Power pop and related: define, deride, defend...

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Postby fery1 » 05 Jun 2004, 09:02

I use to say that nowadays power-pop is one of my favourite styles, but after reading this thread I am not sure if what I actually like is power-pop :oops: . To be honest I thought The Romantics were the quintaesential power-pop band, and "A girl like you" the quintaesential power-pop song and they have hardly been mentioned at all. And Shades in Bed from The Records is one of my favorurite albums ever, but you don´t seem to be very enthusiastic about them as a power-pop band. I love Big Star, but on the other hand I bought a Raspberries compilation and to be honest I was disappointed, it was Ok, but nothing special, to my ears many of their songs are average hard-rock or haven´t dated well..

I don´t know if Diesel Park West qualify for this post, but I bought Shakespeare Alabama last week (second hand copy, it is out of print) and for me songs like All the myths on Sunday or Here I stand are glorious examples or power-pop in a Byrds/REM vein. Another of my favourite power-pop songs is "Which way Should I jump" from Milltown Brothers :? . Again I don´t know if these songs could be considered as power-pop or are just pop or indie-pop, to be honest many of the alternative american power-pop bands mentioned here sound too "grungy" to me, and lack the spark and pop sensibility of "All the myths" or "Which way should..."

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Postby Still Baron » 05 Jun 2004, 19:06

Mr. Jim wrote:Obviously, the terms is used in different ways by different people and publications. (And the OED thinks Def Leppard is power pop! I'll have to remember that.) I think in general we can all pretty much agree that power pop, by any definition, involves looking backward to an idealized past that affects the musicians' lives almost as a form of "positive trauma" that cannot be shaken off.

Because the majority of power pop musicians weren't actually in London '66 or Liverpool '62, the musicians idealize their experience of listening to the music rather than the actual zeitgeist at the time. Hence, the fetishization of big headphones (Matthew Sweet, Superdrag) and children's clothes/Cat in the Hat hats (Jellyfish).

This living in an idealized past affects the lyrical attitude too. Many power pop songs seem to take aim at issues from the musicians' past, in particular the following three areas: love songs for remote obsessed-over girls, vengeance "fuck you" songs aimed at past rivals, and dreamlike evocations of brilliant and colo(u)rful youth. All three are removed from their subjects by time. Power pop is truly the music of missed opportunities. (I wonder if Proust would've played power pop.)

Power pop has always seemed a boy's pastime to me, but I know that there were many girls involved in the '80s and '90s revival. Being male, I can understand what the boys feel (watching Melody for the first time about a year ago, I very nearly submitted); I still wonder how the girl power poppers feel. They tend to try to look like '60s models or go-go dancers, even if they're trying to play like The Beatles. It's a very strange combination because much '60s attire -- such as high white boots and miniskirts -- is not really good for playing in onstage.

I feel that all power pop is in essence introverted music, no matter how noisy it may get. This is why Def Leppard is not power pop; their energy is turned outwards. Even the most rocking power pop songs are all ultimately aimed inward. Cheap Trick is perhaps the most notable exception to this, and that is interesting because they're without a doubt power pop's finest exponent. Like The Beatles, they (to borrow from Charlie O.) had outreach. They are the one band that used all the standard power pop influences for, if you will, the world's greater good, rather than as a form of narcissism -- in spite of the fact that they marketed themselves cannily (one could see their album covers as narcissistic) and that their arguably signature song ("Surrender") is about growing up, parents, and listening to records. They do not look back entirely fondly in that song.


An A+ for Mr. Jim!

I agree with just about everything here. However, (and the post doesn't necessarily say this) I think that reflecting upon the past, whether idealized or not, is a perfectly valid subject matter for lyrics or songs. But I think I understand loveless's objections to the infantilism (if that is a word) that can be the manifestation of the extreme obsession of the past - idealized or not.

Make sense?
take5_d_shorterer wrote:If John Bonham simply didn't listen to enough Tommy Johnson or Blind Willie Mctell, that's his doing.

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Postby Piggly Wiggly » 07 Jun 2004, 11:01

Le Narob wrote:
Mr. Jim wrote:Obviously, the terms is used in different ways by different people and publications. (And the OED thinks Def Leppard is power pop! I'll have to remember that.) I think in general we can all pretty much agree that power pop, by any definition, involves looking backward to an idealized past that affects the musicians' lives almost as a form of "positive trauma" that cannot be shaken off.

Because the majority of power pop musicians weren't actually in London '66 or Liverpool '62, the musicians idealize their experience of listening to the music rather than the actual zeitgeist at the time. Hence, the fetishization of big headphones (Matthew Sweet, Superdrag) and children's clothes/Cat in the Hat hats (Jellyfish).

