Featuring THE ROSENBERGS Mission You/THE ORGONE BOX The Orgone Box/GIRLS SAY YES To Boys Who Say No/SWAG Catchall
The Rosenbergs have created a bit of brouhaha with their turning down a spot on Jimmy (Iovine) and Doug’s (Morris) Farmclub.com due to unfavorable contractual terms in favor of a more progressive deal with Discipline Global Mobile, the label co-owned by Robert (King Crimson) Fripp and David Singleton.
This publicity has served the Rosenbergs well in their bid to reach a wider audience with their work. However, this entire buzz has been focused on strictly non-musical issues. Which is a pity because, based on 1999 album Ameripop, the pure power pop of The Rosenbergs should be enough to gain the appropriate attention.
Mission: You, The Rosenbergs’ debut album proper carries on where Ameripop left off, and in fact includes a track (“Soaked in Polyester”) that featured on the earlier disc. Which means that the astute pop-rock listener will be treated to eleven tracks of the very best that modern power pop can offer.
I kid you not. Whilst the US power pop underground may be infested with lo-fi, derivative facsimiles of British Invasion (Beatles, Who, Kinks) and early 70s pop-rock (Raspberries, Badfinger, Big Star); The Rosenbergs create perhaps the perfect examples of how power pop should really be delivered: instantly hummable tunes, deft guitar work, dynamic performances and odd tangential instrumentation to keep things always interesting.
Did I forget to mention a sense of humor? Opening track “Sucking on a Plum,” begins with the voice of a little girl singing, – “Ring around the rosies/Pocketful of posies/Ashes ashes we all fall down” – the significance of which I believe is twofold. One, a nod and a wink to their obvious influences, Seattle’s finest powerpop combo The Posies and two, a reference to the nursery rhyme naivety that imbues much of this lively work.
After all, kids love songs with lots of sugar and certainly “Sucking on a Plum,” “Paper and Plastic,” “Little Lie,” “In Pursuit,” “Fast Asleep” and “Soaked in Polyester” could only come from wide-eyed optimism and a youthful perspective. Once those hooks dig deep, there’s no escaping their intoxicating effect – the confirmation of power pop brilliance.
It gets better – oh yeah! On the dreamy “Secret,” the band casts their vigorous pop-rock style with a dash of soft pop (with its vibes and jaunty rhythms), on the tranquil “Drug of Choice,” the ghosts of Jellyfish are raised with confidence and on the slightly rustic “Overboard,” the melancholic tone provides an fitting conclusion to a superb album.
If Mission: You fails to move you, then you must be no lover of melodic excellence and pop precision. Suffice to say, this is an essential purchase for all true pop fans. (9)
Bill Forsyth, the owner of Minus Zero Records has boldly declared, “this (i.e. The Orgone Box) is the very best Pop album to come out of England in the last 20 years…” Whilst you may have cause to quibble with his assessment, you will be hard pressed to ignore The Orgone Box’s stake to British pop greatness.
Consisting mainly of demos made by Rick Corcoran with Tam Johnstone and Tim McTighe (from Corcoran’s previous band The Green Tambourines) and released by a small Japanese label in 1996 to obscurity, Minus Zero Records have managed to obtain Corcoran’s consent to re-issue this unknown legend for the benefit of modern power pop listeners.
Corcorhan’s prior claim to fame was a critically acclaimed EP (Judy Over The Rainbow b/w Disposable & Bed) on Chrysalis Records in 1994 (at the ascent of Britpop) under the Orange moniker. However, Orange could not survive internal differences to progress further.
Whatever misfortune Corcorhan may have encountered in the 1990s, hopefully the re-issue of this truly sublime album will spark a reversal of fortune in the new millennium. After all, listening to the magnificent psychedelic pop on The Orgone Box, there is surely a place in every power pop fan’s heart for the music of Rick Corcorhan.
Reference points are obvious – The Beatles, The Kinks, Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, The Soft Boys, XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear phase, The Cleaners from Venus, The Green Pajamas and the irrepressible Robyn Hitchcock. Fortified with these tremendous influences, Rick Corcorhan is able to fashion something so fresh and effervescent that you never ever entertain thoughts of dismissing this as derivative.
How can you when a song like the gorgeously freaky “Anaesthesia” slithers and embraces your senses with phased vocals, effects-laden guitars and tongue-in-cheek lyrics like, “I’m not into psychedelia/ I’ve got a psychedelic mind.” Or the Ray Davies-evoking Anglo folk-rock reverie of “There’ll Always Be Attitudes” with its quirky sentiments – “If you want to lead a proper life you've got to listen to the wife a bit/ You're all night in the pub and you're with your mates and your brain begins to equate with little more than laughing at the size of her tits.” And what about the lively and animated “World Revolves” with its world-weary cynicism – “You wanna fight but you can't make a fist/ You're getting mad at yourself but you make yourself sick.”
