Album Review: Two Pound Planet — Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox … and More

The story of Two Pound Planet is the story of countless bands: they write and played some great music, got the chance to work with a great producer who understood them, made a great record, and … disappeared pretty much with out a trace.

The 1990s were was something of a strange time for the kind of music this band was making. Nirvana’s Nevermind came out in September 1991, and with it the rock music landscape was altered. Suddenly it was all about Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, shaggy grunge acts and the like. And while that was all well and good, there was something else happening. Ben Folds Five, Jellyfish, Michael Penn, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet and others were making music of a decidedly more melodic sort, with all the energy of grunge but a greater emphasis on hooks.

And against that backdrop, Winston Salem, N.C. band Two Pound Planet really should have flourished. Produced by no less a figure than Mitch Easter, songs like “One Time/Bop Apocalypse” sported familiar chord progressions, but they felt fresh and new. Upbeat tunes with just enough angst to steer clear of the commercial third-rail epithet “powerpop.” Though to be fair, that oft-abused label does fit here, inasmuch as it conveys as sense of unbridled enthusiasm and a high premium on catchiness.

The band actually got its start in the ‘80s as Urban Edge, releasing an album in 1986. They toured in support of some of the best groups of the era, including Guadalcanal Diary and the Romantics. And their orignal music fit in well with that kind of melodic “college rock” aesthetic.

Two Pound Planet doesn’t sound exactly like any other act, though if you dig Greenberry Woods or Sloan, you’d be doing yourself a disservice in letting Two Pound Planet’s music escape your notice. And happily, you don’t have to let that happen. Though the original self-released album Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox isn’t the easiest thing to find, a new officially-sanctioned expanded reissue adds a “slightly grungier” EP of material cut shortly after the Mitch Easter sessions.

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $20,000 — more than its goal — and no small feat in the middle of a global pandemic. The complete package includes more than 40 songs, and there’s a scaled-down vinyl version as well. The band’s history actually encompassed a good bit of material – very little of which you’ll be likely to have heard – and it’s of a commendably high quality overall.