This living in an idealized past affects the lyrical attitude too. Many power pop songs seem to take aim at issues from the musicians' past, in particular the following three areas: love songs for remote obsessed-over girls, vengeance "fuck you" songs aimed at past rivals, and dreamlike evocations of brilliant and colo(u)rful youth. All three are removed from their subjects by time. Power pop is truly the music of missed opportunities. (I wonder if Proust would've played power pop.)

Power pop has always seemed a boy's pastime to me, but I know that there were many girls involved in the '80s and '90s revival. Being male, I can understand what the boys feel (watching Melody for the first time about a year ago, I very nearly submitted); I still wonder how the girl power poppers feel. They tend to try to look like '60s models or go-go dancers, even if they're trying to play like The Beatles. It's a very strange combination because much '60s attire -- such as high white boots and miniskirts -- is not really good for playing in onstage.

I feel that all power pop is in essence introverted music, no matter how noisy it may get. This is why Def Leppard is not power pop; their energy is turned outwards. Even the most rocking power pop songs are all ultimately aimed inward. Cheap Trick is perhaps the most notable exception to this, and that is interesting because they're without a doubt power pop's finest exponent. Like The Beatles, they (to borrow from Charlie O.) had outreach. They are the one band that used all the standard power pop influences for, if you will, the world's greater good, rather than as a form of narcissism -- in spite of the fact that they marketed themselves cannily (one could see their album covers as narcissistic) and that their arguably signature song ("Surrender") is about growing up, parents, and listening to records. They do not look back entirely fondly in that song.


An A+ for Mr. Jim!

I agree with just about everything here. However, (and the post doesn't necessarily say this) I think that reflecting upon the past, whether idealized or not, is a perfectly valid subject matter for lyrics or songs. But I think I understand loveless's objections to the infantilism (if that is a word) that can be the manifestation of the extreme obsession of the past - idealized or not.

Make sense?


Makes sense, Baron.

However, I'm not certain that my own distaste for the weaker (or - to be more generous - least effective/affecting) distillations of the genre/ideal stem entirely from a dislike of the infantilism.

Mine are primarily musical objections - which, in a thread like this, lead to a dissection of the ideology and component failings of the artists/records. Yeah, the infantilism embarasses me, but.....in the service of music I love, it might not bother me a bit.

Pet Sounds, "In My Life", Plastic Ono Band, "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane", "She Said, She Said", "I'm A Boy", Tommy, Quadrophenia, The Hurting, etc. - all of these look back, some darkly, some idealistically, some with a refusal to let go of the past (no matter how unpleasant it may have been in reality). Even Pete Shelley's lyrics often appear to come from a childlike perspective (the perspective of victimisation rather than empowerment and responsiblity), despite primarily addressing the relatively adult subject of romance.

I'm cool with it - the music (in tandem with the "message") makes for a powerful communique.

However, pyjamas and gigantic headphones - whatever their totemic power might be - scarcely posess the necessary mojo required to transform Matthew Sweet (warmed over Steve Miller Band) or Jellyfish (Queen lite) into something altogether more substantial and multi dimensional.

Ditto, seemingly immature "songs about girls".

(And as goldwax pointed out a page or two back, fetishism without substance is not native to powerpop. Northern soul, punk, rockabilly, doo-wop, ska, alt. country, swing, etc. - all these and many more fall under the umbrella of what we're discussing here.)

And musically looking back is not necessarily a dead end in and of it's self. The Beatles ("Lady Madonna", "Get Back", "The Ballad Of John and Yoko", "Oh! Darling", "Revolution", "Come Together", "Honey Pie") and beyond ("(Just Like) Starting Over", "Ram On", "Back Seat Of My Car", "Crippled Inside") certainly held the music of their youth (and beyond) in great affection and delivered pastiche/tribute with generally very pleasing and original results. There was always a great deal of themselves in the music.

(And why not use the Beatles as an example of sucessfully embracing arguably antiquated/anachronistic musical ideals? They do seem to be the very ruler by which many of their more literal minded and less artistically triumphant offspring measure their own work/goals.)

Brian Eno was once (accurately or not, I can't know) quoted as having offered the following advice:

"Take your most embarassing feature and magnify it."

In the context of this thread, this may have been an unwise maxim to quote - it is subject to many interpretations (see Flaming Groovies related comments from pages 1-3), some of which may negate the illustrative properties I perceive in these words.

As I see it, however, the message is this: "Ego and artifice are a given in the arts. However, the very soul of the work might be derived from some dark and ugly aspect of the artist's personality/id. No need to deliberately be polite, suppress your instincts, cover up your less attractive features, mask your true character, or sacrifice your quirks in the service of a presentable/acceptable facade. Let your insides out, and you might actually produce something of great value and personality."

Which brings us to Big Star.......

Ah, Big Star......a much loved yet much (from my view) misunderstood band.

Personally, I adore them.

However, I perceive their "anachronisms" to be such a small part of the picture as to be all but irrelevant.

