Sunday, December 24, 2006


MOUNTAIN CON Sancho Panza (Big Record Company) Being a bit of an old school rock enthusiast, rap and hip-hop tends to be a turn off. However, whenever any cutting edge imaginative group of artists manages to mix and match hip hop beats with classic pop-rock, I am the first to jump up and scream – “Aw Yeah!” Case in point – Seattle’s Mountain Con, whose innovative amalgams e.g. the jaunty powerpop slam dunking “Escape Artist,” the folk-rock funky “House Party in the New Dark Ages” and the irresistibly insistent “Rocket Out of Trash” echoes Beck, Grandaddy, the Beastie Boys and a healthy dollop of Bob Dylan! Refreshing.

MONDO JET SET Henry After A Nightlife (Pink Hedgehog) Ostensibly, Mondo Jet Set is a British indie rock band that makes all the right moves, maybe even cynically so. I mean, for the 1st three tracks, Mondo Jet Set appears to be merely mimicking the shoe-gazing flavour of the month. Then “Siren Song” hits you right between the eyes with its campy melody and heartfelt white squall and the modus operandi takes on a distinct quality. From the ethereal “On Amber” onwards, Mondo Jet Set stretches out their wings and takes flight. “Disco” is a fantastic glam approximation, “Firing at the Sky” is an intense bloodletting and “You Know Your Lover” is lovely dreamy jazz pop.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Five Way Street: A Tribute to Buffalo Springfield (Not Lame) Strange as it may seem, this is the first tribute band this legendary band has mustered thus far. Ironic when you consider that one of its members viz. Neil Young has had more than his fair share of tribute albums down the years. Better late than never, I suppose. Though Buffalo Springfield was a short-lived band, their influence extends to this day. Part of the Laurel Canyon zeitgeist that fused rock ‘n’ roll, pop, folk, R&B, blues and country into a heady mélange, Buffalo Springfield deserves to take its place as an integral part of the 60s pop pantheon. Highlights of this set – Noctorum viz. Marty (The Church) Willson-Piper and Dave (Traffic) Mason – with a spine-tingling “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” Maplewood’s sensitive “I Am A Child,” The Gripweeds’ muscular “Down to the Wire,” The Windbreakers’ ethereal “Expecting To Fly,” Jeff Larson’s exciting “Questions” amongst others. Add also significant contributions from Walter Clevenger, George Usher Group, The Kennedys and Western Electric and you will agree that Five Way Street is a celebration that any fan of 60s pop-rock would want in on.

THE FAGS Light ‘Em Up (Idol) With nary a tune that lasts longer than 4 minutes, The Fags are, what you might call, a quintessential power pop band. With three chords and melodies that have you humming along and energy that will keep you bopping till the very end, the Fags simplify this whole business of rock ‘n’ roll to the basics. F-U-N! Think about every kind of guitar rock that has thrilled and killed you in the last 4 decades and what the Fags has done is distilled this potent brew into a fresh sound that is also comfortably familiar. Good stuff!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


JEREMY Faithful and True (Jam) When I grow up I wanna be Jeremy. I mean, he’s a talented musician, genuine nice guy and a man of God. And also highly prolific! Faithful and True is the third volume in Jeremy’s worship and praise series and it’s different from the CCM, folks might be familiar with. It’s Jeremy’s patented 60s-infused jangle-folk-rock (with 70s prog underpinnings!) presented as love songs to the LORD. A powerful combo.

EVAN HILLHOUSE Self-titled (Striped Rock) On his debut CD, Evan Hillhouse references the Beatles, Jon Brion, the Zombies, Nilsson, Jellyfish, Bacharach, Jason Falkner and Queen. Literally and musically, no doubt, astute listeners will make the connection. Here’s the clincher, Hillhouse is fresh out of high school (the same age as my eldest son!) and plays every instrument here ala Todd Rundren & Prince. Hearing is believing!

THE ET AL Baby Machine (Monotones) This UK quartet draws heavily from the edgy, scratchy, big music of the post-punk era. Echo & the Bunnymen, U2, the Skids, Joy Division, Teardrop Explodes. In modern times, comparisons can be easily made with Radiohead, Snow Patrol and any number of shoe-gazing influenced outfits. Nothing particularly ear-catching but the insistent “Wardens” is a good starting point.

SCHNAUSER Kill All Humans (Pink Hedgehog) Is this an (in)joke? Because I find it a little hard to swallow that this collection of genuine-sounding freakbeat psychedelia was put together by a band from Armenia. Presumably it’s a project band featuring the likes of Anton Barbeau, Marco Rossi (Cheese), Geoff Cabis (The Bitter Little Cider Apples) and the like. So nod along like you get the joke and enjoy this crisp, authentic tribute to psychedelia.

ROGER TARRY Driving Song EP (Self-released) Where did this come from? This EP features three tracks of unbridled wild beauty – so fragile yet unrestrained. Softly whispered lyrics that recall Nick Drake or Tim Buckley – with pastoral soulfulness that beckons the listener to simply wallow in rustic contemplation. Understand that there’s an album out as well. Can hardly wait. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hearing David Morgan for the 1st time is indeed a revelation. This accomplished jazz pianist and producer made his pop-rock debut with "Ordinary Glory" and it is chock full of the kind of tunes that PoP regulars will warm up to instantly. David was kind enough to be the next in line for PoPINIONS.

Where do all those gorgeous melodies come from?

Music really is a language and I've been fortunate to have been exposed to so much great music in my life. I've learned a lot of different styles of tunes and songs, a lot of jazz,standards and classical music and have a pretty big storehouse of melodies in my brain. For me, a song is really about the melody. When I write a song, the melody usually comes first, but it's usually not premeditated. It comes when I'm driving my car or doing the dishes. Having a tape recorder around is the only way I ever remember anything.

Is songwriting a pleasure or hard work?

A little of both, but the work part of it is pleasure too. I love writing songs, I love the whole process. The fleshing out of an initial inspiration can be hard, but I try not to push it too much. These things come when they come.

Can you name an musical influence that most people won't pick up on & why?

My teacher when I lived in New Orleans, Ellis Marsalis. Everything about him is real and every solo he takes is so full of melody and swing. His playing and influence is pretty huge in every aspect of what I do.

Does being a accomplished producer in your own right make the recording process easier?

Yes and no. Making an album is another part of what I do that is great fun, even the sticky situations I find myself in sometimes. I'm not an engineer at all, so I really focus on the music, the songs and how to make a recording that will bring out the best in the song and the artist. My goal is to take an initial vision from the artist and hopefully get a finished product that is emotionally moving and better than anyone dreamed of. The right team is critical-engineers, players, songwriters... It's really a team effort.

"Ordinary Glory" is your debut solo release - why did it take so long as you have been playing since age 5?

I have three jazz CD's out. "Comment" from 1992, "Hands Of Time" from1995 and "The David Morgan Trio-Live at the Blue Note" from 1999. This is just my first pop release.

What next after "Ordinary Glory"? What would you like to achieve in your pop-rock career?
I have a whole album's worth of new songs that need lyrics. So, I'd like to finish writing and record it. I'd like to get on a label that can put some good solid promotion behind it. This next album will be more focused on the piano with less guitar overdubs and more stretched out solos. I'd like to record most of it live in the studio as opposed to doing it in pieces, like "Ordinary Glory". My pop career-good question. I'd like to build it up to a point where I can do theatre tours and sell them out and I want to continue to write songs and produce great artists, like Neshama Carlebach, who I've been working with for over 10 years. From an artistic standpoint, I want to continue to develop my music, never resting on anything for too long.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


City Electric is a Chicago band with great potential and a promising EP - Five Easy Pieces - to boot. Scott Schaafsma tells us a little more about City Electric...

Why an EP instead of a full-length album?

We decided to record the EP first even though we had enough good songs for a full record. We want to save the full length for a larger unified statement. That’s why so many of our live staples did not make the EP. We were a trio at the time of recording and it was done mostly live with no pro-tools or computer in three days so we wanted to clearly document a sound we were excited about during the recording without disturbing our large plans for the full-length. However I will say that we’re most proud of what lies in the details of Five Easy Pieces. On first listen it’s a straightforward solid listen. But I believe repeated listenings will prove there’s more than meets the ear.

What do you hope to achieve with the EP?

Something classic but not cliché and unconventional. We don’t imagine City Electric as a short-term indie fad band. We’d like our records to sit on the same side of the shelf as the ones you’d never sell back no matter what music you’re currently into. You’re keeping ‘Teenage Riot’ You’re keeping ‘Sticky Fingers’ If in a few months you’re selling ‘Be Your Own Pet’ or ‘This Band has a Name that is Long and Obtuse Perhaps You’ve Forgotten’ we don’t want to go with it.

