Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gimme more more more of that bubblegum music!!!

PhotobucketTalk about a bubblegum fan! My good friend Tom Warner, who many Baltimorons will know as one of the geniuses behind ATOMIC TV, Baltimore's best-loved public access TV show, was so enthused by Not Lame's RIGHT TO CHEWS: BUBBLEGUM CLASSICS REVISITED that he wrote a song-by-song review of the album, complete with links to classic performances and lots of historical tid-bits! I'm gonna go right ahead and say this is your ultimate guide to this landmark Not Lame release!!!

Wanna read Tom's article? Click here!!!

Wanna buy a copy of RIGHT TO CHEWS??? For all Not Lame Blog readers, for one week only, it's only $10!!! Holy Hubba-Bubba!!! Click here to buy!!!

Monday, January 28, 2008

James Gunn loves SHAKE SOME ACTION!!!

PhotobucketOK, so I am a total horror geek, and my favorite horror flick of all time is SLITHER. If you haven't seen it yet, please do so. Its director, James Gunn (who you may also remember as the guy who wrote the screenplays for the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, THE SPECIALS, TROMEO AND JULIET and the SCOOBY-DOO movies), is a huge power-pop fan (as well as a close, personal friend of NOT LAME fave WISELY!)and even better, a lover of the book SHAKE SOME ACTION! So now, while before he was just plain awesome, now he's double-awesome!

On his MySpace blog, he not only raved about the book, but he posted his own 250 favorite power-pop songs of all time. Here's a sampling of the top ten:


1. "Surrender" - Cheap Trick
2. "Erica's Word" - Game Theory
3. "Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)" - Squeeze
4. "Calling All Destroyers" - Tsar
5. "Goin' Through Your Purse" - Material Issue
6. "These Others" - Vandalias
7. "Good Girls Don't" - The Knack
8. "Late" - Trip Shakespeare
9. "Cruel to Be Kind" - Nick Lowe
10. "Gimme Love" - The Swingers

And there's still 240 more! Wanna read it? Click here! (Warning: The language gets a little saucy, so please, if you're easily freaked out by cussin', just skip it.)

Thanks, James!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mike Baron asks: IS MOTOWN POWER POP???

PhotobucketThe short answer is yes. Before you turn your Marshall amps to “kill,” hear me out...

What is power pop? Short songs about life and love with at least three chords, soaring harmonies, and a killer hook as a result of those three chords. Two chords don’t make a hook, but I digress. Motown precedes and anticipates power pop in song structure, technique, and effect. Berry Gordy understood that American kids were hungry for…something. Motown succeeded by attracting a white audience. (Has everyone seen DREAMGIRLS? If not, we will wait while you watch it.)

Of course there are differences. The color line is only the most obvious. Motown is drenched in soul, in the grit and ecstasy of the Baptist Church from whence it sprang, and hence, from the blues. Motown was yet another musical offspring of the church and the thin line that separates sacred from profane. One seldom hears white pop groups trying to emulate the call and response of the church, pace Al Kooper.

PhotobucketAlthough Berry Gordy charted early with Barret Strong’s “Money,” it wasn’t until 1960 and the Miracles’ “Shop Around” that the soul/power pop paradigm began to emerge. Instantly appealing verse and beat: check. Soaring harmonies: check. Killer bridge: check. And a monster hook: check. Smokey set the stage for falsetto pop, inspiring such diverse artists today as Frisbie and Mika. Mary Wells’ “My Guy” appeared in 1964. One can easily imagine a Bangles treatment of this song. Indeed, virtually every Motown hit lends itself to power pop interpretation.

The Temptations and the Supremes have left behind mountains of inspiring material. Imagine Jackdaw4 doing a Temptations songbook. Much of the credit goes to Motown’s army of writers such as Norman Whitfield, Valerie Simpson & Nick Ashcroft, and Smokey himself, who contributed vital Temptations material.

One difference between Motown and power pop is that most of the Motown singers were singers only, relying on that stable of writers. Traditionally, power pop has been original music generated by the musicians themselves. One need only look at the work of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to see the singer/songwriter in full flower. Marvin Gaye died too young, but his self-produced WHAT'S GOIN ON remains an outstanding concept album fusing soul, pop, and jazz in a seamless tapestry. Stevie Wonder exploded into genius in his early twenties, producing a series of records that are unequaled for audacity and pop beauty, beginning with MUSIC OF MY MIND.

