Shoes: The Only Band That Really Matters. Part I

by Belle Waring on January 18, 2014

No, IRL it’s The Clash. Nonetheless, power pop—it’s so wonderful! What’s the best part? The pop? It…sort of better be the pop because I like the Raspberries and, let’s be frank, the amount of “power” involved is limited. If I had to pick one power pop song that was my favorite ever, I would—I would first declare all Big Star songs off limits so they wouldn’t occupy all the top spots, but it would be “Jesus Christ”, and, well, it should oughta be The Flamin’Groovies’”Shake Some Action,” right?

But screw it, and forget the thing I implied .04 seconds ago in writing this post, because it’s really by Zion, Illnois’ finest, Shoes:

Oh but Belle, what is this mysterious power pop of which you speak? Is it a bunch of lame white bands from the late 70s and early 80s? No. It is a bunch of lame completely awesome white bands from the late 70s and early 80s. (There were some black power pop-style musicians I know nothing about, prolly. Tell me about them, edumacated readers.) Yeah, Americans liked the Beatles, but it took them years to get even the most basic grasp on the thing, during which they sounded like Badfinger, and then new wave started happening, which pushed people into a different confused direction. With the result that, amazing things happened, as above. See also:

“Yellow Pills” is 20/20’s biggest hit, and was the name of a zine in the 90s, and eventually a series of compilations that had both old material and new songs by forgotten bands. It was also the name of dexamphetamine, but the band didn’t really play a big role there. My (other) favorite song of their is “The Night I Heard a Scream,” a poignant ballad about a hit-and-run accident. POIGNIANT I SAY.

Now, as it happens, it is the middle of the night, and I am tired, and so I will simply leave you some wonderful music to consider and then tomorrow when I post again we can discuss things like, “hang on, is Cheap Trick power pop then or what?” [SPOILER ALERT: SOMETIMES]

The Flashcubes, from Syracuse, NY, never went anywhere after their 1978/79 songs (until some 90s rediscovery thing) but were cool. Here’s “Christi Girl.”

The Three O’Clock were, John argues, more properly some kind of LA Paisley Underground something something—look, a real video from MTV! For “Jet Fighter!”

The Names want to know “Why Can’t It Be.”

Obviously The Spongetones is one of the worst band names ever. “Better Take It Easy” is good, though.

I like to think that I have really hit my stride here, at last, and no one at all will like any of the music, for various incompatible reasons. However, I predict that godoggo, mcmanus-sensei and I will have the greatest number of humorous yellow-pill-related anecdotes. (The adults in my family all had really complaisant MDs for whatever reason, it seemed.)



Lee A. Arnold 01.18.14 at 4:41 pm

Well I for one love it, but then I love all music. Power pop takes after very early The Who.


christian_h 01.18.14 at 4:44 pm

I love these posts making me discover music. Thanks Belle, and keep ’em coming.


grackle 01.18.14 at 5:31 pm

I second chr._b. Imunna find out who the Clash are to start with, musta come along after I stoppped listening to pop music.


Layman 01.18.14 at 5:35 pm

The Knack seem surprisingly good now, for all the grief they took back in the day

But for me the all-time great power pop band was the Power Station, featuring the late great Robert Palmer.


bob mcmanus 01.18.14 at 5:40 pm

Sorry. I got all the Groovies and some Cars but I just seem to have some kind of physical affliction, an aural dead zone when it comes to power pop. I checked the names at Wiki, some I recognize, few I play very much. I have tried Big Star over and over and I just can’t hear it.

This is someone who has Slayer and Slowdive and Screaming Trees and all of Sarah and Shinkansen. I don’t get it myself. I am embarrassed.


Ken Hoop 01.18.14 at 6:14 pm

Compare the Flashcubes vocals to Cryan Shames, the best 1960s Chicago pop rock band. Uncanny.