What would you say are the primary inspirations for the writing and recording of the songs?

All these songs were written on guitars tuned from modifications on Nick Drake or John Fahey acoustic tunings. Five Easy Pieces, much like the movie its named after, is a about quietly loving people and places and quietly letting them go –without the proper celebration. Whether it a girl, God or a bedroom in a city.

The recording process was directly influenced by a lot of our heroes in-and-out of the studio in a few days, first recordings. Just bare bones. Sonically, we were after similar sounds as Jeremy’s recordings with O’Rourke, etc. We love those records.

'Quiet Life" is more immediate than the other tracks, almost a melodic pop ballad, how does that sit with the stated experimental slant of the band? Is there even a conflict at all?

Good question. That is the conflict that drives City Electric. If you have something to say chances are people have heard it before. However, if you can find the right way to say it maybe someone will listen. The concepts on a City Electric record (or any rock record for that matter) aren’t new but we’d like to think folks might hear ‘em and relate cause we’re constantly searching experimenting for the best way to say ‘em. That’s City Electric in a handshake.

Where does City Electric go from here?

To the topper most of the poppermost, Kevin. Thanks for askin’.

More about City Electric at

Got some really great news from Aidil (Couple)!!
Couple has been chosen to be in the final round of Rolling Stone (USA) magazine's Best Bands on Myspace contest.

Right now the Rolling Stone magazine staff has chosen the Malaysian powerpop band to be one of the top 5 bands of the day.

What Couple needs you to do is to go to the link below and vote for Couple by leaving a comment saying how much you like the song "Now That I Can See" and Couple:


Saturday, December 16, 2006


BIG LIFE DESIRE Your Love Is (Whimsical) English singer-songwriter Keith Harbottle is Big Life Desire and Your Love Is is Keith’s debut (3-track) single. The general vibe here is 80s post punk/new wave which is fine by me. Though the pleasant Your Love Is may be designated the A-side, it is the two B-sides that prick these ears. “In Pieces” has an interesting Asian flavour with a Blur bent whilst “She’s Got It All” is a catchy ditty, which recalls Ray Davies of the Kinks in his structure and delivery. A promising debut.

SNOW PATROL Eyes Open (Polydor) Building from the breakthrough success of Final Straw, Eyes Open has been declared a commercial and critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. Soaking in the indie rock anthems of “You’re All I Have” and “Hands Open,” it’s not difficult to understand its mass appeal. And when the repertoire includes a radio-friendly ballad like “Chasing Cars”… Mixing up the agreeable reference points of U2, Catherine Wheel, Coldplay and Keane, this British outfit has struck gold with a formula that works and how!

KLAATU Sun Set 1973 – 1981 (Bullseye) Truth be told, while I have heard of Klaatu (the Beatles “association” and all that), this collection of previously unreleased (on CD) pre-Capitol singles, rarities and outtakes represents my first exposure to the band. What an introduction! Lovingly collected by the folks at Bullseye, Sun Set is a wondrous demonstration of the inventive pop genius of John Wolocshuk, Dee Long & Terry Draper. Guess it’s time to do everything in my power to get hold of all those Klaatu albums, proper.

JAMES COOPER Second Season (Paisley Pop) So even powerpop has gone global. Cooper is Australian-born, residing in England and his album is released in the US of A! To be accurate, Cooper does keep Second Season eclectic with a generous helping of country, folk & jazz ballads mixed in with the powerpop guitar rockers. Sure, you’re gonna be bopping to the energetic “Everything To Everyone,” the feisty “Christine” and especially the standout cut “Love In London.” And then mellow out with the lovely sentiments of “Beautiful As You,” “When the Wall Came Down” and “Sammy.” First class!

Friday, November 24, 2006


That, my dear friends, is the name of a faboulous powerpop blog run by Steve that gives a lowdown on all the great music coming out of the pop underground. Steve has been kind enough to mention the Power of Pop on his blog and I take great pleasure in returning the favour.

Thank God for the internet!

Sunday, November 19, 2006


CHRIS BROWN Now That You’re Fed (Self-released) Although, most will be distracted by the Jellyfish association (co-producer here is Chris Manning after all), the correct reference point is Lindsey Buckingham, especially with Brown’s deft use of the acoustic guitar and layered vocal tracks. Which all makes for a truly pleasing experience.

MITCH LINKER Self-titled (Self-released) After stints with the Dent and the Day Traders, Linker takes the plunge as a solo artist and finds that the water is great. Basically, Linker’s melodic pop music will garner him loads of admirers. I mean, who doesn’t want good tunes and that cool pop vibe? Really.

BIG BUS DREAM Self-titled (4th Ward) With an emphasis on acoustic psychedelic jazz-folk pop, Mike Shannon and Chick Tsikouras have no option but to rely on well-crafted songs to hold rapt the attention of their listeners. No wallpapering the cracks here with pyrotechnics. I guess that’s why Big Bus Dream succeeds.

TEAM ROCKIT The Lowest Point In Rock ‘N’ Roll History (Fire Tone) How droll! The name says it all actually. How many different ways can you grind out these garage nuggets? The focus is on the power without the glory. Motor City mania of the Stooges and MC5 has gripped Team Rockit and hope it never lets go!

CINDERPOP Their Skies Are Beautiful (Bongo Beat) This Canadian quartet provides a fair middle ground between shoegaze and powerpop. Thus, the songs range from jaunty to atmospheric, from rocking to dreamy. Melodies can be a tad slight but there’s no doubting the intent.

THE RACHETS Glory Bound (Pirates Press) Sounds like Bruce Springsteen fronting the Clash. Unkind? No, there’s a compliment in that somewhat as The Ratchets have captured well the heartland soul of the Boss and deliver it through songs that reflect the ragged energy of old school British punk. And if Hold Steady can have a hit album…

ELLA ROUGE Self-titled (MobyDick) This Swedish band has done a bang-up job of distilling the classic 70s rock of Pink Floyd, ABBA, Wings and ELO and extrapolating gigantic tunes from the mixed-up hubris. The big sound of Ella Rouge may jar indie rock lovers but in the heart of the unseemly beast beats a rock ‘n’ roll beat.

FOUR HOURS SLEEP Love Specifics (Popboomerang) A glorious throwback to rock sophistication of the sixties and seventies. Smooth and textured, velvety and erudite, Four Hours Sleep is an enthralling study of pop’s myriad joys. Spanning diverse genres, from Spectoresque pop, country-blues, experimental music and folk-pop, Bill McDonald & friends keep it constantly interesting.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


DAVID MORGAN Ordinary Glory (Self-released) I love this job! Especially when it places into my hands such fine pop music. With his piano-based songs and resonant tenor, the comparisons with Billy Joel are hard to resist but Morgan is his own (piano) man. A very positive (infectious) vibe permeates Ordinary Glory. It may be old world/old school sensibility but give me a dose of David Morgan over an overload of Five For Fighting anyday.

THE SUPERS Re: Arrange (Self-released) These powerpop stalwarts have released a well crafted, finely produced collection of sharp pop songs that recall the fellow countrymen the Barenaked Ladies, Graham Parker and Elvis Costello. The range of songcraft covers crunching rockers, heartfelt ballads and visceral putdowns alike to communicate a enjoyable sonic feel. A good balance between cerebral geek rock and erudite powerpop.

DÝRĐIN Self-titled (Skipping Stones) Only three of these eleven songs are in English. But guess what, it doesn’t make much difference cos this Icelandic powerpop band make the sweetest noise! And at under 30 minutes, before you know it, it’s all over and you have to start the CD all over again. And you will, cos Dýrđin churn out really cool & bright pop music that it is almost irresistible.

THE HANKS Your New Attraction (Cobra Music) It is obvious that the Hanks are of this modern rock age. Throughout its earnest rock, echoes of melodic emo punk ping pong all over this eleven-track debut. You’re bound to hear references to Dashboard Confessional, Saves the Day, Get Up Kids and Weezer in the Hanks’ robust approach. Armed with strong material, the Hanks demonstrate that they are a new rock band to be reckoned with.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Dana and Carl present: “This is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” Vol. 2 (Jam) This is my kind of radio show. 28 tracks that highlight why power pop is not the lost cause that many in the mainstream consider. Anyone vaguely familiar with the pop underground would lighten up with faced with the music of Chris Von Sneidern, Eytan Mirsky, Cloud Eleven, The Spongetones, Mr. Encrypto, the Grip Weeds, the Dipsomaniacs and so on. The perfect introduction to many great powerpop bands. What are you waiting for?

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Loads of talented folk out there in cyberspace. Case in point, the Scallions aka Shawn and Mike Franklin who parley their Residents-styled sensibility into pristine powerpop and ambient electonica. They strike me as intelligent musicians as well. See if you agree...

