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July Album Reviews: Bloody Red Baron
GUEST POST: Mike Baron
Mike Baron (aka Bloody Red Baron) was the longtime album reviewer for Pop Geek Heaven. With the closure of that legendary power pop newsletter, we are very happy to host his latest round of album reviews here at Remember The Lightning. (June Album Reviews HERE.)
The Flashcubes—Pop Masters (Big Stir Records)
Holy shit! The Flashcubes burst from Syracuse in 1977. The closest thing to an album was Northside’s anthology released in 1997, collecting twenty-one of their singles. This new album finds the Flashcubes paying tribute to some of the greatest and more obscure power pop of the last thirty years and it’s a stone masterpiece from the first song, Pezband’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
Musicians from all the chosen bands join The Flashcubes for each song. Scorching guitar characterizes Pilot’s “Get Up And Go.” The Paley Brothers’ “Come Out and Play” begins with the same chords as Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour,” before shooting into the stratosphere with raving guitars and a coda of faint but glowing grace notes. The Motors’ “Forget About You” is redolent of so many great songs of the ‘80s, it’s as if these chords are genetically planted in our DNA. Chris Stamey’s haunting “The Summer Sun” will stick in your head, but it’s no ear worm. It’s the anti-ear worm, with its graceful Beach Boys harmonies gliding on top.
The Posies’ “Flavor of the Month,” featuring both Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, is another timeless melody that you need to hear. Unless you have the nearly unobtainable Not Lame Posies boxed set, you’d never know that the lyrics have changed since they first recorded it.
One bullseye after another.
Meyerman—Happy To See You (Pretty Decent Records)
Twelve years after his first record, Meyerman returns with a slightly different line-up and a refreshing, rejuvenated take on classic power pop that proves he hasn’t been sitting on his ass. Drawing inspiration from sources similar to those used by Fuzzbubble (another recrudescent wonder), Nick Piunti and Extra Arms, Happy To See You blazes through twelve wildly infection songs with two and three part harmony on every song.
Bass rises like a sounding whale on “Katie Wong.” “Low Expectations” is a clanging guitar rave-up. “WWDAT” is an anthemic, Who-like rouser with a Kinks-like kick halfway through. Meyerman declares himself a rock and roll gun for hire, and if he were, he would be Paladin. All class.
“T-Shirt”’s dense tonal shifts are appropriate to this war protest, with echoes of “The Answer My Friend,” but rockified. “Hello, Hello” echoes the first record’s “Intro Tonight,” a shot of pure adrenalin that recalls Cheap Trick’s “Hello There.”
It will get you out of your seat.
Arthur Alexander: ...steppin’ out! (Big Stir Records)
Polish-born Arthur Alexander was a founding member of Sorrows, one of the greatest power pop bands you never heard (check out Big Stir’s a freshly recorded version of Sorrow’s brilliant record). Alexander’s ...steppin’ out! is the follow-up to the brilliant One Bar Left. “This is like taking the whole of R&R history, putting it in a blender and whipping up the most compelling R&R you'll hear this year…” —The BADman.
Alexander’s songs are recognizable by dint of his careful placement of minor chords in every song which brings a sardonic element to his music. “It’s Not Love Anymore” could be a One Bar Left comp. “(She’s A) Red Hot Lover” sounds like the theme to a James Bond movie with its minor chords, a welcome extension of the style he embraced on the previous album. Who-like tension pervades “One Life,” with its psychedelic guitar intro, followed by the brooding and rueful “Ashes,” which recalls Snopek, the great Wisconsin power pop group of the ‘80s.
“Oh Lulu” sounds like Rudy Vallee. Spo-Dee-O-Dee. “I Miss You” borders on Poco-style country rock. Both these songs are new territory for Alexander. “Fly Away” is a lyrical ballad he might have written for The Posies, and the closer, “Flying Shadows,” is a Dick Dale style instrumental. While not as compelling as One Bar Left, ...stepping out! has enough meat on its bones to earn a place on your list.
Various Artists—Jem Records Celebrates Ray Davies (Jem Records)
It’s about time Ray Davies’ contribution to power pop got the anthology treatment, focusing on the less famous songs. “Sunny Afternoon” and “Till the End of the Day” are the obvious frontrunners, so Jem’s collection begins with The Midnight Callers’ version of “Come Dancing.” From the shouted exhortation, “Awrite!” you know you’re in good hands.
The Anderson Council’s version of “Do You Remember Walter?” could have come off XTC’s English Settlement, but it is Kinks to the core. The Grip Weeds put a cosmic tint on “See My Friends,” with psychedelic guitars like Maple Mars. The Cynz’s “I Need You” is straightforward and exuberant—a fist pumper. The Gold Needles’ “Village Green Preservation Society” stacks sweet harmonies. Lisa Mychols’ “Days” stands out from the pack by dint of her vocals. They’re all great.
Looking For More Great New Guitar Pop?
Check out the latest installment in S.W. Lauden’s Guitar Pop For Now People series.
Links to the previous five installments included in the article below.
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