Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Maybe I ain't the most credible sorta rock scriber to pump out a post on power pop.

So what!

As if I'm any sorta "expert" on just about anything I blab on about here on this blog, and that goes for moom pitchers to old tee-vee shows to music itself! But since I have maybe """some""" information on a subject at hand and you don't, it's me who comes off looking like Encyclopedia Brown when it comes to such banter that anybody in his right mind woulda known or cared about long before the creation of this internet made the world so small that sometimes I feel like I'm engaging in a footsie fight with a Mongolian. And I know...I could leave the subject of power pop to a number of more talented and knowledgeable writers whom I sure could put to pixel just exactly what it was that made the "movement" so interesting way back in the seventies when any music of a rock 'n roll variety that was outside the extremely limited AM/FM sphere was looked upon with extreme suspicion.

And hey,  I for one can recall the closing days of the seventies when even such a comparatively quaint character as Nick Lowe was considered to be the most shocking, despicable and bad apple evil punkster in that otherwise wholesome world of "rock music", even to the point where a relatively pleasant chart-struggler like "Cruel to be Kind" would get the quick flick offa the car radio! To just about everybody I knew, it was just more of that pesky punk rock that shouldn't be cluttering up our precious airwaves, which is one good reason why the Youngstown/Sharon/New Castle area has remained such a rust-bowl when it comes to high energy music to the point where a group such as Sister Ray hadda struggle to make any indent while lesser acts (all covers even!) were given the red carpet treatment in an area that claimed to be so big on the rock & roll ideal but were closer to the Snooky Lanson groove once you really got down to it!

Kinda makes me wonder how some of the teenage denizens of 1979 woulda held up to a CLOCKWORK ORANGE-styled listening session consisting of some of the harsher aspects of what was passing under that "vague rubric" (copyright 1985 Robert Christgau) of new wave that was being hawked via a larger underground cabal than anybody up there on the surface would dare admit existed. Yeah I least we could dream...

The funny thing is, after listening to a load of the power pop quap that was making its way out back inna late-seventies it's surprising that the music as a whole never did find a huge following on the AM band (even in this area which admittedly was basking in some of the radiation being emitted from the Cleveland scene of the Raspberries, Circus etc.). Perhaps that would have been a vision only Greg Shaw would have thought feasible, but given how the movement could have pumped out some mighty strong, hard rockage while retaining the mid-sixties British Invasion feel you woulda thought that more'n just a few "radicals"'d latched onto powerpop as the return of mid-sixties triumph. I guess the proliferation of sopors and rise of disco and AOR put the kibosh on all of that, but really, wouldn't you think that for every pilled out arena rock kid stoked to the gills on Journey (and Anastasia Pantsios) there woulda been ten wholesome and 35% less cavities kids out there who sure coulda used some power pop in their lives???

Yeah, that's all water under the bridge and rock et roll as we knew it has ceased to exist outside our own personal fart-encrusted bedrooms, but that doesn't mean we can still LOVE it the same way that all of those silent majority types who were reminiscing about the Big Bands in 1971 did while the world was hippie-ing out around them. Here are just a very few "power pop" offerings that I've been listening to as of the past few weeks, hardly enough to make up an article worthy of Greg Shaw's BOMP! issue mind you but just the right thing for a mid-week musing that's bound to send you straight to the late-seventies when a more'n a few kids were more content to look back to the mid-sixties at that.
Of course I know why I ignored the Atlantics back when they were actually making some headway into whatever there was of a late-seventies power pop market. Given how my tastes were being drawn towards a shall we say...avant garde mode being affected into a rock 'n roll frame of being (see Clevo/Ako/Kento sphere of sound) music like that of the Atlantics just didn't seem to phase me in light of whatever Roky Erickson (who you believe me was just as "new wave" to mine ears as Pere Ubu!) was apt to be doing. And hey, I gotta admit that the looks of the guys as espied on the left wasn't exactly conduit to my own sense of sartorial about new wave morphed into gnu wave (copyright 1977 Don Waller) and a fashion sense that seems to have been birthed from the mind of a fellow who walked in on his parents goin' at it age three and thought dad was on top strangling mom thus twisting his own sexual identity into something I'd prefer not to get into on this family-oriented blog.