PhotobucketStevie reached across the aisle for rock stars like Buzz Feiten, pioneering a new music that straddled the divide between soul and pop. Stevie anticipated the one-man-band, playing every instrument on MUSIC OF MY MIND himself. He is a master not only of keyboards but percussion as well. The following discs, TALKING BOOK, INNER VISIONS, and FULFILLINGNESS' FIRST FINALE confirmed his status as a pop genius on the level of the Beatles.

In today’s Balkanized music market, would Motown even stand a chance? Not only would it stand a chance, it would conquer. It’s remarkable than nobody is trying to resurrect its spirit and style.

World renowned writer (and comic book god!) Mike Baron, creator of NEXUS and THE BADGER, to name a few, is one of NOT LAME's best friends forever, and we look forward to his visits to the office...and now, you can look forward to his visits to this blog.


I tried to warn you! But, as of 11:30 AM this morning, we have completely sold out of SHAKE SOME ACTION! Need some proof...


If you really, really, REALLY want a copy, maybe I'll put mine up on eBay...think I could get at least $500 for it???

Read what Bruce has to say on the subject here...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bruce's NEW AT NOT LAME Update for early Jan. 2008!!!

Straight from the boss, here's Bruce's list of what's new at NOT LAME...

Here are the Top New Releases on the Not Lame web site for early January. There are many new releases on da 'ole home page, but for the time starved, these are the ones worth of your precious time. Click on the links for full mini-reviews on each CD and listen 'n sample lots of soundbites, as well. Have Fun!

PhotobucketWISELY - s/t DO NOT MISS this one! Not Lame released his last one, PARADOR (almost out of print, btw!). This one stands right beside that one, as well. It's insanely awesome, so much so that I put soundbites up of each and every song so you can truly check this out. Takes a lot of time, but you are worth it! BUY this now and get a free 2 song CD-R, exclusive to Not Lame and only available for another week or so!

PhotobucketCHRIS ARDUSER - HAPLESS I'm so in love with all of Arduser's body of work, but this one is REALLY his best. The most apt comparison is to the later works of XTC, with layered arrangements, crafty writing, and a sense that each song has something new to reveal each time you hear it.

PhotobucketTHREE HOUR TOUR - B-SIDE OBLIVION Listen to the tracks and you¹ll hear refrains of Myracle Brah's Andy Bopp (songs 3 and 6, in particular), post-Beatles/Badfinger (song #2), Velvet Crush and just a insanely refreshing batch of songs all over the tentracks. Features the talents of Adam Schmitt (playing and co-producing)and Brad Steakley (Elvis Brothers, Big Hello, Romantics, The Handcuffs) and Paul Chastain(Velvet Crush).

PhotobucketTENNIS COURTS - s/t This is the new project from Wes Hollywood, a Chicago popster who should bea household name, but alas, is not. TENNIS COURTS will get more know ofhim. All the songs flirt with late 70`s new wave pop know-how, this onecaptures that same energy and adds a Mod-era hook magic and Costello-esquesensibility and lots of peppy charm.

PhotobucketROLLO TIME - s/t This quote from AbsolutePowerPopBlog sez it all: "If you're a fan of classic power-pop in the vein of Superdrag, The Shazam, Splitsville and various other bands whose name starts with "S", the Rollos deliver the kind of discthat rewards power pop fans for waking up each day and asking "what's new and exciting out there?".

PhotobucketBRAM TCHAIKOVSKY - STRANGE MAN, CHANGED MAN 2008 reissue of one of the most over-looked power pop albums from the late 70s. "4 1/2 stars. the songs which owe as much to '60s pop as they do to pub/punk rock. The pure pop of "Girl of My Dreams" (a minor hit in the U.S.)perfectly encapsulates late-'70s Brit-pop and stands as one of the classic singles of the era."-AMG.

PhotobucketARTFUL DODGER - HONOR AMONGST THIEVES Important reissue for oldster popsters! ""In classic power pop style, thegroup combined hard-driving electric guitars with catchy arrangements andharmonies. But where the Raspberries emphasized balladry and romanticism,and Big Star had both that plus lyricism, Artful Dodger put its stock instraight-ahead guitar energy and high-end vocalizing."-AMG.

PhotobucketATOMIC - WONDERLAND BOULEVARD German import and a good 'ole fashioned rock band with influences and soundsgrounded in 90s British rock (Oasis), Swedish rock (Mando Diao) and a bit of gritty old school punky pop (anyone remember the post-Sex Pistols band, The Professionals?)!

PhotobucketTHE HOPE TRUST - THE INCURABLE TRUST Sweet Americana pure pop, a must for fans of The Pernice Brothers, The Jayhawks and poppy Wilco! Gorgeous material!

