2001-2008, Almost Night, Joe Pernice, Nick Pipitone, Papills, Primary 5, Revive: Demos and Rarities, Richard, The Palisades, Theinsville, Too Hot for May
Big spending letter ‘P’ is today’s post sponsor bringing you a bevy of poptastic new material, all from artists and bands working the P side of the street. We’ve got a stripped down release from a reliable jangle-meister, rediscovered rarities and demos from a Teenage Fanclub diaspora group, a Wisconsin concept album, and so much more. Strap in, this will get poppy and rocky!
Papills hail from Växjö, Sweden, located about halfway between Copenhagen and Stockholm and apparently in the middle of nowhere musically. The band members complain their town is overpopulated with metalheads. Yet despite this Papills insist on offering up a relentlessly sunny, hooky sound on their new album Too Hot For May. The record really reminds of a host of poppy, harmony-drenched British groups like The Fronteers or even a rockier version of Stornaway. Blissful harmonies over ringing guitars is what you get with the singles-oriented “Too Hot for May” and “What To Call It.” Get your dancing shoes on for “Happy Fish,” which vibes just a bit of Oasis in the chorus. Then the band really gets a rock and roll workout going on “California Surfin’” and “Hit Me Blind.” But another side of Papills is a really sweet, swinging Everlys-sounding, acoustic guitar-driven sensibility on tracks like “All the Same” and “Overthought.” Papills may be too hot for May but they are just right for now. Too Hot for May
As an album Almost Night is an amazing record of rock and roll reconnaissance and reclamation. The Palisades were a short-lived 1960s-meets-The Ramones outfit that rocked out the teenagers in the Beach Boys’ home town of Hawthorne California for two years around 1982-83. They never got their big break and they never laid down the perfect great lost album. So lead vocalist and co-songwriter Lear Schwarze decided to finally release the band’s rough 1980s era recordings along with some re-recordings of the material with a new back up band. It’s the kind of project that can go horribly wrong but Schwarze knew what he was doing. The new recordings faithfully re-animate the original songs in both spirit and style but with a much more professional sound. Having said that, I love the garage DIY sound of the originals. The 1980s version of “All Around the World” is so Plimsouls or early Alarm, “Nowhere to Unwind” has a solid Romantics buzz, while “Gone” and “Will Not Get Fooled” offer up super guitar hooks. Personally I think “Lonely Tonight” is the great lost hit single here. The new recordings are dynamite, particularly the new version of “All Around the World,” which is definitely chart-ready. The Palisades are a great lost band that have come back to life – enjoy their past and present on Almost Night.
I tend to love all things associated with Teenage Fanclub, especially all the impressive break-away projects from current and former members. Probably my favourite is the slight catalogue from Paul Quinn’s Primary 5. Just three albums released between 2004 and 2008 and that was it. I was late to the party, only first writing about them in 2018, so I wrote to Paul asking about the band, new material, or anything else he might be working on. He told me about a rarities project that would be coming out. Well, here it is, though Revive: Demos and Rarities, 2001-2008 appears to have been previously released, albeit only briefly. So 2020 might just represent its digital download return. No matter, fans of Primary 5 are going to want to add this to their collection. The alternative version of the majestic “What Am I Supposed To Do?” alone is worth the admission price. The stripped-down demos, some accompanied just by acoustic guitar, really showcase the strength of the songwriting. Unreleased tracks like the Beatlesque “The Beat Goes On” just confirm what we knew all along – there’s more fabulous Primary 5 material out there. If we can’t have a new Primary 5 album I’m sure fans will settle for what Revive has to offer … for now.
After blowing fans away with the band’s remarkable eighth album, Spread the Feeling, Pernice Brothers’ leader and creative force Joe Pernice decided to dial things down in 2020 with Richard, a mostly acoustic album of lovely low key tunes. Turn down the lights, open the wine and let “Starry Clown” and “Sullivan Street” get you into a special ruminative mood. The trumpet that dots the background of the latter is particularly special. “Lonely People” is a bit more urgent but still muted. The song wouldn’t go amiss on some 1963 AM radio station, covered by Marty Robbins or Skeeter Davis. “If We Were Better Friends” is the kind of longing loser song that Nick Lowe has seemed to corner the market on lately. And I could go on. It’s great to see an artist stretching out, pushing beyond expectations but taking their audience with them. Just give “You Should Have Came”a listen to understand the power of Pernice’s songwriting and performance, like a stripped-down Jim Croce with uber cool whistling. Some versions of the album also contain two excellent bonus tracks, “Here Comes September” and “Spend This Mountain,” so keep an eye out for that one.
A concept album all about Theinsville, Wisconsin? Ok, I’ll give just about anything a spin. And man I’m glad I did because Nick Pipitone’s Theinsville is surely set to make countless ‘best of’ lists this year. The album opens with a great roll out on “Century Estates,” which sets the scene for what is to come, plenty of clever acerbic commentary on suburbia and hooks galore. Many of the songs have a Difford and Tilbrook kitchen sink quality, except when they offer up some Elvis Costello bite. Overall the style is very English early 1980s poprock, with a bit of Odds and Eels thrown in the mix. You can hear that distinctive Squeeze sound on tracks like “Heidel Road” and “John Henry” while “The Prime Minster” nails the psychedelic pop of the Beatles circa “Baby You’re a Rich Man.” I detect a more XTC vibe to “The Gathering” and “Fireman’s Park” with Steve Drake vocals (from Odds) on the latter. There are so many highlights on this record you can drop the needle just about anywhere and come up a winner: “Coffee Wars” is so Costello, “Village Scoop” is mid-period Odds, and so on. But really I’ve saved the best for last – “Hear Me Out, Theinsville” is a remarkable track, a bit of departure from the rest of the record but it still fits in, a bit orchestral and ornamental, with a drop dead subtle hook in the chorus. The song deserves to be the sleeper hit single of the summer! I guess I’m telling you, hustle to visit Theinsville. You won’t regret it.
Click the names above to check out the bands and where to get their digital offerings while physical copies of The Palisades and Nick Pipitone albums are available from Kool Kat records.