Sunday, July 28, 2013

Radio Ready: Lost Power Pop Hits: 1978-1983 - Texas: Volume One

(CheapRewards) I am absolutely thrilled to see lost, barely released, and unreleased Power Pop get the Killed By Death treatment, and though there’s a few duiffrences between Power Pop and punk (not the least of which is that I would use ’76-’84 for punk parameters, suggesting that the PP-window was narrower), the same glorious dedication to research, optimistic spirit of discovery, and pride of presentation applies here. And with all the hard work put into this Bomp-honoring, gatefold cover-housed collection, the least I can do is a brief track by track summary: The Pengwins’ inexplicably unreleased slice of Power Pop perfection sort of points out that in Power Pop achieving perfection isn’t the same as being perfect: you can hit every element out of the park and still be hampered by predicitibility and corniness. But if you spell “penguin” with a “w” I’m still giving you a notch in the W” column! Bruce Moody presents the Texas-est track here, as he had a philosophical and actual connection to Buddy Holly, making his “This Is It” an instant classic. The Fad’s note-perfect Brit Invasion bounce must have seemed downright bizarre in 1979, but it’s pretty tasty now. The Haskells might get confused with Milwaukee’s better-known, better-spelled, and better Haskels, but their tribute to Warhol-era wackiness is so joyful all is forgiven. The Lawnwomers’ unreleased harmony pop “hit” “Want You Bad,” with its funky solo and punky vocals, mowed me over. The Rattlecats have one of the rawest tracks on the comp, but in the Power Pop realm that means it’s not too weird or ragged, and still sounds solid and snazzy, so despite not being the mess you hope to find on rarity comps, it’s pretty satisftying. Jemmy Leggs was a sibling act from Houston that blows away Beyonce and Solange with their ominous, infectious hook delivery system of a song (with a genuinely weird guitar solo). Amarillo’s Amatones are awesome. And, obviously, as a rule I endorse any New Wave cabaret novelty tunes about cosmetic surgery. The Spies’ not particularly spy-sounding, and sorta Sesame Street-ish, tribute to the radio is super convincing (radios are noteworthy!). The Shades’ unreleased urgent New Wave cheer/anthem is probably the highest quality cut on here, and if this release was a one-sided single of this tune housed in a gatefold LP sleeve I’d still recommend buying it. Austin’s The Take have kinda spare and dry production but I dig the straightforward singing and Beatles’ backups. True Hearts present slightly sour PP that captures the underlying melancholy inherent in the genre. And finally, US Mods, a boisterous band tastily smoked in Mesquite, are the rawest, most caveman sounding (and recorded –in-a-cave sounding) act here, proving that sweet pop passages and garage rock teen muck magic can go hook in hook. The jumbly handclaps here make this track the overall the winner in this field of Texas champs so great they bring to mind the decorated Lance Armstrong…no not him…maybe the 2005 Astros…wait, forget them…2013 Spurs? No…well remember the Alamo! Oh wait, that didn’t work out. OK…don’t mess with Texas! Or get unintentionally pregnant there. Or think you can keep your lost 1981 Power Pop gem hidden away…the true Lone Star legacy may be these natty nuggets!


  1. The Rattlecats track was recorded live in our practice room on a cassette recorder! DIY, indeed!

  2. You're close on the U.S. Mods track----the backing track was recorded in a mini-warehouse studio, and the vocals were re-done on a reel-to-reel with slapback echo in my bedroom. Thanks for the kind words!