Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Successful Failures - Ripe for the Burning - 2007

Having long enjoyed Mick Chorba's other, Replacements- inspired garage group Dipsomaniacs, Ripe for the Burning is the ultimate work he's threatened for a decade. His Dips' thick 'n' creamy, chunky power-pop guitar action remains on the likes of "For No One" (not the Beatles), "Bigger Empty Things," and the devilishly hooky, standout closer "Sun Makes Circles," as does his ear for a payoff tune. But the palette of this newer (greater-Philly) New Jersey four stretches wider, incorporating doses of C&W/alt-country and roots rock and brightening dashes of xylophone, keyboards, and harmonica. The toned-down guitars are given more space to ring and riff, and the quartet is tight, precise and grooving, yet never lacks hunger or soul. In short, Ripe brings back everything great about organic, roaring, kicking, melodic '80s indie rock, from the Libertines U.S. (what with the roots) to Big Dipper, Tim-era Replacements, etc. (and nowadays, Sloan). Factor in the humor of "Niki Zerenberg" (a teenage fanzine dude) and "Never Moving Out" (sorry, mom!), and the deal's sealed. Ripe for the Burning is one heck of a great-fun LP, perfect to sing along to. -AMG



Ray Wonder - A New Kind of Love - 2000

(ex-Swedish pop band Ray Wonder formed in Umea in the early '90s, comprising vocalist/guitarist Henrik Andersson (ex-Komeda), bassist Toft Stade (ex-Shredhead), drummer Per HelinPuffin), and guitarist Ludvig. It took the group two months to come up with an album's worth of material; Pele Henricsson (Stade's stepfather) offered his studio for use, and the band recorded and mixed their songs in two days. The band contemplated quitting until Helin played the recordings for his friends at North of No South Records. North of No South liked what they heard so much that they released it. That album, Hurray, was released in 1994. Two EPs and a single predated their second full-length, 1996's Good Music. After another pair of singles, A New Kind of Love, was issued in 2000. -AMG

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A New Kind of Love" get it here!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jeff Murphy - Cantilever - 2007

A mere thirty years after Shoes emerged from their Zion, Illinois basement with the homemade masterpiece Black Vinyl Shoes, Jeff Murphy has struck out on his own with his first solo album, and while it's any guess what this means in terms of the band's slow but steady career as the Godfathers of the pop underground, anyone who has acquired a taste for Shoes' smart, classically-crafted power pop with a smart and witty edge will fall in love with Murphy's Cantilever. According to the liner notes, Murphy wrote all eleven songs on Cantilever, played all the instruments, and recorded the tunes in his home studio, and while his engineering smarts has gotten keener all these years later, his musical instincts are thankfully little changed. Murphy is still obsessed with girls and melodic hooks in equal measure, and both figure prominently on Cantilever, from the playful double entendres of the mandolin-driven "I'm A Tool For You" and the jangly-noisy counterpoint guitars of "Never Let You Go" to the ew wave-addled funk and emotional uncertainty of "A Couple Of Words" and the Brian Wilson-esque plea for "Unconditional Love". Which is not to say this album is just a set of stylistic retreads -- the blues figures of "She Don't Drive" are out of ordinary for Murphy, as is the acoustic-based poignance of "Some Day Soon". But the best pop has a timeless quality that can draw from the past and the present at the same time, and that's just what Murphy has done on Cantilever; for all his vintage pop influences and long history, Murphy has fashioned a record that sounds fresh and exciting, and this album ranks with his strongest and most engaging work to date. Do John Murphy and Gary Klebe have anything this interesting in the works as well -AMG If you like " Cantilever" get it here!