PhotobucketTHE BILLIE BURKE ESTATE - LET YOUR HEART BREAK Fans of classic Ben Folds, listen up! But Billie Burke Estate toys with other classic influences, such as Nilsson, early Billy Joel and Elton John. A collection of songs that balances clever and provocative songwriting with tight and groovy arrangements.

PhotobucketALL NIGHT CHEMISTS - s/t This is the debut from this band (check out SPOTS from them, from last month). For Fans of The Grays, The Odds, Doug Powell, Squeeze, Owsley, Chris Brown and, if you remember this band from the 90s, Human Radio. Delicious,slow yet soaring choruses connect up their high reaching arrangements.

PhotobucketGREG SUMMERLIN - ALL DONE IN GOODTIME A real bonafide surprise, check the soundbites on this one out! "These 14 songs are full of upbeat pop energy, well written and thoughtful lyrics" -URChicago. "Imagine an early adulthood sequel to Brian Wilson's teenagesymphony to God, SMILE.(With) Mitch Easter's power pop classicism, Sufjan Stevens' fanciful hookiness makes for some strangely rocking, articulatebeauty" -HM Magazine

PhotobucketTHE THIRD MEN - BOOST Fans of acts such as the Dream Syndicate, Todd Rundgren, Big Star and Badfinger will undoubtedly find something familiar yet refreshing in the group's melodic, high-energy sound.

PhotobucketNEIL MACDONALD - PICTURE OF SOMEONE YOU NEED The songs are no frills, heavy on melody, and immediately singable. Watchout for this one... good clean fun. The 10 songs here are easy on the ears--energy, sweat, sincerity, passion and a genuine sense of excitement seems to surround the material here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

JANGLE ON! for JAN. 2008!

By Eric Sorensen‏
, written exclusively for NOT LAME

Here’s a quick recap of what’s new in jangly music over the past seven months:

THE RINGLES-RICKENBACKER BALLET Hot off the presses from JAM Records. If the album title isn’t enough of a clue, the five Rickenbackers pictured on the CD itself say it all. “Feeling Nothing At All,” “April’s Wish” and “The Way” prove that the Ringles can still chime with the best of today’s power pop bands. When they’re not maximizing the treble controls on their Rickenbacker guitars, the Ringles demonstrate that they excel with their brand of pseudo-60s psych-pop material.

PhotobucketTONY LOW-TIME ACROSS THE PAGE Speaking of the Cheepskates, Cheepskate alum Tony Low has released another solid pop album. Jangleholics’ ears will perk up when they hear “One Fine Day” and “Where Are You Now.”

THE LOLAS-LIKE THE SUN Twenty tracks of superb garage pop/rock from another JAM Records artist. “Dr. Apache” is a chiming jewel of a track that reminds me of the Cheepskates. Other tracks like “Blue Shadows” and “Sticker” showcase the band’s Hollies-like harmonies. Power pop is alive and well!

SMASH PALACE-EVERYBODY COMES AND GOES This New Jersey group improves with each release. “Hoping” is a jangling masterpiece that sounds like the companion to Tom Petty’s “Listen To Her Heart.” “Just Like You,” “Is This A Dream?” and “I Want To Tell You” are other standout tracks.

TIMELESS FLYTE–a four-volume tribute to the Byrds. Although this 41-song set is only available via download (CDBaby and other INTERNET music sources), there are many “nuggets” featured on the four volumes that make it well worth seeking out. Indie pop luminaries like Michael Carpenter, Jeffrey Foskett, Andrew Gold, Bill Lloyd, Bobby Sutliff, Walter Clevenger, Tony Poole, the Kennedys, Walter Egan and the Retros join Executive Producer Les Fradkin in a solid homage to the Byrds. The four volumes are sub-titled “Reflyte” (early material), “The Byrds Dylan Connection” (all covers of Dylan songs), “Eight Miles High” (psychedelic era material) and “Full Circle” (tracks from the Byrds latter years).

PhotobucketASH AVENUE-AND THEN WE IGNITE Another excellent pop album with Gin Blossoms references. “Mistake Me Home” and “Disposable King” are jangle-candy treats.

DAN FERRARI-DON'T LET IT FALL Wow–hooks galore! One of the finest indie releases I have heard in several years. Ferrari’s vocals and songcraft remind me of Robin Wilson/Gin Blossoms, the Goo Goo Dolls, Paul Carrack and Kyle Vincent. “Blanket” features the most chiming guitars, but this is a stellar pop album from start to finish. This disc has stayed on my “play” stack since my promo copy arrived two months ago.

