A Power Pop Music Blog Where guitars either chime or jangle all the live long day.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static

The basic needs of humanity are pretty simple: food, water, shelter, companionship, sex, and electric guitars. Okay, okay... so there is some debate about the absolute necessity of sex but the others are indisputable.

I'm pretty sure Nick Piunti would agree with me on this, as his 2015 release Beyond The Static is crunchy guitar power pop at its most elemental and vital. The approach here both in songwriting and production is direct. There are no baroque flourishes to distract a listener, only good, simple, honest tunesmithing by a skilled practitioner of the art. It's a sound, part Posies, part Matthew Sweet, part 70's bar band, that defined the center of power pop in the first decade of the 21st Century. It is as worn and warm as a favorite comfy sofa. The only thing required is to sink into it and feel good.

"It's a Trap" kicks things off with high energy and a driving beat. It is the sort of song that pulls you along because it is so straightforward and earnest. In a similar vein "Time Machine" piles on the chunky power chords and keeps things revved up to a high pitch.

Songs like "Six Bands," the closest thing to a ballad on the record, give us a bit of a breather with its clever lyric expounding on a girl "drowning in the talent pool." The bouncy strum of "Seven Days a Week" is another winner, as is the highly polished "Fell For You" which wears its heart on its sleeve, which a song this direct and heartfelt should. Once again, the feel is just right.

The absolute best thing on the record is the second track on it, "Heart Stops Beating." It is a glorious power pop tour de force filled with hand claps, call and response vocals, dreamy sounding keyboards, and one of the most perfectly placed "hey!"s in the history of rock music. Alone this song would make the album worth picking up. The fact that so much of the album is also terrific makes it all the better.

Maybe owning this record wouldn't forestall the need for sex forever, but it would sure make celibacy a lot more tolerable.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Review: Nerf Herder - Rockingham

I must confess I'm not a huge fan of the whole nerd culture thing. It's all too self-consciously precious and, at its worst, narcissistic to appeal to me despite my admitted affinities for Monty Python, complex board games and MST3K. As a result an album dedicated to this particular pseudo sub-culture isn't exactly in my wheelhouse. That being said, I've enjoyed Parry Gripp's amusing songs on YouTube, and I simply adore Linus Dotson (not that there is anything wrong with that,) so when the chance came to pre-order this album I thought "oh, what the hell."

I'm glad I did. Rockingham is not going to cause anyone to shun their copy of Revolver or even the first Fountains of Wayne record, but there are far worse ways to spend an hour. "Portland" kicks off with a rant against everything that, frankly, needed to ranted about when it comes to rainy Pacific Northwest cities obsessed with their own shit. Sure, it is a bit of an easy target, but no one can claim they don't deserve it. "At the Con" and "Allie Goertz" win with wit and obvious charm.

The high point of the album comes with the terrific "We Opened for Weezer" a fond reminiscence of 1990's days gone by that rises above being an exercise in simple name dropping. They might not have meant to do it but they struck genuine poignancy. However, the album will not allow us to grow melancholic. Before you can blink the high octane power pop of "Jackie Got Married" is ready to whisk you away and that is a very good thing.

The second half of the album loses a little steam. "I'm the Droid (You're Looking For)" never really lives up to its title. "Ghostbusters III" and "Doctor Who" are energetic but a little one note. Luckily, the truly funny and catchy "Stock Photo Girl" comes along to entertain, while the album ender "Close Your Eyes and Dream" comes across like an inside joke we've all been invited to join. It's a bit of a microcosm of the whole album in that it asks "Why don't you come along? This will be fun!" They're not wrong.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: Elvyn - Valley Of The Kilowatt Hour

It is a sad age we live in.

Growing up in the 1970's and coming of age in the 1980's I would have never imagined living long enough to experience the nadir of the album as an artform. Little did I realize it would take less than 25 years for the vital impulse that brought us everything from Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds to Spilt Milk and Girlfriend, not to mention everything in-between, to come sputtering to a halt. Instead we live in an age where pop music is all about the single, the novelty, the intangible, the disposable. We've even witnessed the sad spectacle of established artists giving away their new album as if they were slightly embarrassed at having created such a product so at odds with the ethos of today.