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This Perfect Day - C-60 - 1998

even sounds kind of like This Perfect Day are probably the least overtly Swedish of the mid-'90s' deluge of Swede pop bands; if anything, they sound like yet another post-Blur Brit-pop group. Singer Mats ErikssonDamon Albarn without the Paul Weller-derived vocal affectations, and the shuffling beat, guitar explosions, and trumpet accents of the first single, "Down on My Knees," suggest what Oasis might sound like if they had talent for anything besides Beatles plagiarism. C-60, the band's fourth album but only their second U.S. release, features a dozen catchy pop songs given depth and weight by smart production touches (whining Moog on "Fishtank," horns on "So Naive," handclaps and harmonies everywhere) and a super-compressed sound favored by guitarists Rickard Johansson and Ove Markstrom that gives nearly every song an exciting, contents-under-pressure edge. Titles like those above and the equally power-of-positive-thinking "Young and Stupid," "Break My Arm," and the ironically joyous "In Two Weeks You Will Be Forgotten" (probably the best song on the album) add to the, erm, fun. Although the opening track, the searing lost-love rocker "Could Have Been Friends," sounded like a possible hit, C-60 did not live up to commercial expectations, and the group was dropped by Sony shortly after its release. -AMG

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Marmalade Souls - In Stereo - 2007

It is not unusual for a new artist to display the influence of performers who have come before, but some artists go a full step further into deliberately styling themselves on earlier eras. There are young jazz musicians who dress up in suits and play bebop as if the late 1940s had never ended, and there are country artists who sing and play as though nothing had ever come after Hank Williams. Marmalade Souls, a Swedish trio making its debut with In Stereo, fits into this more extreme form of musical endeavor; in their case, they play music that apes the British Invasion sound of the mid-'60s. The first hint of this comes with the title, which references the era of the '60s prior to about 1967, when LPs came in both mono and stereo, with an indication of which edition the disc was on the cover. The cover of In Stereo also looks like that of a mid-'60s LP, advertising "14 tracks previously unreleased," and listing some of them. On the disc itself, Michael Klemmé, who sings most of the lead vocals, plays most of the instruments, and co-writes the songs with Johanna Klemmé, pays tribute to the John Lennon of 1964-1965 for the most part, coming up with tracks that sound like they were intended to fit snugly onto Beatles for Sale or Help! are first and foremost with him. When he ranges slightly afield to give a soulful reading to "Baby Come Back," for example, he isn't thinking of old R&B music of the '50s, he's thinking of Sometimes, he evokes a specific song; "In My Mind (There Is No Doubt)" inescapably recalls "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," for example, and there are little arranging details -- a guitar riff here, an "ooh la-la-la" background vocal there -- that have been borrowed. But mostly he just writes in the style of '60s British pop/rock as if to add another ghost band to the ranks of the Hollies, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and so many others. Clearly, however, the BeatlesPaul McCartney's vocal on "Oh Darling" from Abbey Road, which was sung in that style. When Johanna Klemmé takes lead vocals on "Daydreams" and "Say Goodbye," things don't change very much; it's rather like the effect of hearing the Silkie do their hit version of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" instead of the Beatles. Whatever one may think about the retrospective nature of the approach, this is still newly written, often clever music. For instance, after Michael Klemmé has spent most of the song of the same name singing about how wonderful it is to be "Famous," Johanna Klemmé sneaks in with a witty riposte. "Life is so cool when you're famous," he sings, "and everybody loves you, loves you." "Until tomorrow, when you're history," she replies. As with the pop music of the mid-'60s, most of the songs are love songs, but Marmalade Souls show that they can be smart as well as reverent. -AMG

