Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ice Cream Hands - Sweeter Than the Radio - 1999


It's rare that a band's music can make you do more than dance, and it's even rarer that their name alone gives you a food craving; amazingly, Ice Cream Hands is one of these bands. Their 1997 release Memory Lane Traffic Jam was one of the best power-pop releases of 1997, and on their third album, the group turns out another series of catchy power-pop gems. The set seems more "adult" this time — the songs are generally more acoustic-based than those on the last release — but that doesn't hurt the album at all. The singles "Dodgy," "Spirit Level Windowsill," and "Yellow and Blue" are perfect pop gems, but there's a good deal of excellence in the other tracks as well. "Picture Disc From the Benelux" is a frothy pop confection, and the acoustic Paul Simon-esque "You Could Be Reported" is an amusing take at gender inequality and sexual harassment. While the album could use a few more knockout tracks, the collection as a whole is a recipe for happiness, and it's difficult to argue with that. Grab a spoon and choose your favorite flavor; this album is sure to please. -AMG

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Ice Cream Hands - Broken UFO - 2002


Ice Cream Hands were responsible for producing three of the most gorgeous pop records of the '90s, even if few outside of the guitar pop cult ever noticed. Instead of opting for reinvention, the band has always favored familiar song structures and textures, even if they play around with them considerably more than their peers by avoiding the obvious repeated chorus line or tossing in intricately constructed bridges. They don't try anything too different on Broken UFO, but what is always impressive about Ice Cream Hands is their ability to write surprisingly relaxed yet incessantly catchy pop music. Broken UFO doesn't have many of the fuzzy guitars found on Memory Lane Traffic Jam, so it may not be as immediate, but it's a record whose charms bloom with each successive listen. It helps that Chuck Jenkins can always be counted on to produce a strong batch of songs, and this time he's trying enough diversity on for size (there is some folk in the title track, Sgt. Peppers-y horns on "Beautiful Fields," and organs on "Happy in the Sky"). There's still plenty of the chunky guitar pop of the band's earlier records, such as on the single "Why'd You Have to Leave Me This Way?" and "Come Down Come Down," but the album's highlight is the beautiful "Rain Hail Shine," a touching devotional drenched with ringing Rickenbackers. Broken UFO's stylistic diversity alone makes it a close contender for the band's best album. There are few better places to go than Broken UFO for smartly written, well-produced pop. [Initial pressings of the album include a bonus disc featuring one track, "Selected Highlights From Broken UFO Parts I & II." Sounding like something straight out of the Pet Sounds sessions, the track is an experimental collage of vocal parts recorded for the album.] -AMG

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The Favorites - Bright Nights, Bright Lights - 2008


Straight outta Houston come The Favorites, who may soon be yours after crafting one of the brightest discs of 2008 with Bright Nights, Bright Lights. They remind me quite a bit of The Meadows (more their first album that the new one), The Gin Blossoms, The Rembrandts, and to some extent a less smart-assed Fountains of Wayne or an Americanized The Feeling."Something That You're Missing" and "In Case You're Wondering" are a great 1-2 punch to open the disc that immediately let you know what kind of sound you're in for: hooky, upbeat and hard to shake from your head. "Hope In The Sky" throws in some tasteful synths and rocks harder than the first two - it's more Waltham than The Gin Blossoms. "I've Got a Feeling" (not a Beatles cover) is heartland rock a la Tom Petty, and the lovely "Golden Like The Fall" shows that The Favorites know their way around the slower numbers as well.Elsewhere, "Try, Try, Try" is where the Fountains of Wayne comparison comes in, and they share that popular band's wry outlook in "The Great Outdoors", a humorous look at a camping trip gone bad. "Let Me Come Home" is a power ballad whose title sums it up; and they channel Jeff Lynne on the outstanding "Pity Me Parade". Rounding things out are the Tex-Mex "La Tortuga Terrible" and closing ballad "8:00 am".This is one of those discs that will jump right out of the speakers at you, and one I can see slotting into my Top 20 or better come year's end. -absolutepowerpop.blogspot.com

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Magnolias - Off the Hook - 1992


Arguably the best album from these underappreciated Minneapolis rockers, Off the Hook is the prototypical Magnolias experience. Guitarist and singer John Freeman spins down-and-out and broken-hearted tales of the rock & roll street life, while second guitarist Kent Militzer lays down his trademark shimmering melodic leads. Off the Hook also contains the band's signature song, "When I'm Not," a spirited, instantly catchy singalong. The group certainly mixes in some hard partying with the pop, however, with songs like "Tear Up This Town" and "Take Me Away" proving the band can rock with the best of them — loudly. A disorderly cover of the Suicide Commandos' (another great but sadly overlooked Twin Cities rock band) "Complicated Fun" makes this album a regional classic, and a must-have for fans of underground rock. -AMG

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jordan Zevon - Jordan Zevon (EP) - 2005


California singer/songwriter Jordan Zevon first appeared on a tribute album (Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon) for his late father, where he sang the previously unreleased "Studebaker." A second tribute record (Hurry Home Early: The Songs of Warren Zevon) followed in 2005 with Jordan performing "Warm Rain" with fellow West Coast singer/songwriter Simone Stevens. That same year he released his self-titled debut EP on his Mixed Headache label. -AMG

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Lund Bros - International Pop Overthrow - 2002


The band name may have changed a few times (Loser -> International Pop Overthrow -> Lund Bros.) but the force behind the music hasn't. In the tradition of rock & roll brotherhood, the Lund Bros. features the combined talents of Chris and Sean Lund. Like Ray and Dave Davies or Liam and Noel Gallagher in terms of brotherly rapport, Lund Bros. have nevertheless flourished creatively together for the better part of a decade. Their music exemplifies their modern rock and pop sensibilities and songwriting while revealing an affinity for the gloried rock and pop of the past.-seattlepi.nwsource.com

