Power Pop as a Genre of Music - Not all that popular

Just considering the irony here. “Power Pop” is typically used to describe music that is kind of Beatles circa Rubber Soul - melodic and, well, poppy - meant to be accessible and hummable. Typically guitar-based (hence the “Power” part) but with layered production, often with synths and full arrangements. Think everything from Cheap Trick in the '70’s to Fountains of Wayne today.

The thing is, Power Pop really isn’t that popular. Sure Fountains of Wayne hit with Stacy’s Mom, but there are a ton of bands out there doing a great job, writing fresh accessible Power Pop and going more or less nowhere. I am thinking of the New Pornographers, the Shins, even Fountains of Wayne really. They are critical darlings and make it on the Best of Lists, but don’t breakout. And there have been a ton of really great bands over the years that never made it, even though they made some great, accessible music - Jellyfish comes to mind along with the Big Kahuna of unpopular yet brilliant power pop bands, Big Star from the early '70’s.

I wonder why? Maybe its because hip hop is so popular right now, and the other popular music is Corporate-ified punk, like Good Charlotte, A Simple Plan, New Found Glory, etc…

WordMan, once again you call me out! I love the hell out of the New Pornographers, and I think their “Electric Version” was the best album of 2003. Yet, even with a gorgeous girl singer (alternative-country goddess Neko Case), they still aren’t getting any mainstream radio airplay or attention, and that’s a damn shame. I can deal with hip hop and cute-girl pop just fine, but I hate seeing talented rock bands like the New Pornographers buried underneath the morass of mall-punk and nu-metal.

Hell, you could name about a dozen more monumentally talented power-pop acts–Sloan, The Super Friendz, Thrush Hermit, Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet, the Posies, just to name a few–who never hit it big in the US. It’s almost like the record companies don’t want power-pop to succeed–when Sloan released Twice Removed, thought by a lot of folks to be one of the best power-pop albums of the 90’s, the response of their record company was to cancel their contract and sue them because the album didn’t sound like they thought it should. You could even lump bands like Oasis and Supergrass, who did big business in the UK, into that category. I’ve never been able to figure out why power-pop isn’t more popular here myself…every time I lend a friend of mine one of my albums, they always seem to like them, but you never hear them on the radio.

Jellyfish is an interesting case. Two albums, then they split up. I hear they remain popular in the San Francisco area where they were from, and have even released two “greatest hits” albums. That almost happened to Fountains of Wayne too–a lot of us never thought they were going to get to release their third album after they were dropped by Atlantic.

I don’t know what it is. The only thing I can figure is that the record companies don’t think the demographic for power-pop is right. A lot of the concerts I’ve seen have seemed to draw a slightly older crowd.

Apart from its mid-1960s heyday and the occasional Cheap Trick or Crowded House, Power Pop has never been that overwhelmingly popular–except with critics and music geeks. I remember Back in the Day reading articles in Rolling Stone complaining that the Flaming Groovies or the Rubinoos were tragically ignored by the record industry and the public. The more things change…

On the other hand, it’s a genre that’s nearly forty years old and still hasn’t disappeared. Its following may be small, but it’s extremely dedicated.

I want to second Electric Version as the best album I bought last year. Apart from one or two tracks, (‘Testament To Youth In Verse’) it’s some of the best pop I’ve heard since, well, the last New Pornographers album. ‘All For Swinging You Around’ is one of the best feel-good songs ever.

I’d love to see their singles in the Top 40!

Hang on doesn’t all US power pop (the real thing) trace to The Raspberries and Big Star.

Wow, this is crazy. I also want to recommend Electric Version as an incredible ablum (I can’t say its the best, cuz its the only album I’ve bothered to buy :smiley: ).

The New Pornographers are an absolutely fantastic band. It really is too bad power pop isn’t more mainstream. IMO, its where the best music is coming from right now.

Cool posts.