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 88 - Over and Over - 2005

L.A. power pop/rock never dies, it seems; it just slightly transmogrifies. So if the line of descent from Love to the Knack to Jellyfish to the 88 is more indirect and generalized than specific, the 88 are nonetheless heirs to a tradition, one that the band's sophomore album does little to disrupt. Over and Over starts off with a clipped riff followed by Keith Slettedahl's creamy/dreamy (and slight ghost of Marc Bolan) vocals, and by the time the band kicks in fully on "Hide Another Mistake," the band's many core strengths and unavoidable weakness -- simply put, the 88 bring terribly little new to the table -- are clear. Song for song, Over and Over melodies here, glam swagger there, piano-led jauntiness courtesy of is the bubblegum chewed because it's so familiar rather than because it's strikingly new: post-BeatlesAdam Merrin everywhere (the unspoken roots of the band might actually be early Squeeze). That said, the members of the 88 are absolutely crackerjack at what they do, whether it's the big beat stomp and wailed vocal break on "All 'Cause of You" or the steady build in intensity of "Battle Scar," each verse and chorus seeming more powerful than the previous. Ethan Allen's production and engineering might just be the secret weapon throughout -- he makes the rhythm section of Carlos Torres and Mark Vasapolli sound massive while never drowning out Merrin's piano at the same time. The resultant balance of sound (and volume) makes for an immediately enjoyable listen, while the occasional curve balls add just enough variety as well -- there are the unexpected percussion breaks on "Nobody Cares"; the near-epic wallop and slow, measured stomp of "Bowls"; the tender acoustic guitar and vocals of "You Belong to Me." Over and Over won't surprise anyone -- but it entertains start to finish, flat out. -AMG

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Over and Over" get it here!

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Girlpope - The Whole Scene Going - 1999

Girlpope's The Whole Scene Going showcases a small group of musicians with a sincere and evident affection for everything rock & roll. Vocalist/guitarist Mark Norris delivers lyrics that are light on the angst and heavy on the pop, with a rough around the edges quality that makes for endearing power melodies. "Real Whigged Out" shows off the band's retro-hippy groove with a hint of the Beatles meets the Doors (complete with a sensationally strong finish). Norris' guitar is always loud and lively, yet controlled by accessible chord structures and singable choruses. The album's lead-off track, "Indy 500," and the keyboard-propelled "So Far as Now" draw upon pop-punk harmonies, persistent licks, and memorable hooks to illustrate Girlpope's knack for crafting enjoyable tunes. Splashy, sassy, and fun, these guys from Buffalo, NY, have a whole lot going for them in this energetic yet compact collection of catchy mod rock songs revelling in the raw attack of irreverent noise pop. -AMG

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Bank Holidays - As A Film - 2007

Melbourne indie kingpin J Walker oversees this new album from WA quartet The Bank Holidays, a crisp, rather stately collection of prettily arranged indie-rock with elements of all kinds of melodic pop music, both new and old. Teaching Pupils and This Elated Height share The Shins’ brand of classically angular songcraft, while there’s gently harmonic folk pop in Folded In Half, and sweeping Brian Wilson melancholy in Consolation Prize. James Crombie and Bekk Reczek share lead vocal duties, but they sound particularly inviting when they sing together, their smooth, appealing two-part harmonies enhancing the album’s lush and atmospheric pop songs. - Matt Thrower, Rave

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Head Candy - Starcaster - 1991

Iowa has long been a fertile breeding ground for driving pop bands. With guitarists Mike Sangster and Doug Roberson coming from two such bands, the Hollowmen and the Dangtrippers respectively, Head Candy is poised to carry on the tradition. Sangster's vocals oscillate between an uneasy tension and a mellow smoothness in much the same way that Head Candy's songs reflect both a world-weary callousness and a vulnerable sweetness. Witness the brash groove of the opening cut "Soul Grinder" segued into catchy riffs embedded in "In The Night Kitchen." Starcaster's uncomplicated production gives it an even mesh, comprised of grinding guitars and fuzzy vocals vibrating over a firm rhythm section. Every sound falls neatly into place without being jelled into a sticky gloss, creating a steadfast sound throughout. Start with the afore-mentioned two cuts, and move along to the frail melodies and lyrics of "Part Of The Earth," the sinister jangle of "Watching The Sun's Trail," the jagged melodies of "Rocket Transfer Warehouse" and the delicate instrumental "Invitation To A Beheading."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Paul Weller - As Is Now - 2005

