REVIEWED! September 2001

SPIKE PRIGGEN The Very Thing That You Treasure/ECLIPSO Hero and Villain in One Man!/ADAM SCHMITT Demolition/LODESTAR National Cheer/JAMIE ROUNDS 10 Great Car Tunes/YOUNG ANTIQUES Wardrobe for a Jet Weekend/P76 Sunliner/MATT LANGLOIS The Welcome Matt/THE ATARI STAR Shrp Knf Cts Mtns/THE POLINS Lost Highway/ATOMBOMBPOCKETKNIFE God Save the ABPK

The Very Thing That You Treasure

Priggen boasts impressive credentials, having been variously associated with the likes of Jon Brion, Aimee Mann, Mark Mulcahy, Dumptruck and the splendid Liquor Giants. Not that this factoid is directly related to the ultimate assessment of this, Priggen’s solo debut, though I thought you might like to know.

So does Priggen manage to pull off this solo thing? Well, mostly yes. There are enough moments of quality pop inspiration to give The Very Thing That You Treasure the thumbs up. Not least for Priggen’s eclectic vision and ambition.

The thousand guitar lickin’ blues of “Alright,” the atmospheric AMC-reminiscent “She Used To Be My Baby,” the straightforward powerpop of “Yesterday,” the sensitive Big Star balladry of “The Right Thing,” the Byrdsian delicacy of “Outtasight,” the sloppy ‘Mats pastiche “What Yer Missing,” the gorgeous Twilley tribute “Listening To Me” and the hazy jangle of “Every Broken Heart” attests to Priggen’s versatility and pop intelligence.

Gloriously melancholy, The Very Thing You Treasure will with its aura and composition, transport you to the brink of tears and back. Worth every minute of the ride. (8)

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Hero and Villain in One Man!
(Death Barney)

Comic book fans will no doubt recognize the name of Eclipso as the DC super-villain who resides in scientist Bruce Gordon and represents Gordon’s dark side when manifested. A superhuman version of Jekyll & Hyde I suppose.

Well, the joke here is that Eclipso the recording artist is singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Bruce Gordon! (I kid you not). With the production assistance of Earle Mankey, Eclipso/Gordon has fashioned a pure pop classic where it is easy to discern the best pop influences make their mark on these 12 wonderful songs.

“Nothing’s Gonna Happen” is sunshine pop in the Hollies vein, “Going Going Gone” is a slinky funky number that points in the direction of Roy Wood and even Lalo Schifrin, “Allegiance” is a ironic breezy diatribe that evokes the Byrds and CCR, “This Means War!” is campy music hall commentary that displays the quirkiness of the Doors, “What Goes Wrong” is a rocking gem in the tradition of the Buffalo Springfield and the Rolling Stones, “The Last Time” is a textural masterpiece that the likes of the Beach Boys and the Association would be proud of and “Kill the Night” is a toe tapping marvel that owes its debt to the Beatles.

Not only that, but the interpretations of Ivy’s “I Got a Feeling,” Brian Wilson’s “Guess I’m Dumb” and Crazy Horse’s “I’ll Get By” provide the icing on this sumptuous cake. Highly recommended to those who require verve, melodic strength and clever studio work in their daily pop dose. (8)

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The legend of ‘revered pop recluse’ Adam Schmitt begins actually after Warner Brothers passed on his third album, sometime in the early years of the last decade. Holed up in his home studio (financed by recording and publishing advances), it is rumored that Schmitt has recorded close to ten albums worth of material. Finally, Schmitt has decided on ten tracks to take the plunge with – the result being Demolition.

Was it worth the wait? Certainly. That is abundantly clear from the moment “See Me Fall” and “Brilliance in Failure” weave their magical powerpop spell on the listener. A dynamic beat, muscular guitars and gorgeous melodies allay all fears that Demolition could be anything other than fine. This form is continued on the pleasant “Second Story,” the lusty “Let’s Make This Easy,” the psychedelic “Want Ad,” the vibrant “Alone on a Crashing Plane,” the groovy “World as Enemy,” the poignant “Timeless” and new wavy “Looking for Fate.”

