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Power Pop

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I'm a big power pop nut. No matter what new or old artists--of any genre--that I discover and love, I always go back to Cheap Trick, Matthew Sweet, Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, the Posies, Jason Falkner, Marshall Crenshaw and countless others.

And since individual power pop-related threads seem to die off quickly, why not make one place to talk about it?

I'll kick it off with this video of Velvet Crush (with long-time pal Matthew Sweet) performing the great tune "Atmosphere."

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Power pop is my one true musical love. I venture down all kinds of musical back alleys and dead-end streets, but I always come back to the brightly lit boulevard. That's because there really is nothing better than chiming guitars, a backbeat, and three-minute songs about cars and girls.

Some new(er) power pop bands who continue to breathe life into the old genre:

The Safes

The Sails

Johnny Society

The Broken West

Rock Kills Kid

The Green Pajamas

Mas Rapido

Future Clouds and Radar

The Grip Weeds

The Trolleyvox

Milton and the Devil's Party

Deathray Davies

Cotton Mather

The A-Sides

Zumpano

Allen Clapp

The Orange Peels

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Thanks for the list, Andy--I've heard of most of these bands, but haven't really heard much (of any) of the music. I might check into some of these with my eMusic downloads this month (as well as some of Thom's recent suggestions).

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Zumpano

That's the former band of Carl Newman (New Pornographers), right? I have one 90's album of them. They sounded a bit like The Zombies, or the Shins.

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That's because there really is nothing better than chiming guitars, a backbeat, and three-minute songs about cars and girls.

that about sums it up, for me!

My wife and and I will be seeing the fabulous SUPERDRAG reunion show this weekend in Knoxville.

I don't know if they could be considered the "purest" of power pop - I prefer a loose definition,myself - but when asked once what they sounded like I could only mumble something about Paul McCartney fronting Teenage Fanclub.

[an interesting backstory on frontman John Davis and his 'getting right' with God here]

where to start, where to start...I started with their third record In The Valley Of Dying Stars (2000) and it is a gem from start to finish.

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Superdrag reunion? Man, wish I could be there. I got started with A Headtrip in Every Key, which--aside from some tail-end clutter--is pretty stellar ("Sold You an Alibi" is stunning). Davis' solo album is worth getting too.

Let us know how the show goes.

And glad to see some love for Teenage Fanclub. They're easily on of my favorite bands.

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that about sums it up, for me!

My wife and and I will be seeing the fabulous SUPERDRAG reunion show this weekend in Knoxville.

I don't know if they could be considered the "purest" of power pop - I prefer a loose definition,myself - but when asked once what they sounded like I could only mumble something about Paul McCartney fronting Teenage Fanclub.

[an interesting backstory on frontman John Davis and his 'getting right' with God here]

where to start, where to start...I started with their third record In The Valley Of Dying Stars (2000) and it is a gem from start to finish.

Superdrag is wonderful. I'm glad to hear about the reunion.

I interviewed John Davis a few years back for a now defunct literary journal called The Mars Hill Review. He was one of the more frustrating interviewees I've encountered. I wanted to talk about his music (in this case, his recently released solo album). He wanted to talk about his "road to Nashville" spiritual epiphany involving a blinding light and falling out of a van. Or something like that.

I'm glad the guy knows the Lord. I still liked his music better when he was a heathen in Superdrag.

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I'm glad the guy knows the Lord. I still liked his music better when he was a heathen in Superdrag.

But a Superdrag reunion is a good thing, in a long-term sense. The great, great band Smoking Popes broke up after frontman Josh Caterer came to Christ, but they've since done some reunion stuff and (I think) are recording again. Maybe this could lead to more permanent things for the 'drag?

Edited by Jason Panella

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I've been getting into Sloan (Canadian power-pop band) quite a bit lately. I recently downloaded their best-of collection from Emusic, and their newest album Never Hear the End of It is one of my favorites I've heard in the past year.

