Friday, February 29, 2008

“Baby let’s fall in love – it’s the best part in breaking up!”

I can’t help wondering how it is possible for Steve Ward, Ross Sackler and Michael Giblin to make me feel this good. Most of their Cherry Twister music strikes me like... well, no other music.

This music is impossible! Don’t Forget Your Man - it’s so bouncy that I feel dizzy. Sparkle – that twisting beat, that melody, that harmony… Meteorite – that melody, that harmony, that wah-wah guitar… Charlotte B. – it’s magical (how can this music be real?). Then comes I’m Gonna Be the Lonely Boy Tonight and I end up jumping joyfully all around my room. And this is actually a sad song? Whatta..?

Then it’s Leila – what a pretty tune! But there are even better things to come. She’s Gone is one of the prettiest and saddest songs I’ve ever heard. I remember crying along with this song over and over again about a year and a half ago. Still, Maryann might be better than anything we’ve heard so far on this album… It’s insanely sweet and powerpoppy. I’ve listened to that song like 100 times and I never get tired of it. Then there are also Black Summer, Brighten up and Kinda Like a Star, all of which are great songs.

But then comes the small problem. After 12 tracks the album still continues – with four more songs! Personally, I think 16 tracks is too much, but which tracks should be removed, then? I’ve had some doubts about She's in Love Again, but some people really like it, so it wouldn’t be nice to remove it. On the other hand, American Nightlife isn’t a real song, so it might be a good choice. But if it was removed, there would still be too many songs. I wouldn’t remove any of tracks 1-5 or 7-12, and Til I'm Blue, Careful (Can't Fall Again) and Why Won't You Believe in Me? are also really pretty songs, so I wouldn’t want to give up on them either.

So, there really isn’t any kind of a problem about this album. None of the songs on this album is bad (or even too mediocre), so why complain?

Cherry Twister is the ultimate anti-depression medicine. I really believe this stuff has affected me more than I even realize. It’s absolutely sweet, happy and sentimental. Could music get any better? Well, I guess it could, but I’m not so sure if it would make me this happy.

Also, thanks to my recent listening of David Fagin of The Rosenbergs, Steve Ward now totally sounds like him, and vice versa. It’s kind of a nice little confusion, although this isn’t anything compared to the mix-up of Andy Sturmer of Jellyfish, Steve Bertrand of The Tories, Jon Rubin of The Rubinoos, Doug Powell and Mark Bacino, all of whom sound like each other quite a lot…

A separate analysis on Steve Ward’s solo work will be presented in the near future. That stuff is pretty awesome, too.

At Home with Cherry Twister (1999) - sound samples at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

They Haunt Me Still

I really enjoy the music of The Bigger Lovers. They were a wonderful group that released three albums in the 2000s. The Bigger Lovers don’t really represent the ultimate party/summer fun side of power pop. Their music is atmospheric and occasionally contains quite interesting sounds and arrangements. It’s fresh, melodic, melancholic, pretty and bittersweet - real power pop!

Again, I must say that my idea of The Bigger Lovers is based only on two of their three albums. Their last album is the one I still haven’t checked out. However, I love the first two. I started with Honey in the Hive (2002) for a year ago or so. I soon noticed that the album contained really amazing songs.

Half Richard’s
is great and bittersweet. The crazy drums in the song are perfect. It’s like endless Keith Moon fills from the beginning to the end – what a treat! The second track is even better: A Simple 'How Are You' totally hooked me. The amazing drum beat combined with Bret Tobias’s quiet and charming singing, the very twee synth line in the chorus and the metallic guitars is pure pleasure. Actually, it’s so powerful that it basically makes me shiver.

and They Haunt Me Still are really haunting songs by Bret Tobias. Don’t Know Why and What Would It Take make a perfect song double and they’re sung by the great Scott Jefferson. I think the chorus of Don’t Know Why captures something amazing and unique. It’s that organ and the slightly melancholic feel… You can’t really describe it, you have to feel it. Jefferson also does some excellent work on the happy Make Your Day. I’d say that the music of The Bigger Lovers is summery and winterly at the same time.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying (2001) is my more recent affection. The first thing that has to be said about this album are the exciting sounds. It took me a while to get used to them, but now I’m convinced that they’re good. The album sounds quite different from your basic power pop: the traditional jangle sounds are mixed with atmospheric vocal effects and lots of echo. The result is a bit confusing but also very beautiful, and again chilly but warm at the same time.

