Six Years of Musoscribe: Power Pop

One of my abiding musical loves – and not a guilty pleasure, not at all – is the style known as power pop. At present I even play in a band that covers the classics of the genre. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a number of artists associated with the genre (though some would prefer not to be tagged as power pop artists. Here are just a few.

The Smithereens
With a perfect balance of punch and melodicism, New Jersey’s Smithereens scored on the charts in the 80s and beyond. Their more recent work is every bit as good. Their drummer Dennis Diken made an excellent solo album, and over the course of an evening that included lots of Indian food, beer, and backstage chats with other acts at the Charlotte Pop Festival, I had a long and fascinating conversation with Dennis Diken about his work.

The Posies
I discovered The Posies around the time they released Frosting on the Beater (1993); from there I worked my way forward and backward through their catalog. In 2014, Omnivore Records began a reissue campaign of Posies albums, beginning with their debut, Failure. I interviewed both Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer and put together this expansive Posies feature.

Blue Ash
Now remembered as one of the early progenitors of the powerpop genre, Ohio-based Blue Ash released only two albums (one great, one not-so-great). Way back in the 1990s, I was in regular contact with the band’s guitarist Bill Bartolin. This was long before their debut was reissued on CD. This feature recalls our correspondence and its back story.

Big Star
Now rightly revered, Big Star were ignored when they were together. In the 90s, Alex Chilton revived the band with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow plus original drummer Jody Stephens. Release of a live concert CD of the group (Live in Memphis) was the perfect occasion for a Big Star chat.

Marshall Crenshaw
When I say that I’m a longtime fan of the singer/songwriter/guitarist, I’m not exaggerating. I first saw Crenshaw live onstage in the 70s, when he was playing John Lennon in the traveling cast of Beatlemania. I saw him again a few years later, opening for Hall and Oates. Decades later, I interviewed him for the first of three times (so far): 2007, 2009 and 2012.

Jason Falkner
Power pop enjoyed a renaissance in the 1990s, and nobody did it better than Falkner. My three-part interview with Jason Falkner covers his solo work, his session work, and his time in The Grays and Jellyfish.

Speaking of Jellyfish…the group only lasted for two records – both classics – but their mix of 70s bomnbast and studio finesses with 90s power and crunch made them an enduring presence. My interview with Jellyfish’s Roger Manning discusses the group’s work.

The dB’s
The dB’s are another of those groups who never quite made the really-big time, but whose influence is felt in the work of many bands that followed in their wake. When they got back together for the superb Falling Off the Sky, I interviewed the group’s co-guitarist/co-songwriter Peter Holsapple.

Tommy Keene
I can still remember it like it was yesterday: the first time I heard Keene’s “Places That are Gone.” That 1986 single got me hooked on the man’s work. I’ve interviewed him twice (so far): way back in 2006 and then again in 2011.

Trip Shakespeare
Another band that I discovered in my college years, Trip Shakespeare stood apart form the other bands associated with their hometown of Minneapolis. My conversation with bassist John Munson delves into the band’s early years (those albums have been reissued by Omnivore; hopefully more are on the way).

The Paul & John
Paul Myers is well-known for at least three things: his excellent work as an author, the music he makes with John Moremen, and one other thing I won’t mention. The Paul & John’s debut album Inner Sunset was one of 2014’s best releases. Here’s my conversation with The Paul & John.

The Irish group has struggled for years to gain a commercial foothold in the US market, but it looks like they’re finally succeeding. With a sound reminiscent of XTC-meets-Electric Light Orchestra, the group makes timeless, melodic pop. Here’s my conversation with Pugwash’s Thomas Walsh.

Richard X Heyman
I somehow missed the work of NYC-based indie-powerpop artist Richard X Heyman for many years; once I discovered his music, it was time to play catch-up. Part of that effort has included interviewing him no less than three times (so far): 2007, 2011, and most recently in 2013.

Next week I’ll take a look at more of my favorite interviews and features from the last six years of Musoscribe (and beyond). Thanks – as always – for reading.

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