Much is made of their love for the British invasion music of the 60's. Why? Their chiming guitars and advanced melodicism may not have been fashionable in the era of Led Zeppelin and James Taylor, but these are not exactly the Shoes we're talking about here! Big Star were loaded with personality and character - musical and otherwise.

I'm hesitant to describe the lives of Bell and Chilton in any great detail (various issues involving sexual identity, religious identity, drug abuse, burnout, jealousy, and mistrust are typically themes within liner notes and magazine profiles) for fear of sensationalism and heresay, yet what I understand about these troubled and contrary men is 100% believable in light of their music.

Additionally - without overly mythologising their environment - I can't help but view Memphis as relevant to their sound/musical identity in some way.

What of the music itself?

Jody Stephens is a phenomenal drummer, with a distinctive instrumental voice. A Ringo fan who managed to take the looseness and "feel" of his idol to a very unique place, with almost cartoon-like results. The fills on "Back Of A Car" and "Ballad Of El Goodo" are the first examples that come to mind. Great drum sound (seemingly more present yet ambient than most, certainly unusually dominant). I've seen him perform a few times in the last ten years and he hasn't lost any of his disctinctive casual carefree laziness as a drummer. The lurching "Way Out West" is a good place to hear this. Soul and personality to spare, in my opinion.

The mournful/sunny acoustic laments which dot the first two records ("Try Again", "Watch The Sunrise", "Thirteen", "I'm In Love With A Girl", "ST 100/6") sound far more Led Zeppelin III than Abbey Road to my ears. The untrained ear may cry "George!" whenever some harmonic tension or slide guitar is added, but...neither of these textures were invented by the Dark Horse.

The straining vocals - I'm no expert at delineating the Bell/Chilton vocal roles within the band, but I've always attributed the verses of "Feel", "In The Street", and "Don't Lie To Me" to Bell. At any rate, the performances are about as vocally ragged and unflattering as any I've ever heard. SOMEBODY is certainly letting "it" all hang out.

The acceleration of this ragged arc - compare the three Big Star albums in sequence - suggests that all parties involved were far more concerned with spirit than polish (though the songs and arrangements seldom lack a certain intelligence, sophistication, and finesse).

The guitars? Yes, the guitars. They are nothing if not a guitar band (a quick perusal of the titles on the first two LPs indicates a heavy reliance on guitars). They are accused of "jangling" and "chiming" and I'm willing to concede that they probably do. However, "If I Needed Someone", "Turn Turn Turn", and "Waterloo Sunset" sound NOTHING like THESE GUITARS! I have yet to find any real precedence for the Big Star guitar sound, though it is worth mentioning that it is often imitated.

I'm willing to bet that their unique guitar sound (you know it if you've heard it, but I have great difficulty describing this sometimes blending, sometimes clashing trademark) has it's genesis primarily in individual style than in retro fetishism (using the "right" guitars, amps, etc.). Chilton himself is remarkably blase on the subject (circa 1992 - "Oh, I don't know. Maybe sometimes Chris would play a Fender while I played a Gibson, but that's about it."), which supports his earlier claim that the group simply "play music that sounds melodious to our ears" (as opposed to narrowly embracing an idealised 1960's idiom). Seemingly, this sound comes more from the players than anywhere else.

Whatever the case, it's a glorious guitar sound.

Vocal harmonies? Sure. Loads of 'em. More appropriate than cloying or retro, however. Much like the guitars, seemingly more unique than anachronistic.

The seemingly puerile lyrics ("wish we had a joint so bad", "don't need to talk to my shrink", "won't you tell your dad get off my back", etc.) are, in context, nothing short of inspired and somehow....right. To wit, in "Try Again" (a song seemingly addressed to God), the protagonist vows to maintain a continued effort to "do as you would" and "be understood", yet confesses that "each time it gets a little harder". The mournful and seemingly defeated harmonic movement at the end of the song does not advise one to place their bets on a successful outcome for the narrator. I hesitate to call this a "sophisticated" blend of music and lyrics, but....it's undoubtedly beautiful.

I write all of the above to suggest that - in spite of vocal phrasing that sometimes recalls a young Gene Clark - to call Big Star "retro", "anachronistic" or, "powerpop" is to do their music a great disservice. They sound, to me, far more like the music of the future than the music of the past - and their embrace by contemporary musicians and fans does nothing to dispel this notion.

It is music of considerable personality, character, and (most importantly) depth, which (to my ears) seems infinitely more informed by the performers than by their record collections. To lump them in with the Raspberries or 20/20 seems downright cruel.

They are (to me) the prime exponents of Eno's supposed maxim, yet nearly everything I read or hear about them fixates on their love of powerpop archetypes. That they became an archetype is neither here nor there: as with the Beatles, or the Who - imitations seldom seem to get past the very outer surface.

Which probably leads us straight to....

