Friday, August 19, 2005

85. The Click Five - Greetings From Imrie House (2005)

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not The Click Five's target market. They are currently touring the mall circuit and have opened for Ashlee Simpson, Aaron Carter, and Backstreet Boys, there are ads for their album on MTV, and the CD comes with a "collectable trading card" (I got the drummer). On the band's website, three of the five members declare "world domination" as one of their musical goals. Yes, The Click Five are unabashedly courting a teen audience. How much do you wanna bet they show up on an O.C. episode this season?

On one hand the Boston band seem to have what it takes. The members are all young, good-looking guys. They dress well and play their own instruments. All but one of the 11 songs on their debut mention the word "you" (some say The Beatles' early success was contingent upon their use of that pronoun, because teens thought they were singing directly to them). They are getting a ton of media attention, and the Best Buy I visited had at least 50 copies of the album the day it came out.

And that's strange, because their music is power pop in its purest form. And let's face it, playing power pop in the '00s is a one way trip to critical praise and commerical obscurity. So you've gotta admire their ambition, but also question it at the same time. Is gambling on building a fickle teen audience really the best career move, especially when you are almost assuredly going to permanantly offend the eternally-sellout-conscious hipster contingent?

Judging from their debut album, Greetings From Imrie House, the band may not have to worry. They're one of those bands that are likely throw reviewers into an orgy of comparisons. I'll get mine out of the way: Fountains Of Wayne, Jellyfish, Rasberries, Queen, Cheap Trick, The Cars, Silver Sun, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles. Even indie kids have to admit those are killer influences. Is it possible that they could be good enough to win everyone over?

Well, they might just earn a little indie cred just by picking good collaborators. The first single, Just The Girl, is a winning composition from Fountains Of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger. Adam also co-wrote another song, I'll Take My Chances, which features guitar work by The Cars' Elliot Easton. Easton also provides a signiture hook on Angel To You (Devil To Me), which was co-written by Paul Stanley from KISS. Impressed yet?

Though I've become wary of albums that you fall in love with instantly, I'm still inclined to say that this album sounds more like a greatest hits compilation than a debut. A couple of listens and the hooks will be battling it out in your head. There's helium singing, five-part harmoines, skipping guitar solos and catchy keyboard flourishes. Not one song is a let-down, and even the two ballads are mid-tempo.

Highlights include the exuberant Catch Your Wave, the lighter-waving Say Goodnight, and a cover of the Thompson Twins' 1983 hit Lies. I'm especially won over by the latter, because it was on the very first tape I ever owned, a K-Tel compilation called Chartaction '83, and is therefore imprinted in my musical DNA. Word has it that the album had originally included a cover of (I Think) We're Alone Now. It was a good choice to replace that, as I don't think the world is ready for a cover of a Tiffany cover.

(Aside...though they cover the Thompson Twins (who actually had three members) the Click Five do indeed have five members. If they start covering Ben Folds Five tunes, things will get confusing.)

Even if their plan to take over the charts and hearts of the world fails, the boys in The Click Five can rest assured that they've made a Herculean effort to bring power pop back out of obscurity. And as one of the power pop fans who constantly thinks, "this belongs on the radio," I know that's a noble mission. Hmm, maybe I am in that target market afterall...

Grade: A
Fave Song: Just The Girl

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sound Bites

Though I've been buying music at an alarming clip this year, lately I just haven't encountered any discs that are screaming for a full length review. BUT, here are some brief thoughts on what's been spinning in my head.

80. Teenage Fanclub - Man-Made
The Scottish rockers' 7th album is not as immediately satisfying as their previous two (1997's Songs From Northern Britain and 2001's Howdy), but give it time and you'll find their gifts for gentle melody and harmony are just as sparkling as ever. This band is a real treasure.

Grade: A
Fave Song: Flowing

81. Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947
Mr.Aimee Mann is not prolific or flashy, but he is a craftsman. His first album since 2000 (only the fifth in his 19 year career) is another solid effort. Unfortunately it's also just as unexciting as the rest of his catalog. This one attempts a theme around events that happened in the title year. I can't really follow it, and I'm puzzled as to why there are two tracks of white noise (The Transistor and 18 September).

Grade: B-
Fave Song: On Automatic

82. Fall Out Boy - From Under The Cork Tree
You can never have enough emo. These guys love a long, funny song title (e.g. A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More "Touch Me"), but thankfully they keep the songs mostly serious. The album bops along singable and irresistible until it loses just a tiny bit of momentum on the thirteenth and final song.

Grade: B+
Fave Song: I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me

83. M.I.A. - Arular
Sometimes I wonder if critics will ever get tired of collectively going completely apeshit over a certain artist. For the music fan, hearing the actual album usually ends up feeling a empty after the avalanche of glowing reviews. But M.I.A. isn't your usual indie collective with oblique songs and an oboe player. Instead she's a British-by-way-of-Sri Lanka kitchen sink mix of dance, international, and hip-hop. It's definitely something new and arresting. U.R.A.Q.T. even appears to sample the Sanford and Son theme!

Grade: B
Fave Song: Bucky Done Gun

84. The Wallflowers - Rebel, Sweetheart
This album solidifies The Wallflowers as a trusty rock 'n' roll unit who can be counted on to produce quality albums. That's a rarity. While nothing is as thrilling as the best songs from Red Letter Days, it's a stronger album as a whole. The melodies are insinuating, and Jakob Dylan consistently shows a gift for clever turns of phrase ("who will ignore me when you're gone?"). Wonder where he got that?

Grade: A-
Fave Song: The Beautiful Side Of Somewhere