Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, January 05, 2006
      ( 1/05/2006 01:48:00 PM ) Bill S.  

"WITH MY LESS-THAN-PERFECT DROP-THE-BALL FACE" – For those hooked on guitar-centric rock, 2005 was a satisfying year, indeed. It was not, at least for this writer, a year that leant itself to satisfying Top Ten Lists, primarily because my first two choices – the already much-discussed Go-Betweens and New Pornographers' releases – were so above anything else I listened to. Depending on the day, I'd probably give you a different answer as to which of these two I favored: Oceans Apart is a crown point in the regrettably limited category of Vibrant Grown-up Rock, while Twin Cinemas is arguably the best art-pop release since the glory days of XTC.

Moving away from my two personal obsessions, though, we find plenty of good-to-great pop-rock. I've already raved about the Pernice Brothers, but another American Band who came up with an exceedingly strong addition to their canon is Dressy Bessy (Electrified). To these ears, Tammy Ealom's rockin' confessionalism was stronger than releases by better known peers Fiona Apple and Liz Phair, though I have to admit that the Jon Brion loyalist in me is still having difficulty hearing the former's Extraordinary Machine in an unbiased light. Perhaps with time, I'll change my tune on this, though.

Among the glossy Brit names, both Coldplay and Doves continued their staunchly melodic ways – I especially like how the latter have roughed things up a bit on "Some Cities." (Still haven't caught up with Franz Ferdinand's 2nd, unfortunately.) But the Britpop band that won my heart this year was the Magic Numbers. Though their debut is only two-thirds an album – by track eight they really start to lose steam – at their best, this boy/girl congregation of hooky proto-hippies come across like some sublime mating of Mungo Jerry and the Mamas & Papas ("Mornings Eleven," "Forever Lost," "Long Legs"). Wish Romeo Stodart had more to say in his lyrics than "love's a game," but, hey, we can't all be Forster/McLennan . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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