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Zumpano

That's the former band of Carl Newman (New Pornographers), right? I have one 90's album of them. They sounded a bit like The Zombies, or the Shins.

It sounds like you have the first album, Look What the Rookie Did. That one was clearly influenced by The Zombies. The second album, Goin' Through Changes, was a love letter to Brian Wilson.

Both were great. But my faltering memory failed to register that both albums are now over ten years old. My how time flies. So my "new(er)" caveat really didn't apply.

I suppose we can throw The New Pornographers (and Carl Newman's solo album The Slow Wonder) into the mix. They're at least of more recent vintage than Zumpano, and, of course, equally wonderful.

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I've been getting into Sloan (Canadian power-pop band) quite a bit lately. I recently downloaded their best-of collection from Emusic, and their newest album Never Hear the End of It is one of my favorites I've heard in the past year.

I have one of the most basic eMusic subscriptions, so I've avoided the new Sloan since I was scared to use all of my downloads on one album. It's getting a lot of good press, though--and I'm surprised at how it slipped under the radar. Between the Bridges is one of my Top 20 albums of all time, and I love love love One Chord to Another.

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It sounds like you have the first album, Look What the Rookie Did. That one was clearly influenced by The Zombies. The second album, Goin' Through Changes, was a love letter to Brian Wilson.

I actually own Goin' Through Changes (tried to get both, but couldn't get my hand on the first one a few years ago). Anyway, weren't the Zombies a love letter to Brian Wilson themselves? :) (I'm thinking of Odessey & Oracle)

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A band I discovered recently and have loved and would fit into this categorization is The Stars. I have their latest two, Set Yourself on Fire and In the Bedroom After the War and I love them.

Edited by solishu

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A band I discovered recently and have loved and would fit into this categorization is The Stars. I have their latest two, Set Yourself on Fire and In the Bedroom After the War and I love them.

Stars (there's no definite article) would not fall into this category. Too pristine and clinical. Too benign.

instead, try WOLF COLONEL.

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Stars (there's no definite article) would not fall into this category. Too pristine and clinical. Too benign.

instead, try WOLF COLONEL.

Yes to both statements, Kevin. I listened to some of Wolf Colonel's pre-name flip-flop stuff on the K site, and it's a power pop blast. Must get. (And Anderson's stuff under his own name is pretty good too.)

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Boy, if you would have asked me yesterday I would have sworn I listened to a great deal of power pop. It turns out I don't. I listen to a lot of pop, but it lacks in power. There are a few that I do listen to though.

I do enjoy Superdrag. In high school I listened to their first album alot. It's the one with the song, "who sucked out the FEEEEEEELING". I downloaded In the Valley of the Dying Stars awhile back but I never listened to it more than once or twice. It came at exactly the wrong time for me. I downloaded it after getting my first PC, high speed internet, and an emusic account that allowed for unlimited downloads. I went a bit crazy and downloaded too much music. Way more than I could listen to. Superdrag was one of those casulties. Looks like I might have to break it out again.

The Posies are one of my favorites. Although, I think I might like their acoustic stuff best of all. I listen to their live acoustic album more than any other. I feel kind of bad for the Posies. I think the had the unfortunate timing of being a Seattle band formed during the grunge era but weren't grunge yet producers and record labels tried to grunge up their sound. While I enjoy it, Froasting on the Beater tries too hard but there are some gems on it.

Perhaps my favorite power pop band is another Seattle band from the mid- to late-90's: Super Deluxe. Stupid band name, but their two LP's from the era, Famous and Via Satellite are packed with way too many great songs, big hooks, and choruses that you can't get out of your head.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Fountains of Wayne yet. I love, love, love "Radiation Vibe", "Survival Car", and "Sick Day". It's too bad they'll be remembered mostly for "Stacy's Mom".