Teenage Fanclub

As a listener who cherishes Bandwagonesque to this day, yet became less and less interested with each subsequent release, I am probably not qualified to analyze the Fannies' entire career in any great detail (to wit, there are people on this site who routinely debate the relative merits of later TF records like Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain).

However, Bandwagonesque is - by all accounts - the most Big Star influenced of all their records (it's dedication suggests that it was recorded just as the band were discovering Big Star).

Is it great in spite of these copycat tendencies, or does it simply have so much of it's own soul and identity as to assimilate an obvious influence with great dignity and stand alone proudly?

Both, probably.

Certainly, only a very small percentage of the multitudes who bought this record in 1991-92 had even heard of Big Star. Those who had, presumably, recognized the cheekily acknowledged influence and proceeded to enjoy Bandwagonesque on it's own terms.

Which is easy to do. It's a hell of a charming record.

If anything, it is a record of extreme simplicity. Songs seldom have more than one or two parts, and the melodies and lyrics have an unlabored freshness to them.

The sound (very much of it's time) is basically overdriven, distorted, fuzzy, and downright muddy guitars - primarily playing big thick chords - married to a downright workmanlike rhythm section which plods along in an exaggerated yet extremely unfussy manner. The vocals are mostly in a conversational range, and are periodically joined by very pleasant (yet simple) harmonies in the chorus. Because of the apparent volume and density of the guitars, the vocals appear to be mixed at a rather low volume (not quite Loveless, but hardly Rubber Soul).

If it is Big Star filtered through Mudhoney and Sonic Youth, it is done so exquisitely.

The songs mostly have the air of the familiar about them - and not in a derivative sense. Just instant classics of a "why didn't somebody write this melody already?" variety. One of those instances where obviousness is a virtue.

I can tell you that it's seeming inevitability was akin to a breath of fresh air at the time.

"The Concept", "December", "What You Do To Me", "Star Sign", "Metal Baby", "I Don't Know", "Alcoholiday"......great stuff. Who wouldn't be proud of these songs?

As with the work of Big Star, this record succeeds so fully on it's own terms as to virtually render knowledge of it's influences academic.

That such a record falls outside of the confines of "powerpop" is just fine with me, but I can assure you that it more than lives up to my own ideal of the term in a way that genuine powerpop (as we define it) seldom does. Make sense?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Experience tells me that lengthy posts on BCB do not inspire a large readership, so (at the risk of burying this thread completely) I will save my thoughts on Cheap Trick, Def Leppard, and Mr. Jim's most recent (and extremely robust) contribution to this thread indefinitely.

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Postby Prez! » 07 Jun 2004, 14:01

Wow! What a thread!
I also feel slightly humbled by what has gone before,but here goes,I'll chip in with my bit.
I was first aware of the phrase 'Power pop' in the late seventies to describe bands coming out of the 'new wave' scene in Britain,who were too soft for punk,but too guitary for pop.Bands like The Pleasers,Tonight,Flaming Groovies etc were all 'power pop' bands of the era.
Comparisons with The Who make sense as The Pleasers hit with 'The kids are alright',I even remember buying the 'My generation' album when it was re-issued by Virgin at the time.
But to my mind the one authentic power pop band that has,as yet,{as far as I know},in this thread gone unheralded were The Searchers.
The Byrds 'jangly' guitar style was derived directly from The Searchers.The Byrds harmonies were lifted straight from The Searchers.
Indeed,when Seymour Stein signed the band to Sire rcords,as a big fan of the band,one of my dreams came true.Contemporary recordings of recent songs.A lot of the bands mentioned here had songs featured on the two albums recorded for Sire.
Their version of "September gurls" knocks every other version into oblivion.
Unfortunately the British public didn't share my enthusiasm,and the band were dropped after two albums.
But The Searchers spanned power pop succesfully over three decades{in fact two line up's of the band are still touring today} & pioneered a lot that they weren't acknowledeged for.
This post will probably guarantee this thread sinks,but a great thread all the same!

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Postby Charlie O. » 08 Jun 2004, 04:22

the loveless wrote:However, pyjamas and gigantic headphones - whatever their totemic power might be - scarcely posess the necessary mojo required to transform Matthew Sweet (warmed over Steve Miller Band) or Jellyfish (Queen lite) into something altogether more substantial and multi dimensional.


Okay, now that everyone's had a chance to dump on him, I'll say it - I think that Girlfriend, a few annoyingly callow lyrics notwithstanding, is a fucking righteous record - I'm genuinely surprised that there isn't more love for it here.

The album before that, Earth, would have been nearly as good, but for the slightly limp production - at least half the songs are wonderful (and, like Girlfriend, it does feature some great guitar from Robert Quine [R.I.P.] and Richard Lloyd).

Altered Beast deserves some respect for not being merely a retread of (the quite successful) Girlfriend, but ultimately just isn't that lovable.