Unlike impotent critics like yours truly (culturally speaking only, thankfully), Canadian power poppers Elvyn can do more than rage against the machine. With their late 2015 release, Valley of the Kilowatt Hour, Elvyn reminds us all what the album had and has to offer. Maybe it was the circa 1965 album art that triggered this particular rant of mine, but the look and feel of the cover fits perfectly with the sounds contained within.

I am not saying the album sounds like mid 60's pop music. Oh, there is a lovely Beach Boys tinged track ("Robins Song"), but the emphasis is on the band displaying an impressive mastery of their own sound. That sounds draws equally from americana/roots music, think of the poppier side of fellow Canadians Blue Rodeo, and 90's alt guitar rock in the Toad the Wet Sprocket vein, with occasional nods to classic 60's sounds like the aforementioned Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel.

There are 11 tracks on this album and it is almost right to say there are 11 highlights on it. "Ellie" invites you to sing your heart out with its lovely melody and "everyone join in" chorus. "This is the End" with its working stiff anthem lyric is just as engaging, and the groovy shuffle of "Landslide Cities" could get even the most lethargic of us to get on their feet to sway rhythmically. "Turning me Down" is an acoustic guitar and electric organ toe-tapper (yeah, that's a thing) that simply charms.

"AM" is probably the heart and soul of the record. Part lament for the musical world we have lost and part of a celebration of what we still have to enjoy, it is propelled by a gloriously slutty guitar riff. It's not trashy, it just wants it so bad, whatever "it" might be.

Maybe we are walking among our own ruins and we haven't realized it yet. However, if we can have albums like this one playing in the background it won't be nearly as bad as it might be.

Grade: A

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New Lolas Demos

It should be pretty obvious that The Lolas would be a band that hits a sweet spot for me. So when main man Tim Boykin starts putting up a bunch of new Lolas demos it makes for a good day for yours truly.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Really Thought I'd Sail Right Through This...

...but I must confess the official end of The Pure Pop Pub radio station hurts.

I keep telling myself, "C'mon Rich, it was just a damn hobby... and one you didn't always follow with the greatest of enthusiasm."

That is true..... but it was always there. For almost eight years I could plug myself into this little niche corner of the musical world and get lost for a bit. I could be a devotee... and there is precious little in this world worthy of being a devotee of in my book. There certainly isn't one that cover so many bases, so many of my own personal primordial pushbuttons, as did this silly little radio station.

This isn't rolling off my back. Color me surprised.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It's Official, It Is An Ex-Radio Station

I've looked at the other "alternatives" to continue my online radio hobby and, simply put, none of them are affordable for me. This means that Jan. 31st will be the last day for The Pure Pop Pub as a streaming station. I'm pretty sure this means the name will only be in existence for this blog. (I'm not certain what this might mean for the "Let's Go Pop!" podcast, but that too might have to die a horrible death. We shall see.)

Nothing but bad news I'm afraid. If you will excuse me I need to go downstairs and crank Jellyfish's "Brighter Day" at ear splitting volumes.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

All Things Must Pass... Dammit All To Hell

I've updated this elsewhere but I should make it official here. The Pure Pop Pub radio station will soon cease to be. I received an email yesterday that the Live365 platform is most likely going under for good within the next month or so. The rules for royalties are changing and the upshot is small niche broadcasters like myself will no longer have a way to continue, and as we made up a large part of the Live365 business model they are being squeezed out as well. I could, if I wanted, spend upwards of $1000 a year to continue to broadcast but, yeah, that ain't gonna happen. I like all my listeners very much but I do not have that kind of money to throw into what is essentially a hobby.

The Pure Pop Pub ran for over 7 years and in that time I have had countless interactions with listeners and artists that have made the whole experience incredibly rewarding, even if I was paying for the privilege. I am most saddened by the fact that yet another outlet for indie artists to get their music known is being silenced. Something may rise in the future to take its place but from the looks of things it may be awhile in coming.

I will do my bit here on the Pure Pop Pub blog where I will continue my vain effort to dance about architecture. The "Let's Go Pop!" podcast may or may not continue. I have not heard from my podcast platform but the new rules may also bring about the end of most music podcasts as well. A wait and see approach will have to be adopted.

It is quite a somber note to end 2015 on. Let's hope 2016 brings us all more cool sounds.

Allow me to wish you all a very happy New Year.