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The Posies are one of my favorites. Although, I think I might like their acoustic stuff best of all. I listen to their live acoustic album more than any other. I feel kind of bad for the Posies. I think the had the unfortunate timing of being a Seattle band formed during the grunge era but weren't grunge yet producers and record labels tried to grunge up their sound. While I enjoy it, Froasting on the Beater tries too hard but there are some gems on it.

I love the Posies, but they never really had a really spectacular album. Frosting on the Beater is their most consistent (the first half of the album is way awesome), but Dear 23, Amazing Disgrace, Success and Every Kind of Light all have high and low points. They're a band ripe for sweet mix CD action. Thankfully, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have really good solo careers (both power pop too).

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Fountains of Wayne yet. I love, love, love "Radiation Vibe", "Survival Car", and "Sick Day". It's too bad they'll be remembered mostly for "Stacy's Mom".

Their self-titled album doesn't have a bad track, and I'm incredibly fond of Utopia Highway. I can't believe I forgot them either!

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The Posies are one of my favorites. Although, I think I might like their acoustic stuff best of all. I listen to their live acoustic album more than any other. I feel kind of bad for the Posies. I think the had the unfortunate timing of being a Seattle band formed during the grunge era but weren't grunge yet producers and record labels tried to grunge up their sound. While I enjoy it, Froasting on the Beater tries too hard but there are some gems on it.

I love the Posies, but they never really had a really spectacular album. Frosting on the Beater is their most consistent (the first half of the album is way awesome), but Dear 23, Amazing Disgrace, Success and Every Kind of Light all have high and low points. They're a band ripe for sweet mix CD action. Thankfully, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have really good solo careers (both power pop too).

Yes. I tend to agree. I think Amazing Disgrace is probably my favorite studio album but even then there are a number of missteps. I think their inconsistant output on albums is why their acoustic live album In Case You Didn't Feel Like Plugging In is my overall favorite. It takes all their best best songs and features mostly Auer and Stringfellow's wonderful voices. Did I mention the harmonies? Wow. Those harmonies are something else.

Jon Auer's 2006 album Songs from the Year of Our Demise is one of my favorites from 2006. It's one of those rare albums that feels too long but has no song that I would want to get rid of.

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Stringfellow's Touched is a remarkable CD, too--a nice blend of Muswell Hillbillies-era Kinks, jagged power pop and textured synth action.

And from what I've seen of the tracklist, the Posies' best-of collection looks like a good deal.

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I agree that The Posies' back catalogue is uneven. But there's a killer Best Of/Greatest Hits compilation there somewhere.

Teenage Fanclub? Where do I start? How about with the "Greatest Unheralded/Mislabeled Band Ever" tag? It's not their fault that Bandwagonesque came out at the height of grunge, or that they were mistakenly lumped in with a million other alternative/indie bands. They were nothing of the sort. They were classicist pop lovers, as indebted to The Byrds and Brian Wilson (and obviously Big Star) as could be. Their best album, IMO, and one that nobody seems to have heard, is Grand Prix. But that album has it all -- great songwriting, superb multi-part harmonies, chiming guitars. It's the best album Big Star never made.

Some other longtime favorites, most of them now long gone:

Gigolo Aunts

Red Kross

Starry Eyed and Laughing

Dwight Twilley Band

The Rubinoos

The Plimsouls

Dave Edmunds

Gin Blossoms

The Bangles (yeah, I know, but listen to their first album, All Over the Place)

Any Trouble

Richard X. Heyman

The Bongos

Human Sexual Response

The Waitresses

Todd Rundgren

Tommy Tutone

Marshall Crenshaw

Robin Laine

Moon Martin

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Teenage Fanclub? Where do I start? How about with the "Greatest Unheralded/Mislabeled Band Ever" tag? It's not their fault that Bandwagonesque came out at the height of grunge, or that they were mistakenly lumped in with a million other alternative/indie bands. They were nothing of the sort. They were classicist pop lovers, as indebted to The Byrds and Brian Wilson (and obviously Big Star) as could be. Their best album, IMO, and one that nobody seems to have heard, is Grand Prix. But that album has it all -- great songwriting, superb multi-part harmonies, chiming guitars. It's the best album Big Star never made.