The pop underground has reason to celebrate with this release especially with the promise of much more to come. (8)

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National Cheer
(Self released)

Lodestar’s promo one-sheet fires off comparisons with Big Star, the Beatles, Guided by Voices and the Replacements. All well and good, except that I feel that these glib generalizations do this inventive sextet a disservice. There is definitely more that meets the eye. A sophisticated touch in the guitars especially, that nods more in the direction of Radiohead, Travis & Coldplay perhaps.

The jazz inflections on “Sun King,” the progressive violin on “Great Big Empty,” the isolated harpiscord on the exquisitely breezy “Faith and Happiness,” the epic sound effects on the gigantic “Jaundice,” the rampart psychedelia on “Sun Grin” and the haunting folk simplicity on “The Pike” certainly bear this supposition out.

Not that Lodestar is not able to deliver that straightahead powerpop rush as “Leningrad,” “Downslide,” “Landslide Links,” “Ionized,” “Umbrella Hat” and “Genevieve’s House” attests. A great blend of pop smarts and modern guitar rock sensibilities, Lodestar is a band to watch for sure. (8)

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10 Great Car Tunes
(Bristol Music Company)

Truth in advertising, in this day and age! Well, with Jamie Rounds you get exactly what the sleeve promises – 10 great car tunes! Rounds’ approach is pure and simple – uncomplicated guitar powerpop, the way it was always meant to be. Strongly evocative of vintage Tom Petty, Roget McGuinn, Joe Walsh and Steve Miller and even the new ELO album, Zoom10 Great Car Tunes is straightforward but always rewarding.

Songs like the slick CSNY-ish “Shadow of Love,” the raucous rockin’ “So Long,” the smoky lounge-lizard theme “Guitar Noir,” the psychedelic “Asleep and Awake,” the silky rhythmic “Dance With You,” the heartfelt “The Minute She Cried,” the breezy “Tears Don’t Care” and the rustic, mildly Beatlesque “Long Shot” determine Rounds’ obvious abilities to write and perform pleasing material. Add to that the shimmering covers of Jefferson Airplane’s “Live Embryonic Journey” and Brian Wilson’s “Kiss Me Baby” – integrated masterfully with Rounds’ eponymous tribute to DJ Casey Kasem (who features in a complimentary phone message) and you’re left with an album that highlights the reasons why we love this kind of music will always be timeless. (7.5)

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Wardrobe For a Jet Weekend

“Welcome to the new modern world” a chant familiar to fans of that seminal British band The Jam. The Young Antiques viz. singer/ guitarist Blake Rainey, bassist Blake Parris and drummer Mason Brazelle, share the same incendiary verve and slavish dedication to the best melodic rock of the past 2 decades. A power trio in every sense of the word, the Young Antiques never deny their musical roots – the alternative (college) rock of the 1980s evident on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Bad Lucky Street,” “More Soul,” “Missing Man,” “Wartime Town,” “The Last Thing” and “Another Day” bear the hallmarks of the garage punk credentials of Paul Westerberg’s Replacements; “Matta Love” recalls the short, sharp pop smarts of Elvis Costello while Steve Earle rustics are evoked in “Bury Me Down” and “Your Life is For Real.”

A nice balance between post-punk powerpop and country rock is achieved in Wardrobe For a Jet Weekend, underground pop fans would do well not to ignore its charms. (7.5)

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(Zip Records)

P76 cuts to the chase the moment the punchy “Headed Straight For The Sun” leaps from your speakers/headphones with its cheerful Teenage Fanclub vibe. With its insistent beat and compelling tune, it certainly speaks directly at any pure pop fan’s heart.