If 2002's Illumination was a warm, laid-back record, Paul Weller's 2005 sequel, As Is Now -- a likeable but unremarkable covers album, Studio 150, appeared in the interim -- is its flip side, a lean, hard-hitting soulful rock & roll album. Not that Weller is returning to the sound of the Jam: he's still with the same band that he's been with since Wild Wood, anchored by drummer Steve White and featuring Ocean Colour Scene members guitarist Steve Cradock and bassist Damon Minghella, and he's working the same musical territory, grounded in Traffic, Humble Pie, '60s soul, and guitar pop. There may be absolutely no surprises here -- even the change of pace "The Start of Forever" is reminiscent of many of his gentler folky tunes, echoing Illumination's mellow vibe -- but for as familiar as As Is Now is, it never sounds lazy; it's a tighter, better record than most of his late-'90s albums. The closest antecedent to As Is Now in Weller's solo catalog is Heavy Soul. Like that 1997 effort, this is a straightforward, no-frills record, heavy on rockers and with few pretensions, but where that album could drift, this is focused and exciting, boasting a stronger set of songs and livelier performances, plus a greater variety of colors and textures in the production. Those subtle differences wind up making a huge difference in the overall effect of As Is Now -- on the surface, it certainly sounds familiar to what came before, but thanks to Weller's muscular, memorable songs and musicianship, it stands apart as one of his more satisfying solo albums. - AMG

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The Times - Go! With The Times - 1980

Edward Ball and Daniel Treacy, The Times and the TV Personalities in 1980 - twenty year old visionaries of a sound that surrounds us more than quarter of a century later, or nitwits in cravats and beige corduroys? You decide… Start by listening to 'Red With Purple Flashes' or 'My Andy Warhol Poster', songs and a sound that predates the artistic interests and ambitions of Babyshambles. Or 'Pinstripes', even 'Dressing Up For The Cameras' - using irony like a bazooka and social observance long before The Artic Monkeys and The Kooks. How about 'The Joke's On Zandra' - Franz Ferdinand anyone? Everything you hear today, you can hear on this release, the first Times album from November 1980. Only when they did it there was nothing to compare. It's the sound of youth, the father we hate in its sights. Not afraid to ridicule anything or anyone - 'Interview' magazine-period Warhol, Zandra Rhodes - post-punk idiots to the slaughter. The Times hold the dogs of rage without letting them bite. And until the Smiths turned up, no one could do it with the same degree of humour. As we've come to expect with ARTPOP! releases, the label maintains it's high standard, reissuing the original album in its entirety, plus previously unavailable extra tracks. Also containing extensive extracts from the Edward Ball Diaries, quotes from all involved and a plethora of pictures seen and previously unseen. And remember, the next time you listen to the Times' 'No Hard Feelings' and imagine it to be Pete Docherty's Lets Make Up song for Carl in a Libertines reformation, don't blame me!! -Cherry Red Records

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Telepathic Butterflies - Songs From a Second Wave - 2004

The Telepathic Butterflies' second album (their first was actually released twice, first as Nine Songs in 2000, then as Introducing the Telepathic Butterflies, with four additional tracks, in 2003) is built on the same power pop scaffolding as the first, and the songs all exhibit a delightfully energetic joy. But first appearances can be deceiving, and Réjean Ricard's songs, for all their bubbly and harmonic surfaces, are actually full of regret, lost chances, and a general longing for the freedoms and familiarity of childhood. The lead track, "Bonhomie," which has all the trappings of a garage band classic, states the theme directly: freedom lies in childhood, the future forces responsibility. Ricard is a remarkably melodic (if occasionally wordy) writer, and coupled with drummer Jacques Dubois' tight, perfectly nuanced harmonies, the Telepathic Butterflies manage to have it both ways, sounding light and free while musing on deeper, sadder truths. The template for this sort of thing -- as it is for most power pop outfits -- comes from the Beatles, the Who, and the Kinks, and the Butterflies have made it their own (as hard as that is to do). Occasionally the influences show through. "Angry Young Man" feels like a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd track, while "Sickly and the Awkward Gene" seems like a classic early Pete Townshend or Ray Davies social study in mod behavior. Not that either of these songs is blatantly constructed -- much of what the Butterflies do works because of the group's frame of reference. Like the first album (in either version), Songs from a Second Wave feels like a burst of fresh air, and its bright, joyous surface is only made more striking by the depth and substance beneath it. The Telepathic Butterflies continue to be a band to watch. -AMG

