Sunday, 21 May 2017

Jane's Party - Tunnel Visions

There's something really endearing about Jane's Party. It's all very reminiscent of the mid 70's and Liverpool Express and John Miles. There's a groove to the music and it's the chorus heavy songs mean you can imagine them being intro'd in on Supersonic.

This isn't a criticism, in fact quite the opposite. The Four piece from Toronto are really adept at what they do and so few doing it. The arrangements are absolutely spot on, wonderfully retro. Tunnel Visions is the band's third album and their reputation has grown via some great live shows and word of mouth.

Although the album is very much in easy listening territory, it's wonderfully so. When they do get up tempo on Cigarette Buzz they are a completely different band, poptastic at a pace. Tunnel Visions is a laid back chill out album. It reminds you of a time when life seemed much simpler and it's really enjoyable to listen to an album that has been constructed as such rather than singles led.

Think Gilbert O'Sullivan, Jigsaw and in particular Liverpool Express and you'll be close to the sound and that's a great comparison to have. The album is available on Bandcamp as a Name Your Price. What have you got to lose?

You can listen to and download the album here.

Fastball - Step Into Light

One of the more pleasing things this year thus far is the return of Fastball. The Austin Texas Trio are back with album number six after an eight year gap. Both Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga have both released excellent solo albums in the interim with My Favourite Year and These Ghosts Have Bones respectively, but it is fantastic to have the trio back with us.

Fastball are one of those classic examples of a band selling less albums as they got better. I suspect most in the UK will only remember them for The Way and the album that contained that mega single, their second album, All The Pain Money Can Buy. Well those who concentrate on great Pop will know that any one of their previous five albums is well worth the admission and Step Into Light stands up with anything that has gone before.

They've always come across as if they were a cross between Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet and there's some of that here, particularly on Just Another Dream but there is so much variation here. All bases are covered, Lilian Gish is pure Psych Pop whilst the closer, Frenchy And The Punk is Vaudeville.

It's the melodic pop that they excel in though, Beatlesque on Behind The Sun, Jangly on Best Friend, New Wave Mod Pop on Love Comes In Waves, 60's Beat on Secret Agent Love. I Will Never Let You down reminds me of Del Amitri. Step Into Light is a stormer of an album, sing along songs that seem simple but repeated listens reveal far more complexity. Another excellent offering to add to their two decade plus canon. You should buy it.

You can buy the album as a download, CD or Vinyl everywhere.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

California Hits Manchester

I rarely do previews of upcoming shows. It's not really what I usually get involved in, but I have to tell you about this. There's a number of reasons why I should, but I'll limit it to two. I've long moaned and groaned about how hard it is to see great Power Pop or Pop Rock in the UK. In the past, we've had great bands coming across from the States, Europe and as far afield as Australia, with the odd exception such as The Posies, that's much less so now.

So when you get an opportunity to see four on the same bill with the added bonus of two of the best UK offerings on your doorstep, we have to get out and support it. Six bands for a fiver, it's like I really do live in 1975.

Secondly, if ever a line up explained what I Don't Hear A Single is about, it would be this one and it's a rare chance for people to see these acts in the flesh. From my own side too, I never fail to be surprised at how IDHAS took off and how it has become known worldwide. I don't get out and about as much these days and so it's even a chance to talk to me about the new stuff that you think I should be covering.

I won't make this too long, so I'll try to briefly give you some idea of what you could witness. I can attest that one of the bands that get the most interest amongst us are The Cherry Bluestorms and they are especially delighted to play in Manchester. The review of their See No Evil single remains one of the most popular posts on here, unknown for a single. The UK influence is written all over their music, it's like a 60's Beat Pop version of The Byrds and of course you have The Dickies connection.

It's been eight years since Plasticsoul's magnificent Peacock Swagger. Well they are back with the newly released Therapy album. Steven Wilson hasn't lost anything in the gap. The album is a real rock out. It's melodic rock at it's finest and you'll see the review of it here tomorrow.

One of my favourite bands are The Armoires. Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko's brand of sunny California Pop with a twang is an absolute joy to listen to. Bulbenko has the voice of an angel and I defy anyone not to be tapping their feet within seconds. Rex is also the brains behind Big Stir, a monthly Power Pop live showcase that is Big Stir. A Californian treat that receives rave reviews rightly.

It's wonderful to see Spygenius back in the live arena. The Canterbury four piece remind me so much of those Not Lame days. Imagine Robyn Hitchcock in a 60's Psych Pop band. Peter Watts describes himself as a magpie, but it's the way it's all put together. Wonderfully inventive and the nearest the UK has to the type of bands that we adore from the States.

Without hesitation, I'd say the band that grabbed me most at IPO was Huxley Rittman And The Rusty Hitmen. Very much the future of Power Pop, in line with Denmark's The Caper Clowns. I'd heard a couple of their EP's and liked them, but was not prepared for what an incendiary live band they are. Their set was over far too quickly and it was outstanding. They are currently recording their debut album, but these will be definitely a band that you will tell everyone in ten years time that you saw in a small venue.

Last, but very much not least, we have David Jaggs, leader of the North West's pride and joy, The Ragamuffins. I come across a lot of local bands, no one does what they do. There's a real lyrical depth in songs with organ and brass. I like to think of them as a modern day Dexy's, but there is far far more of them than this.

So this is not going to be a thing that I do to often, but I cannot miss the opportunity to go out and support these artists. What a night it is going to be.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Odd Robot - A Late Night Panic

A Late Night Panic is an album that I've been really enjoying over the past couple of months. The Fullerton CA Trio have been compared to Green Day, I don't see that at all. This is classic Power Pop, comparable with the best of the Late 70's - Early 80's.

