Tag Archives: The Beat

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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T.G.I.F. – Ten More Bridesmaids

You’ve seen the Top Ten for 2010, and the full list is still being whipped into shape, but there’s no harm tipping the cap to ten more albums that didn’t make the top of the list but were great purchases during the year. Some finished high on other lists – including one that straddled the top on many of them – while others can claim a handful of people like me in their fan club.

Huge followings don’t affect my barometer, nor does a lack of a visible fanbase make me think less of the artist. I like what I like; there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Guilty pleasures are for cowards.

So here, in no particular order, are Ten More Bridesmaids to check out. Hopefully a few of these are already spinning repeatedly at your place too.

01) Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From A Young ManSome say they went commercial with their tenth album; I say they have one of their most irresistible collections of songs in years. Why are they not huge in the US?

02) Paul Collins – King of Power Pop. Maybe a slew of living room concerts inspired him to revisit his more energetic power pop side, and revisit his Beat days. The Flamin’ Groovies and Box Tops covers are icing on the pop cake.

03) Dwight Twilley – Green Blimp. The Man of A Thousand Comebacks makes yet another one, but Green Blimp is very much a return to form. You can almost hear him ripping himself off on these tracks, but in-house sampling is fine when it’s this good.

04) The Parting Gifts – Strychnine Dandelions. Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound collaborating with Coco Hames of The Ettes, and I would have bounced it higher if Greg sang everything. Great guests including Dave Amels and Dan Auerbach, and the songs are stellar – of course.

05) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. I like this album quite a bit, but not with the overwhelming fawning that it is getting across the board; I suspect it will finish atop this year’s Village Voice Poll (nah, they’ll cop out for Kanye West…). More of a consistent album than usual and it is growing on me.

06) Jason and the Scorchers – Halcyon Times. Dare I say it? The Scorchers are back. New rhythm section, but Jason Ringenberg sounds young and refreshed, and Warner Hodges is once again a guitar slinger to be bowed down to. Your move, Del Lords!.

07) Stereophonics – Keep Calm And Carry On. Another band that inexplicably doesn’t find success in America, and I’m dumfounded. Kelly Jones and crew just keep getting better and better; maybe one day we’ll catch up with the rest of the globe?

08) Locksley – Be In Love. Maybe it’s the reputation as a band for teens? Their second album is a big leap forward, stuffed with energetic, bouncy, dance-worthy pop songs and great vocals. Remember – no guilty pleasures!

09) Marah – Life Is A Problem. The sound of a band falling apart and being glued back together at the same time. Organic, loopy, rough, heartfelt, strange and exciting, it’s by turns depressing and magical; listening to it is like eavesdropping. I see light at the end of this tunnel.

10) Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer. Really, have these guys ever made anything less than a compelling album? Joe Pernice has to be one of the most under-appreciated songwriters around; here his gems echo everything from 60’s singles to late 20th century indie angst. Meant to be listened to cover to cover.

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Mixtape: She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not

 Mixtape time again!

This one, She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not – was from my monthly mixtape swaps back in 1997. Here’s what I wrote back then as an introduction:

Love comes in spurts, says Richard Hell. Love comes in cycles, sez me. The wonder of a crush, the rush of recognition that affection is mutual, the delicate jab and parry of getting to know someone, that first kiss, the first mistake, the uneasy first fight, the first break up (and the wonderful first make-up), the second mistake and third, the wandering eye, being taken for granted, being misunderstood, falling apart, getting sad, getting bitter, getting haunted, that smile-on-the-surface but acid-in-your-stomach feeling of seeing them with someone else, the greens and blues, the depression, the worthlessness and then just when you think you’ll jump…that new person who sends a thousand volts through your spine and into your heart. Another chance, and you drag your still smoldering carcass through the whole mess again.

So here’s the yang and yin; the L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E tattoos that Robert Mitchum wore on his knuckles are now on your heart.

(This one’s for you, Eli.)

SHE LOVES ME side

DANIELLES MOUTH – Crush

Sweet, saucy, sexy – is there anything better than a crush? Can be innocent, but I know what Danielle wants!

JONNY POLONSKY – Love Lovely Love

I know Jonny isn’t sixteen, but it’s that bubbly optimism that gets me. Great pop record, except it was only 30 minutes long…

BIG STAR – Thirteen

One of my favorite songs, ever! Alex Chilton perfectly captures that frustration of being a (sorry, Dion) “teenager in love”

MARSHALL CRENSHAW – I’ll Do Anything

From maybe the best debut record ever….love makes you do funny things!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Please Say Please

This Beatle-esque rocker a bonus track on the reissue of the great “Sincerely” record. Self-explanatory!

THE REPLACEMENTS – Kiss Me On The Bus

Maybe the same couple from “Thirteen”? Forget what’s proper and KISS ME, baby!

