The new Monkees album Good Times! is due in stores May 27th and it celebrates the group’s 50th anniversary. Shortly after the death of Davy Jones in 2012, Mike Nesmith played a series of tours with surviving members Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork in honor of their fallen comrade. He contributes a song here and plays guitar on the new LP.
But the bigger news is that a bunch of closet Monkee fans are making big contributions to the album. “She Makes Me Laugh,” was written by Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo and other songs have been written by Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, XTC’s Andy Partridge, as well as Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. There are also tunes written by Neil Diamond and Carole King in the 1960s that the group never got around to releasing. The album was produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. If you ask me this is a classic case of power pop giants given an excuse to lovingly look back at that past pop era we love.
Mark Roebuck has a pretty impressive history in power pop, even if he isn’t quiet a household name. Mark’s 1980’s power pop band, the Deal; was at one time signed to Bearsville/Warner Brothers Records, and eventually carried by Not Lame Records where his anthology “Goodbye September,” was a top seller. After several collaborations with several bands, and partners (including Dave Matthews) he took some time off.
Now reunited with former Deal drummer Michael Clarke, he delivers a powerful CD of harmonic, driving rock. Mark’s style vocally is very similar to Cat Stevens, and I’m sure you’ll hear similarities in the ballads. “After Day After” is a Badfingerish tune with a great ear worm chorus that really sticks, while “Billboard Blue” boasts a solid guitar riff and is like a mix of Bob Mould and The Byrds. More standouts include “God Is A Gun” and “Gratitude.” The slow “King William County Is The Place” is an earnest ballad, that uses a fuzz guitar riff in the chorus that transforms seamlessly to a rocker. Highly Recommended.
Another late 90s band is back; The Subterraneans led by Guitarist Rik Mercaldi & Drummer Mike Roze. The Subterraneans play rock with a variety of influences from British Mod, Indie to 70’s CBGBs punk. The bands sound is somewhere in the territory of The Black Crows. This album marks the first new music after a 9 year hiatus for the band. “What’s On Your Mind” showcases muscular riffs with a Lou Reed styled lyric and Mercaldi’s impressive guitar chops during the solo. “No Way Out” and “Lost” are pretty standard power chord rockers, but “Seasons” is a standout here as Mercaldi’s vocals have a confident snarl, with the organ riff humming – it begins to sound like a lost Doors tune.
“Sliding” takes the album in a new direction, with a slow acoustic track that includes a mandolin rhythm (very much in a Lindsey Buckingham mode.) “Prima Donna” is a true power pop song featuring a lean guitar hook, handclaps and its my favorite track here. The band jumps around stylistically after this but overall its a welcome return worth checking out.
Cartoon Spirits are determined to bring power pop back to where it belongs: the Pacific Northwest. Gray skies and drizzle can only be battled with hooks, fuzzy guitars, and raspy harmonies. The Portland band has just released its debut recording, Crustacean EP. Its hard to argue their point, as “Remake The Stalls” is a catchy bit of modern pop magic, with solid guitar riffs and a timely opening falsetto. The trio of Michael Faherty (guitar), Loredana Corallo (bass) and Jeff Davis(drums) are a tight unit on the follow up “Common Law,” with fine job shredding to the layered vocal harmonies. “Back to The Cult” is another catchy tune that reminded me of Squeeze a little. Overall this is a great great debut. Highly Recommended!
Another modern power pop band with a great sound, The Kickstand Band is from Detroit, Michigan with a good back catalog of excellent music that deserves to be heard. “How It Feels” has a confident fuzz rhythm and layered guitar melodies.The leads, Gordon Smith and Allison Young give us some great harmonies on “Next To Me.” Young goes solo on “Regret You” and her sweetness shines through on the chorus. This “yet-to-be-discovered” band is making its music available at a “name-your-price” point, so take advantage of the musical goodness!
The James Rocket “We Are Here For You b/w Derby Girl”
The James Rocket are a 5 piece from Brooklyn, NY delivering a sweet quick single sure to please, “We Are Here For You.” Lead singer James William Roy is reminiscent of They Might Be Giants with a little more alt. rock fuzz. And check out the bands 2012 debut, the first track “Paper Valentines” is free. Love the spunky guitar buzz melody! Highly recommended!
We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Those words opened the iconic Purple Rain LP. Prince (Rogers Nelson) likely the most influential musician of the 1980s died Thursday at his Paisley Park studios and estate in Minnesota. He was 57. Prince’s irreverent attitude and antics were the stuff of legend. During disputes with Warner Bros. over a multi-million dollar contract in the 1990s, he frequently appeared with the word “slave” written on his forehead. In recent years, the artist and the entertainment giant had mended bridges and begun working together again. It’s a shame he had to go, he was too young.
San Francisco-based rock band, Talkie makes it their case on debut LP Hablas. The band has a very catchy formula for the opening song “Mountain;” just start with Beatles “Dear Prudence,” then add equal amounts of Beck, Beach Boys, and a dash of the Stones. The easy going strum of “Sunny” is another ear-worm that has a very 1970s California feel. The brothers Brad and Matt Hagmann can certainly sing those rich harmonies on this 16 track album.
The theme throughout the album is heartbreak and self worth, on “Ricky” its about leaving the comfort zone of High School and going off to college; “I can hear it in your voice, you’re scared” the lead vocal sings. Even gaining a little self confidence is tough on “Kronenberg” and “Queen of Espana” with its light bass and drum rhythms. The album coasts on several light experimental folk pop songs till we get to the fuzz guitar gem “Rollercoaster.” Another standout is the slow grower “Get By” that builds to a satisfying cacophony. If you let this one grow on you, you’ll definitely find some sweet tracks.
Tokyo Police Club “Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Part 1)” EP
Canadian based Tokyo Police Club have long been a bright shiny example of radio-ready mainstream power pop, with a series of catchy guitar anthems reliably embedded into each album. The band is getting cheeky with its too-hip title “Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness (Part 1)” an obvious dig on the Smashing Pumpkins. And like most TPC albums we have a winning dancable rock tune opening things up with “Not My Girl,” next the passable “PCH” is a descriptive song that leans a little more on the synths and drums than guitars. Read the full review at Blogcritics.org