Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stop Playing Guitar: The New Power Pop (2 CDs)

Compilation (various artist)

Does hearing the words "Power Pop" ever make you conjure up the image of some overweight, gray-haired boomer in a old Rubinos t-shirt and UCLA ball cap rapidly perusing his way through the used CD bins at your local record shop? I don't know; maybe it's just me, but I believe this whole Power Pop thing needs a re-think if it plans on surviving through this decade.

The word "Pop" has a million musical definitions, but put the adjective "Power" in front of it and we're down to one particular type of music: jangly, Rickenbacker 12-string driven pop rock, played at slightly faster than average tempo and accompanied by some three-part harmonies on the choruses. Bands of this ilk are slavishly devoted to seemingly any of the old "B-Groups" like The Byrds, Big Star, Beatles, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, etc. Now if you know me at all, you know that any of these older bands I just mentioned fall on my short list of Best Groups Ever, so what's the problem then?

Here's my argument. When your band, regardless of style, is so magnanimously influenced by a core of easily identifiable sources, the question has to arise: Why should I listen to you, when I can just go back and listen to the bands you're trying to emulate? Of course every artist out there is influenced by somebody; but do most of them (think about this) wear their influences on their sleeve to the degree that, say, The Wondermints or Jellyfish do? What exactly do The Explorers Club or Fastball have to offer us that is unique or in any way creative and different? Now surely we can agree that one man's "hugely derivative" is another man's "rootsy"; but that's us record collectors bickering amongst ourselves. The masses have already spoken. The old Power Pop warhorse has had it's day: it peaked with the Raspberries in 1972 and had a tiny resurgence in 1991 with The La's and Teenage Fanclub, but it's since been put out to pasture and was on its way to the glue factory last I checked.

But fear not. The Crystal Sphere is nothing if not a Pop Music board run by and for Pop Music fans. Yes, we celebrate and dig the oldies here, and God Only Knows we can and will talk your ear off about the brilliance of all the old sixties' icons. But that's okay because, as I've said before, it is quite all right to look back so long as you keep moving forward. It's when you get stuck in time that problems can arise. Your beloved Power Pop is still out there, friend; just as fresh as it was when "Mr. Tambourine Man" was the #1 song in America and people still drove around in convertibles jamming out to transistor radios. You just gotta know one trick, and that's that you'll never find that righteous fix you're looking for in music that comes from alien lifeforms that value style over truth, or from old men cloaked in the bodies of twenty-five year olds.

If what you crave is guitar-based music of a particular quality, drenched in that same shimmery brilliance that encompassed all your favorite old records, and sporting gigantic hooks and choruses as big as your head; but at the same time is also self-aware enough to not be looking up its own ass for inspiration, then maybe you've come to the right place after all. Here's 46 of the best-- to groove to, to move to, to live your life to. Not everything here is aiming for the fences: some songs may be deeply heartfelt, while others might be lighter than your brain after a shot of nitrous. And clearly there's also many an influence to be heard here for sure. But in the end these are 46 artists that are moving forward, even as they look back. It's time to get groovy and glorious again.
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