PHIL SEYMOUR – Baby It’s You

The late, great Phil with what has to be one of the most perfect pop records ever made! Sing it LOUD!

ADAM SCHMITT – Garden of Love

So you’re afraid, baby, been hurt before? Trust me! From what might be the best record of the 1990’s

LOU CHRISTIE – Lightning Strikes

I remember this from when I was a young pup, having my heart yo-yo’d for one of the first of many times. A classic!

BEN VAUGHN – Words Can’t Say What I Want To Say

Yeah, I’ve felt like this. That ga-ga, mouth-open, please-god-don’t-let-me-say-something-stupid moment

RICHARD X HEYMAN – When She Arrives

I can’t wait until “Cornerstone” comes out so you can all see what a great record this is. A love cycle in itself!

THE FACES – Tell Everyone

A Ronnie Lane tune, but Rod sings it…true love settles in for the long haul?

CROWDED HOUSE – Fall At Your Feet

An adult version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, with music so pretty I’d love it even without the words! Uh-oh, side’s over….

SHE LOVES ME NOT side

JOHAN – Easy

Swedish pop rules! A 1997 record that almost slipped by sees the chink in the armour…

THE FLASHCUBES – You’re Not The Police

Things are starting to fall apart..we can’t go on together, with suspicious minds. GREAT 1997 reissue!

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS – Bored Of You

Uh-oh….nice guys finish last. Why do women want to be treated like queens and then fall for rude assholes? Moe knows…

THE RUBINOOS – Over You

Where I start lying to myself, saying that it doesn’t hurt…all the while my heart is bleeding…

THE MONTGOMERY CLIFFS – Tonight

More bravado, and two can play that game, baby…this time when you put the cheese in the trap, I’m not buying.

JEN TRYNIN – I Resign

I think Jen is the best female songwriter around. I love the way her mind works!

THE RASCALS – You Better Run

Pat Benetar, eat your heart out. Oh yeah – I ain’t gonna eat out my heart anymore……

THE BEAT – I Will Say No

Go on, get out of my life, and let me make a new start. Maybe the longest fade out in pop history

KENNY HOWES – Somebody

Not sure if she’s still trying to come back or whether I’m fooling myself, but I feel better. Get lost!

THE KINKS – Set Me Free

It’s frightening to think just how many great songs Ray Davies wrote in about three years time. Bye Bye Baby!

DWIGHT TWILLEY – Release Me

I never put an artist on a tape twice, but have to here. SINCERELY is a Desert Island Disk! Heartbreak!

TOMMY KEENE – Nothing Happened Yesterday

More self-denial from one of the great pop unknowns. I am man, hear me roar!

TONIO K – Stay

Oh shit….two damaged people see that spark and circle each other – should I try to fall in love again? Flip the tape over, honey, ’cause here we go again!

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Under The Radar: The Sweat

I occasionally refer you to my friends at Power Pop Criminals, Power Pop Overdose and similar sites as they have a knack for putting together some great mix discs (god, I really miss the word mixtape…). There are certainly millions of blogs out there and lord knows I’ll miss many good ones simply for the lack of time. But I do try to pop around every so often and am always astounded when I come across a reference to another solid disc that demands play time right away. So not only was I was glad to see that the Power Pop Lovers blog has decided to reanimate, but thanks to them I came across a little gem from The Sweat, a Belfast band I hadn’t heard about.

The original band (Clive Culbertson: vocals,bass,guitar / Michael Katin: guitar / David Stuart: keyboards /Ricky Bleakley: drums) was called No Sweat, but reportedly was sued by Pete Townshend‘s Eel Pie Records because they alreadyhad a band by the same name. (That’s a pretty common problem, especially for a pretty common band name. Even today when you try to research The Sweat, you might confuse them with these guys…wrong band, although they aren’t too bad either!)

But the pop references that were tossed around were pretty spot on;  if you liked The Jags, The Romantics, Dirty Looks, The Beat and The Records, you’ll find The Sweat right up your alley. Clive Culbertson, Adrian Culbertson, Sean Donaghy, Paul Coates – the current version of The Sweat – continue to kick a little ass today.

Video: “Why Did You Have To Lie?” 

Sure, maybe their sound is a little more polished and reserved than the name check bands, but you can’t deny the great vocals and the hooks in the chorus. I really hear more postNew Wave pop in their sound; bands like The Producers and Great Buildings come to mind. The title song has a whiff of Greg Kihn to it, and tracks like “Please Don’t Say You Love Me” and “I Can’t Hardly Wait” (not the Replacements classic) would slide seamlessly onto any playlist from the time. The production is a little thin and tinny (like many of the commercial pop albums of the early 80s) but the songs are three minute pop nuggets from start to finish.

Check out The Sweat and No More Running for yourself – you probably missed this gem as well.