MARMALADE SOULS-MARMALADE SOULS This self-titled disc is much more Beatlesque than it is Byrdsian, but tracks like “It Won’t Be Too Long,” “My Heart Belongs To You,” “Daydreams,” “Belly Butterfly” and “Words of Love” are representative of the primo pseudo-60s pop on this excellent album.

PhotobucketTHE BONGOS-DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON Tracks like “Bullrushes” bring back fond memories of the strummy jangle-pop that the Feelies recorded twenty years ago.

LAS FRADKIN-12 Another chiming, jangly sonic feast from the master of 12-string pop/rock! “Lay Down Your Arms” and “I Know You Rider” are my favorite tracks – inspired by 60s folk/rock.

In the “something to look forward to” category: Graham Allman Talbot (AKA GAT and one half of the STARBYRD duo) was kind enough to send me an advance copy of his next project, which will appear under the SKYRYDERS moniker. Graham channels Roger McGuinn with the best of today’s McGuinn disciples; this is most evident on tracks like “I’m Home,” “Together We Are One,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and McGuinn’s “May The Road Rise To Meet You.” The Skyryders disc should be released in the next two months.

In the “blast from the past” category, I recommend PACIFIC by THE RUMORS (released in 1998) to those of you who spend time combing through the bins at used CD stores. Rickenbacker riffs abound on songs like “One More Chance,” “All I Want,” “Seven Days” and “Nashville Song.” The Rumors combined elements of REM and the Volebeats in their original pop/rock repertoire.

PhotobucketA public thanks is extended to my long-distance friend, Ray Verno, who has been compiling and sharing “Byrdsian” CDRs with me. Ray has been very successful at surfing the net and downloading obscure Byrds-inspired music. Together, Ray and I have exchanged over three dozen versions of one of our favorite Gene Clark-penned songs–“I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better.” Ray and I finally met in person last spring–at a Roger McGuinn show at the Barns of Wolf Trap.

Until next month, JANGLE ON!

Eric Sorensen, has over 40 years of passion inside his ears for all thingsruled by the misty, mystical jangling spells of a 12-stringed Rickenbacker and his postings here will unearth and enlighten all as to finding that next great jangled strum. No one owns a larger collection of cover-versions of "Eight Miles High" than this Janglemeister, as well. Eric was the lead project honcho with putting together tribute albums to Gene Clark (FULL CIRCLE) and Buffalo Springfield(FIVE WAY STREET) and his earlier column writings appeared on the fabulous site under the name "Further Observations From A Jangly Music Fan".

Friday, January 11, 2008


PhotobucketIf you read my interview with John Borack, you probably read my last question:

Louis: Are you considering a follow-up to SHAKE SOME ACTION, maybe a volume two? It seems like there’s still a lot of ground to cover.

John: Paging Bruce Brodeen – are you listening? Yes, I’d love the opportunity to do a follow-up volume, and to that end, I’m already kicking around a few ideas. There certainly is plenty more ground to be covered and I’d like to be the one to cover it!

Well, after much prodding and pushing, Bruce, in his infinite wisdom has officially given his answer:


So there you have it.

CONCORD, CALI POP FANS ALERT-- Wisely live in Feb!!!

PhotobucketThis was sent to me this morning by our good friend Joe at Flying Colors!

Welcome to the Blog-o-sphere! I've bookmarked it and will check it regularly. Since I started my "View from Flying Colors" blogging in late '05, I've seen a dramatic increase in traffic to our site, so I hope the same for you. So here's something for your blog!

Coming Soon!

When: Friday February 8 at 8pm
Who: Willie Wisely with a live in-store show
Where: Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff
2980 Treat Blvd (at Oak Grove Rd)
Concord CA 94518
Why? Because Power Pop and Comics are both soooo cool. And this will be the kick-off event for our 20th Anniversary year here at Flying Colors.

Updates for the show on my blog at

Joe Field

Thursday, January 10, 2008

SOUTHERN CALI / O.C. POP FANS ALERT! -- Huge concert tomorrow night!

PhotobucketKenny Howes & the Fridge, sparklejets*uk, Barry Holdship Four, Walter Clevenger & the Dairy Kings and Robbie Rist will perform at Fitzgerald's Irish Pub, 19171 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach, at 8:30 p.m., this Friday night!!!



(Interview conducted by Louis Fowler, via e-mail.)

PhotobucketWho is John M. Borack?
Well, as it says on my MySpace page, “I’m a dork.” Beyond that, I’m a husband, father of two awesome kids, community relations director by day and power pop journalist/fanatic by night. I’ve been writing about power pop for more than 20 years and have been playing drums with various L.A.-area pop acts (Receiver, The Dons, Popdudes, Barry Holdship Four) for nearly seven years.

