30 Reviews in Five Days, Pt. 5

by John M. Borack

Laurence Juber – “Fingerboard Road” (Solid Air Records)
Former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber has released nearly 20 (!) records of exquisite acoustic guitar musings, and on Fingerboard Road the Grammy-winning musician tosses in three originals alongside lovely fingerpicked versions of well-known tunes by the likes of Steely Dan, The Who, Badfinger, Otis Redding, and others. His version of the Moody Blues’ “Go Now” (a nod to his former Wings mate Denny Laine) in particular is sublime. Grade: B

pop4 Pop 4 – “Summer” (Satellites Group)
Indie pop champions Scott McPherson, KC Bowman, Kirk Adams and Andrea Perry are Pop 4; on the summery-sounding Summer (duh), they all sing, play and write, and the results are at once charming, winsome and melodically stimulating. McPherson’s “Einstein and Sunshine” is ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” in a not-so-thin disguise; no, I take that back, it’s a complete and total rip, but it’s so obvious that the listener can only smile and tap their feet. Perry’s downcast “What’s it Gonna Be Like Now” has the aura of one of Chris Bell’s Big Star compilations; “I’m So Jealous” is reminiscent of one of Bowman’s other bands, the Corner Laughers; “Julianne Irish” is a deliriously catchy hootenanny; and “You’re No Aimee Mann” is a strong contender for Song Title of the Year. And to think it was all recorded at their homes and over the internet. Grade: A-

Kip Boardman – “Kip Boardman” (Steel Derrick)
Recorded live in the studio and released on Nelson Bragg’s Steel Derrick imprint, Kip Boardman’s self-titled release is a throwback to the hazy, slightly crazy days of “Canyon Rock,” which is kind of similar to Yacht Rock, but minus the yacht. Bragg’s dry production is a total mid-‘70s throwback (not a bad thing; it suits the songs), Boardman’s songwriting is solid (“Andalusia” and “I’ve Got Time For You” are two of the best) and the seven-minute “Oh The Ache” ends things on a typically moody note. Grade: B-

Tommy Lorente – “Un Cruel Manque de Tendresse” (Yaourt Productions)
Even though I don’t speak – or understand – a lick of French, I do speak power pop, and Tommy Lorente’s sung-all-in-French record (the title roughly translates to “A Cruel Lack of Tenderness”; I looked it up) is pretty damned catchy. He thanks Dom Mariani, Paul Collins and Nick Lowe in the liners, so it’s clear his heart and ears are in the right place, and even though I have no clue what he’s singing about, it doesn’t really matter much. There are 10 songs, they’re all good, the production has some Phil Spector-like flourishes and the booklet includes lyrics for those who do speak the language. Will pop fans enjoy this record? J’en mettrais ma main au feu! (You get to look that one up.) Grade: A-

The Muffs – “The Muffs” (Omnivore)
The punk-pop icons’ debut record from 1993 gets the deluxe reissue treatment from Omnivore, with copious liners courtesy of Ronnie Barnett, track-by-track commentary from Kim Shattuck, and a handful of previously unreleased 4-track demos, including some tunes that didn’t make the final cut of the original version of the disc. (The poppy, Buddy Holly-Meets-The-British-Invasion bop of “Something on My Mind” is one of these, and it’s pretty darned cool.) The Muffs have become something of a national treasure, so it’s nice to see Omnivore doing them proud. Grade: A-

Tommy Sistak – “Short Songs” (No label listed)
If Jeremy Morris were to have a big-time Merseybeat fixation – even more than he already does, that is – he’d probably sound quite a bit like Tommy Sistak. Sistak’s amiable, easy-to-digest pop nuggets are informed by the early Beatles and Searchers, and if we were living in 1995, he’d no doubt have his CD listed in the Not Lame catalog and be written up in Audities magazine. The snappy “Ordinary Words” and “Just Like Before” are as good a place as any to jump in if this type of popstuff floats your boat. Grade: B+

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