Welcome to Day 3 of a topic that is close to my heart, power pop music. After today, I will have presented three-quarters of my Top 100 Power Pop Albums of All-Time. As I do with all of my blog entries, I had a blast researching and preparing the list that compromises my topic for most of this week.
While power pop has generally been an American phenomenon, great power pop bands have come from all over. During the initial rise of power pop in the early-Seventies, many of the artists were from the States, such as Big Star, the Raspberries and the Flamin’ Groovies. But, the UK was represented by Emmit Rhodes and Badfinger, and Australia gave us Rick Springfield, who released albums way back then but did not strike gold (and platinum) until the second wave of power pop hit in the late-Seventies/early-Eighties. By the time of the second wave, power pop was coming in from all over the world, though the commercially successful bands tended to be from the big three countries: the USA, the UK and down-under with Australia and New Zealand.
Surprisingly, I initially noticed that two cities could stake claim as being the power pop capital of the world, and, surprisingly, the cities are NOT New York City nor Los Angeles. The city with the second richest power pop scene over the past 50 years has been Cleveland, Ohio. No, your eyes are NOT playing tricks on you. The city that hosts the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has had several power pop bands that have had some success: the Raspberries, Blue Ash, Rachel Sweet, The Dead Boys and The Waitresses all hail from the northeastern corner of Ohio.
The city with the strongest power pop scene over the years has been Chicago. Chicago’s status as “Second City” is probably the most appropriate city for power pop, since much like Chicago’s status as a second-rate city, power pop enjoys a similar status in the pantheons of rock history. Bands such as Shoes, Pezband, Off Broadway, Material Issue, Veruca Salt, Green, OK Go, Urge Overkill, Fall Out Boy, The Nines, The Tweeds, The Academy Is…, Rise Against and The Names. And, you can throw in the premier power pop band, Cheap Trick, who hails from near-by Rockford, Illinois, and you have a powerful lineup of power pop artists from all phases of the genre. To me, Chicago is the Power Pop Capital of the World.
Of course, Los Angeles and New York have tons of artists who could help these cities stake claim the city with the most fertile power pop scene, but, to me, it simply seems natural that Chicago gets the “honor”. Now, to prove Chicago’s worthiness as the Power Pop Capital of the World, let’s take a look at numbers 26 through 50 of My 100 Favorite Power Pop Albums of All-Time.
50. The Dream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and Roses (1982)
49. Crowded House – Crowded House (1986)
48. The Dukes of Stratosphear (aka XTC) – Psonic Psunspot (1986). XTC recorded the Sgt. Pepper homage Skylarking, then went into a telephone booth and switched into their alter-egos The Dukes of Stratosphear, who paid homage to the great Sixties English psychedelic pop bands like the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd and The Move. I believe that The Flaming Lips based their latter-day career on this album.s
47. Myracle Brah – Life on Planet Eartsnop (1998)
46. Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog (1981)
45. Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American (2001)
44. Dwight Twilley Band – Sincerely (1976)
43. Candy – Whatever Happened to Fun (1985). Band is famous for having a future member of Guns N’ Roses (guitarist Gilby Clarke), but this album proves the band was one of the most overlooked bands of the Eighties.
42. XTC – Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 (1996). This is the best greatest hits collection by one of power pop’s finest bands.
41. Supergrass – I Should Coco (1995)
40. Squeeze – East Side Story (1981)
39. Foxboro Hot Tubs (aka Green Day) – Stop Drop and Roll!!! (2008). Green Day was on such a roll at the time, that when this album was released, no one seemed to notice. But Green Day fans and Power Pop fans both agree that this album stands up nicely next to Dookie, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown.
38. Bangles – All Over the Place (1984)
37. The Go-Go’s – Beauty and the Beat (1981). Bangles or The Go-Go’s? For me, The Go-Go’s debut album was the best, but the Bangles had the better career and greatest hits album.
36. Shoes – Present Tense (1981)
35. Badfinger – No Dice (1970)
34. Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Manager (2003). You CANNOT deny the greatness of “Stacy’s Mom”!
33. (Paul Collins’) The Beat – The Beat (1979)
32. Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action (1975)
31. Artful Dodger – Honor Among Thieves (1976)
30. Pezband – Pezband (1977)
29. Off Broadway – On (1979). In the late Seventies, many critics felt Off Broadway and Pezband would be battling Cheap Trick for power pop supremacy. Unfortunately, both bands collapsed under the pressure. Still, these Chicago-based bands left power pop fans these two albums for posterity.
28. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend (1991)
27. Sugar – Copper Blue (1992). After the scorched-Earth career of Hüsker Dü and two widely acclaimed solo albums, Bob Mould put together this genius power pop/pop punk band that left behind two albums and an EP’s worth of music in just two years. But, that music continues to resonate today.
26. The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (1992). Evan Dando was a pin-up for teen girls everywhere. Unfortunately, he and his band never again reached the heights of this power pop delight. Highlights include “My Buddy” and their rip-roaring cover of the Simon & Garfunkel standard “Mrs. Robinson”.
So many great power pop albums and so little space. Just in the past couple of weeks, I have heard a couple new ones that might one day break into this list. But once again, time will time. 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty stellar year for great power pop music. No, it’s not as strong as those magical years of 1977 through 1982, but it is still pretty good.
Tomorrow, we will find out which album is my favorite, though those of you who know me will probably get the artist correct. And, a couple may even know the album title. But, let’s wait about 24 hours for the answer. So, keep on rockin’ in the free world!