The clincher, in my mind, is the stunning “Find The One,” a love song in the Roy Orbison/Jeff Lynne mode, emotional and touching where Corcorhan is unafraid to sing, “Find the one you love the one who's always there who always cared for you/ Find the one you love if this is a time for being hopeful,” a song that deserves to resonate from radios all over the world as Corcorhan’s hits the upper register to send chills tingling down spines.
The Orgone Box may not be the best British pop album of the last twenty years but it’s certainly close. Hopefully, this will point the way for future magical moments from Rick Corcorhan. (9)
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Huie, the mastermind behind Girls Say Yes, is an artist possessed of many gifts.
Within the context of his revolving doors artistic collective, Huie adopts the
roles of singer, songwriter, engineer, producer and drummer naturally. To
Boys Who Say No is the culmination of years of recording and tinkering in
various studios aided and abetted by the likes of Mitch
Easter (Let's Active, REM producer), Russ Tolman and Richard McGrath(True West),
Bobby Sutliff (The Windbreakers), Steve Almaas (American punk pioneers the
Suicide Commandos, Beat Rodeo), Adam Marsland (Cockeyed Ghost), Jeff Hatcher
(Canada's Blue Shadows) and Ben Drucker (Swirlees). Quite a considerable list!
admits to a love for the Bonzo Dog Band and has confessed a predilection for
injecting humor into his pop constructs. Perhaps that easily explains the
hilarious nature of the wonderful opening tracks. "Another Life" is
introduced by what sounds uncannily like the Maharishi (guru to the stars)
spouting platitudes as the knowing psychedelia floats into range. With
appropriate lyrical insights like "I wonder about the moments we
squander/The planet turns and ghosts will wander/There's people who give/And
people who leave nothing behind,"
it's hard to tell if Huie is being serious or cynical or maybe a bit of both.
"Don't Call Me," contains
a deeply bittersweet refrain - "Maybe you hope to find a cure/To
help you regain your allure/But don't call me ...I'm not your Doctor,"
as Huie and band go for Don't Tell A Soul-era
the lovely breezy "Beckon" with its lovelorn sentiments, dispel any
doubts about Huie's artistic intentions with words filled with honesty and
reflection - " If I could only testify
every thought, word, and deed I ever felt, could I justify my own life? If I
could only vivify every taste, smell, sight, and sound, do you think then I
could believe in myself?" and "Are we two souls whispering secrets in
languages never spoke Or am I just a howl echoing in the night? Have I ever met
you before, will I see you again, or is this all coincidence? Will we magnify
all we assumed from the start?" Sincere expressions that touch the heart
Other highlights include the pub rock
tone of “Monkey in the Middle,” the polyrhythmic sensibilities of “Burning
Inside Out,” the baroque pop outlook of “Sylvia” and the dramatic rock
feel of “You’re Coming Down.”
A smorgasbord of authentic pop delights, those in the know should not hesitate to say yes to this pleasing album. (7)
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SWAG has been described as a power pop
supergroup meaning its members hail from fairly well-known bands. Thus, the
roll-call has been based on degree of fame and so, we usually start with Tom
Petersson of Cheap Trick, Ken Coomer of Wilco, then Jerry Dale McFadden and
Robert Reynolds, both of which have played with the Mavericks. Wait, there’s
still one more, often mentioned last – “solo artist/guitarist” Doug
Well, from my perspective anyway, the
main reason to get hold of this debut album IS the presence of the talented Mr.
Powell. If nothing else, for the fully completed version of the sublime “When
She Awoke,” previously presented in demo form in Powell’s Curiouser.
Powell also contributes the dynamic “I’ll Get By” and the Elvis
Costello-informed “Eight” with Coomer.
But to be fair, Catch-all really
is the sum of its parts with all SWAG members equally vital in the final
analysis. The results: a poignant jazzy ballad “Near Perfect Smile,” homage
to the Davies brothers with the zesty “Please Tell Her,” the perfect
Merseybeat moment with the heartfelt “Louise,” a Brian Wilson-inflected gem
with “Different Girl,” a powerful Beatlesque rocker “You,” a jaunty
music hall beaut “Trixie,” the energetic Lennonesque stomper “Ride” and
the childlike yet anthemic closer “She’s Deceiving.”
As is clearly evident, there is virtually something for every power pop/melodic rock fan in Catch-all (hmmm, I wonder…), an brilliant treatise of beauty and strength. (8.5)
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