What place does music have in your lives?

Shawn: Music has always been in our lives. We weren't a typical situation where someone gets into music in his/her teens. It has always been there. Our Dad is a musician and our Mom is into creative things with art and such. It's a happy balance.

How would describe the kind of music found on the new album?

Mike: We call the sound Avant-Garde Power Pop. The songs are short 60’s and 70’s influenced traditional pop songs with an experimental edge. I think we were finally able to find a balance between our power pop hooks and our more experimental side with this project. It just sort of took shape over the course of recording ATC. Those five looooong years we spent recording it. I think there is a little something extra in the production on this CD that will take more than one sitting to appreciate. Fortunately, the majority of the feedback has been positive so far. No matter which style we play, melody always comes first.

Looking back, some of our older avant-garde tracks made people run screaming from the room. We haven’t abandoned that side and this wasn’t a calculated approach by any means. We’ll actually be revisiting the more experimental side again on our new vinyl project.

Is the D.I.Y. ethic important to you?

Shawn: The D.I.Y. attitude is crucial for us. Yes, we are a signed band with Chuck D from Public Enemy, but we still do a lot of legwork. Now we have people who help us out with videos, art and other things, but we still like to have the final say and control as much as we can.

Mike: It’s been nice to have a hand in all aspects of our music. Things changed slightly once we were signed. We started working with individuals outside of the group and handing certain jobs over to them. Luckily, we’ve hooked up with some great people who really get us - so we weren’t disappointed.

How does a band that cites the Residents as a major influence end up signed with a rap label?

Shawn: We are a band that is into so many different styles of music. Well, Public Enemy is one of my favorite bands (so are The Residents) and I have been a hardcore fan since the first album. I have always wanted to meet Chuck. I ended up getting his email address and asked if he sign our guestbook at the time. I thought it would look so cool. He ended up doing it like 3 weeks later but he also downloaded some of our songs.

As it turns out, he was giving a lecture near where I live and got to meet him in person. When I asked him to sign some things, he asked "who do I make this out to?" I said "you actually checked out my band The Scallions" and he cuts me off and said my name. I was on cloud nine for days. I emailed him again saying how great I thought the lecture was. He responded saying that he wanted to know if we wanted to license out some songs for his online label Slam Jamz. At the time, he wasn't doing anything offline. Years later, he changed all that and we were chosen to do a proper CD/DVD.

What does the future hold for the Scallions?

Shawn: As Mike mentioned, we have a vinyl only avant-garde record coming out called "Sounds of vinyl and the past." It’s coming out on Mind's Ear records. It will be an instrumental record and contain a lot of different sections. I am so happy with it. We are like 90% done with the recording. This is a record dedicated to the people who have been into us since we started releasing material for the public. Also we are assembling material for the next Slam Jamz Scallions CD.

Mike: We both have a backlog of material to go through for the next CD. We’ll start sifting through that and decide what makes the cut, clean it up, and record it. Some of the demos are already done. We hope that the next release doesn’t take five years!

I wouldn’t mind playing or show or two either…

Saturday, November 04, 2006


CITY ELECTRIC Five Easy Pieces EP (Self released) This debut EP from this Chicago-based quartet showcases the band’s penchant for wiry and edgy post-punk birthed in England & New York. Thus elements of goth, noise pop and shiny melodic rock all make an appearance here on the fairly eclectic material. In that respect, there are similarities with bands like Ambulance LTD. Personally; the closing “Quiet Life” suggests that despite the band’s stated experimental bent, it may be in the traditional pop ballad that City Electric makes a name for itself. And why not? Good music, whatever its format. A band to watch.

THE SCALLIONS Agony Through Ceremony (Slam Jamz) Brothers Mike and Shawn Franklin make up the Scallions. Word is, the Franklin brothers have been recording for more than 16 years. It shows too on this accomplished collection, as the production work is first class. The album is a little schizophrenic though seeing as it veers from the opening sixties folk-rock to synth pop to ambient-techno before two really fine classic Britpop-rock numbers buoys you and then, the dirge-like “Final Frame” drops you off at the deep end. What a ride for pop lovers everywhere. Climb onboard!

UNWED SAILOR The White Ox (Burnt Toast Vinyl) Instrumental since 1998…. Boasts Unwed Sailor’s myspace tagline. The White Ox is 33-odd minutes of ambient/progressive/experimental music with some lyrics thrown in now and then. It’s probably clichéd to say that this belongs on a film soundtrack somewhere. But in the absence of visuals, the music of Unwed Sailor is about atmosphere and evocation. The moods and emotions of the six songs vary from pastoral bliss to sinister foreboding to urban despair. A good mix, you would agree even though at times the pulse and pace struggle to get past somnolent. Crisp instrumentation coupled with skilful performances will make The White Ox appealing to the prog set.

HOT MUTE (Unreleased) Ah… the majesty of rock! The classic 70s version, of course. Let Hot Mute, four lads from San Francisco, totally confound your musical expectations with a sophisticated pop sensibility that belies its hard rock image. Everything you ever loved about Queen, Todd Rundgren, Sparks, David Bowie, ELO, Wings has been expertly distilled into these concise treatises on the majesty of rock. That word again… imagine the Darkness done absolutely right. There’s so much going on here with these 14 sublime tracks. What more can I say? Hot Mute is brilliant from every perspective – careening tunes, honey-dripping harmonies, molten guitar licks and an attitude that reflects the majesty of rock!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


As you will no doubt discover, Dan Jones certainly says all the rights things and makes all the right noises. His influences are pretty much all the right ones and that's why he makes indie rock music that is relevant and vibrant. Dan cracked that my questions opened the gates - heh - that's what it's all about, boys and girls...
If pressed, how would you describe the music of Dan Jones?

Melodic, cathartic rock/pop songs inspired by all kinds of postpunk rock and its antecedents. Songs that are smart, narrative, conversational, weird, confessional, non-confessional, full of hooks. Hell, I don't know. Awesome driving music, people tell me. Steve Wynn said Dan Jones and the Squids live sounded like solo Pete Townshend and '69 VU. That sounds pretty good to me, too. That was a hot lineup, lucky times.

Who would you say have had the biggest influences on your music & why?

Friends who encouraged me (esp Tom Jessen and Ed Cole, both singer-songwriters). Earth-school circumstances that roughed me up, gave me something to sing about. Also, music has always been one of my best friends, whether it was the Jackson Browne record I bought for my sister as a "birthday present" in 1977 or the first hardcore records in the 80's. Seeing SST bands on the tour circuit, up close, in the 80's, seeing bands load their own stuff out of the van, on the street. The spiritual and intellectual side of The Who, yoked to masterly song craft, dog-fight musicality, and powerful arrangements, still inspires; D. Boon still sets the standard for cutting out the crap. and fighting personal and cultural fascism. 80's Lou Reed has always seemed totally underrated to me--the stuff with Robert Quine and Fernando Saunders, to me, sets the standard for aging gracefully and creatively after getting your heavy destructo freak on. A song like "legendary hearts" is americana to me, not some faux-rural crap about straw hats and hanging out drunk on the porch. Meat Puppets are my favorite band of all time. In the best sense of it, they did not care. Every record came from a different angle. And I lived and breathed Husker Du for a long time. The Silo's Cuba is a favorite, the first "less is more" rock record to come my way. For fiction writing 101 in song, I like Tom T. Hall and Freedy Johnston. For brutal force focused through amps I never quit listening to The Stooges and Black Flag. Neil Young continues to open different channels according to how he's feeling and that's really inspiring. Robert Pollard's flow is pretty inspiring. If you really show up and just let stuff start to happen, there's no such thing as creative block.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar and write songs?

Originally I just wanted to be like the people on the records I liked, who played in the bands I was seeing, and do what they were doing. It was also something tactile to do with my hands while I fretted about how to become a writer or a poet. Also self-medication and later, poverty. Tacking my boombox recordings at the end of mix tapes was also a start. "Oh, and check THIS out, too." I like how guitars smell. I liked seeing the pictures colored by the music, working with my hands, the shapes of chords and how they fit together, the fiddling with word choices. The need to express yourself is rooted in all sorts of things but passing the time with enjoyment is one of the most important motivations. Impressing people and getting a reaction is great too but won't necessarily keep ya goin.

What is the biggest obstacle to being creative?

Cynicism, perfectionism, and yoking self worth to someone else's standards. Fatigue. Burnout. Credit card debt. Worry. Addiction--whatever it might be. Thinking it's magic and not showing up. Hoping someone will do things on the "business" side that you can actually do yourself.

Can we expect a new album soon from Dan Jones and what will sound like?