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Supergrass - I Should Coco - 1995

Tearing by at a breakneck speed, I Should Coco is a spectacularly eclectic debut by Supergrass, a trio barely out of their teens. Sure, the unbridled energy of the album illustrates that the band is young, yet what really illustrates how young the bandmembers are is how they borrow from their predecessors. Supergrass treat the Buzzcocks, the Beatles, Elton John, David Bowie, Blur, and Madness as if they were all the same thing -- they don't make any distinction between what is cool and what isn't, they just throw everything together. Consequently, the jittery "Caught by the Fuzz" slams next to the music hall rave-up "Mansize Rooster" and the trippy psychedelia of "Sofa of My Lethargy," or the heavy stomp of "Lenny" or the bona fide teen anthem "Alright." I Should Coco is the sound of adolescence, but performed with a surprising musical versatility that makes the record's exuberant energy all the more infectious. - AMG

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Junior League - Catchy - 2006

Not really a band effort, it was, in fact, recorded entirely by frontman Joe Adragna - but the album title is positively spot on! Featuring lotsa crunchy and jangly guitars, nice harmonies and tons o' hooks! "'These Tender Things' is anything but tender in its sound, a blend of Kinks-rock and garage pop. 'This Is What We Are' might be the standout on the disc, providing the answer 'damn great' to the musical question 'What would Marshall Crenshaw sound like if he were backed by The Smithereens?'" -

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The Rain Parade - Emergency Third Rail Power Trip - 1983

Featuring the dreamy "What She's Done To Your Mind" and the Byrdsy "This Can't Be Today" (with the Dream Syndicate's Kendra Smith), Rain Parade fashioned traditional, gentle psychedelic pop. Clearly way ahead of their time, it would take years before sleepy music (a la founding Rain Parade member's David Roback's Mazzy Star) would catch on, this record sounds no more made in the '80s than in the '60s or '90s. -AMG

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Prime Movers - Back In Line - 2007

This CD marked the reemergence of the Prime Movers after a decade of inactivity. They say it's the album they should have put out back then and they are right. After hearing it it's hard to see how they could have missed, they command this garage/Mod ground and never make a misstep. They power straight ahead through the tunes using just enough production to make it interesting. -

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Shoestrings - Wishing On Planes - 1997

Shoestrings' brittle indie-pop follows in the grand tradition of early Everything But the Girl, the Sundays and Sarah Records bands like the Field Mice and the Orchids, offering lovelorn lyrics and shimmering melodies which are positively ingratiating. Gentle and unassuming, Wishing On Planes is all the more charming for its subtlety; the best tracks, like "Whipped" and "Oceans in the Seashells," possess a quiet grace all too rare in contemporary pop music. -AMG

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Van Duren - Are You Serious? - 1977