David 01.18.14 at 6:15 pm

The Records “starry Eyes” is clearly the best power pop song ever recorded. Cheap Trick “Surrender” is pretty perfect power pop too.


Bill Murray 01.18.14 at 7:08 pm

For a black power pop band, I’d put forward The Veldt who are from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They put out Marigolds in 1992, Afrodisiac in 1994 and Love at First Hate in 1998. they recently reformed and are touring and may be putting out a record in 2014. Whether they are truly power pop may be up for debate, they certainly had songs with hip-hop influences, and are sometimes called shoegaze or dream pop. Marigolds is probably more poppy, Afrodisiac adds a more Nirvava-y sound. I hadn’t known about Love at First Hate until today

CCCP — from Marigolds —

Revolutionary Sister — from Afrodisiac —


Bill Murray 01.18.14 at 7:18 pm

I would probably pick Material Issue as the best power pop band from Illinois

The Very First Lie —

Valerie Loves Me (live on the Dennis Miller Show) —

I’m still bummed about Jim Ellison’s suicide


Cdt 01.18.14 at 7:53 pm

David is right. Nothing touches “Starry Eyes.”


js. 01.18.14 at 8:20 pm

The Shoes are great and all, but this right here is the greatest power pop song of all time. And yeah, fine, it doesn’t have automatic obscurity cred, but don’t care—still the greatest power pop song.


js. 01.18.14 at 8:23 pm

But seriously, the Shoes _are_ great. When the Onion’s AV Club did one of their “primer” things on power pop a couple of years ago, the Shoes were the one band where I was like, Holy fuck! how have I missed out on this for 33 years, must listen to Too Late five times a day for the next month in a totally vain attempt to make up for lost time, etc.


js. 01.18.14 at 8:26 pm

I now see that David kind of beat me to it, tho he’s still wrong about the greatest power pop song ever recorded. (Not that I’m being adamant about this or anything.)


Dave Heasman 01.18.14 at 8:38 pm

Lee Arnold has it with “very early the Who”. When they still had surf influences.
Jan & Dean were power pop, so was Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy”. It’s everywhere, really. Nick Lowe, Marshall Crenshaw. My favourites, partly because they were mates, is Badfinger.


Bill Murray 01.18.14 at 8:58 pm

The greatest power pop song of all time, to me, is (DM3 — 1 Time, 2 Time, Devastated)


Peter Hovde 01.18.14 at 9:23 pm

Claude Bessey of Catholic Discipline (“They’ll get into your pants, and suck your soul”) has excellent news for the world:


The Temporary Name 01.18.14 at 9:24 pm


giotto 01.18.14 at 9:39 pm

Fans of powerpop would do well to hang out over at Steve Simel’s place,


Josh 01.18.14 at 9:43 pm

For a black power pop band, I’d put forward The Veldt who are from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Holy shit, someone else who’s heard of The Veldt. I thought I was the only one! (I wouldn’t really call them power pop, though; “Afrodisiac” at least is way more shoegaze than anything else.)


Phil 01.18.14 at 11:06 pm

Power pop at the time meant “the next big thing after punk”, and since there was no next big thing after punk – it took several years to realise just how big a thing punk had been – the label ended up not really meaning much, apart from “New Wave” plus “a bit poppy” (which most New Wave bands were anyway).

There were two kinds of New Wave bands – the ones that had been punk (or punk-ish, or on a punk-ish label, or at least had played on the same bill as punk bands) and the ones that had actually been around before punk; this was a bit of a dirty little secret at the time, although at this distance I guess nobody really cares. I’m pretty sure the Shoes were post-punk, but Cheap Trick were definitely pre-punk & hence unhip. On the other hand, Squeeze, Ultravox!, the Stranglers and the Blockheads were all going concerns before punk, not to mention Brinsley Schwartz et al, so it’s not as if the pre-punk stain was indelible.

