Tag Archives: International Pop Overthrow

Under The Radar: The Modulators

The Modulators were a Jersey pop band that created some buzz in the 80’s; fortunate fans might have seen them ripping up the Tri-State clubs or even appearing on Uncle Floyd. Jangling guitars, big pop hooks and solid harmonies must have wowed the fans who likely wondered why they never launched into the major leagues. It sure wasn’t lack of talent…

Video: “Spin Me Around

Definitely some Shoes DNA in that one, although with more energy; I was immediately reminded of The Producers. There’s a little of The Jam in “Own Little World” and  “If You Let Her Go” is a mashup of The Grass Roots and The Turtles. Many of the tracks are matted under that thin 80’s production, but for a 1984 album and a handful of outtakes it sounds very clean. Some of the production choices sound a little dated and  there’s a synth clouding a solid cover of “My Back Pages“, but when songs are as infectiously hummable as “Rainy Day Girl” or lyrically clever as “Lies” (Buddy Holly fans, take note), so what?

Like many powerpop bands who never got past the regional stage in their heyday, the Internet and pop festivals like IPO are helping to get them more exposure. And when you can still sound great a quarter century later…

Listen to some clips on Amazon

Buy Tomorrow’s Coming at Kool Kat Musik

The Modulators website and MySpace site.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten For IPO!

From the ashes of the Poptopia festival in the late 90s came International Pop Overthrow, a multi-night multi-band powerpop showcase named in honor of the Material Issue album. David Bash has brought that festival into a global limelight on the years since, from coast-to-coast in America and in the hallowed halls of The Cavern in Liverpool England. And every year there is a multi-disc souvenir featuring many of the bands who take the stage, a tradition that Not Lame Recordings was (ahem) instrumental in perpetuating.

David is still out there bashing, and while Not Lame is no more, Bruce Brodeen is still involved with the CDs. The latest – Volume 14is now on sale at the Pop Geek Heaven site that Bruce now manages.

So this week’s TGIF is Ten For IPO – ten artists who can be found on this latest version of pop nirvana. Get your powerpop on!

(01) – Dave Rave, “Ann Marie

(02) – Lannie Flowers, “Looking For You

(03) – The Dirty Royals, “CIA

(04) – Bastards of Melody, “Dead Soldiers

(05) – The Dahlmanns, “I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends

(06) – Longplayer, “I Won’t Let You Down

(07) – Jeremy Morris, “Hurry Up And Wait

(08) – The Pondhawks, “Midnight Howl

(09) – All Day Sucker, “The Picture That Took Me

(10) – Cosmo Topper, “For The Time Being

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Power Popalicious!

Horrible title, great idea.

Yet another veteran powerpop icon steps up to help propel the resurgence of his favorite music. Paul Collins, veteran of two classic bands of the genre (The Nerves, The Beat) recently formed The Beat Army to take music back to the streets where it belongs.

The concept isn’t new; the early days of Poptopia spawned the International Pop Overthrow, which David Bash has continued to expand into a global showcase. Localized events like Sparklefest and The Dewey Beach Music Fest are just two of dozens of annual regional events that have sprung up over the years, and there are countless DIY efforts and house concerts that have prospered thanks to coordinated blasts via Facebook and Twitter. Scores of radio shows have flooded the web; while most know of the impact and support of Little Steven’s Underground Garage, there were guys like Alan Haber hosting dedicated pop shows a decade earlier.

And just like the community building efforts of Steven and groups like Rock and Roll Tribe, Collins is encouraging like-minded fans and musicians to join forces, share information and give each other a hand. Having toured incessantly off the grid himself over the years, he met and shared stages with dozens of enthusiastic bands sadly trapped by an apathetic industry. This inaugural Power Popalicious Festival is meant to bring some of those groups together and shine a light on the movement in what one can only hope is the first of many such occasions.

Tickets for the fest will be $15 for Saturday and $10 for Sunday, and will be available to purchase online through TicketWeb. Scheduled bands as of today:

SATURDAY, APRIL 30TH
BAM BAMS (Baltimore)
PEACES (Brooklyn)
NEUTRON DRIVERS (NJ)
BAXX SISI’S (Brooklyn)
LANDLORD (Bloomington, ID)
FUTURE VIRGINS (Chattanooga)
DIRTY SHAMES (NYC)
AMOEBAS (Grand Rapids)
MOTHER’S CHILDREN (Ottawa)
HALF RATS (Indianapolis)

SUNDAY, MAY 1ST
BFs (Gloucester)
KURT BAKER (Portland, ME)
THE ABOVE (Brooklyn)
THE SPECTACLES (Maryland)
ELECTRIC MESS (NYC)
GLORY FIRES (Birmingham)
THE WALNUT KIDS (Montreal)
THE SIGHTS ( Detroit)
PAUL COLLINS (NYC)

“All over the world, all over the world…tonight…”

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Blast From The Past: Walter Clevenger

Revered in powerpop and roots rock circles but unfortunately not a household name, Walter Clevenger and his band play an appealing blend of those musical styles and are as strong as a live act as they are tight on record. I had the pleasure of seeing them play a couple of times many years ago, and each time they grabbed the crowd from the opening song and never let go.

