The thing about news is that it’s always coming from some point of view. You think corporations own media empires and don’t influence what they produce? But that doesn’t mean everything is fake. You have to ask questions about where your news is coming from and what it is saying. For instance, this station is obviously biased towards covering melodic rock and roll. Sorry death metal fans! But today’s headline acts are loaded up with hooks – that’s a fact!
In one of the most anticipated releases of 2020, Chris Church delivers a welcome dose of his distinctive ‘heavy melody’ on Backwards Compatible. The record vibes a harder rock edge than your typical power pop release but still manages to hit some pretty impressive melodic marks. Some tracks are straight up power pop, like “Something’s Coming Fast,” the delicious slice of Matthew Sweet-inflected songwriting/playing that opens the album, or the rollicking rush of “Pop Dreams” that closes it. Others have a bit of ‘rawk’ around the edges, like the Van Halen touches on “These Days” and “Too Deep,” though I also hear a hint of Hall and Oates in the chorus of the latter. I love the relentless hooky riffing propelling “Dumb It Up” and “Begin Again” as well as the chunky poprock swing on “Kiss It Goodnight.” The marriage of melody and metal reminds me of Blue Oyster Cult at times, perhaps with some Crosby, Stills and Nash-style background vocals mixed in, particularly on songs like “Left in the Summer.” My own juke box jury says Backwards Compatible is a winner, a raucus 46 minutes of superior tune-age that will bend your ear in good way.
On Accelerator, Mothboxer move in a bit of a different direction than previous releases, wrapping their indie melodic temperament in a more complete coating of hooks. It’s all there on the opening cut and title track: “Accelerator” sidles up to the listener with a swinging, rocking ease only to latch on for dear life in the earwormy chorus. A definite single! Other points on the album clearly hit the XTC target (as on “Feel Something”) or go deep into Beatles ’66 territory (e.g. “Under Water,” “Can I Go Now”). By contrast, both “Long Time Coming” and “Funny How It Is” have a touch of psychedelic pop about them, while “Any Time” rolls out a spacey, pop soul feel. Altogether, Accelerator is a lovely collection of stylistic poprock set pieces (you get the vinyl from Kool Kat here).
Lansing is the town that The Stick Arounds stick around in, capital city of Michigan. Besides running the state, what else is there to do but sing in rock and roll band? In this case, that’s a good thing as their Hot Singles Club album is a bracing dose of melodic rock and roll, with discernable country and Americana touches. Let’s start by applauding the reverb-drenched guitars that define “Speed of Sound” and “Microscopic” or the spot-on Byrds-meets-Jayhawks vibe on “Laugh and Minute” and “Connection.” But the Stick Arounds won’t be contained by one style or sound. “Wait” is more a straight up Stones-y rocker, while “Fire and Rescue” has a bit of an REM halo, and their version of “That’s How I Got to Memphis” is a country love letter. Personally, I love the Bobby Fuller Four stomp fueling “Forward in Rewind” and the album’s not-so-hidden jem, the alt sure-fire hit single cover of Beulah’s “Gene Autry.” So, in a word or two, maximum fun. Indeed, Hot Singles Club can be the sound of party-time Saturday night whenever you hit play.
Two separate new albums from Ex Norwegian? There’s a bit of sleight of hand here, as one is the band’s new album – Hue Spotting – while the other – Spotting Hues – is the collected cover versions they’ve been posting weekly for some time. But both hit the poprock sweet spot, with more than just a splash of psych pop thrown in for good measure. Hue Spotting’s opening track, “Fear Backwards,” gets things swinging with a melodic Robyn Hitchcock élan and catchy chorus while “Bloody Parrots” uses its keyboard riff to get inside your head (in a good way). I think “Something 2020” is my favourite track sounding like something from a late 1980s teen movie soundtrack (in that brief moment when some pretty cool bands were getting exposure). Meanwhile, “Your Mind is Mine” does a clever bait and switch with its opening screaming guitar trading places with a hooky chorus – very nice! Hue Spotting’s accompanying album, Spotting Hues, is like an archival tour of late 1960s/early 1970s rarities from bands with names like July, Apple, Magic Roger and Dr. Strangely Strange. Fun stuff here for both the innocent tourist and more serious collectors and psych esthetes from your favourite exes.
That’s the breaking news, but don’t take my word for it – check out these headline-grabbing acts for yourself and see if Poprock Record isn’t a news source you can trust. Click on over to Chris Church, Mothboxer, The Stick Arounds, and Ex Norwegian to get your fact-check on.