Tag Archives: Poptopia

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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Brian Wilson, Almost

We continue this weekend’s tribute to the yeoman work done by Angelo and crew at Power Pop Criminals with a tip of the cap to Pocket Symphonies To God, the Brian Wilsonesque collection of tunes that feature a whiff of Pet Sounds and/or Smile in their sound.

Once again we’re talking about the influence of Brian Wilson’s music in original songs from artists who obviously have a little sand in their music. One of the best examples of this concept I have ever heard is Pet Soul by Splitsville, a perfect marriage of Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney. In real life those two giants were trying to one-up each other, and the Beatles and Beach Boys albums of that period served and volleyed. As you can tell by the name, Splitsville’s hybrid musical opus blended Pet Sounds and Rubber Soul; their brilliant “The Love Song of B. Douglas Wilson” is one of the tracks included here.

(Note: Pet Soul was a free four-track EP first distributed at Poptopia in the late 90’s; you can purchase The Complete Pet Soul and I highly recommend that you do!)

Your Wilsonesque journey will feature appearances by such wonderful artists as Dave Edmunds, Ken Stringfellow, The Wondermints, Jeffrey Foskett, The Paley Brothers, The Nines, Pugwash and The Squires of The Subterrain, household names to most powerpop fans. The music, like the artists, is eclectic and wonderful, and hopefully you will find a new favorite artist or two and support them by buying their music.

So just click here and you’re on your way to Wilsonesque magic!

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Under The Radar: Splitsville

It began with a four song EP given away at Poptopia.

Obviously with a name like Pet Soul, the songs were a tribute to the transcendant moments in the careers of The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Although both groups were prolific singles machines in the 60’s, each band sought to delve deeper and create more substantive work. Many consider Revolver and Rubber Soul to be the apex of The Beatles like Pet Sounds is for The Beach Boys.

Splitsville – then a trio of Matt Huseman, Brandt Huseman and Paul Krysiak – were a burgeoning powerpop act on Big Deal Records who had just broken the ice with Ultrasound, their followup to Splitsville USA. Where the latter focused upon childhood fun, Ultrasound dealt with the pain and promise of adolescence (album themes would continue with their third album; Repeater is about the responsibility and accountability of young adulthood). They were clever and poppy and lightweight; fun records, nothing more.

So much like the more mature works of the aforementioned groups, Pet Soul was a revelation. The production is spectacular, squeezing every dollop of the creative instrumentation and pitch-perfect harmonies of the band. Three years later, the band revisited the project and expanded it to a full album without missing a beat, recording in Krysiak’s words “the 1966 album that never was“. So seamless was the project that even the inclusion of their cover of a Burt Bacharach song (“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”) fit like hand in glove.

Listen to clips of The Complete Pet Soul

The centerpiece of both the EP and the full album is “The Love Songs of B. Douglas Wilson“, which captures the essence of Brian Wilson’s studio genius lyrically, vocally and sonically. It is truly a work of art, and the band members thought so as well. From their website:

Brandt: I’m especially proud of the songwriting. Musically, it was (is) the most ambitious thing I had done: the song has 5 sections that fit together. Lyrically I think it captures the innocence of the Beach Boy lyrics while touching on the darkness of Brian Wilson’s personal life. My favorite part is the finger snaps into the hand claps at the end.
Matt: In my opinion a perfect song. We were having problem with the “breakdown,” which was originally a vocal part. I suggested a theremin. Dave Nachodsky and Paul made it happen.
Paul: Brandt laid down the lead vocal late at night in the far corner of a nearly pitch black studio – just a couple of little red and blue spots shining down on him. Dave Nachodsky and I just watched and listened with our mouths agape, goosebumps rising on our arms and tears welling up in our eyes. No kidding, a truly transcendent moment.

Major kudos to both Dave Nachodsky and Andy Bopp, two studio savants who helped produce and engineer the songs. While this album sounds majestic and beautiful on anything from a computer to a car stereo to a full rig, I highly recommend you grab a pair of good headphones. This is the kind of record headphones were invented for.

Geographically separated, the band now only rarely plays live and has not issued a studio album since 2005’s Incorporated. Hopefully they will continue to record and release new material, but even if they have hung ’em up for good, their legacy is intact, The Complete Pet Soul their crowning achievement.

The Splitsville website and MySpace page.

***

HTTBJ…XXOOIYD!

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Blast From The Past: Kenny Howes

Kickenbacker

When friends ask me how I can continue to get excited about finding new bands and artists to enjoy – as if a finite set of albums should be enough – I will mention someone like Kenny Howes. That’s usually followed by a statement (“Who??”) and an action (insert disc in player…turn up loud). Kenny is an example of a supremely talented artist who would be much better known if we only had a realistic process to get music to the masses. We’ve gone from freeform FM to playlists to formatted channels to American Idol, and still it takes two ears and a shitload of persistence to weed through the chaff and find the gems. 

When the powerpop movement started gelling in the 90s, there were a few magazines that centered on the movement and were critically informative to fans of the genre. Maybe not quite the lifeblood that Creem was to a disaffected suburban teenager back in the 70s, but certainly a hotbed of new names and sounds. It was there that I read about Kenny Howes and Rickenbackers and kick-ass covers and big fat power chords, and I was on that like flies on sherbert. The fact that Kenny was also a nice guy and funny as hell was just a bonus. 