Rich Horton

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Pugwash - Play This Intimately (as if among friends)

A truly great rock and roll record is supposed to have a bit of violence associated with it. After all, it's built into the name of the genre. We talk about people's worlds being "rocked" when they are turned upside down by turmoil and tumult. Successful records are declared to be "hits" and "smashes!" "Let's rock and roll" has become synonymous with engaging in any sort of decisive action, from starting a long road trip to starting a long war. Even the sexual connotations associated with rock and roll are more violent than not. Rock and roll sex isn't gentle lovemaking, its two, at least, frenzied people trying to screw each others brains out.

However, this music is also about breaking the rules and not giving a damn about what is "supposed" to be. Good thing too, because its how we wind up with records like Play This Intimately (as if among freinds), Pugwash's intricate and subtle triumph.

This isn't to say that the record is devoid of energy. "Kicking and Screaming" starts the album off in glorious pop/rock fashion. It's all chiming guitars and all pop hooks all the time. "Hung Myself Out To Dry" is a bouncy and jaunty slice of pop magic of a vein well mined before in the Pugwash catalog, but welcome all the same. Nobody on earth does this sort of thing better than Thomas Walsh and company. "You Could Always Cry" effects a pop/country/folk vibe complete with chugging train harmonica. When you listen to it you hope someone is back there playing their washboard.

As good as the quicker songs are it is the slower material that pushes the album to its greatest heights. "Lucky in Every Way" offers a lush and tuneful soundscape that floats on your ears like a cool breeze on a summer's day.... or something like that. I swear whenever I hear it I just want to open a couple bottles of wine and sink into bliss. "Oh Happy Days" sounds like it was pulled off the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society sessions, which is probably why Pugwash got Ray Davies to help with the backing vocals on the track. It is damn near perfect.

"All The Way From Love" is a Roy Orbison's style crooner positively dripping with style and substance. The album ending track, "We Are Everywhere," takes the moody mellotron vibe of "Blue Jay Way" and tweaks it into something even more substantial. When it ends, announced by the boom of a last bass drum, you know you've been on one hell of a trip with your good friends in Pugwash.

So go ahead. Rock and roll.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Power Pop Terrorizes Nation's College Students

Norfolk, VA

Four members of the Old Dominion University student body were publicly executed and their corpses summarily expelled from the school when it was discovered the students had callously and deliberately played the song “Stacy’s Mom” at a Opening Week Bar-B-Que. The song, written and performed by the terrorist front group Fountains of Wayne, features lewd and indecent lyrics which insist that “Stacy’s mom has got it going on” and depicts the treasured societal icon is a state of undress (“with just a towel on”.)

While the quick and decisive action by the university, which has a solid reputation for graduating only virgins, was applauded by most, some worried there had been undue haste shown. “It all happened so fast we never even had the chance to publicly flog these vile perpetrators!” lamented Sheri Abercrombisen of the student led organization, Aggrieved Sisterhood of Solidarity (or A.S.S.).  A.S.S., best known for their campaign to place trigger warnings on campus for the Sun (“It is so bright and cheerful all the time. Doesn’t it know some of us are really hurting?”) complained other dangerous conduct was going on right under the noses of authorities. “I know for a fact,” said Abercrombisen at a hastily convened news conference attended by 317 journalists, “that another party was playing a Rock Hit’s of the 70’s compilation which included a vile song which depicts a mother having sexual relations on a living room floor, all the while the song repeats that “we’re all all right” when we very clearly are not all all right.”

Ms. Abercrombisen subsequently had to be sedated and placed under a doctor’s care.

At press time Robin Zander was unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I'm Alive!!!!!

Now, you wouldn't know it to look at this site, but I am, in fact, still among the living. To prove it I today updated the radio station entirely. Yes, that means every track was removed and a new lineup uploaded. Yes, it did take a long time, but it was totally worth it. I've been listening to it all afternoon and it has been kicking serious buttocks!

As for the quiet around here, well, there was a bunch of real world stuff taking a serious bite out of my time. I also recently submitted a music related book proposal to a publisher. If that comes through I'll tell you all about it. (It isn't power pop related, but it is totally cool.)

Hopefully, there will be a bit of a lull that will allow me to be more engaged around here. I'll attempt to reinforce that by putting out something with a bit of substance soon.

Promise. Cross my heart and hope to listen to nothing but boy bands for a year.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014