The persistence of power pop well into the 21st century is something of a musical mystery. Even in its relative heyday, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, power pop never captured any kind of mainstream attention for itself. Small wonder—the genre is too elusive and difficult to describe for mass acceptance; it seems perversely fitting that some of the genre’s most definitive songs pre-date its actual existence (yeah, it’s complicated), and equally perversely fitting that the biggest hits associated with it are songs that I, at least, don’t consider power pop at all (I’m looking at you, “My Sharona” and “What I Like About You”). And yet, 30-some-odd years later, there are still new bands pointing themselves in this star-crossed direction. I have my own theories about this, but I’ve digressed enough for now. The bottom line is I’m a melody guy and this is a melodic genre. Not all power pop songs are good, by any means, but every good power pop song, to my ears, is almost inescapably great.
“The Hunted” is very good indeed, so you do the math. We get the ringing guitar line and a pounding 4/4 drumbeat; we get the sweet-voiced lead singer; we get a couple of different, indelible melodies; and we get it all in three minutes and twenty-six seconds. What seals something as power pop to me is an abiding tunefulness that feels both majestic and pining; there’s almost always an ache buried in a good power pop song, and the fact that it comes in a candy wrapping is no doubt a big part of the allure. I hear this grand bittersweetness right in the opening salvo (0:17), as Randall Cox sings, “I took a shoebox full of poems written ABAB style” and even as the melody resolves we are denied the underlying resolving chords, which now makes me realize something new about power pop: that a lot of its vitality comes the pre-resolution moment. Here, for instance, the melody that gets us from “full of poems” through “written ABAB” is what pulls me in and has me falling hard for this song. Likewise in the chorus, the “ran through the woods” part (0:55) seems more the heart of the melody than the actual climax. And if you think I am overanalyzing, try this: I believe these guys are paying homage to the greatest proto-power-pop song of all time in the bridge (2:17) when Cox sings, twice, “We’re going all the way.” Coincidence? I think not. Even if they didn’t do it on purpose.
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Blurry Lines is a duo featuring Cox on lead vocals and keys and Richard Hussey on guitar, bass, and backup vocals. “The Hunted” is from the debut Blurry Lines release, an EP entitled Minor Works in Major Keys, Vol. 1, released in September and produced by Josh Kaler, who plays drums on three of the tracks, including this one. A Volume 2 is due out before year’s end.