Sunday, June 19, 2011

my power pop addiction, no. 60 (132)

All this thinking I've done over the last week or so about the Memphis scene of the 70s has reminded me of how much good guitar pop has come out of the South more generally. For all the reservations I have about Big Star, I appreciate the way they spawned a subsequent generation of southern power pop, culminating with REM's rise as one of the biggest American bands of the 80s and 90s. But other than REM during the first five years or so of their existence, Mississipi's Windbreakers are, for my money anyway, the best band of this second southern generation. It's hard to tell whether they were being cheeky, a la Spinal Tap, when they named themselves the way they did, or if this just occurred to me because I have the mentality of a five year old. Either way, the Windbreakers made ethereal pop music that sounds like something out of the Lonely One's most vivid wet dreams. ...A lot of 80s southern pop has a kind of angular, slightly dissonant, slightly arty feel to it that doesn't always agree with me. I want to like bands like the dB's, Let's Active and Sex Clark Five more than I do because I can tell that they like a lot of the same things I like. But I often find myself struggling to find the hooks and thinking that the music just isn't poppy enough for me. Not so with the Windbreakers, led by Tim Lee and Bobby Sutliff, two guitar fetishists that seem to have an intuitive grasp of what guys like me want and need in our music. I'm sometimes given to hyperbole when my enthusiasm gets the better of me, but I can say without reservation that Ghost Town is one of the finest pop songs I've ever heard. Everything about it speaks to me in the way I want to be spoken to. I dig the phrasing of the song's opening line - gin and tonic with a twist of lime - along with the sad, fragmented impressions that follow. I also love the intricate, arpeggiated rhythm guitar playing that glides along underneath the keyboard solo. And all the while, the song's tuneful hookiness creates a tingling warmth at the center of my soul. What's really amazing is that, while Ghost Town is their best song, imho, the band recorded about a dozen others that are almost as good. It's a real shame they remained so obscure and unknown. I think I should make it one of my missions in life to turn as many friends on to the Windbreakers as I can. It starts with you, dear reader...

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