BBVLou - no surprises about our overlap - should’ve anticipated it, eh? If you don’t have Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers, I think it is better than the NP’s simple because the lyrics are so great. Also, if you don’t have Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City two-albums-on-one-CD, buy it immedicately, if only because the electric guitar work is a lovesong to Fender guitars, especially Tele’s (although a little overdriven, not clean like you seem to prefer).

Duke - you’re right and all of those bands are logical additions to the list I started to prove the point. Heck, tho - I’ve never even heard of Sloan - who are they?

Another band came to mind last night - Rooney, who was featured on “The O.C.” last night (guilty pleasure TV if there ever was). Getting some push from their label, got on the TV show, but not selling a ton, yet their song “Blueside” is excellent power pop and a couple of others on the CD are good, too.

don’t ask - I guess so, but I am not sure of your point - is it that I mentioned power pop starting with the Beatles? 'Cos Big Star were big British Invasion fans and wanted to capture that type of sound…

As for the other mentioned of the NP’s, very cool - what about FoW? I thought their album was amazing.

I wish the style was as POPular as its name - good Power Pop songs are so accessibly, cool and often have great lyrics - just really well crafted, yet with an edge, too. Argh.

Would early Smashing Pumpkins be “power pop”? They certainly were influenced by Cheap Trick. I think part of it is once a power pop type group hit it big, they tend to veer over to either mainstream rock if they are ‘heavy’ or straight pop if they are “lighter”.

The Pumpkins happened to break out when ‘grunge’ and ‘alternative’ were the buzzwords. The same thing was true for the Presidents of the United States of America or Everclear. The “power pop” label seems reserved for the groups that choose to defy mainstream success.

One band that was supposed to hit it big but really missed out was Enuff Z’Nuff. They came out when hair metal was still big and people took them for another Warrant or Winger (their image didn’t help, they had very big hair). I think they were marketed that way. But their music was more Cheap Trick and Beatles than imitation Bon Jovi. However hard rock audiences rejected them, and the alternative revolution pretty much wiped them away with all the pop metal crud. They just couldn’t fit into any music scene, but for a very brief time they were supposed to relaunch “power pop”.

And wasn’t this also true of the Knack (which I didn’t like).

Maybe my definition of power pop is a little broad (to me its rock that has melodic or harmonized vocals and poppy choruses - but still packs a guitar punch without indulging in Heavy Metal excesses or imagery). To me that applies to bands in several categories. In my mind, I think of XTC as the best in this category.

I’d like to hear this now, and I’ll certainly take your word for it. “Stacy’s Mom” was the first song I ever heard from them, and I loved it immediately (in large part because I’m a big fan of sexy moms and MILFs). :slight_smile:

Now I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard Big Star. I know they wouldn’t have gotten much radio airplay, but would I know any of their songs from anywhere? What were their most popular ones, if any? You mentioned the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul,” which is far and away my favorite Beatles album. If Big Star is anything like that, I’ll definitely try them out too.

Also, before this thread, I had never thought of “power pop” as a genre of its own. I always thought of the New Pornographers as a well-produced “indie rock” band, whatever that means. But I guess I like power pop!

Dwight Twilley, the Raspberries and Pilot all had big hits in the mid-'70s. I don’t think power pop does too poorly–how many punk bands had Top 20 hits in the US? A lot of commercially viable subgenres never make it to the top of the charts.

Sometimes, if you just listen to the music and don’t look at the images, it’s hard to tell power pop from glam from hair metal. So, if you take a more catholic view, power pop has done quite well.

Well, at this point their most popular, or at least best known, song would probably “In the Street”, which is used (covered by Cheap Trick, I think, and with the lyrics slightly altered to eliminate a drug reference) as the theme for Fox’s “That '70s Show”. I think the consensus among fans would be that their best song would be “September Gurls” (gets my vote anyway, since it’s my all-time fave song by anyone). The Bangles did a cover of it on their second album, Different Light, as did the Searchers on one of their late 70s LPs for Sire Records.