The first proper Dan Jones and The Squids album (my fourth overall) is due in 2007. It's the first album I've made where tracking happened in a productive caffeinated three day blast, with a seasoned, consolidated lineup: me, Mike Last on drums, Dave Snider on bass, Patrick Hayden on guitar. The three albums I had in mind going in were Sonic Youth's Evol, Who's Next, and Lou Reed's The Blue Mask. This sounds grandiose but hey, those were just the things I was thinking about at the time. Two-guitar rock jangle, saturated drone, with some martial psychedelic aspects. Unlike past albums there aren't a handful of depressive ballads that set up the punky sucker punches. This record clips along fast. What's new about it is a few songs that are through-written without alot of A/B/A/B/Bridge format. Kind of artier, heavier, and faster than anything I've done before. There's a couple straight up pop songs on there and ballad too. I'm psyched. We're working at a studio called Big Timbre in Eugene, with an engineer named Jason Robbins. I finished the vocals this week.
Where you goin' - is where you wanna be!

Saturday, October 21, 2006


ATLANTICS Self-titled (Something Hot) It makes complete sense that in a rock scene obsessed with the new wave of the post-punk era that bands like Atlantics should be given a second chance to be heard and appreciated. Especially as this eponymous collection features songs previously unreleased for more than 20 years! It matters not because, rock fans of every age should be able to dig these vibrant, energetic, refreshing songs. Highly recommended. Go get it!

GRAN BEL FISHER Full Moon Cigarette (Hollywood) This 24 year old singer-songwriter has loads going for him – looks, major record deal, songs on Grey’s Anatomy and a unique voice. With a sound that straddles classic rock (Led Zepellin, Bruce Springsteen) and modern geek rock (Coldplay, Radiohead), Fisher has a good chance of appealing to different poles of the rock spectrum. Worth the investigation.

ALEC GROSS & THE DISTRICTS Win? Or Lose? (Solebury Mountain) Heartfelt and rustic, Alec Gross delivers Americana heartland rock that hearkens back to decades of roots rockers. Certainly, Gross leans more to the pop-rock side of the equation than the country & western and thus should be recommended to fans of Uncle Tupelo, the Jayhawks and very early Wilco.

LEE SCRATCH PERRY Panic in Babylon (Narnack) What will you be doing at age 70? How about releasing potent music and touring? Well, that’s exactly what the legendary Lee Scratch Perry is up to in his 70th year on planet earth. His deeply influential reggae and dub is still as vital as when it first appeared in the late 60s. Panic to Babylon continues to enhance the reputation of the grand old man.

THE EASY ALL-STARS Radiodread (Easy Star) I guess you could call this a novelty record, seeing as it translates every single track of Radiohead’s classic OK Computer into reggae and dub! Well, actually, this is a sequel to a previous reggae interpretation of Dark Side of the Moon, which was a stronger collection overall. Still, I will recommend Radiodread for the magnificent version of Karma Police, which really trounces the original – no mean feat!

(THE SOUNDS OF) KALEIDOSCOPE Self-titled (Hackshop) Imagine if Pavement had surfaced during the Paisley Underground era and you might get some idea of what (The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope is about. The songs are a strange mix of atonal lo-fi slacker rock and psychedelia with a little shoegaze thrown in. Personally, I would prefer stronger melodies but the tracks are atmospheric and hypnotic enough to maintain interest.

ANNY Naked (Uncommon) This is pop certainly but with an adult orientation. The sound is polished and slick and would sit comfortably on modern pop playlists but somehow, Naked never gets the pulse racing. A little too controlled for my taste but definitely, Anny has a good voice, if only she wasn’t quite so restrained…

Thursday, October 19, 2006


I have been a fan of Doug Powell since Bruce Brodeen sent me a comp copy of Curiouser. Like any lover of good music, Powell's 'retirement' from music making came as a shock but until Powell changes his mind, we have the new Four Seasons compilation to tide us over. Powell shared with us a little bit of where he's at, in 2006.

How did the idea for Four Seasons come about?

Over the course of my career I ended up with a number of songs that were left off records that I still liked and didn't want to see orphaned. At the time I decided to stop making records I thought I'd clean house and make sure they got a hearing.

Were you self-conscious about releasing the New Cars demos when it probably does not truly represent the music of Doug Powell?

Yes, I was self-conscious, but not because I thought it didn't represent me. In a way, it does represent me. I grew up loving the Cars and in my early songwriting attempts even tried to write like Ric Ocasek. So that stuff is part of my grammar. Lyrically, it was constricting because my normal style would not be appropriate for a band that had already established such a distinct style. And at the time the band wasn't the New Cars as we know it now, it was to be the Cars picking up where they left off. So I was striving for a significant continuity while trying to make it fresh. The reason I was self-conscious is because I did not want the release of the songs to seem like there was bad blood after I didn't get the gig. I simply liked the songs and thought they should see the light of day.

How come it took so long for the songs from Venus DeMilo's Arms to be released outside of Japan?

Well, the cost of printing a cd is the same no matter how many songs are on it, but nobody wants to pay full price for a cd with four songs. And no label wants to sell a cd for less than full price. This cd was the perfect way to finally get them out at a reasonable price.

Can fans expect any more unreleased (or even new) recordings in the near future? Or is Four Seasons really the final word on your recording career?

There are not many other unreleased recordings, so no. As far as new recordings, some days I can see it happening and on others I couldn't care less if I ever played again.

Your first book has just been published - tell us a bit about what this book is about and if we can expect more books from you?

The book is on Christian Apologetics (apologetics means "defense") and is called the Holman Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics. It's a cumulative case argument to show that Christianity is a reasonable thing to believe and is based on real history that can be investigated. Each chapter presents a different argument for a different facet of Christianity and they are organized so it moves from the most broad questions (Does God exist?) to specifically demonstrating for Jesus as who he claimed to be - God incarnate who came to bring salvation.
I am working on another book that deals with how Christians should engage the culture, particularly pop culture. is the place to be if you wanna read the review.

Grand Mal's new album - Love is the Best Con in Town - is a bit of a shift in direction for Bill Whitten, featuring as it does greater emphasis on the piano. Whitten is a bit of a wordsmith as this 'short' interview will attest. You will agree that the man is brilliant...

What is it about the early 70s Beach Boys (specifically Holland/Carl and the Passions) and Todd Rundgren (Runt, Ballad of Todd R) that inspired the sonic approach on Love is the Best Con in Town?

Oh I don’t know. I think my initial reason for ‘getting into’ those albums was my desire to find some music that didn’t sound drug influenced and might even be ‘positive’. Then I got into the ‘sound’ of those records: muddy and warm…homely in fact. I began making recordings using an upright piano and it sounded good to my ears; like it made up for the sonic shortcomings of my primitive gear.. So it seemed to me that the sound of say the lo-fi “the ballad of Todd” was a worthwhile goal to shoot for…I’m not saying I achieved my goal but…
And the above mentioned records are all flawed albums; that makes them endearing on the one hand and reasonable as inspiration.
And oh yeah I didn’t really become a full-fledged Beach Boys geek until late in life…in 2001 I saw Brian Wilson and the Wondermints at Radio City Music hall…they were backed by the Harlem Boys Choir and the Radio City Symphony (among many others) and it was pretty mind blowing /eye opening…I was at a personal crossroads so it was a welcome epiphany…in regards to music as a positive, joyful sort of thing…
On the other hand referencing the b.boys and todd r. might just have been a necessity of Bio writing: “why is the new album special” or something…it was probably a mistake to mention them…now the album will be pigeonholed…when it comes to writing bio’s and self-promotion in general I have many shortcomings…

What were the main challenges in recording Love is the Best Con in Town?

Finishing the words to a song is always a challenge…singing on pitch is always a challenge…getting rich meyer (of Hopewell) to come over to my house to sing his soaring, amazing back-up vocals was often a challenge (but mostly it wasn’t)... it was mainly a fun and agreeable experience…all my friends were very generous with their time and talent…I was really lucky to get them all to play on the album…and I love to sit on my couch and listen to music coming out of my 2 speakers…even if it’s my own music (while it is in the process of being made that is)..
I’m working on some new shit now whenever I have the chance…making music is fun…getting people to actually listen to it is slightly more difficult…

How has the music scene changed for you in the last 16 years? For better or worse?