My favourite songs of the album include I’m Here, Forever Is Not So Long, Steady on Threes, Summer (of Out First Hello) and the lovely country-tingled ending track Out of Sight. These favourites will surely change a bit as I listen to this album more.

The music of The Bigger Lovers isn’t the easiest kind of power pop you’ll find but it surely is rewarding. The charm of this music will never run out.

The Bigger Lovers at MySpace

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mola, guay, OK!

The Mockers really are big in Spain. The Spanish version of their latest album even comes with a booklet containing the album lyrics translated into Spanish! We’re talking about an album called The Lonesome Death of Electric Campfire (2005).

What a great album it is! Seth Gordon and Tony Leventhal’s songs are excellent, again. As a result, the album is full of catchy songs. Something New features absolutely beautiful melodies and some amazing piano playing and jangly guitar sounds. Doin’ Time has very Fountains of Wayne-like lyrics, and the Emperor Strikes out is rock’n’roll fun with anti-Bush lyrics (also, check out the hilarious music video!). Mola, guay, OK (another amazing track) is a treat for Spanish fans due to its entertaining lyrics, partly written in Spanish.

The lyrics are definitely a distinctive feature to the Mockers. ”We're not laughing with you, we're laughing at you" it says on their MySpace, and although this probably is true, Gordon and Leventhal’s lyrics are never too arrogant. They always include the essential self-doubt part in their songs: “What makes me think I’m not the same?” Also, what is great about The Mockers, is the exceptionally easy-going feel of their music. There really isn’t much of that angst that you’ll find nearly everywhere in power pop.

The album sounds very good, thanks to the production work of powerpop hero (and The Mockers band member) Robbie Rist. Also, the arrangements are superb. Seriously, who could ever resist the cheerful horns and upbeat rhythms of Straight in the Eye, or the very beatlesque feel of Willoughby Station (again spiced up with those great horns)?

I certainly have to mention that before I listened to this album, I totally fell in love the previous one, Living in the Holland Tunnel (2001). That album has lots of real killer tunes, such as Coronation, Sunflowers, Funk #50, Comes As No Surprise, and, of course, the greatest-of-all Sheepwalking (those jangle guitars!!). That album is simply excellent. The Mockers certainly don’t include fillers on their albums.

It’s actually quite hard to decide, which one of these two albums is better. In fact, I still haven’t listened to The Mockers’ first album (Between Mocksville and Harmony, 1995). Another task to be finished..

That’s it. I’ll go back watching The Rosenbergs on YouTube (my recent favourite hobby)…

The Mockers at MySpace

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Superb Pop from a Pop Supergroup

Swag was probably the second big thing I encountered this year (the first being Dolour – discussed some other time). Again, it was basically a random pick from the huge selection of first-class power pop albums released in the 21st century. Catchall (2001) turned out to be something quite amazing for many different reasons.

Lone, the opening track of this album, is an adorable two-minute song. I believe everyone falls in love with that song basically due to its amazingly cheerful doodl-doo-doo-dweedl-doo-doo line. At least that is what happened to me. However, I listened to the other songs on Catchall, and noticed that this album was a collection of wonderful songs sung by several great singers. For starters, there is Robert Reynolds from The Mavericks. He sings (in addition to Lone) e.g. Near Perfect Smile, Please Don’t Tell and Trixie, all of which are great songs. I love Reynolds’s singing voice. It’s irresistibly sweet and pretty.

Doug Powell also shows his talent on this album. I’ll Get by is gorgeous and When She Awoke even better. His singing on When She Awoke is absolutely beautiful. Powell also participates in songwriting all over the album.

