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The Singles' 'L.O.V.E.' uncovers primo power pop from unsung 80s outfit

New 'L.O.V.E. from the Santa Cruz Archives '82-'85' collection presents standout tunes from lesser-known California act

The Singles - L.O.V.E. from the Santa Cruz Archives '82-'85 (Kool Kat)

It's an all-too-familiar tale that's been repeated ad nauseam down through the years: young guys get together, form a band, write some songs, play tons of gigs, gain a local following, go into a studio and record in hopes of scoring that ever-elusive record deal and then...nothing. The Singles, hailing from Santa Cruz, CA, were one of a million acts that traversed this well-traveled road, and their could-have-been-pop-hits are collected on this 18-track compilation of excellent demos.

Led by singer/songwriter Rick Gallego (who would go on to achieve a degree of indie pop success in Jiffipop and the well-respected Cloud Eleven), the Singles proffered straight-up power pop in the vein of Paul Collins' Beat and the Plimsouls, with some distinct Elvis Costello overtones tossed in from time to time. What separates the Singles from many other like-minded acts of the time is the strength of the songs: penned mainly by Gallego, they (by and large) feature the ultra-hooky melodies and pleading vocals that power pop fans crave.

Gallego's song notes reference the Singles' influences: the aforementioned Paul Collins, Plimsouls and Elvis Costello are name-checked, along with Squeeze, the Byrds, Cheap Trick and Tom Petty. The leadoff track, "Lookin' Round for You," is pure Paul Collins-like powerpop all the way (and one of the top cuts here), and "She's Coming Back" successfully explores the brooding, soulful side of the Plimsouls. From time to time, there are multiple influences on the same song: "Love is a Last Minute Thing" sounds like a punchy cross between Motown and the Monkees, and "Upside Down" comes off like Peter Case singing "Mony Mony" while the guitarist tosses in the main lick from CCR's "Green River." (Ironic, since Nick Lowe would also "borrow" that guitar riff during the same era on his "Stick it Where the Sun Don't Shine.") Fun note: at the close of the tune, Gallego intones, "Is that enough for ya?"—the same words Paul Collins uttered at the end of The Beat's classic first LP.

With a barrelful of fine songs, spirited performances, and all the right influences, it's a shame the Singles never had the opportunity to release anything during the band's original lifespan. (Truth be told, they were probably a band out of time; if they had recorded the bulk of these tunes five years earlier, major labels may have come a-knockin'.) This release is most welcomed, though, and proves that there was plenty to L.OV.E. about the Singles. Grade: A-

                                                                                                                  John M. Borack