If someone were to come up to you and ask, how would you define power pop?
Well now THERE’S a tricky, sticky question! The generic answer that I give to people with a limited knowledge of music is that it’s influenced by the sound and spirit of the Beatles, but obviously there’s much more to it than that. The definition changes each time I attempt to define it, but it generally includes the words “melody,” “harmonies,” “hooks” and “guitars.” Oh, and don’t forget songs. Gotta have the songs.

For me personally, the net that is cast over the power pop genre is pretty broad; it can encompass the quirky art-pop of XTC, the near-AOR teenybop of ‘80s-vintage Rick Springfield and/or the classic skinny-tie sounds of The Plimsouls, The Beat and 20/20.

PhotobucketWhat was your first experience with power pop?
As I mention in the book, it all began with my dad purchasing my first Beatles record for me at age five. Once I got into college and got over my Foreigner/Boston/Styx phase, I found myself constantly on the prowl for music that moved me in the same way the Beatles always have. Power pop did just that and it still does.

Your book SHAKE SOME ACTION is a pretty exhaustive history of power pop. What gave you the idea to write it? How long did it take to compile and write?
The seed was actually planted by the book’s editor, Jeff Bleiel, who originally approached me with the idea sometime in 2001, I believe. Jeff, who is a former Goldmine Magazine scribe like myself, thought that a good jumping off point might be a more fleshed-out version of the “Top 50 Power Pop Albums” lists that I used to compile for Goldmine. I agreed, since I had always gotten a good response to those lists and had seen them pop up on the internet from time to time, with folks debating the merits of my choices.

From there it involved going back through my old reviews, re-writing and re-purposing some, working up others from scratch, ranking the top 200 and selecting other folks – friends, artists and fellow music journalists – to contribute their own top 10 lists, quotes, musings, etc. It was a long road to be sure, but certainly a worthwhile one to travel.

PhotobucketWas it easy to get in contact with your power pop heroes for their lists and pieces? Is the power pop community a tight-knit one? Were there any artists who said “no”?
It was easier than you’d think to get in touch with some of the musicians who contributed lists or quotes; artists such as Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), Peter Holsapple (dB’s), Dave Smalley (Raspberries) and countless others were not only very approachable, but also very supportive, encouraging and willing to help.
I think my tenure as a writer made it a bit easier for some of the artists to trust me, as I have known many of them for quite some time through my various writing endeavors and am lucky enough to count some of them as my friends. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a bunch of the musicians thanks to the International Pop Overthrow and Poptopia festivals, and I’d have to say that those sorts of events helped in forming some long-lasting bonds.

And yes, there were some artists who chose not to contribute, but just about everyone was quite gracious about it.

Are you expecting any backlash from fans about the placing of certain albums on your “Top 200 Greatest Albums” list?
Oh sure, and that’s half the fun of it. It’s definitely a “your mileage may vary” type of thing in terms of the rankings, especially since I chose to sneak in quite a few “under the radar” albums in there and ignored some higher-profile, well-respected acts. And of course, to use the old cliché, if I had to re-rank them today, the list would probably look quite a bit different. As a matter of fact, just today I was thumbing through the book and was amazed I had ranked one particular album so low. Perhaps I’ll start a backlash against myself…

If you could go back and make any changes to the book, would you or are you completely happy with it?
Since nobody’s perfect (especially yours truly), I always look back at things I’ve done and wish I had done certain things differently. In the case of SHAKE SOME ACTION, I wish we had room for some more of the outstanding contributions from other journalists and artists. Other than that, I’d have to say that I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out. My hope is that others will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

PhotobucketHas being immersed in power pop during the writing of the book kind of made you want to take a break from the genre, or has it only strengthened that love?
Well, it definitely didn’t make me want to take a break from listening at all, but it did make me want to take a break from my other writing endeavors for a bit. As I write this, though, I’m listening to The Nines’ amazing new one, GRAN JUKLE'S FIELD, and I’m remembering why I love power pop so damned much.

The book also comes with a CD of power pop rarities. How involved were you with the CD selection process?
Intimately involved, meaning I picked ‘em all! It’s a wide range of stuff, with some cool archival cuts (The Wackers, Paul Collins & Peter Case, the 20/20 demo), rarities and songs recorded specifically for the project. Just about everything on the disc is previously unreleased and I feel that there are some real gems on there, particularly the Mark Johnson, Rooks, Michael Guthrie Band and Pranks tracks. But I’m biased – I like ‘em all.

