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

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Snarfyguy
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Postby Snarfyguy » 03 Jun 2004, 00:54

Mr. Jim wrote:Do you people think that songwriters nowadays have an obligation to write less melodic material, since pop music listeners' ears have turned more towards rhythmic aspects of music and since sampling and computer recording processes have made exact repetition an important effect?


What a very interesting question.

Of course, writers should do what they want, let their inspiration guide them. But in order to be successful, perhaps an element of the contemporary is needed.

I write what I consider pop songs, but I write them with no agenda other than they satisfy *me.* Unfortunately, sometimes other people have to hear them. :oops: (although I did recently get an e-mail from a stranger who had a song I wrote on auto repeat! :D )

Better songwriters than I are able to tailor their efforts more finely, I suppose. My stuff just has its own internal logic and writes itself. I couldn't be any more or less melodic if I tried, though, truth be told, I'm very lazy.
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Postby Quaco » 03 Jun 2004, 01:18

Snarf, I do agree that to be popular, the modern musician must tailor the songs a lot to the modern style. My question was more abstract than that, though. I edited my above post to reflect better what I really meant, which was, Does similarly melodic music sound different depending on the backdrop of music from its era? Additionally, if there were an indie band that released a song as melodic as "Witchita Lineman" or as "Valleri," I for one would be delighted. But do you think most listeners would reject it as too retro, too fruity, too melodic?
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Snarfyguy
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Postby Snarfyguy » 03 Jun 2004, 01:23

Mr. Jim wrote: But do you think most listeners would reject it as too retro, too fruity, too melodic?


Yes I do, but really I'm just happy that Goldwax changed his avatar.
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Postby Charlie O. » 03 Jun 2004, 03:37

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.)

"Too much harmony" is a concept I have no trouble accepting. (The late Kirsty MacColl's otherwise fine records spring to mind.)

Here's another insular tendency I thought of, this time mainly applying to more recent/current acts: excessive reference to old records. I'm not talking about "musical quotes," really - everybody pinches a bit here and there - I mean lyrics about records. Or lyrics that quote a line from some old record as a sort of nudge nudge wink wink to the listener - "Hey, if you recognize this, then you're hip because you dig Da Capo too!" - that kind of thing. Music by record geeks for record geeks. Of course, I am one, so in theory I should love this - "Wow, this band is just like me!" But in fact, I tend to find it annoying. I used to live life vicariously through records; now, I still do, but the life I'm vicariously living is that of someone who doesn't do anything but listen to records. It just isn't as satisfying as, say, vicariously going out with a girl, you know?
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Postby Charlie O. » 03 Jun 2004, 05:14

Obmij wrote:A bit off topic, but that's how I feel about sampling, or at least the ones I recognize. Just irks me and I think, hey, go make up your own licks.


For some reason, sampling doesn't necessarily bother me, but I know what you mean.

As with these other things, it's all in how it's done (and how it's intended, maybe).

As far as overproduction goes, a pop record can't go much further than De Capo, can it?


Da Capo - overproduced? How?

If anything, I reckon it's UNDERproduced - inasmuch as the producer should have said "Arthur, Bryan - 'Revelations' just isn't good enough - we need some more real songs."
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Postby Piggly Wiggly » 03 Jun 2004, 05:20

Obmij wrote:Say, are The Beatles power pop and The Stones more hard rock?


By my definition, both of these acts predate such terms.

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Postby Piggly Wiggly » 03 Jun 2004, 05:28

Obmij wrote:Okay then, I propose the greatest power pop artist is Prince when he does his pop thing with songs like "Pop Life" and "Rasberry Beret". That shit can't be beaten.


Absolutely.

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Postby Charlie O. » 03 Jun 2004, 06:01

Obmij wrote:I haven't heard it in a while, but the way all those strings and horns were recorded are too treacley, gluey, molassey sweet. I've recently heard a leaner live version and I enjoy it much more.


You're thinking of Forever Changes! And I still disagree, but I can see it.
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Postby My name is Spaulding » 03 Jun 2004, 09:14

Charlie O. wrote:
If anything, I reckon it's UNDERproduced - inasmuch as the producer should have said "Arthur, Bryan - 'Revelations' just isn't good enough - we need some more real songs."


