Monday, June 15, 2009

My Favorite Waste of Time

I don't care what anyone says, pop isn't short for popular. Exhibit A: Marshall Crenshaw. Sure he dented the Top 40 in 1982 with "Someday, Someway" but that's so long ago I got to interview him while still a college radio DJ in the depressingly decrepit dressing room of the old 930 Club. He never took off his dark glasses as he probably didn't want to give away his impatience with a dopey 19-year-old.

But now a dopey, older man, that his debut album wasn't what oh, say, Thriller was, still makes absolutely no sense to my ears. Marshall Crenshaw is 12 perfect cuts of straight-ahead rock and roll, perhaps a bit too roll-y for some, too straight-ahead for others. No cut is longer than 3:10, and not surprisingly, it's always third verse same as the first--it's practically neo-classical, in spots. Its obsession, as well as the title of its third song, is girls, but the one he most longs for is cynical (never mind they'll be lost in love, sung to notes that begs you to wag your head from side-to-side). He even covers a Beatles song know one has ever heard and it fits right in. We're talking Beatles 1963.

For there's that line Robert Christgau used to delineate similarly archival sorts Rockpile: "Nick Lowe loves rock and roll for everything it implies as culture while Dave Edmunds loves it for everything it is as music." Marshall Crenshaw loves it for everything, period. He's penned a book on rock and roll in the movies, penned a tune for the movies (the title song from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), and he's written more memorable melodies, more hummable hooks, more heavenly harmonies, more rapturous riffs than most. And has bupkus to show for it beyond the admiration of old farts like me who got moved by Marshall Crenshaw and Field Day back in the day to the point where his just released album is called Jaggedland.

Crenshaw is going to play SOhO tomorrow/Tuesday night, and I'll be there. Hoping he's with a band, remembering all those shows with his initial power pop (sorry, he hates that phrase but I mean it in the great lineage of folks like Alex Chilton, Tommy Keene, Matthew Sweet) trio of his brother, a true excitable boy, on drums and Chris Donato on bass. Hoping to hear, once again, ear worms I don't mind burrowing into my brain.

In the meantime, someone on YouTube recently posted some vintage Crenshaw (with a band of 5!) that's too good not to include:

Notice here the cliched lines "As life goes on, as time goes by," are meant to be cliches--you can sense the persona singing them hoping to convince himself. That's why we listen to pop songs in the first place, no? Tell us what we want to hear and make it sound simple, sound purty.

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Blogger Mike said...

Nice post, George. I really don't know much about MC except that he played Buddy Holly in La Bamba. And that "Someday, Someway" is a super-sweet pop song (and I mean that in the good way).

(By the way, I know you'll like this: I'm listening to Fox Confessor Brings The Flood right now. And enjoying it muchly.)

4:37 PM  
Blogger E-6 said...

Good stuff, sir. Count me among the power-pop fans--to Chilton, Crenshaw, Keene, & Sweet, I'll add Badfinger, the Raspberries and the wonderful Teenage Fanclub. Hope you have have a swell time at the gig.

Incidentally, as you'd mentioned Freedy Johnston's swell Can You Fly elsewhere today, you no doubt knew that in addition to Dave Schramm and Kevin Salem, a certain Marshall Crenshaw lends his fretboard skills to that record.

8:18 PM  
Blogger steves said...

Marshall Crenshaw is great. I love his stuff. For some newer pop, you can't go wrong with The Academy is... "Fast Times at Barrington High".

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

"Just Passing Through," from the new cd, hits the Brian Wilson sweet spot --

2:07 PM  

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