Bringing it full circle, there were a couple of bands in Liverpool who were only just pre-punk & hence stayed hip – and one of them, Deaf School, did an absolutely killer version of Shake Some Action. The live 1988 (reunion) version is well worth tracking down.


Tony Lynch 01.18.14 at 11:15 pm

The Rubinoos.


Cdt 01.18.14 at 11:35 pm

Dwight Twilley’s “I’m on fire” deserves some mention as well.


The Temporary Name 01.18.14 at 11:57 pm

Power pop at the time meant

At the time where?



LFC 01.19.14 at 12:47 am

But seriously, the Shoes _are_ great.

No doubt the YouTube clip of “When It Hits” doesn’t do them full justice, but I listened to approx. 1:47 of it and it sounded to me sort of like a bad imitation of early Beatles; pop of a sort (repetitive bass line, indecipherable lyrics) but little “power.” Unimaginative, tinny, and boring.


LFC 01.19.14 at 12:51 am

“Too Late” is slightly better, but not much.


Main Street Muse 01.19.14 at 12:56 am

Oh for God’s sake. I spent a kazillion hours in Zion, IL over the years at various swim meets – never heard of Shoes.
But growing up in northern ‘burbs of IL, I heard of Styx, Chicago – and of course the great blues music you could hear at the blues bars in the city.

And in the 90s, that fabulous flowering of music hailing from Wicker Park area… Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Urge Overkill and Veruca Salt.

(Loved the Clash! “Got Lost in the Supermarket” one of the best songs ever.)

A country guy from the Chicago area that EVERYONE should be listening to is Robbie Fulks… – Just saying!


LFC 01.19.14 at 1:38 am

p.s. But these things are entirely subjective of course, so everyone can like what he/she likes, or not. (IOW my comments above came across as a bit grumpier than intended.)


Jacob McM 01.19.14 at 1:42 am


godoggo 01.19.14 at 1:53 am

I was a huge Replacements fan so of course I had to check out Big Star, and I love that one totally fucked-up, drugged-out album they did. Otherwise I like some power pop OK, but it’s not like one of my main things or anything.

Here’s a quote I once saw by the drummer from the Knack: “The Knack was basically an ordinary pop band with an extraordinary drummer.” I love that quote.

Also I like that Peter Case was homeless before he had that big hit with the Plimsouls, whom I think you didn’t mention, and then when they got big he’d go hang out with the homeless people outside the club after the gig because those were the people he felt most comfortable around. Then he became a folkie, which was probably a good move.


NickS 01.19.14 at 2:25 am

Power Pop! I have something to add.

Do you remember when Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow were part of the Big Star? Before that they were The Posies and I’ve been listening to a bunch of Posies and Jon and Ken solo stuff over the last year, and have been really impressed with their songwriting.

More links than you want, In approximately chronological order.

From their debut album (recorded when they were both in their teens — which shows, but I think it’s charming), “I May Hate You Sometimes

From the album that came closest to being a hit: “Love Letter Boxes

From a later EP “Chainsmoking In the USA

From one of Ken’s Solo albums, “You Drew

It’s funny, they never had one great album, but they have written a lot of good songs over the last 20 years.


Henry 01.19.14 at 2:32 am

Has anyone seen the Big Star documentary, and is it any good?


godoggo 01.19.14 at 2:43 am

Not me but same questions about the Badfinger doc, as long as I’m here.


Jeffrey Davis 01.19.14 at 3:56 am

Can’t Buy Me Love
Stuck on You/Let Me Be Your (Teddy Bear)
About half The Everly Brothers catalog
Lots of The Kinks

I don’t think of Big Star’s music as power pop. It’s either 70s rock or ballads unless the designation is merely a historical marker


Jeffrey Davis 01.19.14 at 4:00 am

And I like this version better than the original:


Belle Waring 01.19.14 at 4:16 am

“September Gurls” is a superlative power pop song. The audio on the Shoes songs I could find basically all blow goat balls, just trust me on this one, OK? I’ll try to hunt up some better ones. mcmmanus-sensei–no love at all for Big Star? How is your heart not being ripped out of your chest by “Stroke it Noel”?
Yeah, “Surrender” is kind of just the bomb. Look, I’ma get to The Rubinoos and so forth next time. I stayed up till past midnight organizing this shit, so.


