Ah, summer - the perfect time for pristine power pop. I drag
myself away from my current twin obsessions - a major Who
kick from getting the ace live collection View From A Backstage
Pass, and the fantastic new Hold Steady album (reviews
of these to come shortly) - to pop this one into the car CD player
and blast down the highway with my thinning hair streaming in
the wind (oops, there goes the toupee ...)
Julie Ocean is a pretty new DC outfit. Singer / guitarist
Terry Banks was in a string of cult jangle-pop acts such
as the Saturday People and Glo-Worm, while his counterpart
Jim Spellman was previously in Velocity Girl, who lots
of you will probably remember fondly for their three mid-90s "bubblegrunge"
albums (including the great Copacetic). Following on from
the good-taste decision to name that group after an early Primal
Scream tune, Julie Ocean's namesake is a song from even further
back, on the Undertones' third album Positive Touch.
Despite what you might think from that, Long Gone... doesn't
sound particularly like Julie Ocean's ancestors, or the Undertones
for that matter; this band takes a more timeless approach that
sometimes leaves you wondering - in a very good way - what decade
you're in. The record boasts 10 songs in not a lot more than 25
minutes, and what charmers they all are. Using the classic two
guitars/bass/drums lineup, every song abounds with chiming guitars,
bright melodies and exhilarating "woo woo" backing vocals.
You can tell that these guys have been around for a while and
truly understand that although a great pop song should be short
enough to leave you wanting more, there's no harm in stuffing
in as many toothsome hooks, clever production tricks and neat
lyrical twists as you can.
Special credit goes to the perfect production by ex-Edsel
member Geoff Sanoff - he has a pretty amazing production/engineering
pedigree by now, including such alterna-pop gods as Luna
and Nada Surf (and, um, Triumph The Comic Dog),
and he really brings out the best in the songs here without burying
them in a lot of pointless producer stunts.
If you like Grand Prix-era Teenage Fanclub, Posies,
Matthew Sweet, or pretty much any of the bands on the great
Poptopia! collections from Rhino Records, Julie Ocean will
be right up your street. Like the record label's website says,
just because a CD can hold 80 minutes of music doesn't mean that
it should - I challenge you not to flip this one right back to
the beginning as soon as you've played it once.
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