In classic science fiction, everything in the future was always new. Even though the present moment of our actual experience always incorporates sights and sounds and objects and ideas from generations, even centuries, gone by, that reality was typically overlooked by writers and directors creating imaginary futures in science fiction novels and movies. Blade Runner notably shattered that perspective, and things have been a little better since. But the idea that the future must somehow be purely new, jettisoned of all previous history, remains a resolute mindset among a certain type of cyber zealot—the one who likes to stomp around calling anyone with any interest in attitudes and artifacts from the pre-digital age a “dinosaur,” a “Luddite,” or “afraid of change.” This person is a buffoon. Real-life human society does not discard its past whole-hog; the only way we truly grow, collectively, in fact, is to learn from our past, and, quite often, to preserve helpful ways of being and doing precisely because they will help us even in the face of changing circumstances.
And so, you see, for all of the new sounds and innovative devices that have flooded the music world over the last 15 years, and for all the new micro-genres they have generated, there will always, in our lifetime at least, be people somewhere making music like this—people who plug their guitars into their amps and have a go at it. A lot of these people will produce music too redundant or too derivative or too uninspired to be worthy of attention. But then there will be the occasional band like Connections, a quintet from Columbus, Ohio, who plug their guitars into their amps, set up their drum kits, and wowee—the ears smile, the heart gladdens, and for two minutes or so at a time, all is right with the world. “Mall Lights” is one of a series of lo-fi power pop gems on the band’s debut album, Private Airplane. What makes this one work particularly well above and beyond the jangly guitars, resolute backbeat, and fuzzy ambiance is the song’s all but unending hookiness. The verse grabs me immediately with its grounded, NRBQ-ish musicality, its major-minor shifts, and its adroitly employed power chords. And yet this is mere set-up for the sublime chorus, which artfully skips the first beat of each measure until (0:45) its tail section wraps the tune up with a brilliant bow.
Connections didn’t invent any of this stuff; I’m guessing that fans of Guided by Voices in particular will hear a lot of that Ohio institution’s work in the lo-fi poppiness on display here. Note that Connections features two guys from 84 Nash, a defunct Columbus-based band whose 1997 debut was released by GBV patriarch Robert Pollard’s Rockathon record label, as well as one guy from the band Times New Viking. But as with any good music, however influenced by past masters, the end product transcends its roots. This is time-tested music produced by time-tested musicians, and the world is a better place for it.
Private Airplane was released in January on Columbus-based Anyway Records. Thanks to the band for the MP3, which is a Fingertips exclusive at this point.