A couple weeks ago, I wrote about some of the albums I've received from bands around the country who found Pop Stops by way of the Internet. Here are a few more discs that you might have a tough time finding on any prominent window displays in your local record store.
My Life Story
The Golden Mile
If Engelbert Humperdinck and Morrissey teamed up with The Housemartins, Lightning Seeds and Oasis, you might get something like Jake Shillingford's combo My Life Story. Combining over-the-top schmaltzy vocals with full brass and string orchestra backing and a modern Brit rock guitar attack, My Life Story straddles the line between Vegas and cutting edge alternative pop. It's catchy, kitschy, and a lot of fun.
This is a bare bones folky kind of record that somehow reminds me of the honest and open recordings of Johnny Cash. Leach's vocals are reminiscent of Cash's low but forceful twang, and works in a similiar classic country folk ballad blueprint. "Doris Days" is a smart and sad acoustic ballad with heart and intelligence. And "Yesterday's News" offers a melancholy Hank Williams twang on the subject of passing popularity/love. If you like a good campfire album now and then, seek this one out.
(For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Chicago-based Icos named themselves after the molecular structure of a virus, and certainly some of their funk guitar work is catchy. The band also brings in jazz and R&B into the rock-funk mix, and singer Danny McGuinness has hard rock heavy vocals that Metallica fans will appreciate. The band will be promoting Incurable Contact at a Metro show in Chicago on December 9.
(For more information, contact 101 W. Grand, 6th Fl., Chicago, IL 60610/(312) 755-1300.)
(Cement & Rodeo)
Richmond, Va.'s Thelma Shook is essentially an R.E.M. style rock duo, who called in a bunch of local musician friends to record Stoned. It starts out with "Media Bites" an indulgent, funk-guitar backed collection of news clips and heavy breathing sound bites. From there, Stoned moves through a collection of basic bar-hopping hard-driving rock ("You're Already Soaking In It," "Funtime"), laidback R.E.M. guitar ambience ("Jessica," "Secrets") and a touch of almost Stan Ridgway storytelling ("Stars & Stripes Forever"). Nothing incredible here, but they sound like they'd be fun to see live.
(from 25 S. Stafford Ave., Richmond, Va. 23220/(804) 353-8771 or e-mail Shook411@aol.com)
Poker Face hail from Allentown, Pa., and offer a mix of classic '70-'80s harmony rock with '90s power ballads. The band is led by singer-songwriter Paul Topete, who co-wrote a couple tracks with the co-writer of Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is" and REO's "Can't Fight This Feeling." While not sounding much like either of those bands, Poker Face certainly purveys a love of the big harmony band sounds of the likes of Foreigner, Loverboy, Bon Jovi, etc. Topete calls it "pop love music with a little protest rock" (the latter represented by the sarcastic "Reefer Madness" which calls for the return of personal freedom to decide what natural substances one chooses to ingest.)
(Contact Poker Face on the net at http://www.pokerface.com, e-mail email@example.com or write P.O. Box 9200, Allentown, PA 18105)
Big Deal Records Releases:
Big Deal is THE record labels for those who love the crunchy power pop scene promoted by bands like Material Issue, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, Redd Kross, Cheap Trick, Enuff Z'Nuff, Off Broadway and more. While the names on the Big Deal roster won't sound as familiar as those mentioned above, they are punching out some meaty power pop worth digging up if you're into that sort of thing. If you can't find the following Big Deal albums in your local store, contact Big Deal at P.O. Box #2072 Peter Stuyvesant Station, NY, NY 10009-9998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of Big Deal's louder acts, Cockeyed Ghost are an L.A.-based punk pop band who crunch along in shades of Fastball. These are three-minute melodic rock tunes that, while not always winners, always have a furious energy.
You gotta love a band that kicks off their album with a Clash attack and a Knack bassline singing "let's go to the part where you and me are k-i-s-s-i-n-g." Chock full of garagey attitude and sing-song melodies (not to mention keen falsettoes), this band comes courtesy of two members and a guitar technician of another guitar pop band, the late Greenberry Woods. This is the kind of power pop that has you singing the chorus the first time you hear the song. Recommended.
Number One Fan
Warm fuzzy harmonies, throwback '60s guitars (Monkees with attitude?), Barely Pink are a smart, smooth Florida power pop package that reference a host of familiar sounds (from Cheap Trick to Big Star) in pulling together Number One Fan. "I hope you don't resent this/I've never been to Memphis/But I think I love Elvis more than you," they sing in "Dot To Dot Elvis." You won't hear a lot of Elvis in these "ooooohs" and "aaahhhhs" but you will hear a lot of British Invasion pop sense. A concert pairing Barely Pink with Teenage Fanclub might make for the perfect night of mod jangle pop.
Yellow Pills Vol. 4
Big Deal has now pressed four collections of power pop songs from a variety of known and unknown artists over the past couple years under the Yellow Pills banner. These are great indices to the artists making smart, sharp power pop today, on both major and minor labels. Past volumes have included Matthew Sweet, Kyle Vincent, Shoes, The Posies, Adam Schmitt, Enuff Z'nuff, Tommy Keene and The Spongetones. The latest includes songs from Plimsouls, Jason Falkner, Richard Barone and the late, great Material Issue.