Then, there is Jerry Dale McFadden from Sixpence None the Richer. Jerry Dale became sort of a huge attraction to me due to Louise, a song he sang on this album. Louise is a song about a one-night stand. It’s actually quite amazing how the whole idea of a one-night stand is presented here. I think Jerry Dale even makes it sound like quite a good thing. Well, I guess it can be pretty good, then…

The main point is, however, that Louise is one amazing melody, killer chorus and arrangement, let alone Jerry Dale’s amazing singing voice! I still remember how I listened to this song all over again in the beginning of January and was totally stunned by that chorus, the sound of Jerry Dale’s voice, and the glorious violins and timpani.

There are a couple of other participants on this album, too (e.g. Wilco’s Ken Coomer). Swag was a real pop supergroup and they truly produced some pop gems. Catchall is a great collection of nice 60s-influenced music and I guess it’s a pretty nicely balanced album, too.

Swag’s Catchall at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Shakin’ Some Action with the Groovies

Today, I’m gonna discuss The Flamin’ Groovies and especially their power pop classic album Shake Some Action (1976). I’d been familiar with the title song for a few years already and I really thought it was a great song. Last fall I started listening to the entire album. It was because I wanted to find out if it really was as good as everyone was saying.

What struck me almost immediately were the amazing vocal harmonies. Ever since I totally fell in love with The Beach Boys in the end of 2004, I’ve been a sucker for good harmonies. It doesn’t matter much if it’s two-, three- or four-(or five-)part – as long as it sounds good it’s ear candy. There certainly are nice harmonies almost everywhere in good pop music. However, something about the harmonies of Shake Some Action was different. I felt like I was in heaven (and I still do) listening to those harmonies. That perfect vocal blend and sound simply made my heart ache. That’s not something you’ll meet every day.

The great harmonies are one huge thing but the songs are good, too. First of all, the original tracks are excellent. You Tore Me Down and I Can’t Hide are obviously perfect, and also heavenly, I would say. Yes It’s True and Please Please Girl show lots of Beatles influence. In addition, The Groovies have selected several great covers to this album. One of the finest cover moments is Misery, the wonderful Beatles song. Several more rocking tracks balance the album nicely: She Said Yeah and Let the Boy Rock’n’roll are very good. The old blues song St. Louis Blues also sounds great.

I’ll Cry Alone is one of the most staggering tracks on this album. The song starts with some great guitar plucking and continues with energetic playing. Then enter the heartbreaking melodies and harmonies.. Let alone the emotionalism! That song always makes me cry. It’s so amazingly sad and beautiful. Emotionalism is one of the greatest things about this album. The reason I love vocal harmonies and melodies so much is that they are excellent ways of expressing emotion. Also, I would say that the emotionalism in the songs of Shake Some Action is mixed with peacefulness. That peacefulness is important about this album, it’s part of the charm.

So, to cut a long story short, I’d say this album truly deserves its classic status. Some specific songs even sound almost too good to be true.

The Groovies came up with many other different albums, too. Before Chris Wilson, Roy Loney was the lead singer and The Groovies’ music was very much more bluesy. I’ve listened to the music from that era, too, and I like it. Little by little, I’m getting familiar with other Groovies stuff.

The Flamin’ Groovies at MySpace
A Chris Wilson and The Flamin’ Groovies Web site

Monday, February 18, 2008

Keep It Together

Having written about several loud (and fabulous!) power pop bands it’s time for something a bit more subtle now. Guster is a wonderful American jangle pop band famous for its live shows and devoted fans. They have released five studio albums and many live albums (I guess they rock live – should check out some YouTube material).

I found Guster through Joe Pisapia who played on Cherry Twister’s second album (Cherry Twister is another story, will certainly be discussed some day..). Pisapia joined Guster’s official lineup in 2003. Other band members include Ryan Miller, Adam Gardner and Brian Rosenworcel.

I started getting into Guster by listening to their third album Lost and Gone Forever (1999), which seemed to be considered one of their best albums. And what a great album it is! It’s marvellous. Guster’s first three albums feature a generally acoustic sound (with some electric guitars), and obviously Lost and Gone Forever is
the ultimately successful realization of

that concept.

Lost and Gone Forever is built on melancholic feel and lyrics, wonderful nuances, amazing playing and excellent vocal harmonies. These elements create a distinctive atmosphere that is simply stunning. The first thing you’ll notice is that traditional drums aren’t present. In the cover booklet it says that all the percussions on the album were played by hand. This means that there is conga drum slapping all over the album. Percussionist Brian Rosenworcel does some excellent work with bongos, congas, hand snares and cymbals. You’ll also hear some wonderful wind instruments and strings on the album.