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest CD emporium and pick up #1 Record/Radio City, the re-release of both of the first two Big Star albums on CD. You’ll thank us all for the rest of your life.

What rackensack said - seriously BBVLou - buy it immediately. Have I steered you wrong yet. And get FoW, too.

What about Weezer? I’d say they were power pop, and they did reasonably well.

Uh, like, only the best band evar? Hello? :stuck_out_tongue:

They rock. Check out their site here: http://www.sloanmusic.com

Audio samples here: http://www.sloanmusic.com/a/audiovideo

Be sure you listen to “Gimme That”, “Rest of My Life” and “Fade Away”. Check out some from their last album on there too.

Sadly, they don’t have any of their best songs available on the site. “I Can Feel It” is one of my favorites, and was my wife and I’s first dance song at our wedding. :wink:

Other must-listens:

  • Suppose They Close the Door
  • Bells On
  • The Lines You Amend
  • Penpals
  • Everything else they’ve ever recorded. :smiley:

It sucks that they’re really not online anywhere (one song on Rhapsody, one of their lesser albums on iTunes and BuyMusic, etc) because they’re a tough band to find in the used stores. First since no one in the states has heard of them, and second because who would trade in a Sloan CD? :smiley:

Anyway - check 'em out if you get a chance. They’re worth the trouble.

Do they sound like any band I might have heard of :D?

I’d arguably throw biggies like Presidents of the USA, No Doubt, and Green Day into the Power Pop genre. Semantically, I’d really consider them as grunge-lite, ska-lite, and punk-lite respectively.

Sloan, best band ever? Well, maybe not as good as The Beatles, but well worth checking out. I started listening to them in '94 when I lived in Toronto. They started up in '91 in Halifax, but have since migrated over to Toronto. They’ve released seven albums ranging from Bandwagonesque-type grungey pop (Smeared) to Beatles-esque straightahead power-pop (Twice Removed and One Chord to Another) to 70’s-style rock (Navy Blues, Between the Bridges) to late-80’s/early 90’s-type hook-laden records (Pretty Together, Action Pact).

Their music has been released intermittently in the US, partly because of their fallout with Geffen (that was the company that dropped and sued them over Twice Removed), and partly because they’ve since released all their own albums on their own Canadian label, Murderecords. (Aside: for a while they were releasing some other great stuff on Murder, like the first two Super Friendz albums, You Can’t Touch This by The Local Rabbits, and the “Peter ep” by Eric’s Trip…all highly recommended. Now it’s all their own material.) One Chord to Another, probably their second-best album, was released on a US label called The Enclave, which promptly went bankrupt. Most of their records are probably only available in Canada, where I get them, or online at the site linked to by Slacker.

While I’m here, I should mention the Pernice Brothers. If The Smiths had played power pop, they’d sound a bit like them. And Joe Pernice has the greatest voice this side of the Atlantic.

No, what early Pumpkins stuff sounds power poppy to you? Gish? Siamese Dream? They were certainly influenced by Cheap Trick and other power pop bands, but their sound owed far more to Sabbath, IMO. It’s too dark and doesn’t share the same musical language as power pop. Half the stuff on Zwan’s record I’d consider power pop. The Pumpkins stuff, though, no.

Let me ask one more thing about Big Star without sounding like a young indie music snob, or a jerk. I have kind of a problem with '70s “classic rock” bands these days, the kind of bands you think of with long dirty hair and handlebar mustaches and bell bottoms. I like the pre-punk music from that era, like the Velvet Underground and Iggy and the Stooges, but not the more mainstream rock or Southern rock… no Credence for me, no AC/DC, no Skynyrd, certainly no Eagles, no bands like the ficticious “Stillwater” from Almost Famous. That entire era just turns me off. If Big Star isn’t anything like them, even as a product of the early '70s, I’ll be a lot more receptive to checking them out.