But hey, after listening to these three recent Atlantics exhumations that were released via the Something Hot Communications label (and available via CD Baby) I've gotta admit that these Bostonians were just the right mix of pop and hard rock to almost (operative word) punk (and even metal!), and the combination makes me wanna go and search out the group's own late-seventies big label release that most definitely got lost under the tide of a whole load of subpar sputum. Aural visions of weep wimp sounds got quickly flushed outta my system with these disques that prove hometown Boston certainly did have a life outside of the perennial Velvet Underground worship that it banked its rock 'n roll image on in the seventies. Not quite Raspberries or Cheap Trick, but still hotcha enough with potential AM weirdities like "Pop Shivers",  "Lonelyhearts" and "Television Girl" that, in another world, might have broken outta the local scene ghetto and onto national acceptance, but frankly the kids were too album-oriented braindead to catch on. These guys might've been the best pop group to have come outta Boston since the Sidewinders,  and they certainly were tough enough to match that hallowed act in the teenage potential top 40 outta nowhere hit department.

The two studio disques are definitely the best place to start since ATLANTICS LIVE has too much of that FM radio live sound that kinda irritates me due to the special frequencies that were aimed towards car stereos and dogs. It's a good slice of the live action the Atlantics could whip up but leave it for last. The rest, dug up from rare studio sessions and self-produced singles recorded twist '79/'81, are about as "representative" of what the power pop movement could have aspired to if only a few more spiritually-endowed teenagers out there realized it as the music speaking to their lives and bought these records up faster'n Fonzie (I know...repetitive, but I won't shut up until each and every person on this planet agrees with me, and after that it's straight to Mars all the way!)..

One interesting aside...see the guy on the far left in the first pic with the standard evocative of the mid-sixties snazz-looking suit 'n tie, the modified Moe Howard Beatle hair and the large birth control glasses? That's none other than Fred Pineau, a name that should ring bells if you were a fan and follower of the Boston fanzine scene throughout the seventies. Music-wize he was a member (along with John Horvorka) of Joe Viglione's typically Velvets-minded Astral Projections before ending up with garage band Aerosmith rockers Bonjour Aviators before becoming an Atlantic, and not only that he was a contributor to Viglione's much needed/missed fanzine VARULVEN. Smart credentials for a seventies icon of BLOG TO COMM proportions, and I gotta admit something that does add that special dimension to the music, considering that sometimes what goes on behind the stage is just as important as what's happening in front of a load of wild, screaming teenagers (or aging hipsters like ourselves pretending that this is what their image of what wild, screaming teenagers was supposed to be!)
Took me awhile, but I finally latched onto 2010's Poppees collection entitled POP GOES THE ANTHOLOGY that Bomp! Records unleashed on a public that we all know couldn't care less. But since the folk at Bomp! knew that and released it anyway I couldn't offer them any more kudos than possible. Along with the Planets, Best, Cross, Great Mistaque and a few dozen other groups due for an exhumation, the Poppees were part of the third-string underground New York scene, though where many of these groups drew their energies from various late-sixties/early-seventies rock movements the Poppees' credo was strictly of an early/mid-sixties vintage...mainly the early/mid-sixties Beatles back when the Fabricated Four weren't into their cosmic consciousness phase and could still belt out a Little Richard number with a surprising amount of conviction. Even with this retrogarde stance the Poppees were able to make a dent on the local scene, at least enough that various local critics could point to 'em as if they had just made some sort of big discovery worthy of Columbus..."hey, look at this new rock group I discovered all on my lonesome...they're so great, and while you're at it NOTICE ME for discovering 'em as well!!!"

Gotta admit that it's a good collection with both of the Bomp! single sides sounding about as clear as a good Beatle Cee-Dee bootleg of 1963 studio outtake vintage, 'n not only that but  a coupla tracks I think were supposed to have appeared on the LIVE AT CBGB album power pop up. And (of course!) how could anybody forget some powerful in themselves demos and live throw-ins (including one from the old 82 Club, a subject matter I had been thinking of devoting an entire post to one of these days, at least when things start gettin' slow!) that present the Poppees as something more'n just a throwback nostalgia trip for girls who iron their hair and still proudly display their "George" buttons. I would have thought that the cash-in album under an assumed name they did in '76 during the Beatlemania Revival woulda found their way here, but I guess that dealing with Laurie Records ain't exactly the easiest task in the world so that'll have to wait for a future release.