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Ice Cream Hands - The Good China - 2007


Australian indie guitar/pop/rock royalty the Icecream Hands are proud to present their stunning new album "The Good China", their first in over five years, and their first with new Melbourne label Dust Devil Music.
After over a decade of producing classic albums such as "Memory Lane Traffic Jam", “Sweeter Than The Radio” and “Broken UFO”, and the ensuing Aria nominations, TV performances, Big Day Out tours and appearances at SXSW, Icecream Hands took some time off. Focusing on solo projects and raising families reignited the artistic fires. The odd gig led to the odd rehearsal, which led to recording new demos and slowly, songs that they are incredibly proud of began to emerge and the Icecream Hands are back!
Finding kindred spirits in the form of local Engineering whiz kid Jimi Maroudas, and their long time producer of choice, the notorious East Van Parks, plus the entire Dust Devil Music clan, the band reconvened at Sing Sing studios in late January this year determined to deliver what is now being regarded by those in the know as the best set of songs of their career. Featuring instant classics like “In the Back Seat of a Stolen Car” and “Say That You Want Me Some More”, "The Good China" shows the depth and talent that has attracted so many dedicated fans to the band.
With great songs galore and a new spring in their step, their legion of fans worldwide can expect nothing more than an album full of glittering, guitar soaked, harmony laden rock'n roll jewels; fit to be worn by Australia's regal kings of power pop. -pbsfm.org.au

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The Continentals - Fizz Pop (Modern Rock) (EP) - 1980


One of the few entries in the short-lived CBS NuDisk experiment of four- to five-song 10" EPs — Cheap Trick, New Musik, and the Nina Hagen Band were some of the other guinea pigs — Fizz Pop (Modern Rock) is the Continentals' one and only major label release. Their brand of gutsy power pop is on the Plimsouls/Last side of the equation, with noisier guitars and rougher vocals than you'd find on a Rubinoos or Raspberries album, but while ex-Ramone Tommy Erdelyi's production sounds great, Thomas Doherty and William John Holliday's songwriting is frustratingly inconsistent. The two songs on side one, the anthemic title track and the similarly passionate "Walking Tall," are terrific. On the flip, the anti-radio rant "Housewives' Delight" and the puerile "Two Lips From Amsterdam" (note the seventh-grade-level pun) sound like second-rate Knack rejects, complete with obnoxious Doug Fieger-style smug vocals. Perhaps this is why CBS NuDisk failed (although the 12" mini-album stayed popular throughout vinyl's commercial lifetime). -AMG

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The Ladies & Gentlemen - Ladies and Gentlemen... - 2006


These guys have the classic high-energy new wave/power pop sound down just right, always sounding like they're ready to party like it's 1979. The Cars come to mind as an obvious antecedent, but they're a bit rawer and less stylized than Ocasek & Co. Standouts on the disc include "I Wanna Thank U", which has a "Stacy's Mom"-ish feel to it, in the same manner FoW were influenced by the Cars on that track; the opener "Nobody Home"; "Had Me at Hello", which takes a 90s catchphrase and adds some 60s harmonies to their late-70s sound; and the melodic "I Luv U, I Hate U". -ablolutepowerpop.com

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ice Cream Hands - Travelling... Made Easy - 1993


For a debut album, Australia's Ice Cream Hands' Travelling... Made Easy is quite an accomplished and ambitious effort. Instead of ever taking the easy road and resorting to guitar-drenched rockers or ballad schlock, Travelling... Made Easy immediately set up the blueprint of Ice Cream Hands' sound. While the tracks are not quite as strong or memorable as later material (especially that found on 'Memory Lane Traffic Jam), most of it is excellent nonetheless. The sing-along opener "Let's Take a Look Inside" could almost be considered the band's mission statement; the lines "To blaze higher, endlessly — that won't impress me/You can glow like a superpower/I'd rather have a wallflower/Let's take a look inside" clearly state the kind of pop that Ice Cream Hands create. There's no flash or bravado to this music, it's just pure, honest, catchy power pop, and that's part of this band's true far-reaching appeal. Since it is a debut, Travelling... Made Easy is a bit all over the place in terms of tempo changes and production, but that doesn't stop the full-throttle rocker "The Way She Drives" or the ultra-catchy pop of "Poor and Unknown" and "You Can Smile Now" from being any less enjoyable. With a debut like this, it's amazing this band continues to live in relative obscurity. (The German import release includes four B-sides as bonus tracks to make a total of 18. These are well worth seeking out as most are more raw than what is found on the album, and they also include a cover of the Replacements' "Swingin' Party.") -AMG

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The Sames - The Sames (E.P.) - 2002


If you like the Feelies, chances are you'll like EP, which serves as a neat introduction to the Sames. Hypnotic, intertwining guitars laid down over staccato rhythms are the rule here, and done to good effect at that. Layered vocals produce an overall dreamy quality, making songs like "An Excuse We Give," "I Wish That You'd Written This Song", and "Live My Life for Me" the aural equivalent of a mood-altering pharmaceutical. The highlight is the seven minute opus, "Plight of the Bumble-bee," a song that bounds along wistfully like a great lost Feelies tune, and features tortured, Velvet Underground-like guitar -Amplifier Magazine

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Doug Derek & The Hoax - Who The Hell Is Doug Derek? - 2007