Are you considering a follow-up to SHAKE SOME ACTION, maybe a volume two? It seems like there’s still a lot of ground to cover.
Paging Bruce Brodeen – are you listening? Yes, I’d love the opportunity to do a follow-up volume, and to that end, I’m already kicking around a few ideas. There certainly is plenty more ground to be covered and I’d like to be the one to cover it!

Want a copy of SHAKE SOME ACTION? Better hurry and order here!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Mike Baron's YEAR IN MUSIC!!!, Part Two

World renowned writer (and comic book god!) Mike Baron, creator of NEXUS and THE BADGER, to name a few, is one of NOT LAME's best friends forever, and we look forward to his weekly visits to the office...and now, you can look forward to his weekly (hopefully) visits to this's part two of his best list for 2007...

Photobucket#6:GREAT LAKES MYTH SOCIETY-COMPASS ROSE BOUQUET Power pop from the Upper Midwest has its own sound and traditions, an inchoate longing for a simpler time evident in the music of Spooner, the Hawks, and the Great Lakes Myth Society. This album is a marvelous conjuration of country rock. You can sense Crosby, Stills and Nash hovering over the production, but Great Lakes (they should drop the Myth Society) have their own cold north country vibe thanks to dueling mandolins from James and Timothy Monger. They layer electric over acoustic to create a powerful dynamic. Listen to the way “Summer Bonfire” builds in intensity to suddenly dissolve in a swoon of violins. “Stump Speech” and “Midwest Main Street” leave an ache in your heart reminiscent of the Hang-Ups, in the best possible way.

Photobucket#7:THE RED BUTTON-SHE'S ABOUT TO CROSS MY MIND In the tradition of early Beatles, Chad and Jeremy, Turtles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Zombies, Mike Ruekberg and Seth Swirsky create polished four minute gems that evoke a golden past. Each song is Brill Building solid with thrilling intros, urgent themes and overwhelming hooks. Swirsky and Ruekberg have an Everly Brothers vibe going. “Floating By” sounds like a Burt Bacharach/Brian Wilson collaboration. This record is like crack. Listen to any song and you’ll know what I mean.

Photobucket#8: OLIVER FUTURE-PAX FUTURA is weird and powerful, with a bassline like the island of Manhattan. Very solid. Another brother act, Noah and Josh Lit, PAX FUTURA casts a dark spell reminiscent of the Ministry crossed with the Cure with an echo of U2. But by the time the Lit Bros. have perfected their fresh harmony on tracks eight and nine all comparisons have been forgotten. “Happiness Machine” and “The Reclamation” are as powerful a combo as you’re likely to hear. Pax Futura is not perfect, but an overabundance of originality and unexpected flashes of beauty, which is what the best art should reveal.

Photobucket#9: APPLES IN STEREO-NEW MAGNETIC WONDER Robert Schneider finally puts it all together forging a bass-heavy sound—unavoidable food cliché—like English toffee, crunchy and sweet. And Schneider’s found a way to make his friendly bullfrog voice work for him, trailing off into dry melisma on “Skyway” and “Energy.” This record grabs you by the epithalamus and drags you straight through to the end without let-up. Schneider always had an instinct for the hook, but his sound bounced all over the place. It’s solidified here into a fuzz-heavy pleasure-tickling drone that makes you tingle from head to toe.

Photobucket#10: ROGER JOESEPH MANNING JR.-THE LAND OF PURE IMAGINATION The former Jellyfish sheds his baby fat and steps out of the shadows with a wild display that lives up to its name. Most pop music suffers from a simple failure of imagination: they can’t conceive three chords. Manning can, and a lot more. The most remarkable thing about this record is Manning’s musical audacity—he thinks in big, flamboyant musical gestures. If there’s a fault, it’s that Manning has so much imagination he sometimes crams a song with too many ideas. The title track explodes with a hook like a ramjet. Manning achieves heavenly choirs with multiple overlays, most notably on the superb “Sandman.” Some listeners have griped about the lightweight lyrics to “Dragonfly,” but the song is not about the lyrics. In Manning’s hands, the music itself is always compelling.