The albums since then have been, basically, retreads of Girlfriend, with diminishing results.

Oh, and his first album, Inside, is pretty weak.

But Girlfriend rools.

My two cents on Matthew Sweet, ladies and gentlemen.

And musically looking back is not necessarily a dead end in and of it's self. The Beatles ("Lady Madonna", "Get Back", "The Ballad Of John and Yoko", "Oh! Darling", "Revolution", "Come Together", "Honey Pie") and beyond ("(Just Like) Starting Over", "Ram On", "Back Seat Of My Car", "Crippled Inside") certainly held the music of their youth (and beyond) in great affection and delivered pastiche/tribute with generally very pleasing and original results. There was always a great deal of themselves in the music.


Quite true - and true even of their early cover versions (though perhaps slightly less so).

Brian Eno was once (accurately or not, I can't know) quoted as having offered the following advice:

"Take your most embarassing feature and magnify it."


One of his "Oblique Strategies," yes?

As I see it... the message is this: "Ego and artifice are a given in the arts. However, the very soul of the work might be derived from some dark and ugly aspect of the artist's personality/id. No need to deliberately be polite, suppress your instincts, cover up your less attractive features, mask your true character, or sacrifice your quirks in the service of a presentable/acceptable facade. Let your insides out, and you might actually produce something of great value and personality."


A side-step: I've been wanting to bring Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, etc.) into the discussion. Even though his work doesn't fit anyone's definition of "power pop," it does share some of the characteristics we've been discussing. There is much about his lyrics and music that is backwards-looking (perhaps "infantile"), and his "masterpiece" 69 Love Songs is quite upfront about being (among other things) a collection of formal genre experiments - a country song, a "world music" song, an Irish ballad, a punk song, and on and on. This afternoon I came across an article on him (by Simon Reynolds) in a 1995 MOJO, wherein he claims that the objective of his work is not to pour out his soul, but to make "pretty objects I can treasure forever."*

So why do I treasure 69 Love Songs (in particular) so much?

I'm not merely "impressed" by it. There are many, many songs - perhaps a few dozen of the 69 - that move me very deeply. Should it bother me that its creator apparently has so little emotion invested in it? How much emotion did John and Paul invest in those early, simple boy/girl Beatles songs that I love so? Just how big an element of what we refer to as an artist's personality is emotion? I'd be curious to know what you all think, particularly (but not only) those familiar with Merritt's stuff.

As for Big Star, loveless, what can I say except that I agree?

I have been criticized before on these boards for quoting Robert Christgau, but his review of Radio City (in particular) is rather interesting and revealing (especially given that it was actually written at the time of the album's release):

Christgau wrote:Radio City [Ardent, 1974]
Brilliant, addictive, definitively semipopular**, and all Alex Chilton--Chris Bell, his folkie counterpart***, just couldn't take it any more. Boosters claim this is just what the AM has been waiting for, but the only pop coup I hear is a reminder of how spare, skew, and sprung the Beatles '65 were, which is a coup because they weren't. The harmonies sound like the lead sheets are upside down and backwards, the guitar solos sound like screwball readymade pastiches, and the lyrics sound like love is strange, though maybe that's just the context. Can an album be catchy and twisted at the same time? A


As for Teenage Fanclub: I don't know. All I've heard is Bandwagonesque, and that was a long time ago. It didn't do it for me then, but perhaps I should reinvestigate...

--------------------------------------------------

* And a possible subject for further debate, if not a seperate thread altogether - asked by Reynolds if his work represented "a gay pop aesthetic of 'passionate irony' as opposed to a straight rock ethos of bogus, blustery 'authenticity,'" Merritt replies: "In 1995, every gesture has quotation marks around it whether we like it or not. It's strange that a few heterosexuals continue to delude themselves that this is not the case."

** "Just as semiclassical music is a systematic dilution of highbrow preferences, semipopular music is a cross-bred concentration of fashionable modes." - RC

*** hmmm - interesting distinction... - CO
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Postby Piggly Wiggly » 08 Jun 2004, 07:55

Charlie O. wrote:A side-step: I've been wanting to bring Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, etc.) into the discussion. Even though his work doesn't fit anyone's definition of "power pop," it does share some of the characteristics we've been discussing. There is much about his lyrics and music that is backwards-looking (perhaps "infantile"), and his "masterpiece" 69 Love Songs is quite upfront about being (among other things) a collection of formal genre experiments - a country song, a "world music" song, an Irish ballad, a punk song, and on and on. This afternoon I came across an article on him (by Simon Reynolds) in a 1995 MOJO, wherein he claims that the objective of his work is not to pour out his soul, but the making of "pretty objects I can treasure forever."*

So why do I treasure 69 Love Songs (in particular) so much?