An unheard power pop gem - until now! Fans of Paul Collins' Beat and The Plimsouls, this is for you as there are lots of similarities throughout! This little-known garage power pop band from New Haven, CT existed from 1980 to 1981. The songs and music presented here reflect the energy, spirit and overall sound of a lot of American bands at the time, and provide another entry into the long list of garage pop bands that existed during this period! It all began with vocalist/bassist Doug Riccio (a.k.a. "Doug Derek") (who's got a little Peter Case in him) and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Brochin, who reunited with two additional former band mates in drummer Rich D'Albis and guitarist Bob Cedro to form the initial lineup. Accurately self-described as "pop with a lot of balls", they were able to create more than 30 original songs together during that short, yet very productive period. All previously unreleased until now, ultra-catchy songs such as "Bobby's Gotta Get Back To Boston," (could've been a college radio hit in the day), "I Don't Really Like It Here" (both presented here in two versions), "I Need Your Love (Let Me Take You Into The Night)" and the anthemic "Airwaves" (a tale about a fictional band making it to the top of the charts with an unusually dark, ironic twist at the end) reflect the obvious Power Pop influences of Brochin and a darker, more mysterious side in Riccio that culminated in a songwriting duo that could be considered to be a somewhat unusual pairing of minds for the time. Kool Kat is pleased to present debut album that never was - finally released 27 years after the songs were originally recorded -CD Baby

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Greenhornes - Greenhornes - 2001


Unlike many garage revival records, what stands out about the Greenhornes' self-titled release is that their original songs sound better than their covers. While remaining true to the '50s blues and '60s rock/mod pioneers which clearly influenced them (think Stax meets Kinks), the Greenhornes have established themselves as classic songwriters in their own right. Produced by John Curley (formerly of Afghan Whigs), the album is a compelling blend of vintage and modern. Slow-tempo, melancholy ballads like "Stay Away Girl" alternate with rumpshakers like "Lies" and "Nobody Loves You." However, it's Fox's vocals (once described as "worn") which are the magic element on the album. It's hard to believe that it's really just a 24-year-old white kid from Ohio singing these songs. -AMG

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Throwback Suburbia - Four Play (EP) - 2007



It’s not often in these days of syrupy pop and vacuous celebrity-ism that you come across a band that is just interested in making real rock & roll. Throwback Suburbia is such a band. Endeavoring to create the kind of sound that modern pop-rock is missing by blending pop melodies and intelligent lyrics with a rock & roll attitude, Throwback Suburbia have managed to capture the essence of retro-pop and make it modern rock. -CD baby

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hi-Risers - Once We Get Started - 2008


The Hi-Risers celebrate their 10th anniversary with their new release Once We Get Started. Their sixth record, The Hi- Risers continue to present the traditional rock & roll they're known for. Songwriter Greg Townson wrote 14 songs for the record, writing with his favorite collaborators Todd Bradley, Nick Crews, John DeAngelis and Allyson Bice. The cd kicks off with Townson's Foundation Rock, a song rock & roll legend Hank Ballard covered himself, calling it "Pure rock & roll. Watch that song, man!" Coming on the heals of their collaboration with Kaiser George, Transatlantic Dynamite, Once We Get Started offers up everything listeners have come to expect from The Hi-Risers, plus some. -badabingcdrt.com

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Stereo Soul - Stereo Soul - 2003



East Coast power pop specialists Stereo Soul have a confectionary grasp on melody that can either endear or grate depending on the listener's mood. The songs on their self-titled debut deal with issues of love, life, and politics with an innocence that makes their often superficial protagonists — Internet chatroom sweethearts and subway-riding heartbreakers — disarming in an adorable pet kind of way. Musically, the duo is a testament to their extensive record collections. Keyboardist/bassist/vocalist John Moller and drummer/vocalist Gene Pompilio have the chops to emulate obvious heroes like the Cars, the Beatles, and the entire canon of early-'90s pop-rock heroes like Jellyfish and the Rembrandts. Their reliance on harmonies and hook-laden synth lines paint the record in a mid-afternoon sunny hue, and their infectious melodies teeter — enjoyably so — between stomachache and tooth decay. However, with frequent instances of "na, na, na, na, na" choruses and song titles like "(I'm in Love With A) Porno Star" and "Internet Life Sucks," the overall feel of the album shifts into throwaway-pop-novelty, making attempts at public grandstanding — the lifeless "Victims of Capitalism" — more like desperate shots at actual songwriting. Harmless fun if you're in the mood. -AMG


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Gigantic - Gigantaphonic Sounds - 2006


Brothers Mark and Paul Di Renzo create passionate, articulate and exciting music from out of Perth in Western Australia, and the best part of their creative process they say is their enthusiasm for sharing it with their friends. Such friends like Joel Quartermain from Eskimo Joe fame and Rodney Aravena from End Of Fashion both shared production duties and perform on GIGANTIC's long awaited debut album Gigantaphonic Sounds. -powertoolrecords.co.nz

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sam Squared - Sam Squared - 2008


Sam Squared is a Seattle three piece with a big sound, driving rhythms and super-hooky vocal melodies.Let's keep it simple, let's keep it tasty." Sam and Sam have been making sounds for alot of years now and in '06 they decided it was time to share their ideas with the world. In '07 they joined forces with Matt Ralston and have since tried to convince him to change his name to Sam. Rock? Yes please. -cdbaby

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The Bigger Lovers - Honey in the Hive - 2002


Listening to the Bigger Lovers, it's hard not to be coaxed into worn guitar pop superlatives ("jangle," "power pop," etc.). It's also hard not to get caught up in trainspotting the group's sublime ancestry — the way, for instance, the splashy, expansive "Emmanuelle" seems to draw equally on both Cheap Trick and Move-era Jeff Lynne. Or the way the cascading, chiming guitar figures often call to mind the Soft Boys' Kimberley Rew and the Smiths' Johnny Marr. Or the Robin Zander-meets-Robyn Hitchcock vocals throughout the album. The Bigger Lovers seem to have a bit more going for them than a lot of power pop upstarts, however, and (like Big Star and Cheap Trick before them) the Philadelphia group is able to sublimate their cheeky Anglo-pop influences into something wholly their own. Most importantly, there's a surfeit of sugar-coated, prickly skin-inducing hooks on the aptly named Honey in the Hive. "Bought Your Ghost" is splashy, breathless power pop, while the flippant Brit-psych verses of "Half Richard's" are soon blown aside by the chorus' euphoric guitar crunch and handclaps. "Minivan Blues" is an eerily dead-on approximation of post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys. "Make Your Day" is full of chiming, rolling guitar-work and "ba-ba-ba" harmonies, while "Bought Your Ghost" merits a second mention, if only to reinforce that it's three minutes of power pop perfection packed with melodic guitar bite, a swooning chorus, and stirring lyrics. The Bigger Lovers' approach to the well-travelled power pop landscape is complex enough to set them apart from the pack, yet full of catchy immediacy. -AMG

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

International Pop Overthrow 2008. The Next Stop... Portland

It’s that’s time of year again! So, you know what that means?