Finally for today's power pop skim over comes this 'un, an album that was hot off the presses in '77 yet a flea market find  in '82! Yes, here's none other than the first platter from the Chicago-area power poppers who were roamin' under the name Pezband! Like many of you, I remember the press this group, who were actually signed to the Passport record label, best known for importing progressive rockers like Nektar over to these shores as well as signing some of the local proggy home grown acts like Larry Fast's Synergy, had garnered back in the late-seventies. Heck, I even remember all of the stories about 'em in the pages of BOMP! and TROUSER PRESS which gave me the impression that Pezband must have had a mighty good press on their side if they could get all of the boffo print that they were sure grabbing up! And true these guys were just one of the many fine outta nowhere acts that made up the musical vocabulary of the seventies, but when this generation of music got washed away by the time of post-disco wave fluffy metal giddiness a few years later, didn't you shed a tear even though you were one of those sophistacados who thought they were nothin' but Raspberries whitewash?

The debut album is a little too slow and perhaps even maudlin for many (and whose idea was it to get Clarence Clemmons to guest on sax anyway...Little Steven?), but I like it if only for its smart seventies aura and abilities to, like the Raspberries, take the mid-sixties English rock these guys "grew up with" and beef it up for a seventies audience. Smart, sharp and quite sophisticated in its own mop topped way...too bad stuff like this failed to make an indent into the beanies of mid-Amerigan youth while Foreigner did, or maybe we wouldn't be living in the current state of duh that we most certainly are!
For a kiddo who grew up with the sounds of music like this blarin' from teenage radios and carpool drives long before I could even  fathom the fact that someday I'd possess thousands of sound artyfacts let alone a few platter here 'n there,  these recordings positively fit into my perhaps preconceived notions of what power pop had been and should surely remain. And although the genre certainly has lived on (I recall writing about a comparatively recent act called Morgan Taylor's Rock Group in the lastest issue of my very own fanzine) it ain't like it's as prevalent as it once was a good thirty years back when we were all younger, a whole lot more innocent and certainly stupider than we are now.

Still, ya just gotta wonder about what youth has become if it would reject hotcha high energy musics such as those of the aforementioned acts for the comparatively pallid sounds of most everything which has transpired over the past thirtysome years! I mean, kids can be wild, vile murderous and all of those other cool things just as they were in the past, but the music that backs their rage is definitely some of the most hollow to reach ear in quite some time. Dunno about you, but I could see small teenage cabals surrounding free jazz, or the Velvet Underground, or even the seemingly innocent strains of power pop come to think of it, but only a starry eyed geek or VILLAGE VOICE reader would actually believe that the rap and hip hop, not to mention the sickening strains of Lady Caga (the Patti Page of the teens) has that societal force or whatever other leftover Marxist jargon you can think of to transform people. But hey, I guess that's my aging image of what youth is supposed to entail so send me to the old fogie's home and slip me a bottle of Geritol and like pronto!


Anonymous said...

Fred Pineau of Atlantics contributed also in a Joe Viglione all star band with the name of Boston Rockers in the Varulven label compilation Boston Bootleg Vol II''.Atlantics lone official album''Big City Rock'' is enough good(it coulda have been better,but its ok despite having as manager director, Diana Rosse's one !)for anyone fond of some arty hard rockin'power pop with pathos and street feeling.Great information Christopher as always,Nick.

Anonymous said...

thanks to your wonderful Christmas present, I get the obscure reference of the title of this article...many thanks...Brad Kohler tells me he has been wearing an Archie Bunker button you sent him when he's out and about around beautiful downtown Coraopolis! Do they say "meathead" or what?

Anonymous said...

Would love to see the Stigliano in-depth look at premier power poppers, The Knack, one of my all-time fave-raves! Circa 1979, I was a Genesis-Yes-Kansas man, but The Knack rewired my brain. The Atlantics, Pezband and Poppees, as well. Ah! To be young again... Cheers! Alvin Bishop