Totally. If that had happened, Da Capo would be as much a classic as Forever Changes is.
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Postby aloysius » 03 Jun 2004, 09:57

the loveless wrote:
Obmij wrote:Okay then, I propose the greatest power pop artist is Prince when he does his pop thing with songs like "Pop Life" and "Rasberry Beret". That shit can't be beaten.


Absolutely.


Great pop, but perhaps not what I have in mind by power pop. I think its the psychedelia thing that puts this material in a box with XTC/Dukes, Soft Boys/Hitchcock, Wondermints, Jellyfish etc. Its just different to my ears

Cognate genres include chamber pop (Boettcher>Surf's Up>Cardinal>Siesta Records>Louis Philippe>High Llamas etc.) and UK pub rock/melodic punk (Nick Lowe, Rockpile, Undertones, Buzzcocks).

For me power pop is a pretty tight genre - Big Star, Rubinoos, Greg Kihn, Shoes,Twilley etc. Probably Teenage Fanclub, early Ben Vaughn combo and Pursuit of Happiness too.

Actually, the best definition (rather than the best music per se), is probably side one of this:

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Postby Cédric » 03 Jun 2004, 10:07

Aloysius wrote:
the loveless wrote:
Obmij wrote:Okay then, I propose the greatest power pop artist is Prince when he does his pop thing with songs like "Pop Life" and "Rasberry Beret". That shit can't be beaten.


Absolutely.


Great pop, but perhaps not what I have in mind by power pop. I think its the psychedelia thing that puts this material in a box with XTC/Dukes, Soft Boys/Hitchcock, Wondermints, Jellyfish etc. Its just different to my ears

Cognate genres include chamber pop (Boettcher>Surf's Up>Cardinal>Siesta Records>Louis Philippe>High Llamas etc.) and UK pub rock/melodic punk (Nick Lowe, Rockpile, Undertones, Buzzcocks).

For me power pop is a pretty tight genre - Big Star, Rubinoos, Greg Kihn, Shoes,Twilley etc. Probably Teenage Fanclub, early Ben Vaughn combo and Pursuit of Happiness too.

Actually, the best definition (rather than the best music per se), is probably side one of this:

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Yeah, I agree with you, Aloysius. For me too, power pop is a very tight genre. I'm not even sure that Big Star (too "funky", sometimes... the Memphis roots !) and Teenage Fanclub (too "byrdsian" and definitely too Scottish !) also fit in that category. Regarding the 70s power pop, the Rubinoos, the Shoes, Dwight Twilley and some tracks by Badfinger are perfect. Since the 80s and after the Punk, I'd say that it's mainly a question of an easy melody and nice harmonies put on some powerful chords and dynamic tune. Like I said earlier, the green album by Weezer is the perfect power pop record, IMO.
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Postby aloysius » 03 Jun 2004, 10:30

Cédric wrote:Teenage Fanclub... definitely too Scottish !


I know what you mean - it is very much a US genre. Then again, there's long been a section of Scottish (largely Glaswegian) musical culture that is obsessed with classic American musical traditions and shares almost nothing in common with the rest of the UK. With Teenage Fanclub, I guess I have Grand Prix in mind - this always seems more 'power pop' than their subsequent albums.
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Postby aloysius » 03 Jun 2004, 10:33

AOL's view:

Power Pop is a cross between the crunching hard rock of the Who and the sweet melodicism of the Beatles and Beach Boys, with the ringing guitars of the Byrds thrown in for good measure. Although several bands of the early '70s — most notably the Raspberries, Big Star, and Badfinger — established the sound of power pop, it wasn't until the late '70s that a whole group of like-minded bands emerged. Most of these groups modeled themselves on the Raspberries (which isn't entirely surprising, since they were the only power-pop band of their era to have hit singles), or they went directly back to the source and based their sound on stacks of British Invasion records. What tied all of these bands together was their love of the three-minute pop single. Power-pop bands happened to emerge around the same time of punk, so they were swept along with the new wave because their brief, catchy songs fit into the post-punk aesthetic. Out of these bands, Cheap Trick, the Knack, the Romantics, and Dwight Twilley had the biggest hits, but the Shoes, the Records, the Nerves, and 20/20, among many others, became cult favorites. During the early '80s, power pop died away as a hip movement, and nearly all of the bands broke up. However, in the late '80s, a new breed of power pop began to form. The new bands, who were primarily influenced by Big Star, blended traditional power pop with alternative rock sensibilities and sounds; in the process, groups like Teenage Fanclub, Material Issue, and the Posies became critical and cult favorites. While these bands gained the attention of hip circles, many of the original power-pop groups began recording new material and releasing it on independent labels. In the early '90s, the Yellow Pills compilation series gathered together highlights from these re-activated power poppers, as well as new artists that worked in a traditional power-pop vein. Throughout the early and mid-'90s, this group of independent, grass-roots power-pop bands gained a small but dedicated cult following in the United States.