Power Pop!!

David Bash has brought the International Pop Overthrow (IPO) festival back and this year he has brought it to Portland for the 1st time.

Come on out and show your support for these great Power Pop Bands!!

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Tennis Pro - Happy is the New Sad - 2004


With a head-turning indie debut, Tennis Pro shines much-needed sunshine across an otherwise soggy musical landscape. The album title says it all: Happy is the New Sad. Tennis Pro is writing a new chapter in Seattle's musical legacy with hand-clap choruses, Beach Boy harmonies, and the occasional new wave synth. Sure to inspire the rolling down of car windows while cruising the streets in your dad's camaro, Happy is the New Sad cultivates the best elements of The Ramones' punk simplicity and Fountains of Wayne's wry pop: ravenous guitars, pounding drums, and a sassy yet strangely poignant tongue-in-cheek take on American life. Tunes like "Camping With A Girl" and "The Mix Tape Song" showcase their high-school-meets-high-art approach, putting the art of the well-crafted pop song first and backing it with sass and style. Fronted by an acclaimed fiction writer and a classical composer turned rock bassist, Tennis Pro declares that Happy is indeed the New Sad with a handful of 2-minute pop/punk gems overflowing with the band's quirky sincerity. -globalinventure.com

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Chesterfield Kings - Psychedelic Sunrise - 2007


The Chesterfield Kings have been chasing the ghost of the Rolling Stones in one way or another since they released their first album in 1983 (in all fairness, they're also clearly obsessed with a few hundred other bands who made cool records between 1963 and 1967), so the group's belated embrace of psychedelia asks the question — can the Chesterfield Kings make a better "trippy" album than Their Satanic Majesty's Request? To a certain degree, it's an "apples and oranges" argument, since the Kings have tossed in a few examples of tried and true garage rock raunch to leaven the more lysergic accents on Psychedelic Sunrise, such as the wickedly fuzzy "Outtasite!," and "Elevator Ride" is such a clear (and well-executed) Who lift that Pete Townshend will either feel honored or call his lawyer. But the strings and harpsichord arrangement on "Inside Looking Out," the epochal antiwar screed "Rise and Fall," the black-painted percussion accents of "Spanish Sun," and the rhythmic push and pull of "Yesterday's Sorrows" at least achieve their sonic goals with greater clarity and concision than Mick and Keef's grand experiment in mind expansion. Along the way, the Chesterfield Kings also manage to quote the Louvin Brothers and Exile on Main St. at the same time on "Stayed Too Long" (somewhere Gram Parsons is smiling) and to divvy up some rich organ-based psych-blues on "Gone," while "Streaks and Flashes" is one impressive salute to visual disturbance. The production on Psychedelic Sunrise is terrific, capturing a wealth of period details with commendable accuracy, and the Kings' obsession with the mid-'60s is matched only by the skill and enthusiasm with which they can re-create the sounds of the era. Contemporary garage-psych albums don't get much more "grand scale" than this — or much better. -AMG

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Even - Even - 2008


Even are exactly what they are and what Ashley Naylor wants them to be — a band who loves their Beatles, their ELO, their power-pop, their hints of roots music appreciation. It's all in there and they're not only not hiding it, they revel in it. It would be pointless to criticize something that they're precisely aiming for, no less so than any number of acts exploring their own favorite genres almost to a fault. Even the songtitles hit the trick moment for moment — "I Am the Light," "Keep on Burning," "The Fool Who Makes You Sad," these are all spot on. Naylor's yearning vocals, the tuneful guitar crunches, the flanged vocals and buried string swells on "Only One," it's all designed to slot them in alongside bands ranging from the Shoes to Cheap Trick to Redd Kross to Teenage Fanclub to Jellyfish, and it's well in line with what he's been doing leading Even all these years. But so perfected is this approach now that there's almost little to say — Even as an album is such a flawless example of what Naylor aims for that it's almost something to admire and regard with appreciation more than anything else. When a song like "Superstition Blues" is exactly the kind of stylishly formal exercise one might guess, down to the twang in the vocals as much as the guitars and mouth-harp, what more can be done but to acknowledge it for what it is? So if any of this sounds like it would appeal, then Even is going to be a treat, but there's still something to be said for trying to push oneself creatively — and, ultimately, it's just not in evidence here. -AMG

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Frisbie - Subversive Sounds of Love - 2000


Heralded by many as the banner carriers of power pop for the 21st century, few bands have displayed such a mastery of pop songcraft on a debut release. Though not horribly adventurous with their sound, the unabashed reliance on sophisticated harmonic vocal arrangements, fuzzed out guitars, and occasional brass sections was seen as near revelatory in some critical circles. No doubt, the sweeping Big Star-inspired melodic progressions of tracks like "Shine" and "To See and Be Seen" more than deserved the accolades that The Subversive Sounds of Love garnered. When upping the tempo and volume on tracks like the galloping "Paid in Kind" or the punchy "Vertigogo," Frisbie can sound downright anthemic, though the more California-styled rock of "Disaster" probably fits their sound just as well. Still, it's hard to say that you ever get a real sense of the group dynamic that's at work in the process. And while that process delivers on an undeniably cohesive pop product, the personalities involved are never totally evident. An exception to this, the album closes with the theatrical whimsy of piano and banjo in "The Shuffle," proving the band can put a more pronounced face on their sound. Although artists like this emerge on a semi-frequent basis, and usually don't amount to very much in the long term, Frisbie gives hope to the power pop true believers. -AMG