I'm not merely "impressed" by it. There are many, many songs - perhaps a few dozen of the 69 - that move me very deeply. Should it bother me that its creator apparently has so little emotion invested in it? How much emotion did John and Paul invest in those early, simple boy/girl Beatles songs that I love so? Just how big an element of what we refer to as an artist's personality is emotion? I'd be curious to know what you all think, particularly (but not only) those familiar with Merritt's stuff.


I don't know Merritt's work, but the larger issues you raise are worth discussing.

His apparent distance from 69 Love Songs is one thing, but...you know, the guy has an aesthetic that is very dear to him ("pretty objects I can treasure forever"). He's putting something of himself (this guiding aesthetic) in whether he wishes to or not. Ditto Ween (a group who I alternately love and hate - undoubtedly tourists at some level, but...they often deliver the goods). In theory, Merritt's genre exercises are exactly the thing I despise - yet, there always exists the possibility that the man is fundamentally gifted, and has a compositional voice that is inescapable.

Singer/songwriters traditionally involve themselves in the work to a narcissistic level (Alanis Morrissette would appear to be the absolute nadir of this trait). Such autobiographical disclosure may authenticate their work, but I don't enjoy the music one bit.

On the other hand, the Beatles (who claim to have been working from "a vague formula" in the early days) just fucking nailed it with "She Loves You", "If I Fell", "I Feel Fine", et. al.

Emotion, personality - as you say the delineating line is all but invisible. A performance can contain either or both (or none) of these traits, as can a song (and in my view the emotion and personality may exist primarily in melodic/harmonic/compositional decisions). Todd Rundgren's personality (and I am restricting my analysis to his early 70's peak) is mostly evident to me via certain chord changes, and production decisions. Phil Spector's personality is mostly evident to me via the performances of his musicians (I'm thinking about the way that songs like "Da Do Ron Ron" and "Be My Baby" peak at a certain point).

In life, we do seem to respond to individual personalities. There are people who seem attractive at some seemingly non-physical level, there are people who just bug you, there are people who attract you in spite of everything you perceive about them, and there are people who make no impression at all - indeed, many years ago when I told a friend that I was getting my own apartment on the basis of personality conflicts with my roomate, my friend responded "Your roomate HAS no personality!"

This may have been an unkind (and marginally inaccurate) judgement, but....I knew what he meant. And I think this applies to music. Character, personality, and emotion may not require massive indicators. Some writers/performers may have such striking musical personalities/voices that even their most formal work is unable to conceal a certain essence.

To carry the personality issue just one step further - those early Beatles singles you mention are attractive to me. The Romantics are not. If records were people, some would be guests of honour, and others would be gate crashers.

Some people have such striking personalities that they can't even answer a question/tell a joke/give directions without involving some charming/repellent essence of themselves.

As this applies to, say, Big Star - I have argued that their character is far more dominant than their formal stylistic reverence. By implication, I have contrasted them with lesser lights who appear to lack sufficient personality.

One who sets out to be unique or original may very well be on the right track, but they also might always be a few miles behind someone who can't help but make their own mark (even while trying to do the exact opposite).

Billy

Postby Billy » 08 Jun 2004, 08:04

New Musical exPrez wrote:I was first aware of the phrase 'Power pop' in the late seventies to describe bands coming out of the 'new wave' scene in Britain,who were too soft for punk,but too guitary for pop.Bands like The Pleasers,Tonight,Flaming Groovies etc were all 'power pop' bands of the era.


I still think a definitive answer on who coined the term Power Pop is needed -- was this really a 'Greg Shaw thing', or did he just pick up and run with something that had gone before ....

I agree with exPrez in that The Pleasers, The Boyfriends, etc. were the first 'named' examples of Power Pop .... to these ears at least .... and we are talking 1978 here ....

I see this is Guy E's opinion too ....

Just what was the date of the Bomp article?

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Postby Quaco » 11 Jun 2004, 02:39

Next week: Progressive, prog, and why prog bands of the '90s and '00s are a pale reflection of the greatness that was Yes and King Crimson. Don't miss it!

For a preview of lesson materials, lookhere.
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Postby Quaco » 12 Jun 2004, 08:06

goldwax qui fais non wrote:Update on the power pop box idea: turns out that we already have a one in the works, compiled by Gary Stewart, the man behind Rhino's punk box, among many others.

:evil:

So what's going to be on it? You can tell us. We can keep a secret.
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Postby Pannonica » 23 Aug 2004, 23:00


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Postby Still Baron » 12 Sep 2005, 02:50

Anyone heard the new Matthew Sweet?
take5_d_shorterer wrote:If John Bonham simply didn't listen to enough Tommy Johnson or Blind Willie Mctell, that's his doing.

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Postby Still Baron » 13 Sep 2005, 01:23

goldwax wrote:
Baron wrote:Anyone heard the new Matthew Sweet?


No, but Shout!'s putting out a covers album by him and Susannah Hoffs early next year. It should be ... wait for it ... oh, never mind.


