By John M. Borack
Lots to catch up on, starting with the latest from Australian pop guru Michael Carpenter, Redemption #39.
Carpenter’s released a handful of solo records over the past decade or so, but the new one is definitely his crowning achievement thus far. Handling pretty much all the instruments and vocals himself, Carpenter fashions a mature, deeply satisfying record, with echoes of Tom Petty, alt-country lite and pure power-pop married to often autobiographical lyrics about turmoil, dissatisfaction and, ultimately, redemption.
“Can’t Go Back” is a corker of a tune and possibly the best thing Carpenter’s ever done. “I’m Not Done With You” is a lilting mid-tempo gem and “The King Of The Scene” recalls Jellyfish and Queen. It’s all so high-quality that Carpenter can be forgiven for the inclusion of a tune called “Workin’ For a Livin’” and having it sound very similar to the Huey Lewis ditty of the same title.
Carpenter also played a major role in The Finkers, a fantastic Aussie power-pop combo that gave the world two stone classics of the genre — “This Time It’s Love” and “Adeline Now.”
Their entire recorded output has been compiled by their drummer Mickster and released as a two-disc set, Epilogue, on his Off the Hip label. The 51 tracks alternate between pure pop delights and punk-pop rave-ups, with everything sounding unfailingly melodic and shot through with energy. It’s got a great choice of covers, too, with The Scruffs, Flamin’ Groovies, Real Kids, Easybeats, Stems and Gene Clark all represented.
Former Cherry Twister guitarist Mike Giblin has helmed Parallax Project for three albums, but the Pennsylvania band’s latest, I Hate Girls, is by far their best yet.
Don Dixon’s excellent production gives the guitars (some played by The Plimsouls’ Eddie Munoz) and keyboards room to breath, while Giblin’s songwriting has reached new heights and his everyman lead vocals have never sounded better.
The sweet desperation of “Watching The World Revolve Around You” is worth the price of admission by itself, but the raucous “Coming Around,” The Plimsouls-influenced “All the Same,” the country-inflected “The Day After Tomorrow” and the Move-like guitar riffing on “Waiting To Pull The Trigger” (which leads to an impossible-to-shake chorus) are all quite nice, too. A definite album of the year contender.
The obscure late-’70s Britpop act Buster is relatively forgotten 30 years after their ever-so-brief heyday, save for a few pop archivists and diehards.
The good folks at Airmail Records in Japan — both archivists and diehards — have released three Buster records on CD, with the first, self-titled release from 1977 an essential purchase for fans of light-and-airy power-pop. Tunes such as the gorgeous “I’m a Fool,” the peppy, Bay City Rollers-like “We Love Girls” and the charming “Love Rules” are the standouts, with covers of Paul McCartney and Steppenwolf also worth a cursory listen.
Buster 2 is a little more disco-fied and not quite as good, while Buster Live is a curio for hardcore fans only that includes legions of screaming girls (and a rather lackluster “rock medley” that features Buster-ized versions of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “When the Saints Go Marching In,” among others. Ugh.)