Danny McDonald (vocals, guitars), Tim Mills (bass) & Geoff Barnes (drums) are adept at evoking that special powerpop feeling – your head starts bopping, your toe begins to tap and before you know it you’re jumping around the room playing air guitar etc etc etc

The rest of this 5 track EP CD isn’t too shabby either. The dynamic “Slow Down,” the heartfelt “It’s Want You Make Of It That Counts,” the energetic “Another You” and the quaint title track never quite match the sheer pop thrill of the opening number but are fine examples of melodic guitar pop Aussie style. (7.5)

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The Welcome Matt
(Self released)

Like Scot Sax, Langlois obviously builds up his best songs from the beat up. From the opening “Guitar and TV Song,” the intent is clear. Keeping the instrumentation lean, it is the irresistible rhythm that provides the beguiling hook that sells track perfectly. Langlois’ preference for the acoustic guitar is perhaps derived from being brought up in a household where his mother sang and played folk songs to Langlois and his siblings.

This approach results in a clean, uncluttered sound whereby Langlois is able to construct his uncomplicated, pleasing music. From the groovy “Be Thankful” to the ominously heavy “Haunted,” from the Lennonesque piano ballad “Master of Breath” to the Neil Young-ish folk blues of “Man From Indian Path Way” Langlois displays an eclectic vision that is always intriguing. Odd little gems like the offbeat “Yellow Horse” and the bizarre “Crutches and Bones” complete the picture. Strange and wonderful. (7)

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Shrp Knf Cts Mtns
(Johann’s Face)

The Atari Star sure had me fooled. Listening to the initial tracks of this CD, I had pre-judged them to be an atonal alt.rock combo in the Sonic Youth/Pavement mode and whilst there is not much wrong with that direction per se, there’s only so much lack of melody I can take before switching off both figuratively and literally.

However, on the second half of the album, with “La Petit Mer” something quite amazing transpires. A soft pop element is injected with dazzling effect. Suddenly, my perspective changes and The Atari Star can do no wrong. “Deeply, Mercifully Asleep” is gorgeously poignant, “Prayers for Non-Believers” is Smiths-like charming, “Winter Birthmark” is lovely Nick Drake jazz-folky and “Archipelago” is a melancholy chamber pop dirge that uplifts despite itself.

A tale of two halves perhaps but I prefer to interpret this cup as half-full. (7)

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Lost Highway
(TMI Records)

Incendiary guitar licks buried somewhat in the mix, rudimentary power chords that suggest your favourite Who songs, fundamental harmonies support a rather lanquid lead vocal and a less than comprehensive grip on sonic presentation – that, pop fans, pretty much sums up the dilemma that The Polins finds itself in.

Under that under-achieving sound is a crack powerpop band trying to get out. There are moments when The Polins transcend its murky surroundings to produce a shiny pop highlight but these are too far and between. Usually this occurs when the lead guitar lets rip but it remains muted – an error in judgment perhaps. Still, there is enough for the patient fan to garner a decent satisfactory powerpop fix. Back to the drawing board, fellows. (5)

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God Save the ABPK

Look at the album cover of God Save the ABPK – go on. Now, doesn’t that look like an image you’d expect on a neo-prog CD? Thankfully not! ABPK viz. Justin Sinkovich (guitars, vocals); Allison Hollihan (bass); Matt Espy (drums) and Che Arthur (guitar) parlay a classic rock sensibility onto their VU derivative alt. rock stylings.

Which basically means oddly tuned guitars are high in the mix, vocals are distorted and offbeat sci-fi lyrical concepts. If nothing else, ABPK recalls the sonic intensity of bands like Built to Spill, Archers of Loaf and Guided by Voices.

Which makes God Save the ABPK a dodgy proposition for pure pop listeners though tracks like the aggressive “A Room Full of Perfect People,” the full-blooded rockin’ “The Methadone Actors” and lively punky “Violet Encryptions [we only move backwards]” sweeten the deal somewhat. You have been warned. (5)

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