Barry Freed 01.19.14 at 4:17 am

Also I like that Peter Case was homeless before he had that big hit with the Plimsouls…

I really like that Peter Case was with The Nerves before he was with the Plimsouls. There’s some great Power Pop for you.


Barry Freed 01.19.14 at 4:22 am

And what other power pop band had such a great run of amazing albums like The Flamin’ Groovies? Flamingo, Teenage Head and Shake Some Action. All such great albums. The first two are a lot more boogie blues or whatever you call it than power pop.


otpup 01.19.14 at 6:07 am

I saw 3 O’Clock open for REM in Detroit. Transplendent! (The Replacements may have been surprise guests at that on, but were not appreciated, oh well).

Wish there was cuts from Ann Arbor’s own Map of The World on youtube to share.


js. 01.19.14 at 6:36 am


No, really, you gotta go with your first instinct and leave Big Star _entirely_ out of the discussion here. Is unfair otherwise, no?


js. 01.19.14 at 6:41 am

LFC, I don’t know what to say. You just need to have a weird predilection for underproduced jangly shit. If you happen to, this stuff’s awesome. If you don’t, it’s understandably a bore.


Mark English 01.19.14 at 1:49 pm

As someone said, it’s all subjective. Whatever we heard at that impressionable age (with or without yellow pills or whatever you were supposed to take) we infuse with meaning. A sort of aural version of the visual imprinting that various bird species suffer from.

I like Belle Waring’s style, of course – how could you not? Very warm and human. (Why do I think of Clavdia Chauchat?)

But still I’m puzzled about what’s driving all this joie d’écouter.

Is it a left-wing thing perhaps? Secret political business? That’s probably it.


oldster 01.19.14 at 2:48 pm

I like September Gurls.

My notion of power pop centers around Marshall Crenshaw, mentioned above. Then there is also the British version surrounding Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, and the less pissy parts of Elvis Costello.

Bad Finger and Emmit Rhodes are highly relevant, and point to one of the origins in part of McCartney’s catalogue (as J. Davis notes above).

If Big Star, then why not the Todd Rundgren of e.g. “I Saw the Light”?

Sylvie Vartan is vachement mignonne, but the guitarist on the train is not playing anything like what the guitarist on the track is playing.

(I mean the audio track. I cannot tell whether the guy on the train track is a guitarist or not).


godoggo 01.19.14 at 3:13 pm

The 3 O’clock were regulars at this punk club in a big warehouse in the Valley called Godzilla’s back when they were called the Salvation Army, the 3 O’clock I mean. They were OK I guess.


Belle Waring 01.19.14 at 3:24 pm

Goddammit oldster don’t push me on some Todd Rundgren! You don’t know what my favorite Todd Rundgren song is, yet, do you?! It’s a fucking awesome power pop song and you are not expecting this shit!
Mark English: I believe I mentioned before that I have recently unpacked, with the help of my thoughtful husband, my collection of LPs after a long period of their being inaccessible? And that he further connected various of our receivers and turntables in, if not the absolutely most-desired combination, one which allows them to play? Thus my warm-hearted desires to share the love with the Crooked Timberteers who will nonetheless apparently chew off their own legs in a trap arguing with Hector St. Clare about antinomianism or something until I post on some other topic? You poor dumb bastards.