And much in the same way, Clevenger’s albuns have held up very well – I still play them loud and often. Frankly, in a world where Tom Petty has achieved rock royalty status, I’m stunned when artists who are as good as Clevenger don’t find mass appeal from the same audience. If you’re one of them, I implore you to click the links at the bottom of this essay and listen to some song clips.

Could that commercial apathy be part of the reason that it has been seven years since Walter Clevenger and The Dairy Kings last blessed us with an album? I do know that it’s been thirteen years since my review of The Man With The X-Ray Eyes ran in Consumable Online

“Love can make you happy/or it can spit right in your face…”

Therein lie the two moods of one Walter Clevenger, whose yang and yin theories of love and relationships pack an impressive debut record. And if the “yang” is the “my life is so blissful with you” half of that couplet, this album is chock full of yin. Thank God for that!

The first thing the listener will zero in on is that Clevenger sounds uncannily like Nick Lowe. In fact, I’ll wager that I could play “Love You Like A King” , “Love (A Misunderstood Thing)” and “Angels” to friends who are fans of Nick Lowe and they’d swear it was their boy. Although Nick is one of Walter’s heroes, I don’t consider this record a rip-off or even a homage to Jesus Of Cool; rather it’s a case of someone who grew up loving a certain type of music naturally emanating it in his own. That said, however, the converse is certainly true – if you do like Nick Lowe, you’ll love Walter Clevenger.

His lyrics are witty and biting, as anyone who has been on the wrong end of a romantic crash can attest. Sometimes it’s utter dejection (“I used to make the hit parade/Now I only line the cage“) and sometimes bitterness (“You say you’re sorry/I don’t believe you/’Cause sorry couldn’t cover/half of what you’re doing“). Even when he is singing about a happy relationship, it turns out that it’s one that slipped through his fingers. If you’re despondent about love, this is the soundtrack for your life, and it will either pick up your spirits or hit you deep. Either way, it leaves a mark.

Musically, Clevenger nails the pop bulls eye by wrapping up pathos in three-minute nuggets. There are a few different sounds to the record, which may be a result of it having been recorded over a longer period of time. Most are 70s/90s classic pop (“Yesterday’s News Now” could be a Rockpile outtake) and some, like “Cries Of Desperation”, suggest folk and country-pop influences like the Everly Brothers. Only the closer, “I Don’t Like Your Face (Just Git)”, sounds out-of-place. But hey, rednecks gotta cry at the jukebox too, so why not to this one?

Clevenger recorded most of the record at his home and issued it under the title PoPgOeStHeMuSiC in 1995. (The cassette-only release quickly sold out through word of mouth and is now a collector’s item.) I was delighted to see that Walter’s recording was picked up by a label for distribution, and not just any label, either. Permanent Press Recordings is headed by Ray Paul (Klimek), a popster himself, who has also released records by deserving artists like Bob Segarini and Klaatu.

The Man With The X-Ray Eyes is proof positive that sometimes the best music around is being made in someone’s bedroom or garage.

After The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, he went on to record more albums that were as good or better (Love Songs To Myself in 1999 and Full Tilt And Swing in 2003) as well as contributing tracks to tribute albums like the Bobby Fuller song (below) and his own homage project, Lowe Profile.

Video: “Only When I Dream

And while he has been preoccupied with production and his own label (Brewery Records), the band does still perform. I noticed a couple of slots at the upcoming IPO Festival in Los Angeles next month. But I sure could use a new Walter Clevenger album, and I know I’m not alone in that thought.

How about it, Walter?

Walter Clevenger website and MySpace site.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten from Rainbow Quartz

Rainbow Quartz is one of my favorite labels, because they had a vision and have been both aggressive and consistent in fulfilling it. They were determined to create the best guitar pop roster on the market and some might say they have. Their target artists are pop bands with strong writers that combine a bit of jangle and a bit of psychedelia; true outgrowths of their classic roots rather than simpler melodic Beatle imitations.

There’s an interview with label founder Jim McGarry from 2001 (conducted with esteemed pop writer and International Pop Overthrow honcho David Bash) where Jim breaks down the evolution of rock into distinct phases. Now any of us who have been around for a while can certainly draw lines of demarcation in the sands of time, but I was struck by the fact that when I interviewed Little Steven a few years back he passionately discussed a very similar scenario (albeit with different dates). The constant is that both men felt strongly enough that an era of rock has gotten short shrift that they were determined to do something about it.

So here are ten links to some of my favorite Rainbow Quartz bands. By no means is this an exclusive list; there are many more for you to explore at their site and elsewhere. Each link will take you to the appropriate band page with bio, discography, reviews, links and audio clips; more than enough to read and hear to make up your own mind.

