This past month it seems like the Blendours are everywhere, featured on a host of podcasts and music blogs. Who are these guys and why is everyone suddenly discovering them? Ok, the latter half of the question escapes me but the first part is easily researched. Iowa’s newest hitmakers are actually old pros on the pop punk scene with releases stretching back to 2011. Meeting the actual band won’t take long – they are essentially songwriter, singer, main (often sole) musician Trevor Treiber, with guests from time to time. Reckoning with their extensive catalogue – 15 or so albums, depending on how you count them – is more daunting. But here you can relax as yours truly has needle-dropped his way through all the albums to curate a special collection of the band’s material. I wouldn’t claim this is a definitive collection but there’s more than enough featured here to meet the Blendours!
The early Blendours’ records embody what commentators have called ‘Ramones-core,’ a sound capturing the urgent yet simple rhythm guitar attack of America’s favourite punk band. Yet there has always been a sweet goofiness to the Blendours output too, enhanced by Treiber’s penchant for harmony vocals. You can hear the fun ‘I’m not taking this too seriously’ approach on tracks like “Miley and Me,” “Cheapskate” “Comic Shoppe,” and “Fastfood Queen.” But at the same time you can also spot the serious attention to strong structure as the band nails the early 1960s melodrama sound on “Now That’s He’s Gone” and “I Miss You Baby.” There’s more than a little of Gene Pitney’s histrionics on “More Than a Game” or a total American Grafitti vibe to “Trail of Broken Hearts.”
As the albums pile up the songwriting gains melodic depth. There is something very Magnetic Fields about songs like “I Blew It Again” or Edmunds-Lowe/Rockpile-ish on “I’m in Love with Mary-Sue.” Guitar leads start to take on more prominence on tracks like “She’s My Girl” and “A Girl Like You.” Then there’s really creative efforts that stretch the limits of conventional song structures like “99 Lives,” “Cut My Hair” and “Throw My Brain Away” (the latter with a nice Beatlesque twist). Meanwhile, Treiber’s love of doo wop and fifties motifs run throughout his career on songs like “Toddler Stomp” and “Metal Rebel.”
The Blendours more recent albums bring all their many influences together in a dynamic, more polished synthesis. 2016’s In the Living Room is like Beach Boys Party meets Jonathan Sings! in its combination of an easy groove, catchy melodies, and a new lyrical sophistication. Treiber’s pop punkster is giving way to a new millennium reincarnation of Buddy Holly on tracks like “She’s Got Another One” and “Listen to Your Heart.” And then there’s 2019’s Wrong Generation – man, I’m in love with this record! In a way The Blendours come full circle here, returning to mostly acoustic guitar strumming and inspired vocal interplay to carry the day but somehow managing to sound like so much more. The title track is rocking boogie number that reads like Treiber’s musical manifesto. There’s an vocal vulnerability animating “My One and Only” that gives the song so much more impact. This is a band not just goofing off anymore. Meanwhile “Different Kind of Love” nails an early 1960s pop country sound. If you were to buy only one Blendours album, you wouldn’t go wrong with Wrong Generation. It’s the band’s most fully realized piece of creativity. On the other hand, if you prefer punk, the band can still punk out. Check out “What To Say To You” from 2017’s No Respect.
As the band say on their Facebook page, their “sound will make you feel like a teenager cruising the strip before your high school dance.” You can make that your car soundtrack by visiting the Blendours on bandcamp.