On the subject of Mme. Chauchat, I did, I believe, at one point, give John an X-Ray of one of my pneumoniacal lungs. While I had a different boyfriend? (He would still have it though. No, wait; he would even if I had only given it to him afterwards.) Because I am was a difficult person. And I was strongly inclined to develop pneumonia due do my unhealthy lifestyle. So much pneumonia. I had rales and crackles! It was excellent! I startled an ER doc one time. “Do I have rales, or crackles?” And I had both! And another sound! It was because I had been reading The Magic Mountain, naturally. That I recognized the rales, that is. Reading the MM was not the source of the pneumonia, some sort of long distance Castorp tuberculosis-by-proxy. No. Zoe asked her father recently, “is mommy ‘high-maintenance’?” Then the Manson lamps were swiveled at everyone in turn like a lighthouse of doom until they all ran away, or, alternately, I admitted the truth of the affirmation, or something. The latter, IIRC.

Look, it’s not my fault my family is such a bunch of Slytherins, OK? Not to say that the maintenance in question is necromancy! Necessarily. Our daughters think John’s family is sooo great and normal and boring and all from this one farm in Norway, and my family is soo crazy and eeeevi…l. Bah. they’ll feel differently when they’re 19, I can tell you that. Funny but not funny: they’ll be like “mommy, what’s the most evil thing anyone in your family has ever done?” Belle looks at cheerful faces. “I’ll tell you when you’re 38.” It’s just the normal evil stuff ordinary evil people do, honestly. But isn’t that sort of the worst, in its mundane way? 38. Sure.


One of Many 01.19.14 at 3:33 pm

Powerpop is the almost pure distillation into ear candy of a form of teenage male longing composed in equal measure of energy, passivity, and (their offspring) irony. What’s not to like? So it’s periodically revived. One iteration, some time ago: Matthew Sweet,
Teenage Fanclub,


oldster 01.19.14 at 3:35 pm

I take that as an admission that at least some of TR’s work does indeed count as power pop.
Merci, Madame Chauchat. (Which to many of us is the name of a mitrailleuse, not a minx:

The last few threads really have been abysmally bad, i.e. so bad that I just stopped even dropping by the blog. Some people are just deadeningly stupid, and make everyone around them stupider by their presence.

People of that sort really ought to be prevented from trashing the joint, don’t you think? E.g. by permanent bans. Not because they are bold truth-tellers, but because they are so relentlessly stupid?


Plume 01.19.14 at 3:40 pm

Belle Waring,

Is this your favorite Todd Rundgren?
Hello It’s Me


oldster 01.19.14 at 3:43 pm

Plume, that *might* be BW’s favorite TR song, but it could not be BW’s favorite TR *power pop* song. That one, to quote BW, is a fucking awesome power pop song and you are not expecting this shit.

Accordingly, any shit that you are expecting is not it. (But particularly not some slow-tempo moan that, while an interesting enough ballad, has very little in common with power pop).


godoggo 01.19.14 at 3:44 pm

The only Todd Rundgren I own is his version of Call From The Grave/Ballad In Which Macheath Begs All Men For Forgiveness


Plume 01.19.14 at 3:53 pm


Sorry. I wasn’t expecting that shit, either.


I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and listened to a ton (of all kinds) of music. My crowd generally looked down on what some might call “power pop,” though that depends upon the definition.

We were Rock snobs as teens, I suppose, seeing far more in groups like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Who, Humble Pie, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Bad Company, etc. etc. than some of those mentioned above.

For me, personally, the thing that has to be there at the root is Blues. I could never get into “heavy metal” because I saw it as devoid of the Blues element. Just my own bias, etc. Power pop tended to obscure Blues roots too, though not to the extent of heavy metal. And the lyrics . . . well, as teens, we thought they were too childish.

Funny how often the young, so close to “childhood” themselves, view things as childish. Looking back on all of that from a distance of more than thirty years . . . . changes things.


