A few years ago Fountains Of Wayne looked ready to explode with the hit record Stacy’s Mom from Welcome Interstate Mangers. Collingswood and Schlesinger are no doubt the current “face” of modern power pop to most people who don’t follow the genre, and this album was it’s most anticipated. Using late 60s and 70s styled musical harmonies with typical perfection and guitars, Traffic and Weather continues the tradition. What is lost here is some of the dead-on sense of satire that was so prevelant in earlier efforts. “Yolanda Hayes” and “Michael and Heather At The Baggage Claim” comes the closest to this slice of life lyrical genius. If you are looking for a song that’s better than “Red Dragon Tattoo” or “Fire Island” you have come with expectations too high. That said, the production and songs are all flawless. This time around they even show evidence of being influenced by 70s AOR groups like the Eagles (on “’92 Subaru” and “Fire In The Canyon”) and America (on “Michael And Heather At The Baggage Claim” and “I-95”). The good news here is the influences again help and don’t hurt the songs in any way. “I-95” is one of my favorite ballads here and “Stapped For Cash” is a great single with cool horns that is my favorite song on th album. Another fave is the tune “Traffic And Weather” in which one TV anchor turns to the other and proposes (“We belong together like traffic and weather”) which would sound good in a Target commercial. And maybe that is the problem here. Although this will please power pop fans, it is not a breakout release — and maybe it just feels like the group has started to run out of ideas. That said, even filler tunes like “Revolving Dora” are much better than almost anything other contemporary pop groups churn out. You can get this release almost anywhere.
From the opening track “Tomorrow’s Maybe” Simon Morel wastes no time with a great power pop guitar track. The Australian based Simon Morel has produced a real gem of an album. “As time goes by” is excellent song, and my favorite here – sounds like a a great lost Glen Tilbrook track. No filler is found here – and with a bit of backing from power pop fave Michael Carpenter, this is sure to be a repeat listener. However a few of the ballads, like “No comin’ round” and “Saving Grace” although well made – don’t have the hook power of the more energetic tracks like “Sadness is a small town” which have a bit of a Smithereens echo. The exception here is the pleasant country-sounding song “Place for us” which recalls the best of Toad The Wet Sprocket and The Jayhawks. I really would’ve liked Record#2 to have a tiny bit more grittiness, but this still a excellent album worthy of purchase.
Much like their previous two releases, The Green Hills of Earth and The Red Tandy EP, Kiss The Crystal Flake continues the Mother Hips tradition of laid back pysch-pop, that shines with it’s crisp production, California-styled hook filled songs. On “Time We Had”, the third track off the album is an excellent example of this. The Brian Wislonesque vocal melodies, during the chorus is especially nice. “White Headphones” and “Time-Sick Son of a Grizzy Bear” brings us to a slower almost classic Rolling Stones sound, with a glimmer of psychedelic guitar riffs. The Mother Hips best moments come on “No Name Darrell” in my opinion (hear the track on MySpace). The lead singer matches the melodies of his guitar with his vocals to create an enjoyable melodic collision of classic R&B sound with pop catchiness. I’ve been a fan of The Mother Hips for several years after I heard “Life in the City” from Green Hills of Earth album. The genuine pop hooks and quality of music from this band has continued to grow and improve over the years. You would have a very hard time believing that the same band produced this album and 1995’s Back to The Grotto – they are so different. Kiss The Crystal Flake is an awesome album that contains many songs with catchy mouthwatering hooks and innovative guitar work that will appeal to power pop fans and it’s widely available.
Listen to “Time We Had”
Listen to “TGIM”
Listen to “Not So Independent”
The Glasgow trio Fratellis have summoned forth the old spirit of T-Rex, The Clash and Oasis to give you a smashing debut album. Loud beats with great gobs of melodic hookery is what Brit-pop bands are all about. “Chelsea Dagger” is the catchiest single I’ve heard in years and perfect for your next wild party. The bouncy guitar of “Henrietta” is rock and roll meant for dancing. The theme for most of the songs are basically celebrations of wild times out on the town. The high energy song “Flathead” was picked in the latest ipod commercials. Fratellis has often been compared in the press to The Arctic Monkeys. But unlike the Monkey’s overhyped pop-punk, Fratellis has the talent to back up the cheekiness. “Ole Black n’ Blue Eyes” and “Whistle For The Choir” are good mid-tempo tunes that help tone down the energy of this pub-perfect album. Grab a pint and settle down with Fratellis, you won’t be sorry. On a major label here so you can get it almost anywhere. Visit the band’s site to hear “Flathead” and MySpace to hear more.
See The Fratellis perform “Chelsea Dagger”