Guster guys really know their ways in vocal expression. Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner are both great singers. Their harmonies are perfect, and Ryan’s high-pitched voice and Adam’s lower vocals are utilized nicely. In addition, the two also occasionally sing in unison, whenever it is the best solution (sounds amazing, too).

The songs of Lost and Gone Forever are of excellent quality. Barrel of a Gun is superb, Either Way and All the Way into Heaven are beautiful. Then, there is the Adult Top 40 hit single Fa Fa. That song has basically everything: the conga drums sound great, the melodies are excellent, there is a very nice flute... Shortly after the second chorus the song breaks into a huge sound wall that is created with brass instruments. So, Fa Fa grows wonderfully towards the end. To me, it’s one impressive recording.

Keep It Together (2003) is Guster’s fourth album, and again it’s an excellent one. Joe Pisapia played on that album although he wasn’t a full member yet. On Keep It Together Guster mostly replaced the congas with traditional drums and their overall sound became more traditional, too. There are again some Adult Top 40 success singles on this album: Diane and Amsterdam, both of which are very good pop songs. The album is actually full of very good songs: Backyard, Homecoming King, Keep It Together, to mention a few. Jesus on the Radio is also great, spiced up with a banjo (or two) and again, gorgeous vocal harmonies. Keep It Together is again quite melancholic, although it might be a bit happier than its predecessor.

I’ve also listened to Guster’s fifth album Ganging up on the Sun (2006) a couple of times. I will have to listen to it more before I can start analyzing it. I’m slow. I have to listen to everything like ten times before I can say that I really know the album and which songs I like the most.

Well, that’s all about Guster today. They are a wonderful pop band, I’m glad I know them.

Guster at MySpace

Shamelessly Solid Pop

Sometimes I find great CD’s when I listen to those cool power pop radio stations at (e.g. Power Pop Jangle Radio, Power Pop Guitars SFSB and d23 Power Pop Plus). The sound quality isn’t the greatest, but you get the point of the songs you hear.

So, I tend to make notes whenever I hear something exceptionally interesting. I occasionally check my markings and see if they’re available on CD for a reasonable price. This is what happened with me and The Shame Idols. I heard their song She’s on the Phone, and for some reason thought it was really, really good at the moment. Then, I got the entire Rocket Cat (1998) album, listened to it and was happy about what I heard.

Most of The Shame Idols members have a background in a punk band called Working Mothers, and their singer-songwriter Tim Boykin used to be a part of the alternative rock band Carnival Season. What these guys have come up with is pop music characterized by loud guitars, great melodies and some pretty good harmonies. I think this solid guitar sound quite brings Weezer to mind. Many of these songs are nicely uptempo and give some nice pop-punk vibes.

I think Rocket Cat is generally different from many other power pop albums. That is because this album contains hooks but they aren't as obvious as power pop hooks usually are. However, I don’t find that a bad thing at all. There is something uniquely charming about these songs. What makes this music very enjoyable is the combination of great guitar sounds and the overall smooth and easy-going spirit. So, although this music is very loud and rocking, it might even manage to make you calm. Also, you will notice that the melodies are playing in your head once you've listened to them a couple of times.

Every song on this album is enjoyable, and the song running order is great. She’s on the Phone is obviously very good but it’s also very easy to pick up such favourites as Neon Geyser, Picture of a Clown, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, My Star and I Don’t Trust You. I’m sure that many people would find this music a bit dull and monotonic but personally I don’t really support those views. Good songs, sounds and melodies make this CD a great purchase.