Jeffrey Davis 01.19.14 at 4:11 pm

For me the genre can be defined as “sweet w/ a beat.” Like “Oh, Boy” by Buddy Holly. Everything about that song is great, but the line “When you’re with me, oh boy” deserves to be singled out. It passes A.E. Housman’s test for poetry. Big Star — like Gram Parsons — always seemed to me to have a sour foundation. YMMV and every definition frays at the edges. So, “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love and Understanding” passes the test for me, and “Cruel to Be Kind” doesn’t. Yes. The ‘einous sin of ‘eresy.

One of the glaring aspects of the genre is its whiteness which is strange because one of the foundational songs was “Heat Wave”. Those changes show up all over the place. “Heat Wave” was THE break song for high school bands in the 60s. Is “Dancing in the Street” considered power pop? The Isley Brothers? Maybe Soul either clung to its gospel roots or wandered off into elaborate arrangements.


Cdt 01.19.14 at 5:02 pm

The first two db’s records were perfect. Last year’s out of nowhere reunion -falling off the Sky- fits right in. Check out Remeber and That Time is Gone. Don’t forget about Let’s Active, especially the first EP, Every Word Means No. Some of Game Theory is great as well. Check out 24. Some of it too precious.


Anon 01.19.14 at 5:12 pm

Well, this has been very educational. I’ve never quite known what power pop is, since Big Star and The Raspberries were the only exemplars I’d heard of, and it’s hard to identify a genre in two bands. I’m glad to have a better sense of the genre.

For revivalists of the style, I like Material Issue and Matthew Sweet, but my favorite has got to be the New Pornographers (especially the Electric Version album:

Still, while these are all good, they don’t blow me away, and like Bob I generally don’t “get” powerpop. I absolutely love Big Star, but mostly for the one’s that don’t strike me as particularly powery or poppy, but nostalgic, hazy Sunday late afternoon magic hour with a bit of acousticky Beatles ballads like Thirteen, I’m In Love With a Girl, Watch the Sunrise, El Goodo, and Give Me Another Chance.

I enjoy the big guitar numbers too, but I don’t think they’re in the same ballpark of sublime as the–what to call it, maybe disempowerpop?–Big Star tunes.

The Big Star documentary is well worth watching, incidentally.


godoggo 01.19.14 at 5:15 pm

OK, off to the Unrepentant Marxist now.


Robert Halford 01.19.14 at 5:20 pm

The Power Pop/Hair Metal connection is woefully under-explored. For example, “We’re not gonna take it” “Cum on feel the noise” and Poison’s “Talk dirty to me,” to pick just three of the biggest radio hits, are all essentially power pop songs. But played by people with ridiculous hair and groupies, not people on “college radio.”


godoggo 01.19.14 at 5:20 pm

Eh, nothing new, unfortunately Only political blogger on the entire internet who doesn’t listen to crap music.


godoggo 01.19.14 at 5:22 pm

I do find Hector entertaining though.


zbs 01.19.14 at 5:35 pm

Per power pop, this is the classic Shoes entry in the canon:

But the first record is not as squarely in the style (and, like Big Star, better for it …)


zbs 01.19.14 at 5:36 pm


Anon 01.19.14 at 7:25 pm

That Shoes Tragedy clip is a surprise — closer to Bauhaus than I’d expect powerpop would get.

It also reminds me a lot of a 90s band I’d never though of as powerpop revival before, the under-appreciated and sadly forgotten Ultra Vivid Scene:


The Temporary Name 01.19.14 at 8:15 pm

The Power Pop/Hair Metal connection is woefully under-explored. For example, “We’re not gonna take it” “Cum on feel the noise” and Poison’s “Talk dirty to me,” to pick just three of the biggest radio hits, are all essentially power pop songs.

I dunno about those…none of them are really sweet enough, though I like the Poison a lot: there’s much more rock posing in the vocals of all of those.

But the power pop/hair metal seems to me to have been grasped by The Darkness:


zbs 01.19.14 at 9:59 pm

If you liked that cut, get yr hands on Black Vinyl Shoes, recorded by the Zion brothers and friends on a four-track in their living room — a classic of several genres or perhaps better just a classic sui generis. That record, and the juvenalia of the band were somewhat surprisingly reissued by Numero Group.