Van Duren was part of the small but influential Memphis power pop scene of the '70s that produced Big Star and the Scruffs, and he was more than just a casual observer -- Duren gigged regularly with Chris Bell and auditioned for a guitar slot in Big Star but failed to get the gig. The latter is something of a surprise, as Duren was gifted songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, and in 1977 he scored a deal with Big Sound Records, a short-lived label run by fellow power pop obsessive Jon Tiven, and headed off to Connecticut to record his debut album, Are You Serious? While Duren has a passionate following among pop devotees, Are You Serious? has never quite gained the same sort of cult acclaim as Big Star and the Scruffs, and frankly that may well be because Duren was never as quirky as either of those acts. The angular melodies of Radio City and the aggressive angst of Wanna Meet the Scruffs? set those albums apart from most power pop acts of their day, but by comparison Duren sounds like a cross between Emitt Rhodes and Badfinger, and while his embrace of pop classicism is impressive, ultimately the more traditional slant of his music and the regular-guy cynicism of his lyrics make for a less interesting album than what his peers in the smart hooky stuff were known for. That's not so say Are You Serious? isn't impressive, especially given that Duren plays everything but drums on most tracks, and at a time when Beatles-influenced pop was a rare commodity, this album must have been a breath of fresh air for the few who ran across it. But for all Van Duren's strength as a songwriter and his very impressive vocal chops, Are You Serious? is an album that, rather than shaking the framework of '70s pop, selectively embraced it, and for all its tunefulness it doesn't sound as revelatory 30 years on. -AMG

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The Satellite Program - Adoration In Retreat - 2006

Over the course of 13 tracks, the album traces a closely observed journey with wry bemusement and unadorned longing, never settling in one place long enough to overstay its welcome. Behind the deceptively cheery melodicism of cuts like “Keep Me Around” and “Inside Man” lies a worldly reserve that turns explicit in “Western Electric” and “Protection.” The mood swings from the boisterous Americana bliss of “Coin-Op Proxy,” to “Rollaway’s” mist-shrouded northbound train that fades to a dark, lonely horizon. It’s a satisfying trip, with songwriting that is “literate and intelligent; …poetic and honest observations without a cliché in the bunch.”

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

I just posted the results from the Top 200 Power Pop Albums poll over at SSA!!

Let us know your opinion!
Remember this was a poll and the top 200 albums were voted on by your peers!

Curty Ray

Frozen Smile - Power Pop - 2003

Frozen Smile is the evolution of nearly 20 years of bands and projects led by Brien McDonough and Chris Craig. When, in 1999, Paul Ferguson put together the funk, R & B and soul band Soul Patrol, Chris and Brien were the first on-board. The band played parties and corporate events around the Bay Area for two years before the trio realized their passions lay in recording and performing powerful pop originals. Frozen Smile is fun music, a diverse community of fans, and shows where the good times roll. -CD Baby

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Eleanor Rigby - Censorship - 1999

Eleanor's career was short yet controversial and mysterious, and this, along with the quality and limited quantity of her releases has led to her becoming a cult figure on the collector's market. Originally her total output was only 4 singles and one album (Censorship) which now changes hands for big money. Her legendary debut single `I Want To Sleep With You' was released in 1985 and came complete with free condom. This caused quite a stir and although the record was subsequently banned, it went on to become a Mod classic that every mod of the time and today had to have in their collection. With the video and concerts also banned shortly afterwards it was like the Sex Pistols all over again. - The Official Elenore Rigby website

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Everybody Else - Everybody Else - 2007

A California three-piece that has taken the sound of classic power pop and coaxed it into the 21st century, Everybody Else feature Carrick Moore Gerety on guitar and lead vocals, Austin James Williams III on bass and vocals, and Mikey McCormack on drums, vocals, and sometimes keyboards. Named for the classic Kinks song "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," the group traces its beginnings to the meeting of Gerety and McCormack after each had moved to Los Angeles. Gerety had come to California from Massachusetts with his band, the Push Kings, while McCormack's group, the Waking Hours, had decided to give the West Coast a try after establishing themselves in Virginia. Their two bands didn't fare well in Los Angeles, but GeretyMcCormack quickly struck up a friendship and working relationship, and decided to put together a power trio. After playing with a handful of bassists who didn't fit the bill, Gerety and McCormack met Williams when he pulled up stakes from Fresno, CA, and found new digs in the Silverlake district. With a sympathetic bass player at last, Everybody Else began playing out along the West Coast in 2003, and had soon won a loyal fan following in California. After selling out a self-released single and subsequent EP, Everybody Else signed with the independent label The Militia Group, and went into the studio with producer Rick Parker to record their self-titled debut album. -AMG

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