Pure Pop For Now People. [Music geeking]

Too. Much. Brilliant. Music.

Holy Christmas dammit!

Three new records have me in their clutches right now, and might be the three best discs I’ve heard this year. Maybe not. Maybe though. Pop geek overload.

First up is a band of blokes from Australia called Grand Atlantic. I know jacksquat about them. Scratch that. I know they’re from Brisbane. I also know they’ve just put out an amazingly catchy record of well-crafted songs called “This Is”. I bought it because I liked the album cover, and for no other reason whatsoever.

Imagine my happiness on the first spin when the first song, “Coolite” opens with a Ringo Starr drum stutter before kicking in with the line “You, you’re my Penny Lane”. What’s really cool about Grand Atlantic is that they don’t stick to one thing. “Coolite” has a jangly thing going on, “Smoke And Mirrors” is all direct and loud, “Chaos Theory” is pure psychedelic swirl, and then there’s “Wonderful Tragedy”–where they dispense with the guitars and get all orchestral and make a song that sounds like it was lifted straight from the music notes of Emmitt Rhodes and the Left Banke, and is just a straight-up stunner.

No direct clips here, but the band’s myspace site is right here:
http://www.myspace.com/grandatlantic Enjoy!

Next up is another “Grand” band. A few years ago at the Derby, my buddy JT played me a CD by an Austin, TX band called Grand Champeen and proclaimed it his favorite disc of 2003. The band sounded like they’d listened to a TON of old Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Husker Du records in their formative years…and then there was an unmistakeable Superchunk/Archers of Loaf thing happening there as well. I picked that disc up and really dug it, but then a bunch of years went by without hearing anything else from Grand Champeen, so I figured they’d disbanded.

Nope! They’re sort of self-releasing a new disc they spent a looooong time making, called “Dial T For This”. First thing I noticed is that they sort of “cleaned” up their sort of cluttered early sound (in one interview the band mentioned that there were 6 guitar tracks on every song on their second album “to cover up all our mistakes”). Sort of a sad state when they also feel the need to mention in the liner notes of “Dial” that the whole album was recorded to tape without using the ubiquitous ProTools; that fierce independence isn’t just a gimmick–it allowed the group to “clean up” and open up their sound (piano? horns?? strings??? Grand Champeen!!!) without losing any of their immediacy. Grand Champeen also are rumored to be one of the best 5 or 6 live bands in the country, so there’s also that. For me, I’ve just always been a fan of sort of sloppy, ugly mutt bands, and Grand Champeen is the rock equivalent of a beat-up pair of Chuck Taylors and a pair of old jeans.

Music? Have some!

“Wounded Eye”
“Cities On The Plain”
“Different Sort Of Story”
“Raul Vela”

Last, and most certainly not least is another Austin band (like the segue thing I got goin’ on in this post?) called Future Clouds And Radar. They have a self-titled debut CD. Well, actually not quite true: they have the audacity to have a self-titled debut DOUBLE CD. There’s a story behind all this, though, and it’s a good 'un.

If you’re an indie pop geek from way back, perhaps you remember the huge buzz surrounding a band called Cotton Mather. Their 1997 CD, “Kontiki”, is still the stuff of legends, a perfect-in-every-way rock and pop album fueled by the brilliant songwriting of a fellow named Robert Harrison, who possesses an almost eerie ability to sing exactly like John Lennon, which for us pop knobs is/was the icing on the cake. Cotton Mather disbanded in 2003, and shortly thereafter Harrison suffered a nasty spinal injury, resulting in him spending the next two years on his back in a bed. His young daughter wanted to give her daddy something musical he could play with, but a standard guitar–even a lightweight acoustic–was too heavy, so she gave him a ukelele instead.

So, Harrison laid in bed with his uke, writing song after song after song, in a variety of styles, for his own amusement. Last year, having recovered from his injury, he put together a new band and that’s where we stand now. Oh, except that on the first 10 spins, I’m maybe finding this new CD to be every bit as brilliant as his work fronting Cotton Mather was. With Harrison singing and writing, there are obviously similarities with his new band and old. Think of it this way: Cotton Mather was Guided By Voices meets “Revolver” era Beatles, while Future Clouds is White Album era Beatles channeled through the same artful sense of experimentation.

This is an incredible CD–27 songs that wander all over the ranch without quite ever leaving, but almost. It also is one of the most aurally-interesting records I’ve heard in a long time. Horns and strings come and go, along with electronic squiggles, masked vocals, uekele (yay!), and odd percussion. My ears might be deceiving me, but without necessarily sounding exactly like the Flaming Lips, this is the same sort of bold, interesting, and exciting artistic statement those fellers make.

Music? Of course!

“Hurricane Judy”
“Drugstore Bust”
“You Will Be Loved”
“Back Seat Silver Jet Sighter” (sorta lo-fi)

Yeah, but what does this have to do with Nick Lowe?

Well, actually I meant to post this in the new music '07 thread but started a new thread on accident, and had to come up with a snappy title on the fly.

Grand Atlantic are wunnderful. They sorta remind of The Candyskins, if you remember them. Also, they’re on the same label as Tamas Wells, who I lerv.