There are more bands of course and more venues for a person’s music to be heard…digital etc… Perhaps a way to take a snapshot of the music scene in terms of now and then is to look at the supply and demand for drummers…back in the ‘90’s I think it was fairly uncommon for a New York City drummer to be in more than say two bands simultaneously…now you often find drummers in like 6 or 7 bands…sometimes more!
Also nowadays young people (‘the kids’) seem to enjoy music more than they used to…they are less blasé than they were in the ‘90’s it seems to me…they like to rawk way more than they used to…
And then again it seems similar; sonic youth is still around and still influential…I guess in general older rockers are allowed to hang around longer and continue making music...yo la tengo, luna, guided by voices etc….perhaps people no longer grow up and move on…also in the 90’s there was nirvana as the trend-setter who opened the floodgates for a bunch of like minded or copycat bands…in this century it was the Strokes/the White Stripes…
And yet today indie rock seems to be much more a pursuit of the affluent…I have met many young men and women who never worked a day in their life…and instead have spent their adolescence studying rock and perfecting their wardrobes and hairstyles…canny young people who upon graduation from Oberlin etc take up rock as a career and do well and make passable music…They are, however, usually are following in the footsteps of working class visionaries like jack white or kurt cobain etc…but anyways...that’s just an aside... maybe it’s the result of the neo-liberal policies that have been hollowing out American society since the Reagan Revolution…and it is probably magnified in the rarified sectors of the ‘indie’ world...if I want to listen to working class rock I can just tune in to the nu-metal scene (no thanks) or listen to hip-hop..

In your blog ( you make pointed observations of the world around you. (I loved your assessment of the 'new' NY Dolls eg.) Is your blog writing as vital a creative expression as music making?

No, my blog is a joke …pretty worthless I think…I had been periodically writing for a Swedish publication so one of my friends suggested I should put some or all of the stuff I wrote for them on a blog ..
For some reason I listened to him…I must have got hit on the head that day or something…I didn’t end up putting the shit I wrote for the Swedish magazine…most of the stuff I just wrote at work when I was bored…like all bloggers…I should take it down but for some reason I haven’t…but actually if you want to read something I co-wrote that is pretty decent check out the interview with Brian Godding (of the lost ‘70’s band B.B. Blunder) on

What does the future hold for Grand Mal? Which song on Love is the Best Con in Town will you base the next album on?

I think the direction of the next Grand Mal album can be found on a song we recorded recently (we being Mike Fadem-drums, Kevin Thaxton-bass, Mike Robertson-guitar, Dave Sherman-piano) for a Swedish record label called …It’s for a tribute comp for Gene Clark of all people…we covered a song called ‘winter in’ which was an outtake from his record ‘White Light’ …our cover sounds nothing like his song…it’s the best recording I’ve engineered/produced etc…it will be out on import any day now..

Check out for the review.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


RICHARD BUTLER Self-titled (KOCH) Butler is one of my rock heroes, for his sterling work with Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love. He possesses such a spellbinding set of pipes that never fails to hypnotize. Now 50, Butler has released his first solo album and it is simply gorgeous. Butler’s eponymous solo debut highlights the softer side of Butler’s music, chock full of dreamy ballads and exploits beautifully the range of Butler’s gifted larynx. The breezy “Good Days, Bad Days” and mesmerizing “California” open this marvelous album and Butler (and collaborator Jon Carin) sustain this ‘feel-good’ vibe all the way to the fragile hopeful “Maybe Someday.” A truly magnificent comeback/debut.

JEREMY Only Love Remains (Jam) No one does jangle pop better than Jeremy and that’s no putdown. Year after year, Jeremy manages to keep the Byrds-influenced sound fresh and alive. Best part of all, his lyrics are always fuelled by faith, hope and love, in contrast to all the doom, gloom and negativity that passes for so-called alternative rock. If you wanna be uplifted and inspired, you need a dose of Jeremy.

THE SKETCHES Self-titled (Self-released) The much-maligned power ballad receives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from the Sketches with the wonderful “Fly Baby, Right Now” as this promising outfit shows Oasis how a homage to the Beatles should be done. The rest of this collection of high-quality demos (the band’s words, not mine) mines more modern territory (Dashboard Confessional emo) with strong classic rock bias. Recommended.

THE CRASH MODERNS Self-titled (Self-released) Ah, powerpop bliss! This New Jersey band displays enough melodic crunch potential on this 5-track EP to suggest that it would be worthwhile keeping an eye on their progress. Sure, the songs are not exactly ground-breaking but there’s enough promise here (“This Time” & “All About You” especially) to make the pop underground sit up and take notice.

HAMFATTER Girls in Graz (Pink Hedgehog) Hailing from Cambridge – yes, same as Syd Barrett & Robyn Hitchcock – Hamfatter (viz. Eoin O’Mahoney, Emile Martin, James Ingham & Mark Ellis), indulge their rock ‘n’ fantasy with idiosyncratic whimsy. Thus, melodies are always prized but never over eccentricity. Eclectic to a fault, O’Mahoney’s classical training skewers Hamfatter’s pop sensibility brilliantly. Fans of Martin Newell will adore this.

YELLOW6 Melt Inside (MakeMineMusic) It’s soft, whispered, atmospheric drones created by guitars and synthesizers and completed by Ally Todd’s vocals. Jon Attwood provides the former and the duo combine effectively to create mood pieces that would fit perfectly on your next indie film project. Tunes are at a premium here but presumably that is precisely what Yellow6 are eschewing. Attwood is adept at coaxing glorious sounds out of his guitar. Chilling.

SARA WENDT Here’s Us (City Canyons) Good mix of genres and styles on this six-track EP although mainly dominated by Celtic-flavored rock ballads that you might expect from Enya or Kate Bush. Wendt has a solid larynx, no doubt, and a competent grasp of what she’s trying to achieve. Lush orchestration and high production values make Here’s Us worth checking out.

TOM PETTY Highway Companion (American) Petty is a rock institution with 30 years of consistent music making built from the foundations of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Highway Companion is Petty’s third solo album proper (eleven with the Heartbreakers of course) and reunites Petty with producer Jeff (ELO) Lynne. To be honest, that fact alone sold me. Cos whilst the songs on Highway Companion are mostly average, it all sounds great – like slipping into warm, familiar, comfy bedroom slippers. Snug.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I adore Andy Partridge. From the moment I first heard “Senses Working Overtime” way back in 1982 over the BBC World Service I knew he was special.
XTC is, of course, one of the finest bands in the history of pop but it has always bugged me that in the twenty years since my introduction to the band, there have only been eight proper albums (nine, if you include Psonic Psunspot).
So, it is a little ironic that Partridge has released all eight (nine, if you include Hinges) of his Fuzzy Warbles demo archive series in a mere four years! Of course, we are talking apples and oranges here (or oranges and lemons) and you cannot really compare releasing proper albums and collections of pre-existing demos. Can you?
In any case, Partridge has released the final volumes of the series viz. Volumes 7 and 8 and has also made available a special collector’s album (see above) that houses all 8 volumes in a cool package. As a bonus the album also comes with Hinges, 9 extra tracks from Partridge’s demo archive.
I must honestly say that the music found on Fuzzy Warbles was probably never originally intended for public consumption and some might argue should never have been made available to the general public. XTC fans may differ in their judgments over the relative value of Fuzzy Warbles as musical documents but one thing is clear to me – considering the hard time Partridge has had in his musical ‘career’ with dodgy managers, dodgy record contract and the fact that sickness probably cost him (and the band) greatly, in tour revenues (and consequential record sales) since 1982 (!), I would not begrudge the man the opportunity to get a return from his genius when he is finally in financial control of his musical destiny.
So yes, to every XTC fan out there, I would highly recommend you get yourself down to the APE shop now ( and pick up the whole shebang and make Partsy a very happy man!
Here’s eighteen reasons why –
Hinges - “Reign of Blows”: Markedly different from the recorded track found on The Big Express which was mangled somewhat in the mixing process. Less metallic, the strength of the song shines through. “Jump”: Demo of the Mummer B-side has a stronger Beatlesque focus than the final product. Counter-pointed by the subtle Caribbean rhythmic underpinnings. It does feature a soothing melody line though.
Volume 8 – “The Bland Leading the Bland”: Meant for Warp Star but never quite making the grade, “Bland” begins with a wistful synth line and culminates in a gorgeous chorus. Would have made for a wonderful XTC track. “I Gave My Suitcase Away”: A breezy number written for Jane Birkin (rejected for being too jolly – Birkin’s loss!). The perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Volume 7 – “Sonic Boom”: Great power pop song that would have fitted snugly either on Nonsuch or Warp Star. Nice way of description the power chord – “Sonic boom goes the killer chord from my guitar.” Yeah yeah yeah! “Open A Can of Human Beans”: Not strictly a Warble, so Partridge informs, think of it as a Dukes of Startosphear outtake. Resplendent with ‘sitar’ guitar courtesy of the great Dave Gregory, “Human Beans” is a treasure.
Volume 6 – “I Can’t Tell What Truth Anymore”: Partsy does yet another genuine Macca impression with a tuneful number that would have lighted up Nonsuch. “The Tiny Circus of Life”: Yet another Nonsuch escapee is a jaunty piece with some Bacharach chords and the circus motif (think: “Dear Madam Barnum”).
Volume 5 – “Young Cleopatra”: Intended for Mummer, this catchy little ditty, may have been shelved due to the ‘paedo’ slant of the lyrics. Though, Partsy assures us that “I too saw myself as 14-years-old in the song.” “My Land is Burning”: Epic in scope and orchestral in execution, mystifying why Partsy did not record it for Apple Venus.
Volume 4 – “Bumpercars”: this punchy number continues Partridge’s analogy of life as a circus. “That’s Really Super Supergirl”: this lusty demo turns out to be the superior version (what was Todd thinking with the keyboard overkill) especially with the harmonica fills.
Volume 3 - “My Train Is Coming”: Righteously retro and rejected previously from both the Buster and That Thing You Do films restored to its proper place of prominence. “Autumn Comes Around”: A lovely pastoral moment written for Skylarking, never fully developed in the studio – a shame.
Volume 2 - “It’s Snowing Angels” (circa 1990): Lovely and enigmatic. “Ship Trapped In the Ice” A powerful and vivid track written to reflect XTC’s Virgin dilemma.
Volume 1 – “Dame Fortune”: A delightful ode, inextricably left off Apple Venus. “Summer Hot As This”: A chirpy 1984 demo with erstwhile XTC member Dave Gregory on guitar, a bonus!
And still there’s more… nine albums of intense enjoyment… hopefully our XTC fix will not be delayed for that much longer…