Also enjoy their SXSW promo page audio files

As the weather here in the north-eastern US starts to warm up a bit, so does the call for music like this to be wafting through the air. Enjoy!

 

* The Broadfield Marchers – link

* The Contrast – link

* Deleted Waveform Gatherings – link

 VIDEO: “Ride Pillion” by Deleted Waveform Gatherings

* The Grip Weeds – link

* The Lackloves – link

* The Orchid Highway – link

VIDEO: “Sofa Surfer Girl” by The Orchid Highway

* Outrageous Cherry – link

* The Rhinos – link

* The Summer Wardrobe – link

* The Three-4-Tens – link

VIDEO: “Everyday” by The Three-4-Tens

 

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Blast From The Past: Martin Luther Lennon

Sure, Martin Luther Lennon is an odd name, but if your real name is Tony Perkins, that’s not really going to work, is it? But he didn’t invent that moniker –  Paul McCartney did. “I heard him use the term in an interview referring to what he considered to be the overdone canonization of John Lennon after he was killed as opposed to how he was treated before that.”

But whether you call him Tony or Martin, know that he is one of the true unsung heroes of the powerpop scene over the last couple of decades. He was instrumental in the launch and success of Poptopia, the LA-based pop festival which promoted hundreds of bands and inspired three decade-themed collections on Rhino Records. Although the festival no longer exists, its spirit lives in within International Pop Overthrow and it spawned countless regional festivals like Sparklefest/Shindig , Dewey Beach and Wild Weekend.

As Martin Luther Lennon, Tony appeared on a couple of pop compilations and also issued two very good powerpop albums.  Escape To Paradox Island I liked, but Music For A World Without Limitations remains one of my favorite chestnuts to pull out at any time. With Tony on vocals and bass, Robbie Rist on drums and Steve Refling on guitar – Adam Marsland of Cockeyed Ghost added some guitar and vocals as well – it’s a stripped down rave-up of odd and quirky songs that haven’t crawled out of my head yet. Tony’s voice is a little thin, but I think it perfectly suits the songs, and the band is strong. Rist – who can play anything – is a powerhouse, while Refling adds tasty licks and fills everywhere. It’s pop, it’s punk, it’s rawk, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Not for everyone, but what is?

My favorite song is “No Junkies In West Hills” which flat out rocks; it could also have something to do with the fact that my kids used to sing along with it in the car at the top of their lungs. (Caveat – they thought the song was called “No Chuckies in Wegmans“, which I guess referred to both a character on a popular Nickelodeon show and the name of a regional grocery chain. Fine by me – like I was going to tell pre-school girls the truth?)

Here, in Tony’s own words, are the background to the songs. Go grab a copy and enjoy it now and ever after.

No limitations to how much I love this album

No limitations to how much I love this album

Kill Kill Kill
Written of the course of summer 93 during a time when I was really sick. No real conscious explanation other than the fact that I thought that it would be really funny to write a pop song called “Kill Kill Kill”.

Nobody I know
Actually a much older recording that was made around the same time that the Sympophony songs (89-90) written even earlier at a time when I was really unhappy about living in Los Angeles. (Pop geek note, monster rhythm guitar sound was achieved by double tracked 12 string Rickenbacker that used to belong to Paula Pierce of the Pandoras (RIP)).

Brenda Revisited
Initially inspired by Brenda Spencer, (the girl that “I don’t like Mondays” was written about) a girl two decades ahead of her time as it turns out) and the realization that when I was that age that I was in the same logistical position to do what she did (I grew up across the street from an elementary school and my Dad’s a gun nut).

Gun Heaven
In the tradition of the old spirituals and classic “folk” tunes. Basically “Big Rock Candy Mountain” with guns. Kind of a rip actually

Hologram Sam
Fun with light verse. Check out the big Attractions style jam at the end. I played the guitar lead on this, I rule.

Happygirl
Original title “The adventures of happygirl”. Is not about anyone in particular. Partial attempt to rewrite “I wish I was you mother” by Mott the Hoople.

No Waiting
Original title “Bored in Heaven” which makes it clear as to what it is about (did not want to have more than one song on the record with heaven in the title). I swear I came up with the “all you can eat” food concept before Albert Brooks, But so it goes.

Dr Nu
Only song based on a real life event I was sick with an undiagnosed Epstein Barr type thing that left me barely able to get out of bed and caused chronic chest pains for about five months. The title refers to an amalgam of conventional docs who would not prescribe me painkillers because they thought that I was making it up (got some anyway, Fuck them).

Elephant
People hear this and think that I should make a children’s record. Too bad I don’t like kids.

No Junkies in West Hills
One of a few San Fernando Valley” songs that I have written dealing with it’s reputation as a safe, sterile, white on white suburb with the actual strange reality of the place. How did I manage to spend almost my entire life here? WHY?

Wonderful Us
It’s a HAPPY song. Which seems only fair considering the basic tone of the record. So there you go. Adam arranged and sang all the backups in the out-chorus.

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