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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the three THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Friday, July 29, 2016

DIGGING THROUGH THE BINS

 

Audities was a short-lived power pop zine spearheaded by the late Gary Littleton. After the magazine ceased publication, it continued as a power pop website and a power pop discussion group. "Digging Through The Bins" was a regular feature on audities.com, describing and detailing pop pleasures awaiting discovery in a record bin near you.  This was my contribution to the series, circa...well, 1996 judging by my about-the-author tag.  Dig!

DIGGING THROUGH THE BINS

THE ROLLERS--Elevator, '79, Arista

I adored The Bay City Rollers--"Rock 'n' Roll Love Letter,""Yesterday's Hero," and a superb album track called "Wouldn't You Like It" are sublime power pop nuggets that transcend the perceived limitations of teeny-bop pop--but this post-mania LP is the only full Rollers album that ever grabbed me. By this time, lead singer Les McKeown had split (replaced by Duncan Faure, late of the group Rabbitt), and the group had shortened its name and released this album as a desperate bid for a new audience. Desperate or not, it sounds fine, especially the fab "Who'll Be My Keeper."

GARY FRENAY--The Gary Frenay Songbook 1978-1990, '91, Arlington National

Anyone who knows me knows I couldn't pass up a chance to plug my hometown (Syracuse, NY) heroes The Flashcubes in a forum like this. I swear to God, I have no financial interest whatsoever in The Flashcubes, but I've been a diehard fan since I was 18, and I'll never tire of preaching the group's virtues.  The 'Cubes never released an album, and the long-promised anthology CD is mired in development hell, so this is the closest thing to a full-length Flashcubes release. It's a collection of songs written by 'Cubes bassist Frenay, as recorded over the years by Frenay's various groups. "No Promise" is the greatest evocation of The Raspberries this side of Cleveland, while "Syracuse Summer" is a simply sublime channeling of The Beach Boys in tribute to--gulp!--the mercurial climate of Central New York. And "Make Something Happen" is a smash hit waiting for someone (Marshall Crenshaw? The Gin Blossoms? The Monkees, even?) to cover it and ride it to the top of the pops. Track this down no matter what it takes.

THE CICHLIDS--Be True To Your School, '80, Bold

I stumbled across this over a decade ago in the back room of Gary Sperrazza!'s cool Apollo Records emporium in Buffalo, and it's the only copy I've ever seen. A slice of punky pop that, frankly, is included here more for its obscurity than its relative merit, it is nonetheless distinguished by a smokin' cover of The Hullaballoos' "Did You Ever." I've never heard the original, but this version most definitely cooks, cleans, and puts the cat out at night.

THE ROMANTICS--"Little White Lies"/"I Can't Tell You Anything," '77, Spider

Most pop fans seem to dig The Romantics, but few have heard the group's debut single.  Both of these tracks were subsequently recut (for the first and second albums, respectively), but the remakes can't compare. The indie sides have a power and strength the CBS versions lack. Same goes for the group's Bomp! single,"Tell It To Carrie"/"First In Line." There were also two great Bomp! tracks the group never returned to, "Let's Swing" and the superb "Running Away." Hmmmm--that's six songs toward putting together a CD of pre-CBS Romantics stuff. Any more gems in the vault, guys?

THE BARRACUDAS--Drop Out With The Barracudas, '81, Voxx

Whoa! Now this is pop with power, a non-stop barrage of aggressive hooks and adrenalin-charged choruses. The lyrics are a mix of downers and put-ons, but the cumulative effect is neither depressing nor smug; call it cathartic or call it late to dinner, but the effect of this surf 'n' sun with a death wish is an exuberant rush. And it friggin' rules, baby, with titles like "I Wish It Could Be 1965 Again" and inspired couplets like "It was his last summer, and it made us think/We stopped surfin' and started to drink." This is my favorite album of the '80s, edging out The Lyres' On Fyre and Tell America by Fools Face.

THE FLAMIN' GROOVIES--Rock Juice, 1992, National

Perennially overlooked and underappreciated, the final incarnation of San Francisco's all-time greatest pop band released this worthy epitaph before grooving no more. It's not the equal of Shake Some Action, sure, but tracks like "Way Over My Head,""Hold On Me," the Roy Orbison-inspired "I'm Only What You Want Me To Be," and the Lennon tribute "Thanks John" (which is trite but still moving) deserve notice. Too bad this couldn't include a version of the great "Step Up," which was purposely omitted from this set after being used as the title track for an unauthorized Australian release.

VARIOUS ARTISTS--Garage Sale, '85, ROIR

This cassette compilation of '80s garage revival acts was released in conjunction with Goldmine magazine, and it includes a number of tracks that should interest fans of rockin' pop. The best is a cover of The Escapades' "I Tell No Lies" by The Shoutless, which effortlessly combines elements of The Ramones and Kinks in a triumphant, irresistible swagger. Tracks by The Pandoras, The Things, The Mosquitoes, The Mystic Eyes, and The Cheepskates--you know it's gotta be good if The Cheepskates are on it!--maintain the proper pop sensibility amongst the prerequisite garage grunge. CD reissue, already!

THE LAMBRETTAS--Beat Boys In The Jet Age, '80, MCA

Stuck in the morass of the stillborn Mod revival, The Lambrettas rate pop immortality on the basis of this album's first two tracks.  "Da-a-a-ance" is one of the greatest pure pop tracks of all time (and I'll personally ridicule anyone who disagrees), and "Cortina MK II" is also right nifty. But the title track is the only other item of interest, and a clunky cover of "Poison Ivy" is frightening. Naturally, it was also the group's biggest hit (in Britain, anyway).

VARIOUS ARTISTS--Best Of Bomp!, Waves, and Experiments In Destiny, '79-'80, Bomp!

We need at least a quick mention of the fine sampler LPs put out by Bomp! during the twilight of the Carter administration, preserving scattered single sides and orphan tracks. Best Of Bomp! includes Shoes' dynamic single version of "Tomorrow Night," 20/20's "Giving It All," and The Choir's exquisite "I'd Rather You Leave Me." There were two volumes of Waves, both of which are hit-and-miss, but are essential for tracks by 20/20 (has "Drive" ever been issued anywhere else?), Paul Collins, The Romantics, The Flashcubes, The Martians, Gary Charlson, Pointed Sticks, and The Jumpers. And the two-LP Experiments In Destiny is a must for The Real Kids' awesome "Now You Know." While you're digging through the bins for bits o' Bomp!, you might also wanna grab the label's recent 2-CD retrospective, Destination Bomp. Dig away!

About the Author...

In his own words: Carl Cafarelli, boy freelancer, sweet 36 and never been...never mind. Father of one adorable little girl (and husband to one adorable big girl), I've been a contributor to Goldmine since 1986. I've interviewed The Ramones, Joan Jett, and Cyril Jordan, and written about The Bay City Rollers, KISS, and The Monkees, but my best piece was the history of power pop that appeared at the end of 1995. I'm also the world's most vocal Flashcubes fan, and I wrote the liner notes for their ever-forthcoming CD anthology, Bright Lights. Know any good labels?!