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I like Andy Chase. Not only is he one-third of Ivy and a producer of cool bands, he is a singer-songwriter in his own write - Brookville - and has released his sophomore album, the 80s Brit rock-inspired Life in the Shade (review at Andy was also kind enough to agree to be the latest guest on the PoPINIONS show...

What are the differences between recording Ivy and Brookville?

Ivy is a true democracy. Any idea I have gets "reviewed" by Dominique and Adam, so nothing slips by unnoticed. We are constantly challenging each other and forcing the bar to be raised higher and higher. It's definitely a recipe for pulling out the best we have to offer...but it can also be frustrating because for me it's not always about the result, but rather the process. In Brookville it's really just me, for better or worse. Any idea goes straight from my brain to becoming a recorded track in a song. It's incredibly satisfying. You end up with what exactly what you had envisioned for the song. Creatively I think it's a more pure process and the result is something that might be closer to the way I'm first hearing things in my head.

If you had to, how would you define the music of Brookville?

Slightly Chill, moody pop that's great to have sex to??

What would you say were the biggest inspirations behind the songwriting on Life in the Shade?

I really wanted to make an album that stood on it's own as far as songwriting - like Coldplay or Deathcab For Cutie; that had all the moodiness of more left-of-center bands like Alpha; and that still took it's inspiration for production bells & whistles from older groups like The The.

Who do you think listen to Brookville and come to the shows?

Seems like a pretty wide variety as far as I can tell. 18 to 35-ers pretty much covers it, though I've spotted my parents there a few times....

What do you hope to achieve with Life ine the Shade and what are your plans next?

I just want to be recognized as someone more than just the guitar player standing behind Dominique in Ivy. I'd like to look back on my life and see that I had a voice and a few things to say about the world and myself that won't make me cringe years later. I hope Life In The Shade is the first step in that direction. I'm going on tour with Tahiti 80 this November 2006...then looking to tour again in early 2007.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


THE RACONTEURS Broken Boy Soldiers (V2) Yet another addition to the long list of supergroups, the Raconteurs consist of Jack (White Stripes) White, Brendan Benson & the rhythm section of the Greenhornes viz. Jack Lawrence & Patrick Keeler. Considering the pedigree of its members, no surprise that Broken Boy Soldiers is a solid debut with powerful rockers lined with psychedelic garage and classic rock influences that will leave hard rock fans with a smile on their faces.

SHINETH 11 of 10 (Self-released) This Swedish duo (Sebastian Roos & Anders Berlin) parlays a strong melodic pop sensibility into a hard rock foundation. Which makes for a strictly hit or miss approach. However, if you can imagine a hybrid of Dream Theater and Jellyfish and not balk at the prospect, then Shineth is for you.

SPARKS Hello Young Lovers (In The Red) The legendary Mael brothers are back with another idiosyncratic orchestral/operatic pop album. There’s a cold, calculating sheen on most of the material but mitigated by a tongue-in-cheek levity and impressive musical prowess that makes Hello Young Lovers essential listening for all Sparks fans, old and new.

FRESH MOWED LAWN Self-titled (Not Lame) Tim Rose was/is the main songwriter in the critically acclaimed pop underground band The Sun Sawed In ½ and Fresh Mowed Lawn is Rose’s first solo project. True to form, this lovely debut contains a slew of well-crafted, melodic gems with greater emphasis on soft pop elements than the Sun was known for. Still intact is Rose’s penchant for quirky and whimsical arrangements. An accomplished outing!

THE ARGUMENT EP (Self-released) I discovered the Argument recently and their simply wonderful sophomore album, Recess Serenade. To these ears, the Argument had the chops to be a modern-day equivalent of Jellyfish (along with the Format) with the emotional energy of emo punk married to the melodic vigor of powerpop. Unfortunately, the Argument is no more and this competent EP is its swan song. Five great examples of modern powerpop is reason enough to check it out.

RAY MASON A Man and His Silvertone (Captivating Music) Ray Mason has been performing and recording on the fringes of the pop underground for some time now and by and large I have always found his music simple, honest and interesting. On this, Mason’s 10th album, he goes “plugged,” stripped down to songs, voices and an electric guitar. Surprisingly, Mason holds your attention for most of the album with straightforward rock songs with heartfelt sentiments shorn of artifice and studio gimmickry. It’s all Ray… fans of Billy Bragg & Neil Young will appreciate this.

FINAL FANTASY He Poos Clouds (Tomlab) Owen Pallett has delivered a sophomore effort that is so unique and special, that it has to be listened to, in order to be fully appreciated. Favoring a chamber pop sound that is faithfully constructed with classical baroque instruments, it is unlikely that you will encounter any other rock album this interesting. Reminiscent of the Divine Comedy and Scott Walker, this are not your typical pop songs with strings tacked on but modern rock interpreted as classical music. Not for all rock tastes but an achievement to be heralded nonetheless.

MITRA All Gods Kill (Idol) Not my cup of tea for sure but Mitra delivers unrelenting hard rock-thrash metal which is heavy on the riffs and light on the tunes. Predictably, the subject matters they cover tend to be about death, violence and blasphemy. Perhaps my thoughts about Mitra are best summed up by one of the song titles here – “Things Are About To Get Ugly.” Indeed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


My missus and I were fortunate enough to catch Malaysian powerpoppers Couple in action last Friday. Promoting their new album - Top of the Pop - the band, with two new members - were in fine form and entertained the crowd at the Home club. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the band really looked like they were having fun on stage. Not always the case when watching Singapore indie bands perform... Anyhow, here's what Couple Aidil Rusli had to say about what's going on with Couple.

Why powerpop?
Firstly, of course it's because I love it, and find it irresistible every single time I listen to it. Secondly, it's probably also because it reflects the way I look at things. It's a genre that's unshowy and level-headed, that is to say that it's a genre that knows how to appreciate what I think are the 'right' things, i.e. old fashioned (but forever valuable) values like songcraft, and the magical power of a great melody. It is absolutely unconcerned (and thankfully unimpressed) with gimmicks. As Not Lame Recordings put it so well, it's "Good Music For Good People." Plus, the best power pop tunes can really send shivers down your spine or at the very least inspire some out of this world visceral reaction!! And the thrill of discovering that perfect pop song is always a rush!!

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
The Beatles and The Beach Boys are always the starting point for me. Then I'll go for the Beatlesque bands like Big Star and The Raspberries. I also have this huge thing for the late 70s/early 80s skinny tie power pop bands, like The Rubinoos, The Beat, Cheap Trick. And of course then comes the 90s pop underground scene where the bands/acts I love best include The Rooks, The Greenberry Woods, The Shazam, Cotton Mather, The Posies, Mark Bacino and soooo much more!

How would you describe Couple's place in the Malaysian rock scene?
It's kinda like we have no exact place/niche to fit in, because we're too uncool and old-fashioned for the 'indie scene' kids and too 'noisy' or 'different' for the mainstream-teenybopper kids. But like they always say, good tunes will always prevail, and luckily despite our inability to snugly fit into any particular 'scene' in Malaysia, we still managed to amass a healthy amount of fans among the kids who just like good tunes and are unaware of all this genre-specific isolation. So I guess the kids are still alright.

