by John M. Borack
Various Artists: “International Pop Overthrow, Volume 18”
Pop Geek Heaven (PGH-37)
The International Pop Overthrow CD collection – which for the past several years has included a whopping 65+ tracks on three discs – is both an endurance test and a treasure hunt. Curator David Bash is doggedly persistent in ferreting out the latest and greatest by artists who have made something of a name for themselves in the indie pop/power pop arena (Laurie Biagini, The Tearaways, Ray Paul, Cloud Eleven) as well as newcomers/relative unknowns to most (Split Sofa, Steve Rosenbaum, Onions, The Reign). So although it can often seem like a bit of a chore (to me, anyway) to sit through the entire collection at one sitting, quite often the payoffs are great – particularly on Volume 18.
Disc one is very good, with Ivan Mudd’s “Wake Up Call” getting the proceedings off to fine start by bursting out of the gate sounding like a vintage Cheap Trick track. Jimmy Haber’s horn-juiced “Lilac” is cherry-picked from one of 2015’s best pure pop albums, the Perms’ “The Parent Thing” is a buzzsaw pop gem, Cranbury Sauce and Private Jets both add a dollop of Jellyfish-like goodness, and Broadfield Marchers sound like the not-so-distant musical relatives of (early, lo-fi/DIY) Shoes. A solid teaser from the upcoming Ray Paul record and Split Sofa’s wonderfully hypnotic, stylized nugget “Days So Long Ago” are two of the other high water marks on disc one. There are a few snoozers and a bit of pretentiousness – and The Evening Attraction sounds like they REALLY want to be U2 when they grow up – but it’s still a super-solid group of tunes. Oh, and Dave Birk gets extra credit points for titling a song “Rollercoaster of Love, Hate & Tenderness.”
Two fine cuts from female artists lead off disc two: “Dream Dream Dream” from Southern California’s Kylie Hughes is a smooth little rockabilly shaker, and Gail George’s sweet, emotive voice lends tons of passion to “More Than Me.” Elsewhere, Dave Rave + the Governors’ “Sweet American Music” is truth in advertising time (the US’s answer to Dave Edmunds, anyone?), “Deary Me” by Onions comes off like a Freddie and the Dreamers update, Blake Jones and the Trike Shop bring to mind early-period Who, Lo Fi Hi’s “Not Gonna Hesitate” is fed by some cool guitar riffing, and Tommy Sistak allows his Beatles flag to fly proudly on the slightly glorious “Ordinary Words.”
The final disc features some sweet power poppin’ perfection by the likes of Greg Ieronimo, Vanilla, Coke Belda, and Jared Lekites of the Lunar Laugh, with the last three having each released fine records in their own right in 2015. There is also plenty of cool garage-pop on disc three (courtesy of The Jetbeats, The Soulphonics and The Most), while “Twice” by the Virtues is another favorite, a sweetly gentle, slightly psychedelic little ditty. The 68th (!) and final track is something of an oddity, with Secret Friend’s “I Don’t Know You” being more than a little reminiscent of ELO’s “Fire on High.”
Although there are a few duff tracks sprinkled throughout, let’s not dwell on those slight missteps; the good news is that the 18th volume of the International Pop Overthrow franchise is one of the strongest in recent memory. Visit www.internationalpopoverthrow.com for more information about the CD and the music festival of the same name, which features live performances from artists from around the globe.