VARIOUS ARTISTS – International Pop Overthrow, Volume 20 (Pop Geek Heaven)
“Well it was 20 years ago today David Bash booked some bands to play.” This inscription - alongside snapshots of each of the 20 International Pop Overthrow CD compilation covers - can be found on the inside of the CD tray card of the latest three-disc, 66-track installment. As it suggests, as the head honcho behind IPO, Bash has now been hosting the music festival and curating its melody-rich companion CDs for two decades.
For years known as strictly a power pop-oriented fest, Bash has loosened the reins a bit in recent times for not only the festival’s performers, but also for acts represented on the CD. Hence, IPO Vol. 20is once again not all jangle and Beatles boots; some of the genres represented also include ‘80s-influenced big beat balladry (Sue Hedges), riff-happy hard rock (Arcadeans), a Radio Disney readymade girl group/dance mashup (Kalina & Kiana), and even a touch of the funky (Danny Echo).
But where an IPO compilation really succeeds is when Bash sniffs out heretofore undiscovered (by most) pure pop sounds and slots them alongside some of the more well-known current purveyors of the trade. This time around, the latter include Texas power pop stalwart Lannie Flowers (with the ridiculously catchy “Kiss a Memory”), The Stanleys from Australia, Corin Ashley (the fab rocker “Little Crumbles”), The Tearaways (“That’s Rock!” sounds not unlike a poppier version of the Nails’ ‘80s new wave standard “88 Lines About 44 Women”), and LA’s way groovy Plasticsoul.
Other names that may ring a bell for indie pop enthusiasts include Pop Co-Op (the Spongetones’ Steve Stoeckel’s newish outfit), whose “It Ain’t Easy Being a Boy” is an instant earworm; Diamond Hands, whose bracing “Just Another Day” was a highlight of their wonderful debut album; and Jimmy Haber, who contributes the snappy “Chelsea,” which at times recalls “Cherry Cherry” and is a wonderfully performed and arranged pop tune. Oh, and Leisure McCorkle’s “Transmission” is a sublime little pop/rock confection as well.
Relatively under the radar acts/tracks that rise to the top on disc one of IPO, Vol. 20include the opening track, the shimmering “What if She Loves You?” by The Top Boost, which successfully melds 12-string guitar jangle with lite psych goodness; Michael Roberts’ “When You Shine,” which sounds as if it could have been a mid-‘70s AM radio smash; the garage rockin’ “I Don’t Know You Now” by Slyboots, who neatly turn the “Day Tripper” riff sideways as many others have before them; Huxley Rittman & the Rusty Hitmen’s snappy “Stay With Me” (that turnaround riff at the end of each chorus just slays me); “Everybody Knows” by Lunchbox, who come off like a low-fi cross between Sex Clark Five and LMNOP; and The Morning Line’s “All Mine,” a stately, plaintive pop tune.
Disc two is front loaded with the aforementioned Stanleys, Jimmy Haber, Pop Co-Op and Corin Ashley cuts, and is also highlighted by the blissful guitar jingle-jangle on Steve Rosenbaum’s sweet “Kiss My Wife”; New Mystery Girl’s storming ‘60s punk-inflected goodie “Crawl Through Your Hair”; the updated Buddy Hollyisms of Scott Perry’s “Say I Do"; and the pure power pop of “What Love Can Do” by The Raz Band, which features instrumental, vocal and production assistance from heavy hitters Joey Molland and Joe Vitale.
Disc three’s winners include tracks by The Belmondos, Caper Clowns (the breezy “Pockets”), Leslie Pereira & the Lazy Heroes, Coke Belda (“You’re Not in Love,” from Belda’s Nummer Zweialbum, is pop perfection), The Jetbeats, Metropolitan Farms (“Curbside Recycling” might be the song title of the year), and John Macom, whose string-laden ballad “Think About You” brings to mind ELO and closes out the set. While a few duff tracks here and there keep the set from being a complete triumph (that’s to be expected on any three-disc collection), there are more than enough musical peaks on International Pop Overthrow, Volume 20 to warrant any self-respecting indie pop fan picking up a copy. Grade: A-