What about Joe Hinton?
take5_d_shorterer wrote:If John Bonham simply didn't listen to enough Tommy Johnson or Blind Willie Mctell, that's his doing.

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The Records starry eyed men dressed in mod punk attire

Postby raindancer » 02 Jan 2006, 22:44

The Records? That really brings back some memories! They're a great British band, some mod, a little punk and all rock. I saw John Wicks & The Records perform last year and they're supposedly working on a new album. (They were giving the forthcoming album a plug onstage) I haven't heard anything else about that but it should be a lot of fun. Hearts In Her Eyes was a fun song, but the single didn't do as well as Starry Eyes.

John Wicks & The Records site

http://www.johnwicksandtherecords.com

The Records UK site

http://www.therecords.org

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Re: The Records starry eyed men dressed in mod punk attire

Postby Quaco » 07 Jan 2006, 02:25

raindancer wrote:The Records? That really brings back some memories! They're a great British band, some mod, a little punk and all rock. I saw John Wicks & The Records perform last year and they're supposedly working on a new album. (They were giving the forthcoming album a plug onstage) I haven't heard anything else about that but it should be a lot of fun. Hearts In Her Eyes was a fun song, but the single didn't do as well as Starry Eyes.

John Wicks & The Records site

http://www.johnwicksandtherecords.com

The Records UK site

http://www.therecords.org

I saw them a couple of years ago, and it was really fantastic. I think they were still working out some kinks in their set but, man, the songs! And Wicks's voice still sounds the same, amazing considering he's about 25 years older.

Looking at those websites you linked to, now I'm tempted to get the CD versions of everything. The only thing that's weird is that, in time-honored UK-vs.-US tradition, the song sequences are totally different on the first two albums, so listening to the correct U.K. sequence will be disorienting. I always liked the song order on my US versions!

I love the fact that they have all those old live mp3s available for download on the johnwicksandtherecords site!

I hope Wicks and the new band will succeed and I hope the new album is good.
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Re: Re:

Postby sloopjohnc » 17 Sep 2007, 16:36

goldwax wrote:
take5_D wrote:
No, the ur-song is ``And Your Bird Can Sing,'' a very good song that illustrated in 1966 all the attractions and limitations that Power Pop would ever have.


A fascinating observation to me, since it transpires that of all the Beatles songs that Matthew Sweet could have chosen to do (for it is he who sings lead on it) for the Sweet/Hoffs Under the Covers Vol. 1 album, he chose this one.


I listened to this album a couple days ago after about a year's absence.

This was a nice little album. With all the music coming out these days, I can see how stuff falls between the cracks, but this is a good one.

They pay homage to the originals without playing it too safe.
Bride Of Sea Of Tunes wrote:I for one wouldn't want to know what memories and deep and dark forces drive Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, or Radiohead, for certain.

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Re:

Postby Quaco » 16 Apr 2008, 21:32

A really good thread. Some further comments...


Charlie O. wrote:I'm still mulling some of these questions over - particularly the ones about melody.

I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of "too much melody" - but it is possible for a melody to "try too hard." (I first encountered this concept in John Mendelssohn's scathing critique of "Celluloid Heroes" - a critique I find myself referencing on this board with alarming frequency.)

I'd be curious to hear more about this. That melody seems pretty simple and strong. Maybe the song strives for some significance that it doesn't quite reach, and maybe the verse melody is rather busy compared to the chorus, but is that what you mean?


Bourgeois Socks wrote:adult diaper brigade (Yellow Pills, etc.) ... a civil war re-enactment ... the skinny tie minstrel show ... Sha Na Na levels of artistic poverty

And the hits just keep on coming!


Charlie O. wrote:
Guy E wrote:One of the interesting things about this thread is that the definition of POWER POP started to change almost immediately after the term was coined. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it was a British term describing Glen Matlock's Rich Kids, Eddie & The Hot Rods Do Anything You Wanna Do, The Records Starry Eyes... things like that. I believe I first came across the term in an interview with Glen Matlock describing the sound he was going after in his post-Sex Pistols project. When Shake Some Action and the first Dwight Twilley and Tom Petty albums were current, I don't think anybody was calling it Power Pop.

Am I alone in remembering this evolution?

I'm sure you're right, Guy.

I know I first encountered the term in reference to Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds/Rockpile!

king feeb wrote:Actually the first time I saw the phrase "power pop" used, it was by critic/label honcho Greg Shaw in an article or review about The Raspberries and The Sidewinders (the Paley Bros. first band) in Creem in the mid-seventies. Shaw, of course, went on to form the power pop-based label and magazine Bomp.

Billy wrote:
New Musical exPrez wrote:I was first aware of the phrase 'Power pop' in the late seventies to describe bands coming out of the 'new wave' scene in Britain,who were too soft for punk,but too guitary for pop.Bands like The Pleasers,Tonight,Flaming Groovies etc were all 'power pop' bands of the era.


