Marvelous 3 - Hey! Album Marvelous 3
Hey! Album
(Elektra)


Ever find it impossible not to sing along when a band chimes in with big background do-de-di-do-dos? Can you get happy over hearing 3 minutes of crunchy, rocky power pop? Then you need to find this disc.

Hey! Album is one of the best distillations of FM radio circa 1978-1984 that I’ve heard this decade. Shards of Joe Jackson in his early punky stage, The Kings, The Vapors, Cheap Trick, even a melody line lifted from OMD — they’re all hidden like Easter eggs in the dozen upbeat tracks of Marvelous 3’s debut. And yet, despite the continual musical references to power pop past, Hey! Album listens with a solidly ‘90s immediacy. “You’re So Yesterday” leads it off with a punchy guitar riff and a great lyric: “You were kool as hell like e-mail, but timeless like a letter.”

Singer Butch Walker goes on to reference Bobby Brady as he literally washes away all memory of the title “yesterday” girl as he sings “all your little blonde hairs go down the drain.” “You’re So Yesterday” begs for rock radio play, but it was actually the XTC-ish circular guitar lines of “Freak of the Week” which propelled the band from local Atlanta bar band to Elektra recording artists. “Freak” appeared on the band’s second independent album and got them airplay on a major Atlanta radio station. Last fall the band signed to Elektra and re-recorded that second album with a big studio budget — the result is Hey! Album, a rediscovery of pop-rock that’s catchy and fun, filled with well-sung harmonies and backgrounds — a polar attitude to the current crop of “whiner” bands like Matchbox 20 and Eve6.

A concert bill of Fastball, Marvelous 3, Coward and Kara’s Flowers — with guest appearances by Enuff Z’nuff and Cheap Trick — could be the perfect power pop bill of 1999. Of course, that concert is just a pipedream and Hey! Album is on the shelves at your local Best Buy. So pick it up.

 

The Cardigans 
Gran Turismo
(Mercury)


"This is where your sanity gives in
and love begins
never lose your grip
don’t trip, don’t fall
you’ll lose it all
the sweetest way to die."

The Cardigans third long player for Mercury (and fourth overall) leads off with a distinctly dark tone, one that carries through the entire album. The Cardigans still can’t help but lapse occasionally into that cutesy, kitschy ‘60s pop-lounge zone that made their “sound” distinctively famous, thanks to Nina Persson’s waifishly angelic vocals and their retro guitars, but this is a definitely moodier album than their past couple of releases. A reaction against the bubblegum hit “Lovefool” from the Romeo and Juliet soundtrack?

Perhaps.

You can’t smile and put a finger in your cheek dimple every hour of every day for two years of touring without some backlash. But actually, there has always been a touch of gloom behind Persson’s deceptively happy tones, and this album simply focuses more on letting her languidly stretch and soar. This time out, she rails in sirenlike cries against the “Junk of the Hearts” and scoffs at the idea that “love will save the world.’ Radio has picked up on the peppy crunch and croon of “My Favourite Game,” one the album’s most upbeat tracks, but even it has a negative vibe — “my heart is black/and my body is blue,” she sings.

Longtime fans will notice that the band modernizes its sound somewhat on this disc with more electronic keyboards than usual, adding to the often dark ambience of Gran Turismo. But they still are recorded with a live lounge band feel, and whether they’re rocking out on “My Favourite Game” or stretching sinuously with a funky backbeat on “Do You Believe,” the band remains true to its Janus-like musical vision and bittersweet heart.