I think this is pretty accurate actually.

BTW, has anyone heard this or another in the series?

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1. Remedies performed by Dwight Twilley
2. I Miss You performed by Shoes
3. Speed Kills performed by Adam Schmitt
4. Is It Any Wonder performed by Cowsills
5. Song of the Universe performed by Twenty Twenty
6. Fingers On It performed by Enuff Z'nuff
7. Stars performed by Devin Hill
8. You Can't Lie performed by Critics
9. Rest Up performed by Jim Basnight
10. Open Wide performed by Chris VonSneidern
11. Skinny performed by Spongetones
12. The Girl performed by Rubinoos
13. Disarray performed by Tommy Keene
14. Break Down The Walls performed by Ken Sharp
15. It's You Tonight performed by Flashcubes
16. No Romance Today performed by Elliot Kendall
17. Get To Know You performed by Vandalias
18. When Is Your Dream performed by Whallop
19. Why Can't We Make Believe We're In Love? performed by Buddy Love
20. Love Sick Trip performed by Three Hour Tour
21. I Like The World performed by Mark Johnson
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Postby Roygbiv » 03 Jun 2004, 10:35

Most of the posts in this excellent thread (this is what the board should have more of) are struggling with the definition of power pop.

I'm not going to offer any simple solutions because there are none, but as usual in popular music, genre names can be constraining. I always though of power pop as Big Star, Raspberries and to a degree Badfinger (although as others have pointed out, where's the power there?). Then it broadened to encompass 90s guitar bands such as Velvet Crush and Teenage Fanclub.

It was only when I read Magnet magazine's special issue of Power Pop from a year or so back that I realised that there was another movement in the post-punk years of bands with skinny ties and sharp hooks. (Born in 1973, so I missed out there).

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

I like Brendan Benson. I love Big Star. I'll leave it at that...

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Postby Roygbiv » 03 Jun 2004, 10:38

Aloysius wrote:BTW, has anyone heard this or another in the series?

Image

1. Remedies performed by Dwight Twilley
2. I Miss You performed by Shoes
3. Speed Kills performed by Adam Schmitt
4. Is It Any Wonder performed by Cowsills
5. Song of the Universe performed by Twenty Twenty
6. Fingers On It performed by Enuff Z'nuff
7. Stars performed by Devin Hill
8. You Can't Lie performed by Critics
9. Rest Up performed by Jim Basnight
10. Open Wide performed by Chris VonSneidern
11. Skinny performed by Spongetones
12. The Girl performed by Rubinoos
13. Disarray performed by Tommy Keene
14. Break Down The Walls performed by Ken Sharp
15. It's You Tonight performed by Flashcubes
16. No Romance Today performed by Elliot Kendall
17. Get To Know You performed by Vandalias
18. When Is Your Dream performed by Whallop
19. Why Can't We Make Believe We're In Love? performed by Buddy Love
20. Love Sick Trip performed by Three Hour Tour
21. I Like The World performed by Mark Johnson


This is out of print, I've tried to get it before.

cough cough cough cough cough !!!!!!! :D

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Postby Earthling » 03 Jun 2004, 12:41

Mr. Jim wrote:Keeping in mind the brilliant first post in this thread, let's use the more inclusive definition of power pop/melodic rock. Not just bands like The Shoes, Dwight Twilley and The Records, but also bands like the Wondermints, Jellyfish, XTC, Ben Folds Five, and Teenage Fanclub. It's all highly melodic rock.

And the La's; don't forget the La's.
There is a difference between saccharine coated pop and power pop.
They both flaunt melody and harmony but I think power pop has a 'harder' edge, stinging guitar breaks.
It's like 'Incense and Peppermints' vs 'Sparky's Dream'.