The Power Pop-Adjacent Comfort Blanket
JOURNAL EXCERPT: James Goodson of Dazy
To celebrate the release of Remember The Lightning: A Guitar Pop Journal, Vol. 2 (the red one with Uni Boys on the cover!)—and to help spread the word about Dazy’s current tour dates (see below)—we are sharing James Goodson’s excellent essay from Remember The Lightning: A Guitar Pop Journal, Vol. 1 (the blue one with The Whiffs on the cover!).
The Power Pop-Adjacent Comfort Blanket
By James Goodson
In the past few years we’ve been experiencing something of a power pop boom. Or maybe more accurately, it’s a boom in music being referred to as power pop.
Now before you get worried that this is going to be just another Power Pop Purist™ going on a tirade about what counts as True Power Pop™, I should admit something: when I was asked to write a piece for this journal, I was super relieved to see that the power pop topic suggested to me had the very specific modifier of “adjacent.”
The genre’s identity seems to hinge almost as much on the act of debating “What Counts As Real Power Pop” as it does on any actual sonic elements, but the fact is I’m just not really all that qualified to weigh in. Luckily, Mo Troper’s instant classic Talkhouse essay, “Power Pop Is Camp,” sums up the spirit of that fundamental dispute better than I ever could, and allows me to jump one or two arbitrary steps to the side, right into my power pop-adjacent comfort zone.
Here’s a great quote from Troper’s Talkhouse essay:
Power pop diehards cramp up when they see a band mislabeled as ‘power pop.’ This happens a lot these days; the power pop aesthetic isn’t exactly taking the indie world by storm, but the term is. It is frequently used to describe bona fide pop-punk bands who have more in common with Cartel than Cheap Trick.
So let’s maybe start with some “ground rules” that I’m sure I’ll quickly disregard.
When I think of straight up power pop, I think of: Cheap Trick, Shoes, and Raspberries; lots of bands with “The” in The Name; I think of a pretty healthy amount of riffs; I think of a certain lightheartedness. Maybe it’s on purpose, maybe it’s not; maybe it’s full-on winking, maybe it’s earnest to the point of inadvertent humor.
This is admittedly pretty reductive, but that’s where my head goes, and it frees up “adjacent” to do a lot of heavy lifting. There’s safety over here in power pop-adjacent land. One little word that lets you have your cake and eat it too.
Big hooks? Crunchy guitars? A slightly holier-than-thou devotion to referring to something as “pop” when you’re talking about music that isn’t really very popular? Check, check, and check. But we’ll take that without all the hyper-specific genre baggage and maybe toss in a few twists instead.
“Power pop feels specific—very specific—so specific that devotees will argue about it for eternity and naysayers will automatically write it off. ”
~ James Goodson ~
You’re probably reading this and thinking “sounds a lot like you’re just talking pretty generally about most rock music...?” Not wrong!
In particular, I think the power pop-adjacent highway, more often than not, takes you right to alternative rock, which is another insanely vague music genre that I’m going to pretend has clear signifiers in order to make a flimsy point.
Bands like Sugar, Lemonheads, Gin Blossoms, Superdrag... power pop can try to claim them all outright, but not on my watch! Those bands were all making big, widescreen rock—the kind of thing that made perfect sense at those massive festivals in the ‘90s where it was just a sea of people bouncing up and down enthusiastically for any and all loud electric guitars.
In my more diabolical moments, I sometimes dare to imagine that maybe even ‘90s-prime Teenage Fanclub is more power pop-adjacent than anyone would ever admit, as there’s something so timeless and tender about their music that feels distinct from my dumb brain’s tenuous Knack (Ha!) for spotting True Power Pop™.
And there are plenty of newer bands that feel very much in that vein: Webbed Wing, Jacky Boy, Loser...you could probably call any of these bands power pop, but there’s a bite and a size to their sound that feels more 120 Minutes than Ed Sullivan Show, more ripped jeans than skinny ties. Maybe I’m just making the case that a lot of alt rock is getting labeled as power pop...or maybe the other way around?
“I have a pretty classic case of Power Pop Reluctance™: loving the music and taking influence from it, but also feeling like the designation is somehow pigeonholing or limiting.”
~ James Goodson ~
But that’s where “adjacent” becomes a bit of a comfort blanket to me. Power pop feels specific—very specific—so specific that devotees will argue about it for eternity and naysayers will automatically write it off. Alternative rock? Now that sounds broad, so broad that maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all...but maybe it also can mean ANYTHING at all!
So time for another admission: I’ve been waiting to just make this all about me.
I write songs under the name Dazy, and I think a decent amount of my music is probably power pop-adjacent. People definitely call it power pop, but I’m not so sure. Which is, of course, another major tenant of power pop: the people who make music that could fall under the banner also love to say that it shouldn’t.
And sometimes they’re right! But sometimes they’re kidding themselves.
Me? I have a pretty classic case of Power Pop Reluctance™: loving the music and taking influence from it, but also feeling like the designation is somehow pigeonholing or limiting. So I start splitting hairs, warping the minutiae until it suits me. “But I use drum machines...It’s really quite noisy...I’m more influenced by xyz punk band or xyz semi-obscure label...Yeah the songs are fun, but this is serious shit!”
It’s not really. It’s just music and, honestly, you’re welcome to call it whatever you want.
But I might call it something adjacent to that.
James Goodson lives in Richmond, VA and makes music under the name Dazy. Since 2020 he’s released 45+ songs, including his debut full-length OUTOFBODY (Lame-O Records).
Remember The Lightning—A Guitar Pop Journal, Vol. 1
A new semi-annual music journal featuring some of today's best music writers on modern guitar pop, and talented modern artists on the music/genres that inspire them.
Remember The Lightning—A Guitar Pop Journal, Vol. 2
The second volume of our semi-annual music journal featuring some of today's best music writers and talented modern artists on the music/genres that inspire them.
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