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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 four 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.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TIRnRR # 4, Track By Track: P. Hux, "Better Than Good"

This is part of a series of short pieces discussing each of the 29 tracks on our new compilation CD This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4The CD can be ordered at Kool Kat Musik.

8. P. HUX: "Better Than Good"

Falling in love.

If we can believe pop songs--and what kind of world would this be if we couldn't believe pop songs?--then we don't edge cautiously into love; we don't dip our toe into love's metaphorical pool to see if the water is as cold as ice, and willing to sacrifice...well, never mind that comparison. But the point remains that we don't try to gently acclimate ourselves to love's tentative reward, at least in pop songs. We fall. We fall deeply, deliriously, deliciously, desperately, divinely. We fall face-first, heart stapled to sleeve, and hope for the best. And we can all live happily ever after, at least for the 3:12 duration of a decent pop song.

Parthenon Huxley should be a household name, like Ellen Degeneres or General Electric. His 1988 album Sunny Nights is an underappreciated pop classic, and it includes a superb track called "Double Our Numbers" that is occasionally The Greatest Record Ever Made. (An infinite number of terrific tracks can each be The Greatest Record Ever Made, as long as they take turns.) I caught up with the LP some time a bit after the fact, but I've been a fan ever since. Parthenon subsequently formed a group called P. Hux, and also joined Electric Light Orchestra II (later The Orchestra). Under all of these names, Parthenon has continued to release decent pop songs to delight lovers and would-be lovers alike.

Parthenon's participation in This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4 is the result of happy happenstance, just like falling in love should be. Mr. Huxley was among the many fine pop acts interviewed by our buddy Ken Sharp for Ken's most recent power pop history Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume 4, and Parthenon suggested that Dana and I oughtta play all of the acts in the book on one of our weekly editions of TIRnRRWe did; but of equal importance, Parthenon's idea also inspired us to beg for his participation in our new compilation CD. The negotiations were brutal:

DANA & CARL: Hey Parthenon! Ya wanna be on our CD?


Or something like that.

Parthenon granted us the pick of any track from his post-Sunny Nights career. That gave us a lot of worthy options. But as we went through the back catalog, my often-fickle gaze was transfixed by a song called "Better Than Good" (from the 2007 P. Hux album Kiss The Monster), a stunner that just knocked us out like the sweetest, perfect figure amidst a sweet and pretty crowd. Falling. The song was irresistible, and all the more remarkable because it is such a magnificent track, yet it's not one of Parthenon's better-known cuts. It should be. It should be on the radio, in your collection, on your iPod, seared into emotion and memory like the one true love we all crave. And it needed to be on This Is Rock 'n' Roll Radio, Volume 4.

It would be unfair to say that real life is no fun. The fantasy world of pop music intersects with the mortal, physical world we know, each influencing the other on an ongoing basis. In reality, we know that it's sometimes prudent to wait, to review, to weigh the pros and cons of action versus inaction. But in pop songs, we believe, and we act. Sometimes. Even in song, there are tales of regret over missed opportunities, and in our lives there are true stories of love at first sight. I'm certain that it happens all the time.

"Better Than Good" buzzes with the optimism of love on sunny nights. Good things come to those who wait, I know/I would wait if I thought I could/But I can't wait another day, 'cause you're better than good. And that's it, isn't? That's not just the appeal of a pop song, but the core quality of what love's unfolding promise can mean to us, how it can motivate us, why we want it, the vital importance of reaching for it in its precise, fleeting moment. We fall. For our own good, or own detriment, we fall because that's the only way to get where we want to be. And that's much better than good.

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