JANGLE ON! for AUGUST 2008!!!
By Eric Sorensen, written exclusively for NOT LAME
The past month has showcased a balance between new discs that feature chiming, jangly and ringing twelve-string songs and some "old" favorites that paved the way for so many of today’s jangly pop artists. Here is a summary of the albums and songs I have been listening to recently:
THE SUMMER SUNS-GREATEST
This long-time-in-coming 22-song compilation is a "must have" disc for all fans of jangly music. This Aussie power pop band's lineup changed several times during their decade in existence, but the formula for their very catchy melodic and chiming songs varied little from start to finish. Power pop luminaries like Dom Mariani and Joe Algeri combined their talents with the band’s chief composer Kim Williams to generate a magnificent catalog of songs that has already stood the test of time since the band ceased in 1996. Long ago, I discovered "Girl In A Mexican Restaurant" on a power pop compilation CD, and I immediately added the Summer Suns to my want list. Unfortunately, I was never able to find the rest of their material on CD stateside. That has finally changed, and jangleholics should not hesitate to acquire this disc. Rickenbackers chime throughout the 22 tracks, but standout songs are “She Understands,” “Girl In A Mexican Restaurant,” “Samantha,” “Brighter Than The Sun,” “Honeypearl,” “All Away” and “Stephanie.” If you mix equal parts of the Byrds and the Hollies with Dom Mariani bands, the Stems and DM3, you will get some idea of what this pseudo-60s pop outfit sounds like. I am truly sorry that I never got to see this band perform live, but GREATEST is a vibrant celebration of their chiming pop music. Long may you run, Sir Dom, Sir Joe and Sir Kim!
It’s hard to ignore a pop album that pictures a Rickenbacker guitar (albeit a six-string model) on its cover. It’s even harder to ignore the body of work that is represented in this debut solo disc by DIY artist Kai Reiner. Like Bruce Brodeen, I hear Teenage Fanclub and Shoes references in Reiner’s songs; and I also hear Ted Holden references in Reiner’s jangle-oriented tunes. As one of my work colleagues likes to say – “it’s all good!” Reiner sets a high standard for first-time albums that other pop artists should abide by.
DROPKICK-TURNING CIRCLES and DOT THE I
Back-to-back albums by a British band that is right at home with the Teenage Fanclub vibe...that sometimes embraces the orchestral “wall of sound” and other times showcases Beach Boys-styled harmonies. When you toss in some similarities with the late great Feelies and chord progressions that occasionally remind me of early REM material, you have the makings of two excellent discs. My favorite tracks are “Open Door,” “Figure It Out,” “You Didn’t Make It,” “Only For Yourself,” “Black Book” and “Good Vibes.” This is very “smooth” power pop that will appeal to jangleholics.
BROADFIELDS MARCHERS-THE INEVITABLE CONTINUING
The Rainbow Quartz label has delivered another winner with this soon-to-be-released 19-song psych-pop disc. Fans of the Green Pajamas, the High Llamas, the Greenberry Woods and the New Pornographers will really dig this material. Pop listeners with a more veteran ear will pick up on some Who references in some of the tracks. Although this disc doesn’t jangle, the band’s tight sound will hold your interest from start to finish and if you’re like me, you’ll consider this a “keeper.”
CHARLOTTE POP FEST 2008
The Pop Fest souvenir disc is a terrific value–and it features 25 tracks by 25 artists. The standout track is the very jangly “Pretend” by Crisis–a strong contender for “Song of the Month” honors. Like any good compilation disc, this one will force me to search out more information about some of the featured artists!
In the “surprise of the month” category is MEET GLEN CAMPBELL by none other than Glen Campbell! The disc reunites the former “wrecking crew” member (who was a studio musician on Beach Boys and Byrds records) with the Capitol record label. Producer Julian Raymond selected ten songs (including hits by Green Day, Jackson Browne and John Lennon) for Campbell to reinterpret, and the results are very pleasing. Campbell’s take on Tom Petty’s “Walls” happily preserves much of the Rickenbacker jangle that the original version featured. Whether you are a Glen Campbell fan or not, MEET GLEN CAMPBELL is a solid testament to his enduring guitar skills.
Speaking of cover songs, Sugarland (with some help from Little Big Town) delivers one of the best cover songs of 2008 with their update on the Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town.” Love those chorus harmonies, y’all!
In the “blast from the past” category this month is the Connells, a North Carolina-based pop/rock band that I was able to see perform live on three different occasions. In fact, I discovered the need to move out of the way of their younger fans who were afflicted with “happy feet” at Connells shows. The band frequently flirted with a jangly 12-string sound (“Scotty’s Lament” and “OT2”), and they were always able to sound as good live as they did on their albums. WHFS deejay “Weasel” first introduced me to the Connells by playing “Get A Gun;” later, Weasel also showcased other radio-friendly songs like “Maybe,” “Slackjawed” and “Doin’ You.” The venue where I saw the Connells perform is now home to the “new” 9:30 Club. It was a tougher neighborhood in the early 90s, but it was worth the risk to see this terrific band. The scuttlebutt about the Connells was that they dropped out of law school to form the band. If that is true, the pop universe is a better place because they made that choice!
In the “Jangly Hall of Fame” category are songs that I included on a compilation of favorite teen songs-a disc that always stays close to my CD player. Topping the list is “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” by the Byrds–a song I often refer to as “the greatest two and a half minute song in rock’n’roll history.” Other tracks are: “She Don’t Care About Time” by the Byrds (arguably, one of the best b-side songs in pop history); “If I Needed Someone” and “I Need You” by the Beatles; “Don’t Talk To Strangers” by the Beau Brummels; “Needles and Pins” by the Searchers; “When You Walk In The Room” by Jackie DeShannon; “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound; “Look Through Any Window” by the Hollies; “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats; “Let’s Live For Today” and “Where Were You When I Needed You” by the Grass Roots; “It Ain’t Me Babe” and “Let Me Be” by the Turtles; “Turn Down Day” by the Cyrkle; and versions of “Hey Joe!” by the Stillroven, the Leaves and the Cryan’ Shames. These jangly songs made such a strong impression on me that I have been attracted to derivative tunes ever since the mid-60s. I will write more on those derivative songs in months to come.
Until next month, jangle on!