Monday, August 29, 2016

Don't Give Yourself Away

At some point around 2002, the internet, for me, became mainly a vehicle for consuming music. When my brother showed me how Napster worked, I was astounded and immediately started looking into to getting some stuff on there. That's not to say that file-sharing programs were an illuminating, game-changing resource I was waiting for to listen to music, because I never stopped going to the record store, but it did profoundly change the way that I thought about the internet and its use to me (that being songs and boobies).

I feel that this was common for many other people as it was for me, as now the proliferation of music on the internet is higher than it's ever been and it's just kind of always there. Another interesting thing that happened with this was the democratisation of genres. Musical genres were no longer decided by critics or writers, but instead by whoever was filling in the genre tag on Napster. As a result, genre became way more fluid and a lot of pretty different things were called the same thing. Also, a lot of bad punk covers were labelled as NOFX songs. Maybe this all spoke to parallels that artists already shared, or maybe that was forced by listeners. I'm not sure about that.

Now there's a lot of genres of music that a very amorphous. While "Black Metal" might mean one specific thing, "Hardcore" means a million things. Damaged by Black Flag, Suicide Season by Bring Me the Horizon, and I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone by Crime in Stereo all sound completely different, but are, for better or for worse, all described mainly as hardcore.

An instance of this that makes me smile is the genre "Power Pop", because I love almost all iterations of the genre and because it seems to be as many-sided as "Hardcore". It seems to mean rock/pop music played with guitars, which is an apt descriptor for all of the bands I'm about to go through, but can also mean a lot of different things

My introduction to power-pop was through poppy rock bands from the late 70's and early 80's. They were playing pop music in the then-general understanding of the word, just with more distortion, bigger amps, and fancier guitar solos. Whenever I think of the genre power-pop, I always think of one band first: Cheap Trick

Though Cheap Trick are my personal favourites in this genre, I feel like my placing of them at the top of the heap is by no means a popular opinion (people love to hate Cheap Trick, I've found!). So allow me to flex my critical knowledge and give you two other examples of what I feel is classic 70's power-pop:

I think it's really a shame that this band is only known for "My Sharona", because I think the rest of their album is way better than that song:

God, that is a fucking great song.

A big reason why I love this type of music is that I attach it to a very distinct aesthetic. I believe I have spoken about this before on IMU, but to me these are the songs of rebellion for a specific generation in the 70's and 80's. In teen sex comedies set in the 70's and 80's, the guys who are the wacky or "cool" minor characters listen to these bands. These bands are the soundtrack to Steven Hyde, Styles, and Kevin Pickford. Because the nostalgia of these characters and stories is so attractive to me, the music that is attached to them is equally attractive.

I'm going to pull back the curtain on my brain for a second and let you in on the fact that I try to evoke these types of characters in my "persona". They influences the way I dress and the way I act. I'm still "me", but part of "me" is that these characters dramatically influence my outer shell.

The tie between this music and that character type was solidified when "Gonna Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick, from Dream Police, played during an episode of Freaks and Geeks.

I fell face-first into this type of music and started to try and get as much as I could afterwards. One of the first things I wondered about was where "power-pop" went into the 80's and beyond.

My first answer was The Outfield. Despite having way, way less edge, the still presented the same idea. It was still very poppy guitar-based music, just with way shinier production and corny reverb on everything:

The Cars are interesting because they really count as an example of the stuff I was previously talking about, and their excellent Self-Titled came out in 1978, but they certainly morphed into something much poppier and "more studio" (please know what I mean by that) into the 80's. This is still a wonderful pop song, but not nearly as "rock" as the music on their first album.

I just came across a description of The Cars by the music critic Robert Palmer and it sums up the band better than I ever could:

"they have taken some important disparate contemporary trends- punk minimalism, the labyrinthine synthesizer and guitar textures of art rock, the 50's rockabilly revival and the melodious terseness of power pop- and mixed them into a personal and appealing blend."

That is why he is a professional music writer and I am writing for free on blogspot. It touches on everything I'm trying to say.

Another band who I came across while trying to find the direction of this rock music after 1982 was Fountains of Wayne, who to me are a cross between The Cars and Cheap Trick, just with their songs tied down to a different period, the late 90's and early 2000's, because of its production. Everyone is familiar with Fountains of Wayne because of the massive hit "Stacy's Mom", but most don't realize that the rest of that album is perfect power pop:

I guess relevant to me is also where this type of music crosses with my first love, punk music. This one was easy, because I was already way deep into ALL before getting anywhere near Cheap Trick. ALL is a weird band who wear a lot of different faces, but to not associate a song like this with power pop would be silly:

I'm not sure if everyone thinks of None More Black as a power pop (in the sense I have described)/punk band, but I do:

I find that now, when most people think of power pop, they think of a mostly-Ramones knock-off band and that seems weird to me because it is so far from my own personal definition of the genre. That's exactly what I was talking about at the start of this post though, that now the same word means a hell of a lot of different things in regards to music. I don't think I have a point beyond just saying "Look at all the different power pop things!", but I guess that's okay too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Love You More Than I Did When You Were Mine

Lord, I don't even know where to start writing right now. I've taken such a hiatus from it since finishing my thesis and starting work again, that it feels like a huge chore to get back on the horse.

Instead of laboring through some forced ideas, I'm going to post two video that I have been obsessed with over the last little while:

The first thing I love about these is that they come from The AV Club's Undercover series, which has been a favourite of mine for a while now. While the novelty of the idea has lost a bit of its lustre since the first version, it still produces tons of amazing performances that we wouldn't see anywhere else and we are all the better for it.

Secondly is that the sound of the performances in each of the videos, dirty full-band R 'n B rock, is one that I've fantasized forming a band around for a long time in my head. Har Mar Superstar seems to be a band that I have day-dreamed about forming. I also lovelovelove when people have big bands as their backing band. Keyboards and a horn section? Yes.

Thirdly is that the singer is a short bald man who looks like Jay Sherman from The Critic:

I can't believe how well the whole package works and I have mesmerized and in love with both of the performances. It also says something that he can destroy both a Built to Spill and Prince song. Two very different things!

Sidenote: The fact that Prince is such a "thing" for people from Minnesota makes me so happy. Regional love is always a soft spot for me and I've often thought about what Toronto's would be. The Tragically Hip certainly brought up that feeling for me recently, as I can wave my Ontario card high for that, but I wonder if there is a better example from my hometown.

I also find it hard to believe that it's taken me so long to come across him. He's been on noteworthy labels and producing for a long time and yet here I am discovering Har Mar Superstar in 2016.

I've been working on two posts in the meantime. One is not that good. The other might be good. I trust your faith in IMU content and am sure you will stick with yer boi through this tough time of rediscovering how to string sentences together.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'm Groovin' On

There are quite few bands who the general populous has filed in their mind as "one-hit wonders", but I love dearly as a niche hidden gem that everyone missed out on. Whenever one of these bands is given a little bit of a rub, it makes me feel good to know that I'm not alone in realizing that there's more to a band than one song.

The AV Club writes a lot better than I do, so I'll direct you to a nice, short summation of what makes one of my favourite Fountains of Wayne songs so good:

Fountains of Wayne's power-pop gem "Radiation Vibe" found the silver lining in adversity