Saturday, July 18, 2015

THE BEAT goes on! Spaz reviews Paul Collins' Beat!


Culture Factory reissues two Power Pop 

classics in mini LP sleeves!

Ever since I was a wee lad, nothing in this world raises my spirits like a great song.  It all started for me with The Beatles and The Monkees back in ’66 or so and has continued for 50 years.  One of the most exciting musical eras in my lifetime began in ’77 and continued until ’82.  Music was great before and has been ever since, but those five years were simply magical for this young kid who discovered Punk in ’77 and embraced all the new sounds and genres that came next. From Mod and New Wave to Synthpop, I didn’t just listen to it – I absorbed it! The genre that I felt the most kinship with was Power Pop.  It was reminiscent of the melodic guitar pop of the ‘60s but it was fueled by Punk’s energy.  My love of the melodic side of Punk was strong but when Power Pop walked into my life, everything changed. At that point, I didn’t have to hear a record in order for me to plunk my money down.  I would buy practically anything by a band whose name began with ‘The’ and/or wore a snappy suit.  When I first heard Power Pop,  I don’t think I even knew that it was a genre and that genre had a name – I just knew that I loved the hooks and energy.  So, I was pleased when the popularity of The Knack opened the floodgates and all the labels started snapping up guitar-fueled Pop bands. One record that I was immediately drawn to was the self-titled 1979 debut album by The Beat.  I’m not even sure I knew that leader Paul Collins had been in The Nerves before then, but I knew that the album just looked like I should own it.  When I got my allowance, I rushed to Licorice Pizza (where I purchased a lot of albums that would enrich my life) and bought it. 

     To this day, The Beat remains one of the most amazingly perfect albums I’ve ever heard. From start to finish, The Beat delivers hook after hook with enough energy to power a small Indonesian village for 2000 years. The combination of Collins’ skill as a songwriter and Bruce Botnick’s crystal clear production, The Beat is an album that thrills with every listen (and I’ve listened to it a lot over the last 36 years). “Rock ‘n’ Roll Girl” starts things off with a punch and the album just keeps going from there. “Let Me Into Your Life,” “Don’t Wait Up For Me,” “U.S.A.,” “Walking Out On Love,” “Different Kind Of Girl,” and ‘Work-A-Day World” are absolute Power Pop classics – they are bursting with energy and stick in your head the moment you hear them.  Even the one ballad, “You And I,” strikes the right chord without sounding maudlin or forced – Collins’ voice contains just enough angst to convince you that he’s feeling the song and not just walking through the token ‘ballad’ on the album.  The Beat is so perfect that if someone were to ask me, ‘what is Power Pop?”, I would just play them this album and all their questions would be answered.

     Due to a UK based outfit of the same name, both parties had to alter their band names: the Brits became The English Beat and this quartet became Paul Collins Beat.  In 1981, Paul and his mates released their second album, The Kids Are The Same.  The Power Pop craze had died down by then and the music industry was moving on and embracing Synthpop and more commercially-viable forms of New Wave. Where did this leave our heroes? As this sophomore album shows, they were pretty much sticking to their guns, albeit it with a slightly harder edge. As hook filled as the album is, Larry Whitman’s guitar work was more rock-oriented than their debut. Album opener “That’s What Life Is All About” is as perfect as anything on the debut but then things get a little heavier moving forward. “Dreaming” is classic Pop glory with a few delectable hooks that will woo the heart. But then…. Next up is “On The Highway,” a track that reminds this writer of cock rock geared for FM radio stations.  Was this at the urging of their label or a natural progression? I know that a lot of fans like this track, but as the third cut in, it almost derails the album for me.  Thankfully, the hooks come back hard and fast with ‘Will You Listen,” “Crying Won’t Help” and the rest of the album.  Well, “Trapped” isn’t quite up there, but it’s no mood-killer like “On The Highway” either. While not as perfect as the debut, The Kids Are The Same doesn’t suffer from the curse of the sophomore slump and most of the songs are slices of Power Pop yumminess.  The Kids Are The Same is a solid effort that you can cuddle with at night and not feel ashamed in the morning.  

     There’s a reason why Paul Collins is considered a Power Pop superhero.  Give this man a cape!

  The excellent Culture Factory label has been on a crusade to bring the vinyl experience back to those who still prefer their music on CD. All of their releases are mini replicas of the original vinyl release. The CDs have the original vinyl label  printed on the disc, they have printed inner sleeves if the original LP came with one and they have remastered sound, which sounds crisp and punchy. If you don't own either of these albums, then these are the versions to get!

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