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Power Pop Plus reviews Phil Seymour, The Flamin' Groovies and many more

Goldmine columnist John M. Borack reviews the latest Power Pop releases like Phil Seymour, The Flamin' Groovies and others.

By John M. Borack


PHIL SEYMOUR – If You Don’t Want My Love: Archive Series 6 (Sunset Blvd.)

It’s somewhat difficult to believe that Phil Seymour has been gone for nearly 27 years now, but thanks to the continuing Archive Series (now in its sixth volume), new material from the vault continues to see release. The latest collection is a 15-song feast that includes eight previously unreleased tracks, all recorded prior to Seymour signing with Boardwalk Records and releasing his first solo effort in 1980. (By the by, the overall fidelity is stronger here than on some other posthumous Seymour releases.) There are a clutch of well-traveled covers—including the Equals’ “Baby Come Back,” the Dave Clark Five’s “Come Home,” and a 1985 live version of Dwight Twilley’s “Looking for the Magic,” recorded for a radio broadcast during Seymour’s tenure with the Textones—but the real gold here is to be found in the lesser-known tunes. To wit: the title track is a slammin’, hyper take of a cool John Prine number; the Tom Petty-penned rarity “I Can’t Fight It” is a Chuck Berry-styled punk-ish rocker; and the pounding “Wish it Was a Saturday” (love the bluesy harp) lyrically recalls the Bangles-via-Prince hit “Manic Monday.” All feature the voice—that beautifully unique voice—that Phil Seymour fans cherish and still miss. The closing track is Seymour’s home demo (with just vocal and guitar) of the touching “I Really Love You,” a song from his first solo album. I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying. Grade: B+


CUPID’S CARNIVAL – Color-Blind (Cherry)

It’s pretty safe to say that Beatles fans will get plenty of mileage out of the new one from Cupid’s Carnival. Color-Blind is loaded with Beatleisms that never stray too close to Rutle-like parody; Roland Skilton’s Lennon-like lead vocals may recall those halcyon days of yore, but the melodies are all Cupid’s Carnival’s. Echoes of early Bee Gees and Badfinger are also on display (check “Baby Blue”—a CC original—for solid proof), and the hypnotic coda of “Yesterday’s Gone” is pure 1967. For those who prefer their Beatleisms a bit more obvious, try “Working All Day” or “She Don’t Care” for some 1965-era fabness. Obscure reference: At times, Cupid’s Carnival sounds an awful lot like the long-forgotten ‘80’s UK pop act Scarlet Party. Well done! Grade: A-


POP CO-OP – Factory Settings (Self-Released)

Speaking of Beatleisms, Steve Stoeckel is a musician who is certainly well-versed in all things fab: as one-quarter of the mighty Spongetones, he contributed heavily (bass, vocals, songwriting) to the band’s early Mersey-styled releases in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Now Stoeckel is one-quarter of Pop Co-Op, whose sophomore release—cheekily subtitled The Compleat Authoritative Guide to Safe Melodic Procedures—finds him and his cohorts (Joel Tinnel, Bruce Gordon, and Stacy Carson) substantially upping their game. All four musicians sing and write, and the results are by and large very enjoyable: highlights include “No Man’s Land” (a Stoeckel-penned ditty that would have slotted in nicely on a mid-period Spongetones record), “Catching Light” (very XTC-like), “King of Weightless” (quirky and cool), “Persistence of Memory” (an ear-catching ballad), and the sweetly lilting “Requiescat,” which is one of the several tunes with a lovely, subtle vocal arrangement. Factory Settings is pop music for adults, without any of the ickiness that description implies. Grade: B+

JORDAN JONES – Jordan Jones

JORDAN JONES – Jordan Jones (Kool Kat)