Michael Harris 01.19.14 at 11:35 pm

I can’t access Youtube at work, but for those keen, I can leave a trail of Googlecrumbs for some Australian examples (which means I might sneak in some NZ ones [*] and pretend they belong to Oz).

Late ’70s/early ’80s.

(We’ve already had the Saints with “Let’s Pretend”, so moving right along.)

The Scientists — “Last Night”
The Riptides – “Tomorrow’s Tears”
The Swingers – “Counting The Beat” [*]
The Dugites – “In Your Car” [powerpop meets twee, and off you go]
Split Enz – “History Never Repeats” [*]

(Some of the blokes who formed the Wiggles previously belonged to an outfit called the Coackroaches but you’re all on your own with that one.)

Mid to late ’80s.

Ratcat – “That Ain’t Bad”
The Hummingbirds – “Alimony” and “Blush”
The Falling Joys – “You’re in a Mess”
Paul Kelly – “Before Too Long”
The Half-a-Cow label in general, esp. Tom Morgan’s Smudge.
Various stuff by the Welcome Mat
The Chills – “Heavenly Pop Hit” [*]

Go now. Sing and dance.


Tony Lynch 01.20.14 at 12:30 am

Rubinoos, I Think We’re Alone Now.


Kevin Erickson 01.20.14 at 5:25 am

Henry, the Big Star doc is certainly worth watching, but it awkwardly dances around the issue of Chris Bell’s homosexuality (there are allusions to him being “troubled,” “supressing sexual feelings” conflicted about religion vs “personal life” etc but the words “gay” and “homosexual” are never mentioned.) I was left wondering if this was what it took to get his family on board with the film, or maybe Jody Stephens, the only surviving member, who I’m told is part of the born-again flock? It was weird, because we hear a lot about Chilton’s muse for Third but nothing about whoever Bell wrote all those gorgeous tortured love songs on I Am The Cosmos for.

I’d also have loved a little more technical nerdery, about how they miced the drums and what compressors they used and that sort of thing, but obvs the general audience interest in such topics is limited.


Tim Chambers 01.20.14 at 11:07 am

Please spare us all these one hit wonders and teeny bopper treasures. What drek!


Dave Heasman 01.20.14 at 11:46 am

Godoggo talks of the Knack’s Bruce Gary. He was indeed a pretty good drummer; before the Knack he played with Carla Bley and Jack Bruce.

There was a powerpop renaissance in England 88-90, with the Trashcan Sinatras and Danny Wilson. Also about that time the Only Ones reformed for 5 minutes.


herbie 01.20.14 at 3:21 pm

Spotify playlist, please.


mrearl 01.20.14 at 4:40 pm

Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby,” by The Tremoloes:

More cowbell.


dbrower 01.20.14 at 9:41 pm

I did sound for the Flashcubes for a while, and helped record some of their stuff. Christi Girl isn’t really representative, they rocked more than that, and other things are better recorded. I’d pick as a still-relevant career peak “4th of July”, here:



Tony Lynch 01.20.14 at 10:09 pm

Yes, those bad one hit wonders! And don’t start me on those teeny boppers! Where is Adorno when you really need him?


Jeffrey Davis 01.21.14 at 2:52 pm

Since the thread hasn’t been closed:

She May Call You Up Tonight by The Left Banke

Me and the Boys by NRBQ

(If you’re over 50 and don’t know about the Q, what have you don’t with your entertainment dollar all these years?)


cdt 01.21.14 at 7:36 pm

I’ll second The Only Ones, for Another Girl, Another Planet, and NRBQ, especially for Little Floater and If I Can’t Have You.


Henry Farrell 01.22.14 at 4:47 am

Kevin – thanks. And what happened to your foot?


