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
QUESTION: What has eight kids and a backstage pass? Answer hidden somewhere in this month's issue! Write it on a 3x5 card and send it in with a stamped self-addressed envelope. Send your mother home your navel. Open up another case of the punks! Three new releases I'm looking forward to in October:
BARONESS: The Blue Record (10/13/09). The second full-length from the Savannah metal band. Two new tracks are streaming on the Relapse Records website and the band's myspace. You can preorder The Blue Record on vinyl and CD. I ordered the 2CD version with a bonus live disc for just $15 (get it here). Baroness is touring with US Christmas.
EVANGELISTA: Prince of Truth (10/09/09). The latest from the band led by Carla Bozulich (ex Geraldine Fibbers and Ethyl Meatplow). You can order a special edition (180gm vinyl plus CD and poster) from Constellation Records. If you haven't heard Evangelista, there's a SXSW session from last year on the WFMU website, and lots of free mp3's on Carla's website.
JOHNNY FOREIGNER: Grace and the Bigger Picture (10/26/09). Apparently a live DVD will accompany a special edition of this new CD, though you can't order it yet from the label, Best Before Records, and it's not clear if there will be a US release. A free three track EP is available at the band's website.
Spin Magazine ran an article in August called "Unsung: The 100 Greatest Bands You've (Probably) Never Heard". I was only familiar with a quarter of them. A few of the remaining 75 were intriguing. I'd like to hear Afterhours, the Crocketts, the Cherubs, the Titanics, and Regurgitator. But I immediately searched out the "brazenly blotto brilliance" of a band called Earl Brutus, described by Spin's Doug Brod as "U.K. art pranksters whose grimy glitter pomp owed as much to the Fall and Kraftwerk as it did to Ziggy Stardust."
Earl Brutus was fronted by two singers: Jamie Fry (whose brother Martin was also a bit of a pop star, I'm told), and the late Nick Sanderson. Sanderson drummed for Clock DVA, the Gun Club and JAMC (great bands all). There are a few great Earl Brutus videos on YouTube. Start here. I wish I'd known about the band in their mid-90's heyday (when Andy Falkous may have been taking notes), but I'm enjoying them today. As Earl Brutus once declared, "Pop music is wasted on the young."