Tag Archives: Superdrag

Blast From The Past: Iggy Tribute

And I do mean blast – play this one loud!

Happened to pull this album off the shelves the other day, and sure enough, way back in 1998 I scribbled some words about it for TransAction Magazine. Funny how things change; although I liked their cut here I swatted Nada Surf with a backhanded compliment. Over the next decade they blossomed into a great band whose albums made my year-end lists more than once.

I still love tribute albums when they’re made from the heart; bands and project coordinator fully on track with the artist being feted. Even a small label trying to promote their artists can sometimes expose a great unknown band. It’s the major label projects that often leave me cold. (Jennifer Lopez fans aren’t going to want to hear her sing Bruce Springsteen, and I’m pretty sure fans of The Boss don’t want to have to scrape their ears clean with a fork, either.)

But enough about that – heeeeere’s Iggy!

Royalty Records has assembled a twenty-track, seventy-three minute tour through Iggy Pop’s career, the third such collection I’ve seen but easily the most high-profile. Reading the artists and track listing on the back cover would be enough inspiration for even a fringe fan to grab the disc, but the contents may surprise you. While some big names turn in respectable takes, a couple of the brightest moments come from the most unlikely artists.

Nada Surf always struck me as a one-hit MTV band, but their great version of “Sick Of You” is reminiscent of Love It To Death era Alice Cooper! Sugar Ray, another band-of-the-moment, torches “Cold Metal” so thoroughly that not even the insipid turntable scratching during the solo can take it down. Pansy Division shows that they have balls after all with a great rip on “Loose”.

The Lunachicks make “Passenger” an aural treat all over again, and Extra Fancy’s shuffle version of “Sell Your Love” is one of the two or three best cuts on the record. The Red Hot Chili Peppers do a credible version of “Search And Destroy”, but it’s licensed from seven years ago, not newly recorded. If they were going to rob the vaults, I would have much preferred the Dictators’ classic flame-thrower interpretation.

Not everyone shines, however. An almost-unrecognizable Superdrag drones their way through “1970” and Blondie (here reformed as a four piece under the pseudonym Adolph’s Dog) schmooze their way through “Ordinary Bummer” (what a waste of a Clem Burke sighting!). With tribute projects you take your chances, and the couple of clinkers aside the percentages are very good on this one.

Listen to clips from this album.

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New Album! Headslide

Sometimes you just need to rock.

Headslide is yet another band project that features Jeff Shelton, best known for his work with power poppers The Well Wishers and The Spinning Jennies. And while both those bands occasionally packed a little more punch than their contemporaries, Headslide adds a lot more crunch to the mix. It’s no accident that the cover image is a four-speaker tube amp.

Listen to clips on Amazon or MySpace

Singer Scott Haney takes the lead here, writing all but one track and topping the mix with chunking rhythm guitar. The songs are short and punchy, instantly toe-tapping. My favorites are heavy-sounding “There Are Monsters” and the clever “MyNumber One” (which refers to both his desired relationship status and a hit single).

Like all of Shelton’s bands, there are echoes of classic rock and powerpop ringers like Cheap Trick, The Who, Superdrag, The Pixies, Supergrass, The Kinks and Sloan. “Figure It Out”, his sole contribution to the set list, is all that in a nutshell.

Watch The Video: “Figure It Out

A simple two-guitar, bass, drum lineup never gets old; here we have barroom rock in all its glory – pounding 4/4 beats, tight harmonies and short but stinging guitar solos. Headslide has only seven tracks but none are wasted; it’s also available at a very reasonable price. Visit their website for lists of (mostly West Coast) gigs and more information.

Listen to The Well Wishers and Spinning Jennies too!

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PPC Tributes Strikes Back

Oh my god, he’s done it again.

Earlier this month Power Pop Criminal$ assembled yet another volume of their incredible tribute series, their first in fifteen months. Powerpop artists covering other powerpop artists. A Whitman’s Sampler of ear candy. (The three earlier compilations are available here).

Covers of  legends like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, T Rex, Nilsson, Elvis Costello, Badfinger, The Replacements and many more. Covers by esteeemed genre arttists including Superdrag, Dwight Twilley, Matthew Sweet, The Romantics, Teenage Fanclub and Cheap Trick – to name but a few.

Angelo and crew do incredible work putting these things together. Despite their site name, they are crystal clear that if any out-of-print albums they post become commecially available, they will pull them from the site (and I’ve seen them do it).

December alert: Pay attention to their site for the 2009 PPC Advent Wall of Sound. It works just like an Advent calendar where you open a compartment each day from December 1-24 to find a picture or treat. In this case we’re talking treat – a new powerpop rarity appears daily and only for one day. There are also some twisted holiday comps on the PPC site.

Hope you discover some new artists in the process, and if/when you do, please support them by purchasing their CDs and merch. It’s tough to survive in this business, and every dollar counts.

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Under The Radar: The Stellas

Proms Gone Bad

Proms Gone Bad


The Stellas: Cry Baby Cry

The first release from the North Carolina rock band The Stellas is just a seven-track EP, and for some people that might not seem like enough. Count me among those who would rather hear a band get in, make their point and get out than wade through seventy minutes of junk drawer logic trying to find the good stuff. In the case of Cry Baby Cry, there really isn’t a wasted moment; three of the tracks could be singles and the rest are solid enough to make you jot their name down as a band to keep an eye on.

Some of the promo quotes about their alternative pop sound referenced Fountains of Wayne, but beyond the similar nature to hide an odd topic in a catchy melody, I don’t see it. Ditto any resemblance to The Kinks, and as a lifelong fan of Ray and the boys, it wasn’t for lack of trying; with few exceptions The Stellas’ sound is more dense and thick. Far more accurate are the Weezer comparisons, which become evident within ten seconds of both the title track and the opening cut “Burnout”, although with “In Stereo” I’d be just as quick to name-check Superdrag.

Arty video for “In Stereo” (note: sound is almost nil for first 60 seconds)

A live video of “Burnout” recorded in April 2008.

Personally, I think The Stellas shine brightest on songs like “I’m On The Outside” and especially “18”, where their stop-and-start chopping melodies set up the sing-along choruses. Like the better energetic rock bands that have a powerpop core and a punky edge (think Plain White Ts, All American Rejects, etc.) their songs are tight and sharp. Hopefully they’ll hit the road in larger circles; for now it looks like they’re headed out for an Armed Forces Tour in Southeast Asia.

Semper Fi,  Stellas.

Cry Baby Cry is available via CD Baby.

Check out some additional sound clips on their MySpace page.

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