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sloan - Parallel Play - 2008


At 13 songs and 37 minutes, Parallel Play feels as if it were designed as a counterpoint to its 2006 predecessor, Never Hear the End of It, an efficient machine next to the sprawling canvas of that hourlong 30-song neo-masterpiece. That it is, but Parallel Play isn't quite an abandonment of the White Album aesthetics of Never Hear, where all four members of Sloan played off their individual personalities to create a larger tapestry. Rather, Parallel Play condenses all that winding exploration into a tight, colorful blast of sound and song — and one that is seamlessly sequenced just like its big brawny cousin. The slimmed-down streamlined structure winds up emphasizing the harder-rocking inclinations of Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott, especially as the first half of the album relies heavily on their furious "Believe in Me" and "Emergency 911." Jay Ferguson's sweet and delicate tunes function as a counterbalance to this and the psychedelicized sludge of Pentland's "The Other Side," as Ferguson has an infectious light touch on "Cheap Champagne" and "Witch's Wand," which is far sunnier than its title implies. Chris Murphy's tunes act as a bridge between these two camps, as they're alternately as delicate as "Living the Dream" and as tough and cynical as "I'm Not a Kid Anymore," a reckoning of rocking in adulthood that has a counterpart in Scott's "Down in the Basement" (its freewheeling Dylan and the Band ramble being a nice musical joke to the song's title). Murphy and Scott address directly the issue that Sloan faced as a band and found a solution to: what it means to be a rock and pop band as you're starting to stare down middle age. It's a question many other bands have faced, but Sloan have solved their problem by giving each member room to roam, and they're winding up with records that are rich emotionally and musically, illustrating that it is possible for a classicist guitar pop band like Sloan to grow with each passing year. -AMG


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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nixon's Head - Gormet - 1998


A 14-song collection that sounds as influenced by AM radio as it is by quirk-ish pop of the late 70s (Undertones!!)! A refreshing blend of influences...sort of adult bubblegum combined w/some of the more widely appealing zaniness of LMNOP or R. Stevie Moore and vocals JUST like Ian North (Milk `n Cookies). This fuzzy pop fizzles its way inexorably, charming you w/its lack of pretension or concern with impressing any particular genre-based music crowd--mines an iconoclasic mix of `67-era AM pop and `79 era punk. It certainly casts a wide net. While the producion values won`t blow any away, it`s far from low-fi and it`s all clear and clean sonically. A real grower, too! -Not Lame

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Foreign Films - Distant Star - 2007


The Foreign Films from Canada? Like the soundtrack to a distant summer, The Foreign Films (Bill Majoros & friends) create cinematic songs that remind us of our past while we contemplate our future. The Foreign Films debut double disk was recorded and mixed by Carl Jennings with additional mixing by James Heidebrect (Sloan, The Constantines). This collection of sonic images will be released in the spring of 2007. Bill Majoros has recorded and toured North America with a number of bands(Flux ad,The Clouldsmen/ The Paper Airplane Company, Universal Honey and Altogether Morris) with critical acclaim and support from such musical luminaries as Daniel Lanois (U2, Bob Dylan), Robbie Robertson and the late great BBC DJ John Peel. -CD Baby

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Monday, August 18, 2008

The House Of Love - Days Run Away - 2005


The trend for bands long disbanded to reform with new material appears to have shifted from dinosaur rockers and Eighties reminiscence acts and is now lapping at the shores of outfits who, to this reviewer at any rate, feel like they were on the scene only yesterday; a sign of one getting old, perhaps. Anyway, while Camberwell's finest may have been away for more than a decade - eleven years to be precise - the reformed The House Of Love sound as sparkling as ever on this, their "comeback" album. The 'Love's trademark sound - jangling guitar pop, mostly upbeat but occasionally heart-achingly melancholic - is much in evidence throughout. The album's opening track, the bittersweet Love You Too Much, sounds like something the band might have recorded back in their prime, while elsewhere there is finer balance between up-tempo tunes and a more sombre mood. Invigorated by the return to the fold of original guitarist Terry Bickers and drummer Pete Evans, frontman Guy Chadwick is in fine vocal form and there is also much on this album that has echoes of the singer's 1997 wonderfully understated solo work, Lazy, Soft And Slow. Standout tracks include the country-esque Already Gone, the unashamedly rocky Kit Carter and the simple two-hander but quite, quite beautiful Anyday I Want. -virginmedia.com

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Rip Off Artists - Esque - 2008


Nick Pipitone and Peter Batchelder went on a mission. The manifesto for their group "The Rip Off Artists" is pretty straight forward. They follow all the right rules for great pop music. Beatlesque. Costelloesque. Bacharachesque. You get it. "Esque" follows through with an excellent group of songs. The opener "The Present, Tense" is a brainy Partridge-like lush guitar song and very much like the Honeydogs' non-country pop displayed recently. It's followed by the Elvis Costello-like "What Just Happened?" with great orchestral breaks at the songs end point. The wonderful guitar and piano on "The Wishful Thinker" is like an outtake from XTC's "Nonsuch". Then the ballad "The Worst News in The World" reminds me of Mike Viola's latest. The lyrics are playful and light hearted for "The Girl Behind The Bar" - as the author dreams about the bartender. "Sidetracked" uses a steady synth-beat and slide guitar to evoke regret and the crossing harmony will win you over. Lyrically it compares well to Fountains of Wayne's slice of life absurdities. The album somehow gets even better as it continues, "Without You I'm Something" is a slice of pure pop heaven with chord progressions that rival the best of Bryan Scary. In between each couple of songs is an acted melodrama and it all ends of with the swirling Sqt. Pepper's melody of "I Thought it Over" - my favorite song here. The themes presented in the lyrics are about contrasts in relationships, examples being lines that follow in "Love and Uncertainty," "There's a time and a place for us/ Just not now/ Not here" and it all works wonderfully. A sure top ten album for 2008. Mission Accomplished -Powerpopaholic.com