Bill Murray 01.22.14 at 6:12 am

Michael Harris @63 — some other good New Zealand bands that I would consider power pop at least for some songs

The Mutton Birds — I especially like She’s Been Talking
The Bats — My favorite is No Time for your Kind off Couchmaster
The Verlaines — Pyromaniac
Jean-Paul Sartre Experience — I Like Rain


JDC 01.22.14 at 3:46 pm


Kevin Erickson 01.22.14 at 4:05 pm

Henry, thanks for the concern! I finally got bunion surgery this week, the result of wearing Converse All-Stars (and eventually, the sweatshop-free-knockoffs) almost exclusively from 1993-2008. Someone needs to teach the punks about arch support.

For the purpose of remaining on topic:


jackd 01.22.14 at 6:20 pm

If power pop is a kind of music that floats your boat, you could do a lot worse than the _Poptopia_ collection. It’s three CDs and nearly $100 on Amazon, but there are probably ways to at least hear most of the music without having to invest that much. Each album keys on a decade (70s, 80s, 90s). I wish they’d put out another one.!-Power-Pop-Classics-%28Series%29/e/B000AQ3F10/ref=ntt_mus_dp_pel


Michael Harris 01.23.14 at 1:43 am

Bill Murray, cheers. One could wander up and down the halls of the Flying Nun Virtual Musical Museum and pick gem after pop gem off the walls. I was being restrained. ;)


that jim 01.23.14 at 5:18 am

Late to this but how did we get to 80 comments without a mention of Bram Tchaikovsky?

Also, unless your frame of reference is about six square blocks in NYC or CLE, Shoes were nobody’s definition of *post*-punk: their first record was in 1974.


Vanya 01.23.14 at 8:35 am

@JackD – $100? That must come with an amazing booklet. It is pretty easy to just buy the songs from Poptopia individually and recreate it yourself. I found most of them on eMusic a few years ago and probably spent $10. May have had to go to iTunes for 3 or 4 of them.


Jon 01.23.14 at 11:09 am

Don’t get this term power pop – obviously a yank thing. Cos from a perspective here in Brit-land the bands mentioned seem from all over the bloody place. – Indie, pub-rock, AOR, post-punk, mod, rawk, neo-psychedelic …the works.

Having said all that – big fan of Big Star – if you like them, you’d probably like a Glasgow band called Teenage Fanclub

3 0’clock? – meh, always preferred The Rain Parade

80s New Zealand bands were amazing – particularly the The Chills

Can’t leave out the sublime genius that is Edwyn Collins & Orange Juice
If that isn’t “Power(ful) Pop” I don’t know what isn’t…


Anon 01.23.14 at 6:59 pm

Bill @75,

The Jean Paul Sartre Experience is the best thing I’ve seen all year. How did I not know that existed?


Thanks for that Black Vinyl Shoes referral, best new (to me) album I’ve enjoyed in a while.


zbs 01.23.14 at 10:35 pm

The Flying Nun-era New Zealand scene was prolific, varied and stupendously good. A primer (not by me):

Though this elides the depth of some of these groups—The Clean, The Bats, The Chills, the Dwarfs, Look Blue Go Purple—in favor of a wider spectrum. Here’s the cultiest LBGP vid…


om 01.24.14 at 5:54 pm

1. Whoever wrote “Powerpop is the almost pure distillation into ear candy of a form of teenage male longing composed in equal measure of energy, passivity, and (their offspring) irony” — Beautiful! That is the best definition of power pop I’ve ever read. Whoever you are, I’d like to read more of your writing on music, or on anything really.

2. Belle – “Stroke It, Noel” (the comma is important!) is my favorite Big Star song (and the competition is murderous). Good on you for mentioning it!

3. Too diverse to be pigeonholed in any genre, but when Guided by Voices (or Robert Pollard / Tobin Sprout solo) do power pop, they do it just about better than anyone else with the exception of Big Star:

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