What do you hope to achieve with Top of the Pop?
I just hope that it'll resonate with people the same way my favourite albums resonate with me. For example, I can always return to my fave albums as many times as I want and still enjoy every bit of it as if it was the first time. I can only hope that Top Of The Pop will gain that kind of special place in some people's lives.

What's next for Couple?
We'll be playing Fat Festival in Bangkok in November. Right now we're busy preparing for the Japanese release of the album on Wizzard In Vinyl scheduled for January 2007, and we've got our own promo things lined up for the end of this year and early next year, such as our inclusion on Paste Magazine's podcast on Coca-Cola's Global Music Platform which should be launching very soon. Let's hope a lot more people will discover us through that. We'll also be involved in the promotional campaign for a new LA based teenage girls' fashion line called Bitch Kitty. The American release of the album on Sizzleteen Records is also yet to happen, but should be happening in the very near future, so we're getting ready for the promo bits for that release as well. So hopefully next year will be a busy year for us. The busier the better!!

Check out my review of Top of the Pop at

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Dave Stephens came to me literally from out of the blue. But his new album Stories for Copper blew me away with its melodies, verve and uncanny McCartneyesque approximations. He is a great artist and I was fortunate enough to have the man himself answer a few pertinent queries...

Who are your biggest influences and why?

My biggest influences are The Beatles, Queen, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin and Billy Joel. I'm mostly influenced by music that was on in the background of my childhood which was in the late 70s and early 80s. These were really melodic years for music and this is where I draw most of my inspiration.

What is your inspiration for writing such wondeful songs?

First of all, thank you. My songs are all drawn from my experiences in life. They are all very biographical. Writing for me is like keeping a diary but more for feeling than for words. When I was a kid I used to really feel the music I listened to and appreciated the artists for it. I figured if I could put my thoughts and feelings into song, maybe someone else would get it the same way as I did as a kid.

Words or music - which comes first?

I write music first. My songs always just come from me plunking on chords and seeing if they evoke any emotion in me. My lyric writing comes from the Beatles school. I usually sing out random thoughts in melodies over the music. I find that after a while you usually stumble on something that's been going on in your life, and effecting you emotionally, and I elaborate from there.

Does co-owning a recording studio make the recording process easier or harder?

Definitely easier. I put together the studio for my day job doing sound for film, but it was a really an excuse to have the tools to record my music. I lived in Vancouver, Canada and found that it was hard to get any help funding wise to put a record together, and because I was a solo artist I didn't have anyone to split studio costs with like a band usually would. The good news is, studio equipment is fairly affordable now, so I'm lucky to have a set up that I can spend my time in crafting my work.

What's next after Stories for Copper?

It's hard to say at this point. Stories for Copper is my proudest and most personal work. It's a pretty well rounded record but is predominantly mellow and heartfelt. I'd like to keep that happening on the next record, but maybe rock out a bit more and let my Led Zeppelin and Queen influences shine through.

Review of Stories for Copper is up at

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


THE 88 Over and Over (EMK)
Better late than never, I always say. Over and Over was released last year but it still sounds great in September 2006! The 88 presents classic powerpop without irony and totally guilt-free. The songs are crunchy, bouncy, jaunty and ultimately very cool.

DUKE FAME Too Proud to Practice (Geeves)
I dug the Duke’s debut album – Regrets – and had none. If anything, Too Proud to Practice is even better – more hooks, more harmonies, more hip songs about being square. The Duke treads a fine balance between rock abandon and pop finesse.

DAVE RAVE Anthology Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Bullseye)
This pair of discs represents an ambitious labour of love to chronicle the musical exploits of Dave Rave (nee DesRoches) from his days with the Shakers, Teenage Head, Agnelli & Rave, Fulcrum, Crashtones and as a solo artist. Dubbed the Nick Lowe of Canada certainly gives the pop fan an idea of what Rave is capable of. Straddling 25 years of great pop-rock music from new wave to garage punk and from powerpop to jazz pop, Rave is a multi-faceted gem waiting to be discovered.

MARTY RUDNICK More Songs About Cars and Girls (Sandbox)
Marty Rudnick? Isn’t he a Rubinoos associate and one of the guys behind Sandbox Records. True, but Marty Rudnick is also a singer-songwriter in his own write and what he specializes in is “Merseybeach” which is supposed to suggest a hybrid of the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Which is probably the best way to describe Cars and Girls and 60s pop fans will positively lap this up. Oh and Michael Carpenter produces as well. No brainer, pop fans!

JEREMIAH LOCKWOOD American Primitive (Vee-Ron)
You know, Jeremiah Lockwood looks way too young to be able to produce such earthy, authentic country blues like this! Austere, sparse production values bring out the power of these visceral songs. Together with his weathered larynx and light instrumentation, American Primitive is pretty much irresistible.

MARY LEE’S CORVETTE Love Loss & Lunacy (Western Force)
Is Mary Lee Kortes the pop underground’s answer to Thea Gilmore? Whatever, there is something definitely cooking here in this fine effort produced by Stephen (Smash Palace) Butler. Strong country-flavoured pop-rock material always reels me in. Sold.

THE STATES Multiply Not Divide (Self released)Another 2005 release that deserves to be heard in 2006 and beyond… The reference point most will use is Interpol and yes, I hear it too but I believe the stellar work found on Multiply Not Divide deserves more than a cursory footnote. Sure, you get the almost obligatory staccato high-fretted guitar attack ala the Edge/Will Sergeant but there is an indefinable quality about the States that lifts much of this excellent debut above your average post punk revivalists.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Good News for Modern Man (Pachyderm)

Now, this is what I call a very pleasant surprise!
Grant Hart, of course, is best remembered as one third of those melodic hardcore punksters Husker Du. Together with Bob (Sugar) Mould and Greg Norton, Hart would blaze a musical trail in the 1980s that would lead on to the Pixies and ultimately Nirvana.
For those who feared the worst, expecting a bit of the post-grunge malaise in Hart's current material would be glad to learn that Hart has re-defined his work somewhat through the kaleidoscopic lens of the 1970s. The result is a refreshing and challenging set of songs that threaten to make Hart a cult hero all over again.
Drawing from the best work of David Bowie and John Cale, "Good News For Modern Man" contains the same cutting edge accessibility that the likes of Bowie and Cale once excel in. A successful marriage of artistic and commercial values. Well, commercial in the sense that much of "Good News For Modern Man" deserves to be played on heavy rotation on any radio station you would care to name.
The opening "Think It Over Now" epitomises this method succinctly. A densely layered production albeit minimally arranged with Hart delivering a drop dead gorgeous melody that one cannot fail to hum along to after the first listen. The country-flavoured "Nobody Rides For Free," the surf rocking "Run Run Run To The Centre Pompidou," the elegant "You Don't To Have To Tell Me Now," the Joy Division evoking "Teeny's Hair" and the chillingly Bowiesque "A Letter From Anne Marie" and "Seka Knows," build on this foundation brilliantly.
Even with the obvious budgetary constraints (this album is gloriously D-I-Y), Grant Hart has created a thing of incredible beauty - you can hear it in the way he attacks each song with tremendous gusto. "Good News For Modern Man" is the sound of an artist in full control of his faculties and gifts. It is the sound of classic music making.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


What was your criterion for the songs selected for SOOP #2?

Really, I just had a big list of songs that I'd write down in my diary as they'd dawn on me. They had to be from indie label artists and had to be reasonably recent. I wanted the songs to reflect my time in the guitar pop world. And ultimately, they just had to be songs i liked. In terms of which songs I ended up doing, it just worked out that when I had an opportunity to do a song, I'd look down my list and see which one I 'felt' like doing. I remember Mark Erelli's "Ghost"... I was hesitant to put that on my list even. Yet on that particular day, and that particular mood/frame of mind i was in, it was just the song i wanted to do. So there was a certain amount of 'planets aligning' that decided the track selection.

Any songs that didn't make the cut that you might like to mention?

I did a version of Butterfly 9's "Goodbye Angel". The story behind that is a little strange... I was never that convinced that I did a good job, mainly on the vocal. But I was never sure whether that was just because I know the band well, having started playing with them before their debut album was even finished a few years ago. I wasn't involved in the original recording, but have become very close to Matt and Suzy from Butterfly 9.. Matt is now my studio partner, and we're a great production team. So I've always LOVED the original, and thought I tried a little too hard on my version. Also, I recently produced another version of this song for an up and coming country artist, and thought that version was even better than mine. So i thought it better to leave it off. There were a lot of songs on my master list that I never recorded though.. including tracks by Cliff Hillis, Walter Clevenger, Rob Smith, Cherry Twister, Starbelly and the Pyramidiacs. I was even thinking of doing a Finkers cover. I thought it'd be a laugh to cover myself! So I could do another version of this album pretty easily. Guess we'll see if this one sells!