Thanks to Kool Kat Musik, one of 2019’s finest albums makes its CD debut after seeing and LP and download-only release. Jordan Jones—and Jordan Jones—is pure, joyous, unfiltered power pop through and through, and an album to be savored again and again. Jones’s boyish vocals sound a bit like a less affected Marc Bolan, and he channels icons such as Cheap Trick (“Rumors Girls” borrows a smidgen from CT’s “She’s Tight”), Phil Spector (“How to Be”) and Ramones (“Understood” is two minutes of melodic oomph). Here’s the deal: if (when?) I ever update my Shake Some Action book listing the top 200 power pop records, Jordan Jones—and Jordan Jones—will no doubt be included. As a bonus, the disc contains a track (“Text You Back”) that wasn’t on the LP. Grade: A

THE CORNER LAUGHERS – Temescal Telegraph

THE CORNER LAUGHERS – Temescal Telegraph (Big Stir)

Another wonderfully enticing triumph from those fizzy, dizzying Northern California indie popsters who call themselves the Corner Laughers. All the trademarks of their signature sound are present and accounted for on their Big Stir Records debut: Karla Kane’s sweet, unaffected vocalizing, playful melodies and whimsical lyrics, lovingly enveloped by the beyond-solid instrumental backing of Khoi Huynh, KC Bowman and Charlie Crabtree (the latter who, in the most unlikely of circumstances, fires off a drum solo—yes, a drum solo—to close out “Skylarks of Britain”). It’s not easiest of feats to be accessible, quirky and offbeat simultaneously, but as always, the Corner Laughers pull it off beautifully, especially on the mesmerizing, hymn-like “Lord Richard,” the slightly soulful “Changeling” and the propulsive “The Lilac Line.” The Laughers also rock a little (“Sisters of the Pollen”), dress up a written-to-order Martin Newell tune (“Goodguy Sun”), and generally do that thing they do with nary a misstep. Grade: A

KYLE VINCENT – Whatever it Takes

KYLE VINCENT – Whatever it Takes (SongTree)

After the dissolution of LA-based power pop/glam mavens Candy in 1986, lead vocalist Kyle Vincent transformed himself into something of a soft pop guru, a musical flag he has been proudly flying throughout several solo albums for upwards of 25 years. On his latest full-length, Vincent offers up his strongest batch of songs in quite some time, and while the title track is a typically beautiful, melancholy (and modulating) ballad and “Two Cans & A String” is a nostalgic look back at simpler times, there are also a few sonic detours to spice up the proceedings. “Bubblegum Baby” is a yummy slice of sugar that sounds like it could have been a radio smash back in the day, and features former Raspberries members Wally Bryson and Jim Bonfanti on guitar and drums, respectively, with the Rubinoos’ Tommy Dunbar adding his six-string magic. (Listen for the “come on” refrain, a sly little nod to the ‘Berries.) The threesome return on “Osaka (Maido!),” a spirited singalong with a sweet chorus, while Vincent pays tribute to one of his heroes on a musical love letter titled “A Gilbert O’Sullivan Song.” “Hard to Be Happy” (a co-write with Parthenon Huxley) sounds not unlike an early Eric Carmen solo track, and the sumptuous “Dreaming of July” features somewhat low-key verses that burst into a pretty chorus, and is further highlighted by more snazzy Dunbar guitar work. Grade: A-

QUINCY – 35 Years On

QUINCY – 35 Years On (Kool Kat)

Most bands don’t go 35 years between releases, but most bands aren’t Quincy. The NY denizens (a few who would later go on to form the excellent pop combo Smash Palace) make a triumphant return with 35 Years On, an eight-song mini-album that includes a half-dozen newly recorded tunes and two tracks recorded live in 1979 at CBGB’s during the band’s heyday. It’s quite clear they haven’t lost a step, as the newly minted numbers are intelligent, hook-laden guitar pop with some nice keyboard textures. “Liberty Bell” chimes quite nicely, “Something to Smile About” features an impossible-to-shake chorus, the witty “Innocuous” (“I buy organic food/for twice the price”) and “A Get Well Card from the Devil” are both lyrically pointed, with the latter channeling Elvis Costello circa This Year’s Model. (“Words are Words” and “Stay” also are more than a little Costello-like, to fine effect.) A welcome return. Grade: A-


THE FLAMIN’ GROOVIES – Between the Lines (Grown Up Wrong!)

