Categories
Pop Sunday

Chris Church / Game Dirt

Chris Church 

Game Dirt

Big Stir Records 2021

https://bigstirrecords.bandcamp.com/album/game-dirt


Chris Church has been writing and playing a wide scope of sounds and styles for the past thirty years. Orbiting everywhere from pop to heavy metal to experimental art pieces, the Lenoir, North Carolina resident clearly possesses a voracious appetite for music in general. Here on his latest album – Game Dirt – the one-man band pursues a fetching form of progressive pop rock.

Equipped with a voice jointly recalling the grainy bite of Michael Stipe and the rootsy brogue of Adam Durwitz, Chris sings his imaginatively-engineered songs with passion and purpose. A crisp and crunchy tone floods Game Dirt, allowing the material to yield a live and lusty feel that sinks right into your ears and bones. 

Bursting with a jolly demeanor crafted of a foot-stomping beat, windy harmonies and a showing of smashing guitar licks, Learn has wisely been tapped as the first single from the album. Dominated by a penetrating pulse and a hard rocking swagger, Know kicks in as another not to be neglected number, as well as the Todd Rundgen flavored Fall, where pristine melodies collide with a punchy rhythm section to unified effects. 

An aggressive edge slinking with intensity, strengthened by a stabbing hook drives Down, the jumpy jubliance of Smile serves as a countrified power popping delight, and the blindingly beautiful Sunrise communicates a positive message while a flowering of celestial voices, swirling breaks and ringing riffs radiate warmth and security.

Although each song on Game Dirt conveys a different mood and color, they all hang nicely together. You certainly won’t get bored listening to this dynamic album, and will be amazed at the way Chris so effortlessly scales the varied angles and slopes found within his quirky yet catchy songs.

Beverly Paterson

Categories
Pop Sunday

Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned

Various Artists

Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned

(Futureman Records/Big Stir Records 2020)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/album/action-now-20-20-re-envisioned

No matter how commercially successful or how wildly obscure, there seems to be a tribute album for just about every group or artist imaginable. Nesting somewhere between the two extremes is 20/20, a band that reaped regional attention and acclaim amid the thriving Los Angeles power pop scene of the late seventies and early eighties. 

Throughout the years, numerous groups have cited the band as an inspirational presence. Therefore, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned holds forth as a long overdue love letter to the group. Aside from the great music marinated within the grooves, all proceeds from the disc will go to MusiCares, which is 20/20’s chosen charity.

From Plasticsoul’s take of the energetic bristle of “Nuclear Boy” to Pop Co-Op’s cover of “Yellow Pills,” which sounds like David Bowie performing the cult classic at a somewhat slower stride than the initial version, Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned is crowded with tasty treats. Despite the grim theme, The Armoires slap a bright and jingly spin on “The Night I Heard A Scream,” and Popdudes deliver “She’s An Obsession” in a pure and punchy pop rock manner bubbling with radio-rich qualities.

The fist-pumping title track of the collection is brought to you by Librarians With Hickeys, while The Brothers Steve’s remake of “Beat City” projects an appropriately catchy beat. Irene Pena’s interpretation of “Tonight We Fly” swings and soars with melodic excitement, and Chris Church’s copy of “Remember The Lightning” crackles and crunches with solid brass guitar riffs and robust hooks.

The Toms pour a splash of new wave quikiness onto their reprise of “Out Of This Time,” where Ransom and The Subset’s reading of “Fast Car” races with driving rhythms and high-octane harmonies, and The Hangabouts season the utterly infectious “A Girl Like You” with a sweetly-scented fragrance.

Sterling selections from Coke Belda, The Slapjacks and Joe and Tracy Sullivan are additionally included on Action Now: 20/20 Re-Envisioned. After sinking your ears into these credible homages, you will not only be spurred into revisiting 20/20’s deftly-crafted catalog of righteously rocking pop tunes, but you will also want to give a listen to the original recordings of the musicians who contributed their time and talent to this mighty fine effort.

Categories
Pop Sunday

Garden Of Earthly Delights / An XTC Celebration

Various Artists

Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration (Futureman)

https://futuremanrecords.bandcamp.com/

Arriving on the scene in the late seventies, XTC proved to be a bit too quirky and clever for the general public. Yet the British band gained favor with the critics, developed a loyal fan base and have been cited as a prime influence by many musicians. 

For those not acquainted with the genius of XTC, the band really can’t be categorized. Mainly inspired by the holy trinity of sixties pop, psychedelia and art rock, the band also regularly dipped dashes of punk and new wave into the bin for modernized measures. Courageously experimental, XTC still managed to flaunt a distinctive sound that allowed instant recognition. Novel songwriting and arranging skills, compounded by a natural and nervous energy, granted the band’s material with an equal balance of sophistication and primal instincts. 

A double CD set, consisting of 32 tracks, Garden Of Earthly Delights features a smartly-selected cast of musicians from the indie community who are not only avid admirers of XTC, but render the band’s compositions with knowledge and respect. Not your average tribute album, Garden Of Earthly Delights avoids simply going through the motions as the artists telegraph their own personalities into the songs. 

Considering the volume of songs, there is obviously a lot to digest here. But because each entry is so catchy and the sequencing is astutely-organized, Garden Of Earthly Delights reins in as an easy and enjoyable listen.

Attempting to pick the best of the bunch is impossible, but for starters, there’s Coke Belda and El Inquito Rogue’s take on the bippity boppity “Standing In For Joe,” and the comparably sunny spunk of “Everything’ll Be Alright” from The Corner Laughters. Chris Price lends a gentle acoustic touch to “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” and Bebopolula’s “Vanishing Girl” retains the same Monkees-meets-Turtles flower power pop flourishes of the original recording, which XTC actually released under the pseudonym of Dukes of Stratospheare

Gretchen Wheel’s emotive version of “The Last Balloon” is positively dazzling, while Randy Sky’s “Books Are Burning” carries a haunting feel, and Chris Church’s “Stupidily Happy” rings and rocks to a cool beat. Pete Donnelly turns in a terrific treatment of the robotic romp of “This Is Pop,” where The Kickstand Band’s “Life Begins At The Hop” wiggles with nifty squiggles. 

Bottled tight with harmony and color, Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration stresses the inventive spirit of the band in full force. Wall-to-wall with credible covers, created with love and reverence, this collection effectively salutes XTC’s flair for mixing ambition with a fun factor. An exciting audio adventure is guaranteed! 

By Beverly Paterson