The Waking Hours existed a few decades too late — at least too late to gain the sort of plaudits they deserve. Had the quintet been making music during the Technicolor '60s or the power pop '70s (or even the new wave '80s), it's a good bet their music would have been camped out up and down the Top 40 charts, considering how melodically robust and unstintingly catchy its songs are. In 2003, however, the band was forced to bypass most of the fruits of fame and settle instead for making one of the most melodious, tuneful records of the new year. It is an indication of how dramatically pop trends have changed (some would say, not necessarily unfairly, how dramatically pop trends have degraded) that The Good Way, the band's second outing, is considered an "underground" blip on the pop music radar in much the same way as equally ebullient albums by such like-minded fellow-travelers as the Wondermints and the Grip Weeds, and that it was dependent on internet exposure to generate much of its buzz. A buzz, incidentally, that the album very much deserves. The music is, without exception, outstanding. Avoiding the retro tag via a bright, crisp, state-of-the-art production, The Waking Hours nevertheless tie together the volatile explosiveness of garage rock, the energy of the early British Invasion ("Whispered News"), the airless crunch of classic '70s pop/rock ("Jade," "Hearts," and "Sunshine"; the latter a single so potent it was included in a video game), the flash of glam rock, and the stainless-steel power-chords of Cali punk ("Used to It," "Revenge"), with the most ethereal collection of summer-touched hooks and gauzy three- and four-part harmonies since — well, since The Waking Hours, actually. With Tom Richards' quintessential shaggy-haired, dreamboat vocals and the band's consistently spot-on playing (the basslines of new addition Lisa Mychols are particularly impressive), The Good Way is one for the scrapbook. -AMG
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