by John M. Borack
David Bash's International Pop Overthrow franchise celebrated its 13th year in 2010, which meant a 13th compilation of all-over-the-map tunes from acts who played one of the venerable pop festival's many stops throughout the US and UK. Making my way through the behemoth-like three-disc sets of recent years has become somewhat of a daunting task, but after spending some time digging through volume 13, I unearthed many treasures deserving of pop fans' attention.
IPO has branched out and broadened its sonic palette since the fest's inception in 1998; rather than simply focusing on jangly, toe-tapping power pop sounds, the festival lineups (and the CD's) also include everything from slammin' punk and synth-flecked indie rock to garage pop and singer/songwriter missives (and from eight countries, yet). This is mostly a good thing, as it's prevented IPO from being pigeonholed as a festival for cultists - plus there seems to be a little something for everyone. Of course not everything is top-shelf, but that's certainly to be expected for a 66-track comp, right?
In any event, here are some short, random observations on some of the artists/songs that stood out on IPO 13:
The Royalties: Nice modern power pop tuneage with just enough quirkiness to make it memorable.
Susannah Blinkoff: Oh Susannah, I'd like to hear more of these cute vocals combined with those edgy-yet-catchy guitars.
The Mayflowers: If Jellyfish (the band, not the free-swimming members of the phylum Cnidaria) was Japanese and influenced by the Beatles' "Getting Better," it'd sound like this. Which is a good thing.
Deadbeat Poets: Hey, they borrowed the "You Really Got Me" guitar riff! Or was it "All Day and All of the Night?" No, wait...."Hello, I Love You?"
Chris Richards and the Subtractions: "I, Miss July" adds up to classic-sounding power pop. (Subtractions...adds up....get it?)
Ulysses: Gary Glitter, meet T. Rex.
Stephen Lawrenson: If Matthew Sweet ever needs an understudy, this could be the right man for the job.
The Dirty Royals: Speedy tempo, lots of harmonies. Very nice.
Nushu: One of the shining lights of the L.A. pop scene offers up one of their hookier, punchier numbers. Lisa Mychols and Hillary Burton - you rock!
The Romeo Flynns: Not unlike the E-Street Band meeting Michael Stanley in someone's garage. Whether that's a positive or negative depends on what you think of the E-Street Band and Michael Stanley.
Matthew Pop: With a last name like Pop, it's gotta be good, right? The crunchy guitars and the "woo-hoo's" help make it so.
The Roebucks!!: They have exclamation points!! I don't know why!! They also have an undeniably catchy, mid-tempo swagger about them!!
The Beat Rats: Rough and tumble Merseybeat madness. Wonderful.
The Shamus Twins: I was reminded of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. For sham(us)...
Maxi Dunn: Beautifully atmospheric, perfectly sung.
Popfilter!: Imagine Queen if Queen was really, really mediocre.
The Stanleys: "What Are We Gonna Do?" might be the best thing here. It's classic, powerful pop that is highly reminiscent of '70s-era Midwest power popsters The Boys. Turn it up.
Rob Bonfiglio: A winning, soulful, piano-based tune.
Skick: Supercharged female-fronted punk rock.
Jeremy Morris: The Nicest Guy in Pop flies like a Byrd...
The Pondhawks: Imagine a peppy Gerry Rafferty listening to "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting."
Tiny Volcano: More Jellyfish (not the hydrozoan or hydromedusae) crowned with a Queen-like guitar solo.
Golden Bloom: Pretty, mid-tempo sunshine pop sounds.
The Secrets: Hypnotically catchy garage-pop.
Zoe Scott: Has an "Every Breath You Take"/"Missing You" (John Waite) vibe.
Agony Aunts: Bouncy, quirky and cool. A highlight of disc 3.
Cosmo Topper: Seriously weird sh*t here. Brown acid, anyone?
The Sunchymes: See Golden Bloom.
Blue Cartoon: A smooth little number from this veteran IPO combo.
The Kings: A potential radio smash in waiting, this one.
Hijinx: Snappy tune, great band name.
The Afternoons: "I Want it Anyway" is what it's called, and it's probably the second-best track here. Love that sweet guitar jangle.
Susan Hedges: A grating, '80s-influenced dance number. Ugh.
The Romeros: Sloppy punk with sax = no bueno.
The Ringles: You gotta give these guys credit for shamelessly appropriating the opening guitar figure from "Stairway to Heaven" for their own wannabe epic - but I guess a bit of turnabout is fair play, since the Zep dudes certainly "borrowed" many a riff back in the day...
Overall, IPO 13 is a damned fine collection, with the many high points making it a more-than-welcome addition to any pop fans' music library. Great way to discover many heretofore unknown acts, too. Visit www.internationalpopoverthrow.com for more info on both the CD's and the festival.