Monday, January 17, 2011

Pure Pop Pub's Top 40 2001-2010: #25 - #21

#25 John Wesley Harding - Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead (Popover, 2009)

John Wesley Harding is the nom de l'enregistrement of multi-talented Wesley Stace. Who Was Changed And Who Was Dead marked the first album in five years for Stace. The time off seemed to rejuvenate the pop/folk artist. "My Favourite Angel" revisits the whole God/Satan thing with aplomb, and its obvious Stace relishes singing the line " I love you Lucifer." "Love or Nothing," "Oh! Pandora," and "Sleepy People" are all clever tunes expertly done. The semi-autobiographical "Top of the Bottom" is good dirty fun. The two best tracks are undoubtedly the hyper word fest "The End" and the poignant "Someday Son." This album is first class entertainment from beginning to end.

#24 Graham Parker - Songs Of No Consequence (Bloodshot Records, 2005)

With the more than adequate backing support of The Figgs, this release sees Parker in fine voice and finer writing form. "Vanity Press" kicks the album off in classic Parker style (think Up Escalator era.) "Bad Chardonnay," "There's Nothing on the Radio," and "Did Everybody Just Get Old?" provide the propulsive force, while the heart is supplied by the bittersweet "She Swallows It" and the introspective "Dislocated Life." Then there is the companion piece "Local Boys" which offers an interesting comparison to 1979's "Local Girls" if you wanted to look at it from a feminist perspective. The album's finest moment is the perfect "Ambivalent."

#23 The Well Wishers - Jigsaw Days (The Well Wishers, 2008)

Jeff Shelton's project The Well Wishers put together as solid a body of work so far this millennium as anyone going, but Jigsaw Days was the best of the lot. "Heroes" and "All the Suckers" kick the album off with high energy power pop in a Posies mode, a mode Shelton seems to be able to reach effortlessly but doesn't overplay. "Conscience Breaking Down" and "Love Lies" are sweet touching songs. "Drunk on the Tilt-O-Wheel" captures a low-fi Replacements feel very nicely (think "Skyway.") This is a great album from start to finish.

#22 Wild Bores - We Think Alike (Wild Bores, 2010)

The Wild Bores play infectious, slightly groovy power pop unlike anyone else around. We Think Alike dances all over the pop music map. "In Front of Me" comes as close as anything of representing the core Bores' style, with its tender lyric. "I Still Think She's Mine" gets a whole early 60's R&B vibe going. "Sight of Gold" represents the harder edge of the band. "Life is Fine" with its lyrics supplied by a Langston Hughes poem is wonderfully quirky. The sparse and spacey title track takes on a life of its own. (It needs to be heard to be understood, really. I could say think of a rootsier version of XTC's "Another Satellite" but I'm not sure that is quite it.) The album ending track is the Cracker-ish "Anecdote" which is truly one of the great tracks of the decade.

#21 The Spongetones - Too Clever By Half (Loaded Goat, 2008)

Welcome to the power pop smorgasbord! This 18 track album almost overwhelms the listener with all of its options. You can't swing a dead hedgehog here without hitting a great pop tune. "Invisible Girl" and "Man With No Skin" are representative of the material written by Steve Stoeckel, who was certainly feeling it at the time. Jamie Hoover was just as prolific, writing alone (the lovely "Three Kisses for You" and "Must be Lust"), writing with fellow power pop legend Bill Lloyd ("I'd Love You" and "When It's You"), or writing with bandmate Stoeckel (the neo-baroque title track and the Nick Lowe-ish "Church of Gabrielle"). By the time this album ends you will be blissfully popped out.

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