Monday, September 28, 2009

Surviving Grand Atlantic

When I first began buying records, one of my favorites was the 1979 debut album by Bram Tchaikovsky (finally reissued on CD in 2007, but already OOP). A subscription to Trouser Press magazine enlightened me about the genre known as power pop. Power pop strung together all the pulse-racing moments from bands like the Beatles, the Byrds and the Who -- crashing cymbals and power chords, galloping rhythms, glorious harmonies, and all the hormonal drama of adolescence. Power pop was like a musical rollercoaster that only went UP.

Thirty years later, the genre is still dear to my ears. One of my favorite recent power pop albums was the 2007 debut of Grand Atlantic, and the Australian band has recently released an excellent follow-up entitled How We Survive. I strongly disagree with the Allmusic review which describes Grand Atlantic as less than the sum of its influences (Beatles, Big Star, Zombies, and most specifically Oasis). I can admit that "She's a Dreamer" (from the new record) sounds tailor-made for the Gallagher bros, but most of the songs recall the time when bands like Teenage Fanclub, the Posies, Redd Kross and Velvet Crush made power pop with enough sonic muscle to rival the grunge bands.

How We Survive begins with its most radio-ready songs -- "Coast Is Clear", the extra-crunchy single "Trip Wires", and the aforementioned "She's a Dreamer" bear the strongest influence of the producer Magoo. In fact, we're four tracks into the album before we hear a guitar that could properly be described as jangly. Grand Atlantic indulges its orchestral pop fetish (think Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds, Odessey & Oracle) only once, on the title track and centerpiece of "How We Survive". The latter half of the album has a looser, garage rock feel. Phil Usher is a talented and versatile songwriter with an ear for melodies and a love of vocal harmonies. Sha-la-la, ooh-wee and doot-doo are present and accounted for.

You can listen to How We Survive at
Last FM (and download Grand Atlantic's acoustic cover of "Single Ladies"). You can also grab two free mp3's from the album (and two unreleased demos) from the label, Alien Lane. How We Survive is highly recommended and available on iTunes.

Grand Atlantic:
Trip Wires


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