bouncing around in my brain is Roger Manning. I mean, songs like “Under Starlight” bear the similar Mercury nuances and “And I Do” has the slightest touch of a nursery rhyme. But apart from that, Randy fairly stands on his own delivering a strong pop-rock album.

Sound Awake (Overdone)

Produced by Chris (Jellyfish) Manning, Sound Awake is a 70s soft-rock love fest as Freddie Lemke (on piano) and his ace band recall the peaks of Badfinger, Elton John, David Gates, Todd Rundgren, Beach Boys, Queen and of course, Paul McCartney. The perfect soundtrack for your bright Saturday mornings.

Dale Nickey
Time Takes No Prisoners (Self-released)

A good eclectic mix of genres and styles here as Nickey moves from smoky lounge act (“Last Lonely Eagle”) to outlaw cowboy (“Stained Glass Heart") to acoustic bluesman (“Sensitive Mind”) to moody shoegazer (“Sadness In Your Smile”) effortlessly. An impressive effort.

Beyond Reach

Remember the Ozark Mountain Devils? Well, the Devils were one of the most popular country-rock bands of the 70s. Now, Randle Chowning and Larry Lee were pivotal members in the Devils and whilst Beyond Reach does certainly evoke memories of those heady days, it never seems out of place in the new millennium – as vital as it always was.

Todd Stadtman
Only I Can Save You (Prix Fixe)

Stadtman possesses a strong grasp of melodic pop hooks. There is a electronic bent that may jar with its programmed rhythms and sounds but the sharp ‘new wave’ (think: Elvis Costello, Squeeze, XTC) songs tend to make Only I Can Save You pretty much relevant (and hip) for the current modern pop scenesters.

The Everyday Things
Lighten Up, Francis! (Not Lame)

Pure power pop bliss from this handy trio – doesn’t hurt when power pop legend Jamie (the Spongetones) Hoover on board either! Especially when the Everyday Things run the gamut from folk-rock to mod to garage and beyond. A solid collection of quality songs that will please anyone who has a hankering for honest, straight forward melodic rock and pop.

Gas Money
22 Dollars (Self-released)

Neil Young meets Gram Parsons. What more could any true blue alt-country fan want? Fred Stuckey, Tony Bello and Adam Driscoll are the real McCoy, folks, with their authentic twang, melancholy blues, attention to detail and genuine love for the medium. Songs sung with fragile sincerity and played with gusto that require repeated listening to appreciate it fully.

Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin Team

You’ve gotta love that name! Anderson whips up quite a rocking storm that recalls the Country via Motown pop-rock gumbo that was rather prevalent in the early 70s. You gonna hear some CCR, maybe some Steve Miller Band and a little Bachman-Turner Overdrive certainly. “Raindrops” is a drop-dead classic!

The Welcome Matt
Coping Mechanisms (Self-released)
Give a warm welcome to Matt Langlois and his latest foray into pop smarts. Meaning this is smart pop indeed. The man never keeps still musically and Matt always keeps it interesting throughout. Good references include Elvis Costello & Graham Parker with less vitriol and a solid measure of Freedy Johnston to boot. Chock full of sweet melodies, intriguing arrangements and generally cool vibes.

The Good Listeners
Ojai (Self-released)

The music produced by the Good Listeners possesses an assured feel and an infectious groove. I don’t know why but somehow this Californian duo of Nathan Khyber and Clark Stiles reminds me of a French act – like Air or Tahiti 80. Gallic flair? There’s something different from your run-of-the-mill indie rock band that is going on in Ojai. I like it.

Poop Yer Pants

Bad bad name. Makes you think of one of those jokey bands like Dread Zeppelin or Dead Milkmen. In reality, Poop Yer Pants has enough on their plate to suggest that its versatile style deserves greater attention and respect than that name would invite. Pity. Lo-fi production and austere instrumentation never gets in the way of fine indie pop making. {As opposed to fine indie poop making?--Ed.}

Seth Davis
Prettier Than Blue (Self-released)

Quirky yet accessible, this offering from Seth Davis can probably be best described as alt-folk-pop. Never too heavy on instrumentation or production, Davis largely lets the songs ‘speak’ for themselves with the occasional piano or cello or horn as minor embellishments. Highlights include “Two Birds,” “LA Burning” and “In the World.”

Okay, that’s it for another month. Keep the CDs coming and the underground rockin’!!!

Visit Kevin online at www.powerofpop.com


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