Photobucket#11: ED JAMES-IN THE 21st CENTURY Ed James is another one-man band with a killer instinct for the hook, and a unique set of chord structures. James’ previous ROCKET SHIP is perfect power pop, in the way of the Toms. Ed offers more of the same with unusually poignant chords. His infectious good spirits are evident in the first three seconds of the first song, a hand-clapping killer that dances down the boulevard accompanied by horns and jangling guitars. Ed writes no duff. Every song is deserving of your utmost attention. But the chords he uses on “And Then She Smiles” will stop you dead in your tracks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mike Baron's YEAR IN MUSIC!!!, Part One

World renowned writer (and comic book god!) Mike Baron, creator of NEXUS and THE BADGER, to name a few, is one of NOT LAME's best friends forever, and we look forward to his weekly visits to the office...and now, you can look forward to his weekly (hopefully) visits to this blog...take it away, Mike!

Two thousand seven has been a great year for pop music but you’d never know it by the stench emanating from the so-called “music industry.” Corporate CD sales are in the toilet and overpaid A & R men don’t have a clue. How many hip-hop records will be played ten years from now? Most new bands don’t know how to compose in three chords. The list of one and two chord top-forty hits stretches to the moon and back.

The flowering of pop beauty this year has not been seen since the late sixties/early seventies. Let us begin at the top, with the Records of the Year. Yes, Records, because ultimately I could not decide between two timeless masterpieces: SLOAN-NEVER HEAR THE END OF IT and JACKDAW4-BIPOLAR DIVERSIONS.

Photobucket#1: Sloan’s long player clocks in at seventy-two minutes without a second of waste. The boys from Nova Scotia put on a clinic of shifting, foot-stomping rock and roll. Thirty tracks cover every mood from metallic barn burners to honey-drenched power pop. As they’ve done in the past Sloan link each song to the next creating a seamless tapestry. There are too many highlights to list, but the one-two punch of “Can’t You Figure It Out?” and “Set in Motion” will win over even the surliest skaters. “Can’t You Figure it Out” is an achingly sweet paean to a busted relationship that segues into the deadpan, hilarious, and gorgeous “Set in Motion.” Every time you listen to this record you notice another delicate touch. The production is superb. Some critics have rightfully compared it to the White Album. Chris Murphy’s bass is brilliantly kinetic and very McCartneyesque.

PhotobucketThe Other #1: Jellyfish fans, your wait is over. I know you’ve heard it before. Seems like every other band on this site compares to Jellyfish. Jackdaw4’s second record, BIPOLAR DIVERSIONS, is a sprawling yet tightly-controlled masterpiece of power pop dynamics, constantly surprising, never disappointing. Willie Downing seems to be the driving force, and he makes full use of his four vocalists for stunning arabesques throughout. Each song is a rococo masterpiece, juxtaposing sunny major-chord choruses with startling, minor chord bridges. The first song “Sooma” begins, “And the sun shines out of my ass, it’s incredible…” Sooma flaunts more hooks than Tommy Hearns sparring on the deck of a Russian fishing trawler. Every song is a mini-masterpiece of arranging and inspired performance. The title track is not only gorgeous, it offers the sonic equivalent of bi-polar disorder, an audible analog of what a person experiences. “My Little Gangsta” covers the same territory as XTC’s “No Thugs in Our House,” with comparable flare. But it’s those soaring voices that continue to suck you in.

Photobucket#3: BRYAN SCARY-THE SHREDDING TEARS shows what one man can do holed up in a garret surrounded by synthesizers. Basically a keyboard man, Scary has fashioned an operatic, hallucinatory soundtrack to a black and white noir about a rock and roll Candide. The first track, “A Stab at the Sun,” is one of those left-field masterpieces that touches musical spots you haven’t felt in years. Combining chamber pop, British beer hall stomps and ELP bombast, Scary lives up to his name on this iconoclastic barnburner. The rest of the disc is equally inventive. Scary’s not a rocker per se. He’s a raconteur on the keyboard. You can’t deny the treacherous hooks of “The Ceiling on the Wall” or “Bottom of the Grave.” For fans of Brian Wilson, Michael Brown, Ben Folds, and the Beatles.

Photobucket#4: From here on the numbering is meaningless. These are all great records. MIKA-LIFE IN CARTOON MOTION is a blast of disco fever from London by way of Paris and Lebanon. “Grace Kelly,” the album opener, is an irresistible slice of kitsch the likes of which have not been heard since the demise of Freddie Mercury, whom Mika cites. The details are exquisite: the ting of vibes, the background voices drawing you into that irresistible bridge, and that crazy soaring chorus. Another keyboard player, Mika has a gift for the hook evident in every song. “Billy Brown” and “Big Girl” leave no doubt where Mika stands. He’s the best falsetto since Michael Jackson. You’ve heard slices of “Love Today” on television, now hear the whole song. Try to keep your feet from moving. Try.