The Shame Idols at MySpace

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cartoon Popsters from Minneapolis

Anybody interested in power pop should check out The VandaliasMach V (1995). The Vandalias were a power pop cartoon band in the 90s. They created some great pop and starred in a comic book. The core of The Vandalias, Dan Sarka and Kent Militzer, continued making music in another band called Stingray Green. I haven’t checked them out yet, but I probably should. Apparently, they are going to play their final gig at IPO on 4th of May. Wonder what comes next…

Mach V is a very strong album with 14 songs on it. I’d Be a Boy is heavenly, Hey Now (Motor City) is brilliant and Mighty Song of Joy is excellent, starting with a tempting rock’n’roll guitar riff. To me, Build This House is the highlight of this album: an excellent arrangement is combined with some of the prettiest melodies one could ever imagine. In fact, the strong element that holds the whole of Mach V together is the wonderful sentimentality that shows basically all over the album.

The title track Mach V, in my opinion, is a great example of how power pop mixes very loud, distorted guitar sounds, very beautiful melodies and melancholy together. On the other hand, Cathy’s Back appears to be a quite different song. It contains nice wah-wah sounds and overall a much lighter arrangement. The song also sounds happy and sad at the same time, which I think is a feature that appears in many power pop songs. So, to cut a long story short, Mach V album contains some nice musical variation.

One more thing… I have to say that I really like the singing voice of The Vandalias’ lead singer JimJim Vandalia (the voice is provided by Dan Sarka). Again, one very expressive and high-pitched voice, somewhat unusual, too… And really cute!

Some day I’ll probably muse about The Vandalias’ second album Buzzbomb! when I’ve given it enough spins.

The Vandalias at MySpace
Stingray Green at MySpace

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sucking on a Plum

The Rosenbergs make me so happy. I bought their Mission: You (2001) album and was hooked.

Again, there isn’t anything particularly new about this pop. The Rosenbergs basically sound like The Posies with Steve Ward (with a hint of Michael Stipe) singing. Somehow, I still have constantly found myself listening to these simple, bouncy pop songs. It’s the wonderful, fresh, hook-filled, and distinctive melodies of lead singer and songwriter David Fagin that draw my attention.

My favourites on the album include Sucking on a Plum, Little Lie, In Pursuit, Fast Asleep, and After All, all of which feature a killer arrangement and melody. Little Lie and In Pursuit especially keep forcing me to play them all over again.

This album is far from perfect, though. There are a couple of songs that are quite average, which makes me a bit disappointed. However, I don’t let it bother me too much. I focus on the best songs instead. Mission: You contains many great songs. I’m quite sure I’ll pick up other stuff from these guys, too.

The Rosenbergs at MySpace
The Rosenbergs’ official website

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sing Like It’s a Prayer

I’m really not that much into faith or Christianity. Nevertheless, I was very curious about checking out what critically acclaimed Christian power pop sounded like. I listened to The Elms’ debut album The Big Surprise (2001) and, like basically everything I listen to these days, it was a success.

The Elms have come up with some very traditional pop-rock here. There is energy and a suitable dose of power pop angst in this material. Very fine string arrangements also highlight some of the songs, like the wonderful Here’s My Hand and the dramatic title track The Big Surprise. Songwriter Owen Thomas sings lead, and I really like his voice. It’s suitable for both pop punk-ish songs like Hey, Hey and pretty slow songs like You Get Me Every Time. At times Owen Thomas really sounds like Jon Rubin! (Guess who is one of my favourite singers…)

The lyrics contain general musings on life. I’m quite happy that there aren’t many songs about God-related things on this album but there are a few, though. To be honest, I’m not really that much of a lyrics person. I really don’t tend to listen to lyrics. So it actually doesn’t matter what the lyrics are about... Or even if they're good or not. Despite this, I always at some point try to concentrate on the lyrics so that I know what the music is generally about. Sometimes the subject is very easy to hear right away, especially if the singer's pronunciation is clear.

The Big Surprise (and the band’s next album, too) was released by a gospel label EMI/Sparrow. Since then, The Elms have changed their label and don’t focus on spiritual subjects anymore. They seem to be quite popular these days and they are about to release their fourth album soon. I should check out their more recent material some day.

The Elms at MySpace

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Candy in the Sun

Swirl 360 is one interesting band. Originally there were only two people in it, the founder brothers Kenny and Denny Scott. Later, the group expanded into a four-piece band, and in 2007 the band was renamed. They are now called Echo Jet.