At times they could be Mod Pop, but I'd settle for the better end of the UK's New Wave Power Pop. The songs are wonderfully short, the riff count is heavy and there's a joy in the way that these mini anthems are arranged. 13 songs in 32 minutes and not a duff one amongst them.

The urgency reminds me of early Jam to be honest and songs like Summer's Out have a hint of the Not Lame days. Take With Two Pills could be an early Stiff Single. The Dues could be Secret Affair. Tired Of Walking is almost Graham Parker And The Rumour.

The album really caught me by surprise, it's one of those little gems that make this all worthwhile. A real say what you've got to say and F Off. All Killer No Filler. A Late Night Panic is a storming little album and at the crazy price of 6 dollars to download, you should head off for it now.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Old Future Crash - Outside Time

Being in the world that I am, there are three bands that PR people (and lazy journalists) use as comparisons, these are Jellyfish, XTC and ELO. I'm sure people in other genres must get comparisons to bands that they are long term fans of or are hip to like.

ELO wise, few usually are, probably the closest was a deliberate pastiche from Bleu and Mike Viola's L.E.O. There are a few others though. Well Olod Future Crash seem deliberately ELO, we are talking. This album could be in Rutles vs Beatles territory.

You hear an Intro and think, that's Steppin' Out, but this is so well done, the band are obviously fans. We are in Time - Secret Messages era onward. A title like I'm A Robot could only sound like it could be on Time. There's even a one minute Overture to start the album and a finale to close.

Old Future Crash are a three piece from Valencia and guests have expanded the sound. Pedro Lopez has done a fine job with the vocals. It's easy to sneer at how ELO it all is, to a tee in parts, This Is Heaven is virtually Turn To Stone, but it is all so wonderfully done.

I remember a well known musician telling me that everyone steals something musically and that he'd rather hear something copied done well than original rubbish. There's a point thhere and this even has rain clouds on it.

But all in all, you can't help but like it. it's great pop, let's call it ELO 3. People get the Lynne vocals down better, but the arrangements are pretty spot on. Outside Time caught me completely by surprise and I'm glad it did.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Brenyama - Euphoria Love

It's lovely to see Marty Scott's Jem Records around again. This time it's with even greater feeling. It's past was built on an uncanny ability to pick up winners for distribution, now it's a label proper and it's started off in fine form.

I had joint albums of the year last year with Nick Piunti and Somerdale. Piunti's Trust Your Instincts was on Jem and lo and behold, Somerdale are now on the roster. This was absolute coincidence, I'd never spoke to Marty, so his label choices give me a lot of hope. That's reinforced with the release of the Brenyama album.

The four piece from Highland Park New Jersey have fashioned up a real fun pop album, very much set in the 60's and focusing on the joint vocals of husband and wife Richard and Maki Brenner. It's variation is underpinned by those vocals, separate or together.

The Maki lead vocals on songs such as Leaving For NYC and Get In The Groove are very Girl Pop, you can imagine a cast of hundreds twirling umbrellas around a pool. A Groovy Summer Pop feel that works really well.

The Richard lead vocals are far more 60's Beat / Merseybeat in their feel with a healthy dash of Organ, although Dreaming In Blue has far more in common with late 70's New Wave. All this sugar works really well, particularly when the vocals collide.

It gets even more interesting when it experiments a bit and there are glimpses of further development on the Psych Pop of Waiting For Godzilla and the duet on After All is a real poptastic closer. It may be that the title track is the song that gets the airplay which is Power Pop of the highest quality, like a jaunty version of The Cars, all riff.

This is a fine offering and with what Jem has coming up in future months, it is definitely a label to watch. You can listen to five songs from the album here. You can buy the album everywhere including the likes of Amazon or from the band's store here.

The Dangtrippers - Days Between Stations (Expanded Edition)

The reissue of The Dangtrippers' 1989 debut album is a most welcome thing indeed. So a big thank you to the marvellous Zero Hour Records. Days Between Stations is one of the great lost Power Pop albums.

Formed around Iowa's Devin Hill and Doug Robertson, the only surprise on Days Between Stations is that it wasn't produced by Mitch Easter. Devin Hill left after this debut and went on to establish a Power Pop Reputation bar none with the much lauded Stars and Wayout Lane. Doug Robertson was to record a second Dangtrippers offering, a bit harder than this debut, but he was still around to help out on the Hill solo albums.

On it's release, the band were lumped in with REM and you can see that on the likes of  Talk About Love, but there is far more to them than that. This is top notch Jangle Pop with dashes of Psych and it can be compared to a much wider spectrum.

Away from the REM, Teenage Fanclub and IRS comparisons, there's a real UK feel to it, very post C86 Scottish Pop and bands like The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Milltown Brothers spring to mind. It certainly doesn't rest on it's laurels. There's even hints of Squeeze on Someone New.

If you like your Power Pop to Jangle and Twang but want a bit more than the norm, Days Between Stations is for you. If like me you've coveted the original release and are just overjoyed to get 9 Bonus Tracks, most of which would be impossible to find, then you;ll be delighted too.

Also a big shout out to George at Zero Hour for his long standing service to great Power Pop. The follow up album from The Dangtrippers has just been released and you will have a review on that in the near future.

You can buy the album here for the bargain price of 12 Australian Dollars and see the rest of George's releases that are ripe for purchasing.