Photobucket#5: THE PILLBUGS-BUZZ FOR ALDRIN The Pillbugs have been producing outstanding psychedelia since 1991, released their first album in 1998. Mainly the brainchild of guitarist/composer Mark Mikel, the Pillbugs have been getting progressively richer, deeper, and more rewarding with each subsequent release. This is a two disc set, like two of their previous albums. There is no filler. To give you a clue where they’re coming from the second track is called “Make Like Arthur Lee.” Only Arthur Lee never managed to fill an album the way these boys do. The second disc in particular hits you with one perfectly timed acid flashback after another, until you feel like you’ve been worked over by a tag-team of nude female masseuses to music by vintage Airplane and Country Joe & the Fish.

TOMORROW: Mike's fave albums #6-11!!!

Monday, January 7, 2008



"Short of having Alex Chilton come over and bring his record collection, I can think of no better introduction to the sweet musical world of power pop than John M. Borack’s SHAKE SOME ACTION: THE ULTIMATE POWER POP GUIDE, from Colorado’s Not Lame Recording Company, an indie purveyor of this underrated genre.

“Power pop” refers to highly melodic rock music: hook-driven and guitar-heavy. Examples include pioneers like Cheap Trick and Smithereens to relative newcomers like Fountains of Wayne and Old 97’s. But as you can imagine for something with about four decades’ worth of history, there’s a helluva lot of in-between to cover.

After an introduction from Robbie Rist (Oliver from THE BRADY BUNCH, natch), Borack delves into power pop’s history, making his way through such acts as The Raspberries, Dwight Tilley, The Hollies and The Knack. And then there the lists – lots and lots of lists, to the point where even the major lists have their own sidebar lists – some from guest artists and writers: the 200 best albums, plus compilations and tributes, the 100 best songs, the 30 best American singles, the 10 overlooked 45s from the UK, the 30 landmark “golden age” platters, and so on.

The list-adverse may break out in hives, but the music nerd in me loves lists. Even if they’re so highly subjective that they’ll never match up to your own personal tastes, they’re still fun to read and a great way to school yourself in groups you may have missed.

Rounding out the book is a look of power pop labels and magazines, and the entire tome – shaped square like a record album, coolly enough – is generously illustrated with photographs and easy-to-read large type, all perfect for thumbing through while sitting in front of the hi-fi, earphones creating a vacuum on your skull.

If there’s a complaint, it’s that the book sometimes is self-congratulatory, with Not Lame bands making prominent marks on the lists, and the Not Lame label tagged as one of the best record companies for the stuff. Making me not care so much: the free CD pasted into the back cover, with 24 tracks of power-pop greatness (and semi-greatness) – all new, rare or previously unreleased. Among the artists awaiting your aural perusal are Peter Case, Tommy Keene and, Chris von Sneidern. They may not be the household names of your Matthew Sweet, New Pornographers or The All-American Rejects, but give them a try. Chances are, if you’re interested in power pop at all, you won’t need the urging." –Rod Lott


SHAKE SOME ACTION: The first few minutes...

Here's a pic of Bruce exactly ten minutes after our huge shipment of SHAKE SOME ACTIONs were dropped off in the cold, cold garage. See the look of pride in that man's eyes? I think I see a tear...


Well, it's a few weeks later and were down to a few boxes left. Yes, the book was a gigantic success! Thanks to all of you who supported NOT LAME's first (and certainly not last!) literary endeavor!

(Yes, there are still copies left! Order here!)

Welcome to the new NOT LAME blog!!!

In this new year of 2008, your ol' pals at NOT LAME enter the blogosphere (that's what it's called, right?) with the new NOT LAME BLOG!!! I'm Louis, the NOT LAME lackey and I'll be writing and posting a lot here on the blog. To quote Dennis DeYoung, "I've got too much time on my hands!" This should nicely fill it.

You see, at NOT LAME, I'm Bruce's right hand man and am given a lot of gruntwork like, say, reorganizing the stock in our cold, cold garage. Now, the next time he wants some manual labor done, I just gotta say "Sorry dude! I'm working on the blog!" It's the greatest scam ever.

The only draw back is that now I actually need to fill the thing with content...that where you come in!!! This is where we can work together!

Expect news, reviews, special contests and all types of goings-on around the Not Lame office to be chronicled here! Also, we want your comments and articles! Got something you want to say about a release you like, or some pop-gossip you heard about? Send it in!!!

But, also, send in your reviews of SHAKE SOME ACTION! We want to know what you thought! You NOT LAME superfans, send us a pic of you enjoying SHAKE SOME ACTION and we'll post it!!! Do it now!

Send your stuff to!!!