The Sweat at MySpace

Buy the album from 1977 Records Japan

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Another John and Paul

 

Not that John and Paul. 

John Wicks and Paul Collins fronted two of the best power pop bands of their era in The Records and The Beat. Now, thirty years later, they’ve been hitting the stage together from clubs to theatres to living rooms bringing the gospel of pop to the masses. 

Wicks and Collins have continued to record since their heyday and between them they represent a traveling encyclopedia of classic hits. “All Over The World”, “Hearts in Her Eyes”, “Rock and Roll Girl”, “Walking Out On Love”, “Starry Eyes”, “Don’t Wait Up For Me”, “Teenarama”, “Different Kind of Girl”…the list goes on and on. Both men had success with prior bands (Wicks with a short tenure in Kursaal Flyers and Collins with The Nerves) but in the late 70s they both found greater success by creating music that echoed The Beatles, The Raspberries, Badfinger and The Byrds

Now for a special treat – a recent live performance is available through two of their biggest proponents on the Internet. Power Pop Overdose and Power Pop Criminals (or as I prefer to call them, PPO and PPC) are sharing the hosting duties for this great recording, Live At McCabe’s from August 23rd, 2009. It’s a free download authorized by the artists, people! 

And if that’s not enough to get your skinny tie out of the closet, did I mention that Peter Case joins in? 

Hopefully many of you got the chance to see them live during their Living Room Tour last year. If not, this is one hell of a consolation prize. Kudos to Curty and Angelo  for providing the links and artwork and to John and Paul for generously making this recording available through them. 

Part One: Power Pop Criminals 

Part Two: Power Pop Overdose 

Even better news – there’s a 2010 House Concert Tour being planned. Check out their website for details. 

Here’s a quick audio overview

The Kids Are The Same

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New Album! The Wigs

Play loud and often.

Play loud and often.

Back in the caveman days (pre-Internet), a band had to break out the old-fashioned way. Play. Play a lot. Play well. Build a fanbase, build some momentum, attract some attention, swim against a tidal wave of opposition and – if you didn’t succumb to the temptations of ego, drugs and alcohol – maybe you’d be lucky enough to make it to the next rung. After all, if the local radio station would get behind you, maybe the next town’s key jock would want to make certain he got on board before it was too late, and then if you could find a similar band in the next town, maybe you could trade gigs and start to expand.

Although just about every pop fan swore up and down that we were sitting on rock’s greatest secret at the time (mine was The Flashcubes), we now see that there were dozens of really, really good bands that could have stood toe-to-toe with most of the ones the labels were grabbing and trying to shove down our throats. But without the MySpaces and Facebooks (let alone the ability to mass produce your record on the cheap and/or on demand) some bands couldn’t get off the ground financially, while others are still sitting on a basement full of unsold vinyl to this day. And even if you did get that single out, now MTV was the hot item, and oh yeah…your DJ doesn’t make his own playlist anymore.

Which is just my roundabout way of saying that I wish I had known about The Wigs back in the day, but I’m thankful that they decided to remaster these tracks and reissue them. Because File Under: Pop Vocal is an amazing record – in either time period. The music is clean, crisp and rocking, running the gamut from Merseybeat and early Beatles (“180 Degrees”, “What I Got”, “Tell It All”) to post-punk (“You Say Ono”) along with the skinny-tie pop of their era. Given the chance – and according to the bio they were snakebit in that area – this record would have probably eclipsed bands like The Vapors, The Jags, and others and at least gotten into territory where The Romantics and The Beat were dwelling. Unfortunately they were not to be, and like The Wonders, it was one and done. (“A very common tale”, says Mr. White.)

So what made them the shoulda-coulda of their time in Milwaukee? You mean besides great songs and musicianship much more adept than many of their pop peers? Well, The Wigs combined the pop smarts and vocal harmonies of The Rubinoos with a harder rocking edge; a formula that works best on my favorite tracks, “Susie’s Got A Problem” and “Tijuana”. They had a killer leadoff track in “I Can See It Now” (complete with requisite jukebox quarter-drop sound byte) propelled by Bobby Tews‘ drums, an inventive cover (“Mony Mony”) and a prom grinder of a slow song (“Popular Girl”) that really showed off the vocal harmony between Marty Ross and Jim Cushinery. This reissue of the original album also includes a couple of tracks that didn’t make the cut the first time, although this sequence of tracks sounds perfect to me.

File Under Pop Vocal is a no-brainer must-have for any fan of the genre; a solid fourteen-track effort that would rank with the best of 2009 if it were a new release. Hard to believe this was recorded twenty-seven years ago, but it’s like finding money in your pants pocket. Lots of money.

The Wigs on MySpace.

The Wigs at CD Baby: check out some clips.

Yes, Marty Ross was in the New Monkees.

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Comebacks!

