BLOODY RED BARON
by Mike Baron
GREG POPE: Fanboy
Nashville’s Greg Pope’s been on a roll since Pop Monster landed like a nuclear bomb in 2008, followed by Pete and Pop Motion Animation. Fanboy is another tour de force showcasing Pope’s superb dynamics, one power pop classic after another. He’s got a unique melodic sense, always hitting the unexpected hook or chord. If you froze his music, it would resemble modern urban eclectic architecture with arched roofs combined with angular Bahaus pitches. The title track combines James Bond chase themes with a sweet hook, while “Greater Threat” brings the strum. The 23 track album includes “work tape” versions of all the songs, but these work tapes are just as satisfying, if not moreso than the finished versions. Pope’s songs sound just as good in acoustic format as electric.
JET ELECTRO: Tall, Dark and Lonesome The Story of Slim Grinder
Jet Electro’s debut album was a power pop master class in diversity of styles. Now Jet (Craig Daniel) returns with a slightly more country-flavored theme record tracing a doomed love affair. Boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy loses girl, boy kills girl. And now he’s waiting to be executed. Daniel hits a lot of touchstones here, from the Who to the Eagles. “Gamble” shares DNA with Italian band Cirrone, but also with Buck Owens. Robust bass dominates the Jim Croce-like “Luck,” while “I’m Not Easy” could have been an Eagles song. “Love Rides Alone” slowly gathers heft until it turns into a juggernaut, while “Luck” sounds like a collaboration between Croce and Jimmy Buffett. But good Jimmy Buffett, if there is such a thing.
Four and a half stars.
THE SUPER FUZZ: Super Famous
Chris Alvy’s new band, like his previous, is Pop Rocks covered in beer, crunchy and sweet, redolent of the road house. Alvy’s fuzzy, flaming guitar struts out front like a break-dancing drum major. The chomping “Surprised Your Boyfriend’s Still Around” cedes to the aptly named “Speedball,” with its chiming doorbell anthem. “Promises” recalls the Rembrandts with its inchoate yearning that lies at the heart of most great pop. “The Music Has Gone Away” belies its title, mixing Turtles, Beach Boys, and Davenports-like elements. Alvy’s guitar is up front and center on the jagged “Lover’s Homicide,” which Taylor Swift would kill.
THE LUNAR LAUGH: Apollo
The Lunar Laugh are mainly Jared Lekites and Connor Anderson, two pop geniuses like The Red Button, The Galaxies, or other mad music scientists holed up with too many instruments and state-of-art recording. In other words, a glorious pop explosion in the manner of the afore mentioned, as well as The Rembrandts and Secret Friend. “Man Against Man” erupts like fireworks over Disney World with dynamics, hooks, and tight two-part harmonies. Their songcraft is admirable with little grace notes everywhere, like the guitar filigree on “Apollo,” or the simple arresting guitar figures in “On the Road” and “Bottom of the World.” “Apollo” has a Posies vibe but Lunar Laugh succeeds in creating their own sound.
DONNY BROWN: Hess Street E.P.
Donny Brown, who drums for Nick Piunti and other members of the Michigan Mafia, has released a stunning collection of classic pop that draws more from Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb and the Carpenters than contemporary rock, although he shares certain sensibilities with Sondre Lerche and Secret Friend. These aren’t rock songs, but
glorious, shimmering pop with lush arrangements and exquisite harmonies, beginning with the piano-driven “Lucky Number.” There’s a touch of late Rascals in “Driving Song,” as well as some Jim Webb and Bacharach. Fans of Explorers Club take heed. Banjo adds to the Sons of Pioneers vibe of “The Night,” with its barbershop harmonies. “Call Me” channels Rudy Valee and McCartney with its vo-dee-oh-dee-oh vibe and roaring twenties sax and clarinet soloes.
He has written five novels in the last few years, all available on Amazon here:
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1/184-5348781-8830168?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Mike%20Baron. Visit his website here: http://bloodyredbaron.net and on Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Baron