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Dickies - Stukas over Disneyland - 1983


Stukas over Disneyland, released after a four-year silence, shows the Dickies training their popcorn wiseguy sights somewhat away from the hardcore and Ramones influences of earlier platters to that of power pop and '60s songs. The former of the two new influences is showcased in the tunefully memorable "Pretty Please Me" and "If Stuart Could Talk"; the latter is evident in "Rosemary" (with its Beatles-on-caffeine bridge), "Wagon Train" (which sports a broad tune that evokes comparisons to old Western T.V. show theme songs), "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" (featuring a chorus that echoes the one in Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party"), and especially the title track (which exhibits noticeable surf music and Chuck Berry influences and sets ironic, humorous lyrics detailing a Disney-based world takeover). Bows to their earlier punk influences can be seen in the uproariously funny "She's a Hunchback" (complete with smart-aleck references to the Victor Hugo novel) and a giddy cover of the Led Zeppelin classic "Communication Breakdown." The 1988 re-release appends three songs ("Gigantor," "I'm Okay, You're Okay," and "Bedrock Barney") cast in the Dickies old cartoon hardcore manner; while all are likable and welcome, the addition of these numbers makes this release seem more stylistically schizophrenic than it originally was. Regardless of the version obtained, this excellent album is an enjoyable and recommended listen. -AMG

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Green And Yellow TV - As Performed By... - 2000


The Green And Yellow TV (which means?) hail from Silverlake, California and this is their first long player (well, clocking in just under 30 minutes may not qualify for a real long player, or what?). Anyhow, I must admit at once: This is a great record!
The records kicks off with The Big Red Machine which has received considerable airplay, even on John Peel Show. Next up is Betty, a power pop anthem if there ever was one. Suspects In The Trees is a true gem, with brass, pounding drums, Beach Boys percussions and harmonies and a glorious melody to match. It is probably worth the CD price alone. Plays The Song sees the band blend posh seventies pop (Metro, Pilot) with Ben Folds Five.
The last four songs are not as pop oriented as the former five, but show that the band masters a diversity of styles adding their special Green And Yellow TV touch. The main force of the band is the ability to write great songs and perform them in exciting arrangements. I could think of a lot of bands that are not capable of excactly that. - lunakafe.com

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Secrets - They Will Come - 2002


As '60s-style rock released in the early 21st century goes, the Secrets come by their connections to the source more closely than most such acts. Principal songwriter, singer, and keyboardist Peter Rechter was in two actual '60s Australian garage bands, Peter & the Silhouettes and the Tol-Puddle Martyrs. In fact, this CD contains remakes of tracks by both Peter & the Silhouettes ("Claudette Jones") and the Tol-Puddle Martyrs ("Time Will Come"), which open and close the album respectively. Between those bookends is decent original material with nods to the '60s that don't cross into over-veneration, showing not just '60s garage rock roots, but also purer pop sensibilities with echoes of the British Invasion, blue-eyed soul, rockabilly, and ska. Rechter has a likable voice that hasn't lost a slightly pouting edge, and it's a pretty fresh celebration of his musical loves, rather than a tired re-creation of past genres. Peter & the Silhouettes' original version of "Claudette Jones" can be heard as an unlisted bonus track, though you'll need to fast-forward your CD player 20 minutes after the end of "Time Will Come" to find it. Incidentally, the enhanced CD portion of the disc contains footage of the Tol-Puddle Martyrs from 1968, with the new version of "Time Will Come" serving as the soundtrack; a 1982 video, built around the song "Woman," by an earlier incarnation of the Secrets; and a 1983 Secrets video for the song "Feel Pretty Good." -AMG

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big Wheel - Identity Parade - 2005


Produced by Chris Von Sneidern (who also plays all over the record), Big Wheel have that San Francisco power pop sound. You ask, "What exactly is that SF pop sound, Bruce?!". I reply, "Well, I kind of just made it up, but has a lot to do with bands that were influenced by The Rubinoos and really rock up their pop, bands like Spinning Jennies, artists like Chris Von Sneidern and...well, maybe there isn`t an SF pop sound, but if there was, Big Wheel would have it!". Well, I mean it but you`ll hear refrains of other very NON-SF pop bands like They Might Be Giants, XTC and Anton Barbeau, who lives really, really close to San Francisco, so I may be onto something, actually! Seriously, the influences of Von Sneidern is important note because if you are going ape an indie popper, he`s not only a very good one to embrace, it shows eminently good taste and, indeed, Big Wheel has that ability to craft silky, smooth slow melodies that never rush to get to their destination and build in busy, but unpretentious studio embellishments that only enhance the whole effect. This formula is most successful on a song like "Triangle Solo", which I don`t think a triangle appears on. Like said, the influence of CVS. -Not Lame