I don’t want to make it seem like he’s that obscure; certainly his series of albums over the years and appearances at Poptopia, IPO and other festivals has garnered him a good following, albeit on the scale of an independent pop musician. But fame has nothing to do with quality, and I’ll stand Kenny’s albums up against anyone’s from that era. Hooks galore and a boatload of charm, and a great intersection between the delicate melodies of a McCartney and the power of The Who. If that sounds like familiar territory, all I can say is there’s a reason a bonus track on one of his albums is titled “Gonna See Cheap Trick” – and finding a more effervescent song about heading to the big rock show is a tall order. 

But enough about me

Here’s a review of Back To You Today I wrote for Consumable Online twelve years ago… 

 

Rickenbacker-wielding pop star Kenny Howes is back with his third record, yet another collection of ringing hooks and earnest vocals. The lo-fi production has its charms and drawbacks, sometimes framing songs in just the right minimalist setting but occasionally losing something in the fog bank. Overall, however, it’s another solid effort that sees Howes depart from his past formula and take a few chances. 

The title track is certainly an example of his strong suit – bouncy chorus, solid hook and quick guitar break. This formula reaches its zenith on “Exactly Like You”, a sing-along track that could lift a band out of the garage and onto a jukebox – even if it winds up being their only hit. The simple, fuzzy guitar break is perfect and you can almost see the audience swaying and hand-clapping along to the “Cathy’s Clown” beat. And underneath it all, Kenny’s trying to land a new girl by shredding all those losers he’s hit on before – like THAT will work. 

Sometimes the stretches don’t synch – “Something Really Great” sounds like Dylan doing the Monkees’ “Randy Scouse Git”, for example, and “Save You” is muddled angst. But “Never Left” sounds like the bonus track on the Pet Sounds box set, and the epic closer “Free Tattoo” sounds like Moon and Townsend sat in on the session. 

Cohesive it’s not – I think Kenny had a lot of snippets of ideas when he hit the studio and went for broke. Although you might find yourself skipping a tune here and there, there is enough immediate gratification to bring you back again, which is when you’ll discover the chestnuts that appeal to you. Howes played everything but drums (kudos to Kelly Shane) and wrote all the songs, and is a talent deserving your ear time

And he still is. Looks like we’ll be blessed with a DVD this year. 

Read up a bit on Kenny at Wikipedia and check his music out on MySpace

Kenny’s albums available at CD BABY

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Emitt Rhodes, At Last

This will need a revision

I guess this will need a revision soon...

Funny how things circle around and back again. I bought and liked Emitt Rhodes‘ debut album when it first came out, but somehow I didn’t catch the insatiable bug for his music that so many other power pop lovers seem to have caught. Besides, I’m in New York City and I’m being bombarded with all kinds of sounds as the music of the 60s come crashing to a halt and FM radio finally cuts the umbilical cord to AM radio. Rock stars were dying, The Beatles were defunct, psych and garage and prog and glam and metal and a hundred other things were coming at me at warp speed. Can’t blame me for not following every single tangent. And by the time this one hit the wall, I didn’t even notice.

Several years later, I’m working in a Syracuse record store (which used to be a prestigious job. Hell, I had to audition!) and Ray Paul‘s 45 comes across the desk. Looks interesting, so I play it. Sounds great, so I buy it. Ray is from Rochester, just an hour or so up the road, but that’s a million miles at the time. And those other singles are telling me things like “God Save The Queen” and “So It Goes” , so a momentary pleasure is enjoyed and the single gets added to the collection.

Maybe two decades later, I finally meet Ray Paul in California at Poptopia. It’s ironic; he now lives in Los Angeles while I’m in his former hometown of Rochester.  I tell him the story about the single; he tells me about his friendship with Emitt Rhodes. (I don’t remember if we met Emitt that night – Ray and I  tipped more than a few pints that evening along with a couple of magazine editors). Within another year or two, he and Emitt release a new single on Ray’s Permanent Press label. I catch the bug.

And today, a decade after that meeting, Ray – now a friend as well as a musician I enjoy – emailed me with great news. The Emitt Rhodes film documentary, “The One Man Beatles“, will premiere  at the Rome International Film Festival on October 21st & 22nd. Ray was interviewed extensively for the film, along with Keith Olsen, Michael Penn, The Bangles, Joel Larson, Allison Anders, Janice Fortier, Dan Mayer and Jim Rolfe“The film, which is in the running for best documentary in  the festival, includes several songs which will be on the forthcoming  CD performed live in the studio by the new Emitt Rhodes Band. English narration is currently being put together for the release in the USA.”

The film announcement is exciting enough, but a new Emitt Rhodes album?? Wow!! Now that Ray lives in Rochester again, I guess it’s time to celebrate with a few pints on this coast.

A link to the film festival website.

Don’t know Emitt Rhodes? Here’s a link that will fill you in while you await the new film and album (and – hopefully – some live performances?)

Emitt wiki page

Ray Paul‘s MySpace page.

Permanent Press Records

Ray Paul Charles Beat

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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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