Rock and Reprise.net
My first thought was, hell, with all of the positive critical response in the media, these guys surely don't need my help spreading the word. I figured that once again I was last on the block to find them (I do have a tendency to come late to many dances these days) and would have let it go at that, but a funny thing happened as I turned my back on Victory by Attrition. I started dropping the band's name in conversations with people I knew immersed themselves in the power pop/pop world and drew nothing more than quizzical glances. Of course, quizzical turned curious by utilizing words from their exalted book of magic potions: Power Pop. In a way, I hated to do it, but desperate times call for desperate measures and even though the iOs bring in influences way beyond the scope of the term, it seemed a good way to start.
No better way to start than with a track called S&M Haiku, if you ask me. Melodic verse gives way to chorus worthy of the Brill Building and we're on our way. Hey, it's a great ride. With lines like ?Go to California/She can make you whole again?, you feel like you're practically there. Ah, the memories. The feel.
The iOs bring the late fifties and early sixties to life in Half of Both, the heavily reverbed and tremoloed guitar and simplistic and melodic keyboard perfect bedrock for Proemm's little-girl-innocence voice. Everything says AM radio--- melody, hook, vocals--- especially the rhythm, accented by trademark Brill Building brushed snare drum. It's classic.
The chunky rhythm of Never Wonder Why is closer to the nineties in structure and sound, chorus and verse separate in sound and feel, crunchy power pop rhythm guitar of the latter giving way to the more pop sound at just the right time in just the right way. Punsalan's voice works great with the slightly fuzzed guitar and, what can I say, Proemm has a way with the lighter side.
In the Lighthouse is a builder, starting slowly, rhythm light and building to a crescendoed and layered wall of sound which ends abruptly and starts building again. When they hit the second wall, crank it up because the bass line cranks it up another notch before afterthought, light end. It's a killer.
Seattle had a great and mostly overlooked pop scene in the late eighties and early nineties, bands like the Young Fresh Fellows and Green Pajamas and Radio Van Gogh lighting up the scene with pop of another color. Down With the Day is parallel with the music of that scene, screaming ?Put me on Popllama!? (the label which supported the scene). If they had been there, I'm sure Popllama would have done it.
In ten tracks, the iOs give you an inkling of what music was (and is, judging by this album). They have melded the core of pop with the instruments of the nineties and hit a very impressive compromise. If you don't believe me, . Won't cost you more than a few minutes and the payoff should be worth much more than that.
Frank O. Gutch Jr.