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Only Ones - Remains - 1984


If The Only Ones had released nothing other than “Another Girl, Another Planet,”- conceivably the best rock song ever- their prominent place in the annals of rock would have been assured. The band, fronted by the enormously talented and almost equally self-destructive Peter Perrett, thus can hardly be faulted for breaking the impossible promise of that, their second single. Still, their three CBS-funded records—uneven as they are—are filled with some truly great rock songs. Largely ignored by both fans and critics, “Remains,” the band’s quietly released (French-only) posthumous demos collection, is dismissed as a mere odds and ends afterthought, and is rarely if ever regarded as part of the core Only Ones oeuvre.
But despite the cold shoulder the album has suffered, it is quite simply the most consistently excellent of all The Only Ones’ longplayers, and possesses an across-the-boards no frills production that adds an air of authenticity to the proceedings, jeopardized by the time of the band’s previous longplayer, the compressed-sounding, Colin Thurston-produced “Baby’s Got A Gun.” Despite having been recorded over several years at various studios and under various conditions, Robert Ash’s and Peter Perrett’s reliance on stellar instrumentation (due in no small part to the intermittent presence of Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook [misspelled “Tillbrook” on both the original LP as well as the CD-reissue], whose guitar gets a technical workout he has been able to display in only one of his own band’s songs, “Yap. Yap. Yap.”), allows for a natural echo and thus provides a relaxed spaciousness to the recording. -seedyroad.com

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Pop Project - Stars of Stage and Screen - 2008


Stars of Stage and Screen was five years in the making, and its prolonged gestation is reflected in the meticulous craft of the arrangements — producer Andy Thompson has covered every song with a delicious layer of honey and powdered sugar to complement the band’s love for ringing guitars, touches of brass, new wave-y keyboards, and (of course) the requisite stacks of glorious, glorious vocal harmonies.Though some tracks, like “Coerce,” carry a heavy early ’80s vibe, Stars of Stage and Screen manages to run the power pop gamut in its dozen tracks, from the snarky “Secondary Players” to the heart-on-sleeve laments of “Never Got the Breaks” and “Someone Who Would Understand.” All of it is 100% awesome — and speaking of awesome, my favorite song right now is this album’s “Totally Awesome” -PopDose.com

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reciever - Inspiration Overload - 2001


Almost two years in the making, the album from this highbrow pop quintet is radio-friendly and immediately tight. Kicking things off with "Faster," lead singer and songwriter Ken West has a soft falsetto approach to the three-minute nuggets of verse, verse, and chorus formula. Coming off as a cross between Weezer and Matthew Sweet, the group never loses their enthusiasm or steam with a collage of finely crafted pop songs. Equally an asset is the ability to swerve between tight jangle rock and full-out rock riffs for songs such as "Oleander," with its dichotomy between the straightforward Beatles structure and Beach Boys summer sweetness. A problem with many albums such as this one is the fact that there are no standout tracks, which means there is little in the way of variance. "Erica Kane," a song about the All My Children character, is a soppy and somewhat sloppy ballad miscue, while the title track should be moved up in the song list. "Accidents" and "Predictable" are the best of the lot, moving into rock territory with a simple riff and a chorus which is less than witty. Picture-pretty pop from a band on the rise. -AMG

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Friday, August 8, 2008

The Morning Benders - Talking Through Tin Cans - 2008


Arriving at the onset of summer, Talking Through Tin Cans marks the Morning Benders' full-length debut on +1 Records. Singer/guitarist Chris Chu originally launched the band as a solo project in 2005, and he remains in the driver's seat on these 11 tracks, handling most of the production duties while claiming all songwriting credits. His tunes are quick and economical, often relying on clear-cut hooks and melodies rather than ambience, and much of Talking Through Tin Cans could very well be a solo record. But Chu's three bandmates do make themselves known — not necessarily in the harmonies that flank many of Chu's vocals (those are the frontman's own overdubs, after all), but certainly in the sonic explorations that pepper Side B, from the nocturnal "Wasting Time" to the haunting reverb and echoing guitars that make "Chasing a Ghost" such an aptly titled song. San Francisco's pop scene has seen its share of strong newcomers in 2008, and the Morning Benders join the ranks of the Botticellis in offering up an album that's youthful but studied, as if the bands' proximity to the Pacific Ocean has bestowed upon them the same gifts for melody and summery songcraft that helped the define the California sound several decades prior. The Morning Benders aren't nearly as indebted to Brian Wilson as the Botticellis, and the trebly strum of Chu's acoustic guitar (which anchors such pop nuggets as "Crosseyed" and "Damnit Anna") pushes them closer to the singer/songwriter realm than the ornate sunshine pop of the Beach Boys. But Talking Through Tin Cans is definitely a pop record — one that's full of crisp tambourine snaps, double-tracked vocals, dual guitars, and piano plunkings — and the Morning Benders have a fine debut in their hungover hands. -AMG

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Starky - Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre - 2004


This is the debut album from the Sydney four piece. We’ve been featuring the first single “Saturday Night, Sunday Morning” and the rest of the album is just as strong. Radio Birdman’s Rob Younger and Knieval’s Wayne Connolly produced the full length CD in just nine days. It’s full of energy, blazing guitars and witty lyrics. Turn it up LOUD! -ABC.net.au
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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Einstein's Sister - Learning Curves - 1999


For all of the virtues of Einstein's Sister and Oceanus, they were solid albums for a local or regional act, but lacked a certain quality to endear Einstein's Sister to audiences outside the Midwest. Learning Curves changed all that. After the bungled release of Oceanus, in which the band had creative differences with their producer and would up losing a bassist, they took a D.I.Y. approach to Learning Curves, self-producing the album to make sure it came out right. It was also recorded with a stable lineup, and these changes made all the difference. Here, Einstein's Sister take the best of new wave-era British pop and update it for late-'90s American power pop audience to stunning results. Nothing here is over or underdone: the production gets everything just right, and there's a great variety of tunes, from rockers to country to ballads to pure pop. Douglas Tucker's vocals, in particular, sound like a perfect synthesis of Elvis Costello and Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook. It's true that at times Einstein's Sister seem a little too much like a jumble of influences — like someone put XTC, Squeeze, and Elvis Costello on random play — but the typical fan probably owns most of the albums from those acts and wants more of the same with a slightly different bent. Learning Curves was originally intended to be the final Einstein's Sister album, but it unexpectedly became a smash hit within the power pop community, showing up in many year-end Top Ten lists. Several International Pop Overthrow appearances followed, and later many of their songs (particularly the charging opener "Jealous Time") appeared on MTV and VH1 shows. -AMG

