Some acts really know how to hit the exhilaration pedal in their music. The songs just beg for movement, preferably pogoing in a friendly mosh-like environment. Today’s performers offer up a bevy of sizzling song excitement on their albums, EPs, and double A-sided singles.
I’ve been totally grooving on The Cudas’ early singles with their Ramones-meet-Cheap Trick retro vibe. But the band’s new extended play release Alien Vacation shows they are so much more. Sure, those early influences are still there, particularly on the Tommy and Rockets-ish opening track, “Autorama.” And yet there is something else, some decidely inventive melodic hooks and a great Fountains of Wayne synth solo. “I Don’t Want to Go Out” has a darker edge, reminding me of Rooney or The Cars at times. “My Summer Song” has the songwriting mark of a Adam Schlesinger or Rivers Cuomo. “Space Coast” goes a long way on its distinctive opening groove, only to explode melodically in the chorus. It would appear that The Cudas’ creative force Reinhard Leon van Biljon is slowly working us up to a full album release. If this EP is a snapshot I can’t wait to get the big picture.
Hard to get many details on Killer Crush. Apparently transatlantic friends for two decades, they decided to join forces for the first time on this self-titled debut project. The result is a mix of songs rooted in an acoustic guitar laden attack, straight up post-pub rock, or the melodic indie scene. “Wait” sounds like two jumbo Martins layered with some sweet harmony vocals. Or there’s a slight western tinge to the poppy melody carrying “The City.” The boys break out the electric guitars for “Street Lights” and “French Kiss” but not at the expense of the melodic hooks. “Plain and Simple” clips along with the feel of any early solo Nick Lowe deep cut while “My Love is Gone” vibes a more Rockpile/Dave Edmunds sound. “Maria” updates things to a more nineties indie pop theme. “Love Song” is the obvious single, with distinctive ‘ah ah’s and ‘who hoo hoo hoo’s. All in all, this is a killer debut, packed full of strong songwriting and subtle production choices. Definitely worthy of repeat listens.
Ok, you could be forgiven for mistaking the opening few bars of The James Clark Institute’s new album The Colour of Happy for something from Imperial Bedroom. The dynamic combination of organ and piano is clearly a brief homage. But quickly “Little Powder Keg” turns a hooky melodic corner seldom so openly embraced by EC himself. Instrumentally, the song is brilliant, riffing some jangle, The Who, and a host of other influences but with subtle restraint. And that quality is what you’ll come to expect all over this record. The songs are more than your usual poprock fare, embracing an ambitious songwriting tradition associated with Graham Parker, Joe Jackson and early John Hiatt. I mean, just give “Selfish Portrait” a listen and tell me JCI has not nailed the Aimee Mann/Michael Penn school of haunting-yet-still-jaunty tune-smithing. At other moments, tracks like “Blue in the Room” are just toe-tapping good hummers, in this instance with a very Ian Gomm delivery. Or there’s the killer jangle/organ combo driving “Better Than I Remember.” Other highlight here for me include “Should I Tell Her” and “Next Best Thing.” But this album is all good, a bevy of melodic delights, resting on some obviously strong influences but never just colouring within the lines.
With Love, Burns Phil Sutton of the Pale Lights charges out of the gate with a new project that is blistering in its intensity, anger, and damn good melodies. Both tracks on this double A-sided single are a knock out. “Wired Eyes” is like the Byrds pitched just a bit faster than you might expect, with a jangle run that will set your heart racing and lyrics that will move you to action. “Hard to Fall” has a guitar/organ interplay that also tugs on something deep inside, again, with a strong Bryds or International Submarine Band feel. The guitar solo here is also something special, such a perfect distillation of the song’s melody. This is what hit radio should sound like all the time.
There’s a spark in some music that just makes people want to move. Today’s high octane hit makers pull out all the stops to get you going, somewhere. So why not give them a visit? You can find The Cudas, Killer Crush, The James Clark Institute, and Love, Burns at their hyperlinked internet real estate.