TFC are so good it hurts. Grand Prix is as good as you say it is, but Bandwagonesque is a wonderful bargin bin treasure (I see it NEW in some places for $5.99...the fact that people pass it up is a crime). I really love Songs from Northern Britain too, and Man-Made was a great recent release (after the disappointing Howdy!). But three instrumentalist/songwriters that sing lead on their own material and harmonize like crazy...wow, they do what they do really well. I almost drove from Pittsburgh to NYC to see them when they played in the US two years ago (they rarely tour here)...and knowing me, that's a feat, since I'm scared to travel on my own to places I've not been.

There was a web radio program called Power Pop Plus that basically played Andy's list 24/7...it was pretty incredible.

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I had forgotten about Redd Kross. At one point I had one their albums. I'm not sure what happened to it. I probably sold it. Stupid me. Great power pop from what I remember.

I think the fate of Teenage Fanclub is the same as many power pop bands from the 90's - they got lumped in with grunge. I'm convinced that is what happened to the Posies as well.

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This happened to so many acts that veered from 'rock radio' at the time; no matter what they played, it got lumped in with grunge. Thankfully TFC and the Posies (sort of) are still recording, whereas most grunge bands aren't.

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Like many people," I never travel far without a little Big Star".

This brings up a question. What exactly is "power pop"?

When I read the first post I thought yea, Matt Sweet, Cheap Trick, Shoes, ..of course TFC, Fountains of Wayne,etc.

but....

When someone mentions power pop I think of most of the bands mentioned in this thread. What about the fringes? Where does it start and stop?

I have always had a " I know it when I hear it" approach to the subject but I'm thinking, ( bear with me); It is the small group trying to fill space, in the same way that Phil Spector did, while emphasizing and maintaining melody. There is obviously a respect and adherence to song craft a la Brill Building songwriting, with an emphasis on coherence.

Is it a genre that begin with Badfinger and Big Star? I started thinking...ok, Big Star sure, what about Alex Chilton solo? The Replacements?

Chilton solo and the Mats were a step away from melodicism and into something a bit more primal. Is R.E.M disqualified because they are so lyrically obtuse?

I'm asking only because I think of Cheap Trick which has Beatlesque elements, as power pop and Future Clouds and Radar which has power pop elements as Beatlesque. It is entirely possible that I'm splitting hairs here.

Would the Ramones factor into the power pop equation? or are they an influential side note. What about The Raveonettes? they have J&M Chains love of 60's pop and darkness and yet remain somewhat light hearted.

Light hearted isn't really a criteria... I mean there is nothing really light hearted about most of the Girlfriend album. TFC can certainly lay it out very bluntly.

What are the Power Pop Touchstones?

Beatles?

Beach Boys/Brian Wilson?

Where is the dividing line between power pop and rock?

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Where is the dividing line between power pop and rock

This P.P. formula works for me:

--Traditional guitar, bass and drums dynamic (piano/organ flourishes ok... oh yeah and bells too)

--Electric guitars (of the jangly and chiming variety)

--Lots of Power Chords

--A wide array of Hooks

--Accessible melodies (this is key)

--Verse/ chorus/ verse/ chorus/ bridge/ chorus/ chorus-format

--Sweet Vocal Harmonies

--A certain breezy, melodic sensibility more in tune with what is commonly caled "pop" than the more abrasive sonic approach of "rock"

I amen the Teenage Fanclub praise. Those guys should've been global. Aint That Enough may be the quintessential power pop anthem to my ears. DittoNeil Jung. Cheap Trick appeared at a weird time in music history-- perhaps the wrong time-- but their first few albums were jam-packed with power pop classics.

Is there no love for the Pernice Bros? Also, as someone mentioned, Cotton Mather... even though that veers a little more into the "rock" bin.

Edited by coltrane

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