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Orange Peels - So Far - 2001


"It's the middle of March but it feels like summer," sings Allen Clapp on the album's title track, "and I wouldn't call that a California bummer." Clapp, who's also the group's main songwriter, has a weakness for obvious rhymes such as "smile" and "while" or "stars" and "afar"; fortunately, most of his lyrics are sharper than his rhymes, and the music is sunny enough to get you dreaming of California on a spring (or winter) day. The album's opening song, "Back in San Francisco," sets the tone for the rest of the album: precisely crafted power pop with Ventures-influenced guitar that keeps it from sounding too twee, as well as bittersweet California-oriented lyrics that suggest an ambivalent attitude toward the region ("It's just no good to go back there crying/But don't discourage me from trying"). The influence of the Beach Boys and the Byrds pervades the album, but the group's musical palette isn't limited to the 1960s; songs such as "You're So Clever" serve as reminders that the band also has roots in 1990s indie rock. The perky folk-soul of "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" evokes the 1970s AM radio hits found on the Have a Nice Day compilations, and there's even a disco beat on "Every Single Thing." As the music radiates out of your speakers, you may be delighted by the musicians' tight playing and arrangements, their refusal to undermine their catchy pop tunes with lo-fi affectations or self-indulgent meandering, and the intriguing contrast between the sprightly music and sometimes angry lyrics (e.g., the denunciation of a former landlord in "Redwood City"). Or, you may find the music too pristine, wish it had more distinguishing idiosyncracies, and wonder if the songs will hold up to repeated listening. But if you want to hear shimmering California pop/rock and don't care if it breaks any new ground, this is a good place to start. -AMG

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Crash Street Kids - Transatlantic Suicide - 2008



Crash Street Kids sounds like what would happen if Rick Nielsen hijacked KISS during its Destroyer tour to perform Dead Boys and T. Rex covers, anotherwords fans of Enuff Z’Nuff, Cheap Trick and punky late 80s glam-rock yr going to LOVE Crash Street Kids. How can anyone NOT love a band named after a Mott The Hoople. Well, I’m sure many, but not us! The new album is raw attitude filled rock in its songwriting approach with emphasis on big throbbing hooks, sharp production, and execution. -Not Lame


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Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Woods - It's Like This - 1987


Enloe and Anderson were both born on Christmas Day 1956 in the same hospital in Southern Pines. They met over music, playing recorders in a fourth-grade class at Raleigh’s Powell Elementary. By high school, Enloe and Anderson were jamming together and wishing they had a bass player.
By the late ‘70s, they had hooked up with bassist Jack Cornell to form the core of the Fabulous Knobs — one of the most dynamic bands in the Triangle, thanks to lead singer Debra DeMilo. Numerous younger musicians in town found Enloe and the Knobs inspirational.
After the Fabulous Knobs dissolved in 1984, Enloe, Anderson and Cornell joined up with Dan Baird to form the Woodpeckers.
Then Baird left to rejoin his old band, the Georgia Satellites, so the Woodpeckers continued on as the Woods.
The Satellites had a hit single with a cover of the Anderson-penned Woodpeckers song “Battleship Chains” in 1987, the same year the Woods released their debut album, “It’s Like This.” But that would be the band’s only album.
The Woods had some success as backup band for Marti Jones and Don Dixon (who both recorded Enloe songs for their albums). On their own, however, the band members had one frustrating record-label near-miss after another. The Woods finally called it quits in 1993, although they’ve continued playing together in other bands. -Newsobserver.com

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hutch - Hollylake & Silverwood - 2008


Hutch is a story-tellin' man, who most always takes the high road, who plays smart, conscious, grown-up pop, for people who love heart-felt rock'n'roll. Outstanding, emotional music that stays with you all day. If you have a radio-show, or podcast, add his unforgettable songs to your playlist, and help let the people know there are still songwriters currently crafting music with this much substance. This kinda sunny music makes me think of sneaking into drive-in's. Of fireworks and vintage car shows. "Hollylake And Silverwood " is like a bomb-pop on the front porch, while the girls all tan on towels, in the neighbor's yard. It'll make you feel young again. And ain't that what real rock'n'roll is for?? To help you remember, and forget?!! Shine on, Hutch Brothers. The world needs more like you! -Sugarbuzz Magizine

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Hentchmen - Form Follows Function - 2004


Somewhere down the line, longtime Detroit garage rock primitives the Hentchmen learned something about the importance of production values, and if you know them best from their stripped-to-the-bone early albums such as Ultra Hentch and Campus Party, then 2004's Form Follows Function may come as a bit of a surprise. By the Hentchmen's standards, Form Follows Function is downright slick, with clean and crisp engineering, a snappy drum sound, occasional sound effects, vocals and instruments that are actually in tune and in time, and a mix that actually involves panning and such — in short, it doesn't appear to have been recorded in someone's rec room, unlike the majority of their efforts. But before any longtime fans begin howling "sell out," to these ears adding a bit of polish and buffing off the rough spots only makes it easier to tell that The Hentchmen write really cool songs, and play 'em with the right balance of style and sweat. John Szymanski's vocals finally get the attention they deserve, and he sounds tough and soulful throughout, while the spunky snap of Szymanski's keyboards (he lets go of his Farfisa to play piano and other stuff on some cuts), Tim Purrier's guitar, and Mike Latulippe's drums remain as solid as ever, just better recorded. The Hentchmen have always known how to play a great gig, but now they've learned how to make a record, and while an excess of craft is usually the downfall of a garage band, Form Follows Function is one example where a little technique in the right places goes a long, long way. -AMG

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