A 25-track Australian compilation that collects all the Cyril Jordan/Chris Wilson compositions recorded between 1971 and 1981. This means not only the power pop touchstone “Shake Some Action” (presented here in both the demo and officially released version), but also stone gems such as “I Can’t Hide,” “You Tore Me Down,” “Please Please Girl” and “Yeah My Baby” are included. The Groovies’ intoxicating hybrid of Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Byrds and Stones filtered through a dense, often Spectorian production lens still provides constant thrills and even if you own the Shake Some Action, Now and Jumpin’ in the Night records (where 19 of these 25 tracks emanate from), you should still pick this up. Why? It includes three high energy demos recorded in 1971 (“Let Me Rock,” “Dog Meat” and “Blues from Phyllis”) as the Groovies were transitioning from their “Teenage Head”-era sound to ‘60s pop traditionalists, as well as a rare 1978 B-side (“When I Heard Your Name”) and a 1981 track titled “So Much in Love,” that affectionately appropriates the cascading guitar riff from “Please Please Me.” An ace booklet with a groovy essay from David Laing is another plus. Grade: A-



Nick Piunti continues to churn out excellent albums—the new one is his fifth in seven years—with no appreciable downturn in quality. On the contrary: Downtime is one of his finest efforts to date, certainly on par with 2013’s marvelous 13 in My Head and perhaps even stronger overall. It’s pure power poppin’ rock and roll, teeming with energy and filled with ten compact tunes that are catchier than (insert your favorite cliché here). The leadoff single, “Upper Hand” is one of those tunes that’ll have you singing along by the end of the first chorus and features some tasty guitar work from Piunti, who handles most of the six-string work on the album. Other must-mentions: the plaintive “Every High,” the rifftastic “Going Nowhere” (written with fellow pop guy Ryan Allen), and the cool, mid-tempo “Gonna Be Good,” which sounds like it could have fit snugly on an early ‘80s Tom Petty record. Subtle keyboard touches and some nice vocal arrangements (check the fantastic “Never Belonged to Me”) add to the fun, and the disc-closing “Good Intentions” bids the listener farewell with a short ‘n’ sweet musical apology. Grade: A


THE LOLAS – Bulletproof (Kool Kat)

Hot on the heels of last year’s A Dozen or Seven Tapestries comes another solid Lolas record, all guitars, snappy tempos, and sticky melodies, as per usual. “Deestroy” jumpstarts the album with a rockin’ kick, “Fall Away” is at once understated and insistent, “Stand Up and Fight” is filled with distorted guitars and lyrical exhortations, “When the Cold Winds Blow” is a pretty (and pretty atypical) ballad, and Tim Boykin’s reading of the 1:41 “L’Internationale” (a 1900 socialist anthem) closes things out. Some of Bulletproof’s other song titles: “Gunshot Holes,” “Stop the War” and “Storm of Silence.” Hmm. There’s something happening here and what it is ain’t exactly clear. Or is it? Grade: B+


THE REAL IMPOSSIBLES – It's About Time (Rum Bar)

A slimmed down version of the 23-track retrospective released some years back on an Australian label, Rum Bar’s version of It’s About Time trims some of the fat, leaving the listener with 13 slick slices of 1980s-vintage Los Angeles power pop/garage rock. There’s a hyperactive take of Neil Diamond’s “Cherry Cherry,” a bit of early Stonesy raunch in “Turn My World” and “All Over the World” (the latter sung by bassist Steve Kobashigawa, who also contributes the power pop gem “Talkin’ Bout You”), and Marc Platt’s hooky “Is it Love.” The pounding, bluesy “Guess You Feel it Too” (produced by the Plimsouls' Peter Case) vaguely recalls the Beatles’ version of “Money,” while Kobashigawa’s “Something to Learn” sounds like it could have been a hit for the Romantics in 1985. Grade: B

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