I’ve recently found myself listening to Swirl 360’s debut album Ask Anybody (1998) quite often. The main reason is the fact that these 13 songs are damn catchy! Everything here is very solid. Singing is great, playing is great, songs are very good.

What is special about this Ask Anybody album is that many of the songs feature programmed drums, which is (as long as I’m aware) not often heard on powerpop albums. In fact, the whole of this album sounds very programmed, which could easily lead people to find this music largely over-produced. Actually, this is the first album in a long time that I’ve listened to that reminds me so much of Backstreet Boys–kind-of recordings… You know, I used to loooove Backstreet Boys when I was 12-13 years old. Actually, I still like them a bit, ‘cause it’s melodic music and their sweet love ballads are just fabulous.

The opening track of Ask Anybody, Candy in the Sun, is a very nice and energetic song. It gives summery vibes. I can’t name many specific favourites because I like all of these songs. The title track Ask Anybody, though, must be the catchiest song of all. It’s simply magnificent. Ken Stringfellow even co-wrote it.

Despite Swirl 360, I feel I’m drifting towards country music this evening… Right now I’m giving spins to The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons and The Byrds. We’ll see what this leads to…

Swirl 360 at MySpace
Echo Jet at MySpace

Friday, February 8, 2008

Dreamy Sounds

Sometimes I feel like I should reward myself every time I listen to something else than power pop. During the past month or so, I’ve been listening to Joy Zipper’s album called American Whip (2003). Joy Zipper’s music is very cool and dreamy. Apparently, this kind of music is called dream pop.

Joy Zipper is Vincent Cafiso and Tabitha Tindale, a real-life couple that makes music together. American Whip is their second album, and it certainly is a good one. The music features nice, fuzzy guitar sounds and occasionally violins. Cafiso and Tindale also create a beautiful blend with their singing voices. There are some love songs on this album. Then, there are songs about drugs, so the lyrics are quite psychedelic at times. There is also a cleverly written song called
Alzheimers, sung from an elderly person’s view.

Baby You Should Know is great and so are Christmas Song and 33x, too. Dosed and Became Invisible might be the greatest of all these songs. I highly recommend that song. It has lots of baroque feel in it. It’s simply powerful.

I really should listen to this kind of music more. It’s too bad I spend 90 % of my spare time listening to power pop. Well, things could be worse…

Joy Zipper at MySpace

Thursday, February 7, 2008

You Leave the Light on in My Mind

Let’s make it clear now. I absolutely and sincerely love The Sun Sawed in 1/2. The whole story started with a song called Janet Greene, which I considered a very nice, bouncy song. After that I found their album Fizzy Lift (1997) at a record store in Helsinki (the odds of that?!) and started listening to it. Eventually, in the fall of 2007, I noticed I was in love, again. And with what was I in love? With an album filled with wonderful songs, wonderful melodies, wonderful playing - and not least the utterly sweet and wonderfully amazing singing voice of Doug Bobenhouse.

Soon, I ended up having to remove Fizzy Lift from my mp3 player because other bands didn’t get a single chance to be listened to… Then, I got Bewilderbeest (2000), Sun’s fourth and last album and I loved it. After that, I picked up Fresh Mowed Lawn’s very good self-titled album (2006). Fresh Mowed Lawn is Tim Rose’s solo project, and Tim Rose was the songwriter of The Sun. Today, on this very day, I got Sun’s second full-length album, Mind Flip (1995). I already listened to it once, and what a surprise, it was great.

So, what is it about Sun that draws my attention so effectively? First of all, it’s excellent pop songs. Tim Rose surely knows how to write beautiful melodies and catchy hooks. He writes happy songs about pretty girls and other nice things... There are many songs about happiness, and about misery, too, in his catalogue.

Then, there are the wonderful, energetic, and sometimes quite psychedelic sounds of The Sun. Fizzy Lift is filled with wonderful, jangly guitars. There are also violins, and some of the songs feature wind instruments, which sound brilliant. Bewilderbeest contains lots of Slavic feel and sounds. That is very interesting and sounds amazing, too. The album also features a song called Beholder and His Eye. It's so beautiful a song that I listen to it at least once every day.