I still think a definitive answer on who coined the term Power Pop is needed -- was this really a 'Greg Shaw thing', or did he just pick up and run with something that had gone before ....

I agree with exPrez in that The Pleasers, The Boyfriends, etc. were the first 'named' examples of Power Pop .... to these ears at least .... and we are talking 1978 here ....

I see this is Guy E's opinion too ....

Just what was the date of the Bomp article?

Snarfyguy wrote:
Jimbo wrote:
Roygbiv wrote:Then I see The Who being described as power pop and it all becomes a bit confusing :?


"Maryanne With the Shaky Hands" is so power pop. The music is sweet, but the lyrics are witty and subversive.


Pop? Yes.
Power? No.

Not that it's not great, but I don't find it has the requisite urgency for inclusion in this sub-genre.

I think there are better examples of The Who being power pop in "So Sad About Us", "Glow Girl", "Substitute", and "I'm a Boy". Those have more of the power element present. As far as I know, it was Townshend who coined the term, to describe their sound. Later, it got picked up and used to describe all these other artists.


Brother Spoon wrote:For me, much of the magic sway that the best power pop holds over me has to do with the powers of memory. I can't think of any other genre that illustrates as well how memory can be distorted to forget the bad things and remember the good things or, the other way round, to remember the bad things and forget the good things. It's really all about remembering things that didn't happen or at least they didn't happen to you.

Again, for me, this is what ties together most of the things within the power pop genre that I hold dear: the attempts to keep a mythical past that you only experienced through artefacts alive, the many, many songs about childhood, the many songs about the glories of being a teenager when all the time what goes on between the lines makes clear that it wasn't all that glorious for this guy, the dedication to a craft that has become meaningless in an advanced age, ... In short, the comfort of rebuilding your own past when you come to realize that something big did happen in your life but you slept through it and really, what are the odds of lightning striking twice?

Fantastic post, Pieter.


I also thought this was marginally interesting: http://www.rocksbackpages.com/article.html?ArticleID=2844 -- especially the top 10 lyrical themes of power pop. :)
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Re: Re:

Postby Charlie O. » 16 Apr 2008, 23:59

Quaco wrote:
Charlie O. wrote:I'm still mulling some of these questions over - particularly the ones about melody.

I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of "too much melody" - but it is possible for a melody to "try too hard." (I first encountered this concept in John Mendelssohn's scathing critique of "Celluloid Heroes" - a critique I find myself referencing on this board with alarming frequency.)

I'd be curious to hear more about this. That melody seems pretty simple and strong. Maybe the song strives for some significance that it doesn't quite reach, and maybe the verse melody is rather busy compared to the chorus, but is that what you mean?


I'd say both of those statements are true; in particular I was thinking of that little sideways twist in the last couplet of the verse. It just sounds unnatural and affected.

I wish I knew just where my copy of Mendelssohn's Kinks book was; that whole paragraph or so that he devotes to "Celluloid Heroes" is a hoot. Of course, someone who actually likes the song (as I'm afraid I never have) might disagree!
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Re: Power pop and related: define, deride, defend...

Postby Charlie O. » 17 Apr 2008, 00:01

Actually, I was thinking about this thread just a couple of days ago, when we were playing a Stone Roses comp in the shop. Could their early stuff be considered "power pop"? If so, it's an example I like!
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Re: Power pop and related: define, deride, defend...

Postby mission » 30 Jun 2008, 09:44

I have been thinking for some time about KISS. I am unabashed fan of my idea of KISS, an idea formed in about 1974 when as a 5-year-old, I badgered my mum into buying ALIVE! and sat for what may have been days looking at the impossibly cool kids in the gatefold sleeve picture.

To these ears, early - pre-disco - KISS has a pretty neat hold on a lot of the principles and shibboleths of power pop as mentioned in this (excellent) thread. I am talking of the sloppy but tight drums, the bright upfront guitar sound, the obvious Anglophile/Beatles love affair evidenced by harmonies, all members having a go at singing lead on "their" song - and so on.

We also get, as the almost sole subject matter of the songs, the self-referential celebration of "rock music" - and all that that phrase means. It's all about partying and rocking and being a rock star and partying and rocking as a rockstar. Ortega Y Gasset, in an essay about how Realism is a monstrous aberration in the history of taste, argues that the proper subject of art is art itself.

To my mind, as well as similar aesthetis sensibilities in terms of instrumentation and arrangement, "power pop" and "bubblegum rock" share this essential characteristic of art.

The excellent observations made above, about the connections of these kinds of music to memories of uncomplicated times and feelings - to youth itself - also apply.
Good.

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Re: Power pop and related: define, deride, defend...

Postby Balboa » 17 Aug 2008, 15:59

Bump
Of course, I was mostly stoned at the time.