Everybody loves ’em. Josh Hamilton goes from phenom to crackhead to Home Run Derby winner in front of a packed and screaming Yankee Stadium and a global TV audience . Mickey Rourke goes from great actor to…something, and back to the actor that just might have turned in the performance of his life in The Wrestler. The 2004 Red Sox, down 3 games to none to the Yankees in the AL Championship series, get off the mat and sweep them on their way to their first World Series in 86 years and the start of their recent dynasty. Yeah, Flannery O’Connor was right: whatever rises must converge. (Huh?)

Some Yankees took it very hard.

Some Yankees took it very hard.

They don’t call me Captain Segue for nothing. Let’s talk about some musical comebacks in 2008.

Elvis Costello:  OK, you say he hasn’t really been anywhere. I counter and say he’s been all over the place, dabbling in blues, jazz, country and with whatever and whomever would have him. (You know, like that other Elvis guy who made all those movies?) But more importantly, every time he puts out a record I’m being told that it’s the one early Elvis fans – that’s me! – will see as the return to form. Except they’re not. To be fair, expectations are high for one of the best of his generation, and albums like The Delivery Man and When I Was Cruel have several solid moments. But with Momofuku(look it up, I did) he sounds like he’s really having fun for the first time in years (apparently sleeping with Diana Krall isn’t enough to make him happy). His songs have always boasted lyrics to die for, but these are also approachable enough to tempt new fans to take a plunge.

Rick Springfield:  Noah Drake lives! This Dr. Bristol look-alike (back in the day) has been making records fairly steadily through the years but he hasn’t been chart fodder in the States in a very long time. Most fans assume he stopped in the late 80s with Rock Of Life, but after a ten year break he has put out decent but ultimately underwhelming albums like Karma and The Day After Yesterday. Then he drops Venus in Overdrive on us in 2008, and it’s like a lost album from the prime years. He’ll probably never eclipse the 1-2 punch of Working Class Dog and Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, but who would have thought he could rekindle the flames and sound so rejuvenated?

 Paul Collins: Like Mr. Costello, many thought his best work was long behind him and the sheer exuberance of his early albums was something he was no longer capable of nor interested in. And while true fans know that The Nerves and The Beat were two of the most important powerpop bands bands in history, neither made the commercial splash that Springfield or Costello did at their peak. After getting sidetracked first by the same-named UK ska band, then watching The Knack take their thunder, Collins and company all but disappeared from the populist radar. He recorded a more adult-sounding album with yet another version of Paul Collins’ Beat, followed by a couple of countryish solo efforts. Revered in Spain and other overseas markets, he wasn’t starving. But somehow he took a deep breath and gave us Ribbon of Gold, an album that is close enough to classic Beat without sounding too retro. There’s half a dozen great tracks here and “Falling In Love With Her” is roll-down-your-windows, quit-you-job pop nirvana.

 Glen Campbell: Talk about being blindsided! A career so far removed frpm present day that the tounge-in-cheek title Meet Glen Campbell will probably sail over many heads. It’s a covers album;  you might say “so what – James Taylor did one this year too!”…but did Sweet Baby James cover The Replacements, and Green Day? When Rod The Mod covered rock tunes from the 90s (When We Were The New Boys) and 70s (Still The Same) it was nice but not unexpected. This ia a career leap. I don’t know if this album will bring Campbell to the attention of a new generation (like Johnny Cash’s “Rick Rubin quartet”), but it’s a solid album that doesn’t have to apologize to anyone for anything. And if it gets young listeners to realize the amazing journey that is Glen Campbell’s career, that’s a bonus.

 Any Trouble: Never a first-tier band, they were too smooth for skinny tie pop and too quirkly for commercial radio. Ther loss, because Clive Gregson’s songwriting chops are first rate. “Girls Are Always Right”, “Trouble With Love”, the brilliant “Open Fire”…the list goes on. Making even Abba covers sound great, the band issued one smart record after another until commercial apathy drove them to split up two decades ago. Gregson next forged a nice career teamed with Christine Collister, and both were eventually drafted into Richard Thompson’s band in a low-key Buckingham/Nicks maneuver. Life In Reverse came out of nowhere in 2007; so obscurely promoted that it took this fan over a year to know about it. Original producer (John Wood), original label (Stiff Records) and original sound add up to a record fans must get and others must at least listen to.

And that’s just five artists off the top of my head; I have others. I’m sure you have yours. I’m equally sure at least one person will try to convince me that Brian Wilson reallycame back this year. Just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before, and…hey, get in line behind the McCartney fan pitching the same story, willya?

(I thought about loading a track clip for each, but come on…go to the artist site or MySpace or Amazon or wherever and take at least a quick spin through the album. Maybe if I get inspired I’ll at least insert the links for you, but I don’t know you well,anonymous reader, and how hard do you want a guy to work on a Friday night?)

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