And, then there is Doug Bobenhouse’s voice. That sound is simply pure bliss and sweetness to my ears. Doug Bobenhouse’s voice is sweet, joyful and flexible. That means he is able to sing sad songs too, and that sounds equally good. Doug’s voice is also quite nasal and that is what makes it so enchanting. I love nasal singing voices. All my favourite singers have nasal voices at least to some extent.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get some Sun.

The Sun Sawed in ½ at MySpace
Fresh Mowed Lawn at MySpace

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Get a Funny Feeling

Material Issue is so great. Although they were among the first powerpop groups I ran into I didn’t start listening to them properly until last fall. Material Issue may not actually be the right kind of thing to start with when getting into powerpop (at least it obviously wasn’t the right thing for me). But that’s OK. After spending four years listening to many other PP bands, I realized that Material Issue had suddenly become pure sweetness to my ears.

Material Issue was a 1990s trio lead by songwriter Jim Ellison. They released four albums. So far, I’ve got acquainted with the first, International Pop Overthrow (1991), and the third, Freak City Soundtrack (1994). IPO is an absolutely wonderful album containing many catchy songs such as Valerie Loves Me, Diane, Crazy, and of course the great title track. My personal favourite is the bouncy Li’l Christine, a perfect ending for a near-perfect album.

Freak City Soundtrack is sometimes regarded as Material Issue’s greatest album and that opinion might just ring true even with me. While IPO is characterized by quite moderate, jangly early 90s sounds, FCS is a lot louder, faster and more rocking. There aren’t many slow songs on Freak City Soundtrack, which makes the album great to listen to when you need energy (for me that is often). And the songs! The songs are excellent. Goin’ Through Your Purse is amazing, and the same is true of Funny Feeling, The Fan, Very Good Thing, and basically every song on the album.

Jim Ellison’s lyrics often remind me of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo’s awesome, geeky texts. Both deal with love, girlfriends, and all kinds of problems related to them. Jim and Rivers have a quite similar approach to these subjects. You could say that they write so extremely emotion-appealing lyrics that it’s almost silly. On the other hand, what is also true is that heartbreak may not really be a thing to be discussed lightly.

Somehow, I still constantly find myself very amused listening to these heartbreak stories and I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels this way. I guess you just never can get used to how dramatic life can occasionally be. This is one difficult thing to explain – especially in a foreign language! However, it’s indeed very strange how serious things turn into something quite different when they are discussed in a certain way. Is it that I’m just able to see the humorous side of other people’s terrible misfortune or is it that I’m a bad person enjoying someone else’s setback?

The most memorable moments listening to Material Issue are those when you get touched and amused at the same time. It’s one big confusing emotional rollercoaster. What is great about this kind of music is that it’s much more than just something you listen to. It’s life, feelings, and being a human, too.

Oh how I love Jim Ellison’s voice. It’s bright, high-pitched and very expressive. I really think there is a difference between Material Issue’s first and third album. Ellison has certainly learned to realize his full potential as a singer on FCS. Also, as a sort-of-fan of The Cure I can’t help comparing his voice to the one of Robert Smith’s. They really bare some resemblance, but that’s not a bad thing.

RIP, Jim Ellison. You certainly left something wonderful for us pop fanatics to enjoy.

Listen to Material Issue at YouTube:

Valerie Loves Me music video
Diane music video
What Girls Want music video

Monday, February 4, 2008

Gettin' Started

It is about time I start a blog of my own! I’ve been thinking about this for some time already, and I’m sure I will enjoy seeing my writings on the Internet. I welcome everyone to read my stuff. I can’t guarantee that everything here will be interesting, but there will always be at least one person (me) who’s very much interested in everything here, and that’s a thing not to be forgotten.

The #1 purpose of this blog is to blab about music. What kind of music? Well, melodic music! This blog will probably soon be filled with (too) long and deep musings about alternative pop-rock, what it sounds like, how it makes me feel, and what kind of thoughts it arises. Surely, my main interest at the moment is powerpop but there will also be thoughts of many other different kinds of music genres and bands/artists. I sometimes come across with some really weird music and most of the time I find that stuff highly refreshing.

I will update this blog as often as I like. I think I will never be able to completely satisfy my urge to blab about music but writing to this blog will hopefully help.

Happy new week.