Which are your favourites among the bunch?

I actually like most of them a lot. "Super Tuesday" is a bit of a triumph for me, because I thought the original was like the Holy Grail of powerpop for this generation, so i was pleased that my version captured the spirit of the original while making it something uniquely mine. I'm pretty pleased with how well "Long Red Bottle Of Wine" turned out. It's hard to play guitar knowing you're up against Bobby Sutliff! And i was particularly happy with my vocal in "Long Way". I'm pretty pleased with how "Sunday Morning Drive" turned out as well. It's pretty much how I planned it and I've never been much of a finger picker or slide player, and I managed to pull off both on that track. And I'm happy that "Urban Skies" sounds a little like Jeff Lynne!

Which song was the easiest to record and which was the hardest and why?

I'm not sure which was the easiest... most of them went down pretty quickly without much fuss. I remember I ploughed through "Long Red" really quickly. I had a pretty clear idea of the general approach for that and nothing about it seemed to take too long. "Super Tuesday" was easy, becuase I only had a short time to do it, and I just went for it, left it a bit messy because I didn't have time to make it nice. Most of the others had a fair amount of vocal arranging going on and that's always time consuming. I know I spent a lot of time crafting things for "Ghost" - I wanted that to be a REALLY good production, and knew that there'd be NO backing vocals on it, so the lead vocal had to be good.The hardest ones I remember well. "Sun".. man.. I'm still not really happy with it. I was trying out a new piece of gear, and i think I got too caught up in being a bit obtuse with the layering. I mean, electric sitar, banjo and piano on one song. Plus I was never that happy with the drum sounds. I'm rarely unhappy with the drum sounds I get, but I remember doing this extremely quickly and thought the drum sounds were a bit sub par. I should have spent a little more time making sure the mics were hearing the kit right. I mean, it doesn't sound bad as obviously I still included it, but I feel like it was a bit of a missed opportunity. I think I like it mostly because it's an AMAZING song - even i couldn't kill it! It still shines through as an incredible song. But I did my best..

Which favourite artist/band would do a great cover version of one of your songs and which song?

Oh man, where do i start? If I was to go major label, I'd love to hear Tom Petty do "Believes Again" or Sheryl Crow do "The Ache" or the Dixie Chicks do "Love Is Like". Or in a fantasy world, the Beach Boys circa "Carl and The Passions" doing "Thinking About You". Keith Urban or Bruce Springsteen doing "The One For Me" would be nice too. In the indie world, which is what I think you were alluding to, I'd love to hear Andy Bopp do "Can't Be All You Need" or the Shazam do "Tonight", or Walter Clevenger do "King's Rd" or Chris von Sneidern do "Never Be Alone". Actually, probably my favourite would be Robbie Rist doing anything he'd like but i think he'd do a great version of "Good Enough"!!

Check out the SOOP #2 review at

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Check out the vid of Anton Barbeau singing "Drug Free" live. Enjoy in particular the sound of the audience singing like dolphins. Courtesy of Pink Hedgehog.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


To coincide with the release of Full Volume: The Best of Spinning Jennies, PoP posed a couple of email queries to Spinning Jennies' guitarist/vocalist Jeff Shelton (above, right) and got some speedy responses...

How did Spinning Jennies begin and why did it end?

We started in 1993 - the rather unglamorous result of three musicians answering ads in the local paper. We formed for a mutual love of the "pop hook", despite our first drummer's favorite band being Steely Dan! We had a good 11 year run - from 93 - 2004. Five albums, several mini tours and the usual bouts of struggling to get to the next level eventually wore us out. But we had alot of fun, played alot of shows and grew musically. We're all still good friends.

There's mention of old school and new school Jennies - care to clarify the differences?

I never heard the term "power pop" until 1996. Seriously! Growing up I always loved what were basically pop bands (REM, The Smiths, The Police)...and when the Jennies started, we were basically a "melodic rock" band.
That sort of "naiveté" crafted our early sound. After '96, I think we became more conscious of the power pop sound and style and focused more on tighter song structures, catchier hooks, and a bigger anthemic-type power pop songs.

Which bands do you consider were the Jennies' biggest influences?

Everything flows downhill from the Beatles (obvious answer!)
But more specifically...bands like the Posies, Cheap Trick, Husker Du, early REM, Redd Kross, Sloan, The Who all had a huge influence on our sound.

What is your favourite memory of playing with the Jennies? So many little space!
The most vivid, precarious rock-star moment I recall was in 96 or 97, we played a show outside Sacramento and all became too intoxicated to drive home so we ended up crashing at some crazy woman's house in the hills. I remember sitting at a little kid's table in her kitchen eating Cheerios w/ our bass player at 4 in the morning...wondering if we were going to make it home alive. Getting banned from a club in San Francisco for "playing to loud" was another highlight.

Having spent more than 10 years in the 'pop underground' - where do you think the scene is now compared to 1993?

Like night and day! The Internet has made a huge difference of course. Before the Net...people had to physically go out and see shows in their neighborhood to become aware of bands. We had big shows in the early days. People would come out and support local music. Once the Internet exploded and the Dot Com revolution snagged up retail space in the city, the live music scène changed dramatically. After 1999 or 2000, we focused more on reaching far corners of the world (like Singapore!) where people craved exactly what we were doing.....rather than trying to revive a local scene that was dwindling.

Check out the PoP review here.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


SEGARINI Gotta Have Pop/…On The Radio/Goodbye L.A. (Bullseye)
Classic powerpop seldom gets better than this! Bob Segarini released three definitive albums of the late 70s pub rock/new wave era for Toronto label Bomb Records and now all three have been remastered and re-released by Bullseye. Gotta Have Pop is Segarini’s masterpiece as he lets his love for the Beatles flow through every song. Especially the original closer Love Story which addressed the Beatles reunion gossip that went on at the time (remember…?) … On The Radio is a live recording of an early show of the Segarini band which I can either take or leave. Goodbye L.A. contains many of the features that made Gotta Have Pop endearing but is probably more muscular than its predecessor. Powerpop fans who want to bone up on their history will find these re-releases essential.

SEMION Help Me I Work In An Office (Self-released)
This UK quartet’s first full-length album comes on the heels of the excellent EP – Get A Grip – wherein the band showcased an affinity for the likes of Teenage Fanclub. Whilst the Rickenbacker jangle is still very much in evidence, Semion has widened its palate somewhat with a heavier agenda (embracing influences like the Buzzcocks, the Kinks & Neil Young) with songs like Transmission, Liverpool Sunset, Never Changes, Black Cloud – it’s all sublime powerpop.

MIKE ELGERT Days Gone By (Self-released)
I’d say that Mike Elgert deals in old school 70s pop-rock and wonder seriously if that is a put down. It isn’t. With a strong slant towards the powerpop muse of Dwight Twilley, Cheap Trick but also display a love for the country-rock-blues affectations of the Black Crowes, which makes for a good mix. Elgert basically plays every sound you will hear on Days Gone By. A talented musician that the pop underground can proudly can call its own.

CHRIS MURPHY Elbow Room (Popboomerang)
Probably not what fans would expect from a Popboomerang record. More AOR than powerpop and that is not necessarily a bad thing. What I hear from Murphy’s mature country-folk-inflected rock is a clear empathy for the works of Don Henley, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne & Gerry Rafferty. Honest & sincere, Murphy sings from the heart without bothering whether it’s hip or not. Good for him.

RICKY High Speed Silence (Beat Crazy)
I got hold of this promo disc in 2005 and have been waiting for the opportunity to talk it up. Unfortunately, according to the band’s website, Ricky are no more! Pity because this is a great album with memorable songs like “Easy On You,” “Running” and “That Extra Mile” and so on. Catchy and dynamic, it is a bit of a travesty that you, the pop consumer, will never own this. *Sigh* Check out the myspace link below to see what I mean.

P. HUX Mile High Fan (Not Lame)
Here’s some music that should have seen the light of day in the early 90s and along with Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk, Greenberry Woods’ Big Money Item & the Grays’ eponymous album, would have been hailed as definitive of its form i.e. sophisticated powerpop. Recorded with Rusty Anderson, Jen Condos & Rob Ladd during Parthenon Huxley’s tenure as a MCA staff writer, the songs here have been rescued from oblivion by Not Lame and given the attention they deserve. Sharing with Paul McCartney & Andy Partridge, an uncanny gift to pull out unforgettable melodies seemingly from thin air, Huxley should be given his dues and fans of Roger Joseph Manning, Jason Falkner, Jon Brion and Brendan Benson must have this compilation in their possession.