Playlist: Power Pop, Vol. 1

A Spotify playlist featuring power pop gems from the last 40 years or so.

"Starry Eyes" 45

So here I am presenting a nice little power pop playlist, even as I am finishing as we speak a post for the Linn Products blog about how tiresome genre-related playlists are, and how playlists online should really be much more eclectic. Potentially a contradiction, but what can I say? I contain multitudes.

Besides which, as I was attempting to articulate last week, when reviewing the fine new Blurry Lines song “The Hunted,” power pop is an elusive genre at best. Which got me thinking what’s up with power pop anyway, which quickly became an excuse for me to attempt to tell by showing. Here is what power pop sounds like to me. I don’t think I have too many genre-based playlists in me, but this one is a necessity.

In the interest, always, of relative conciseness, I make no effort here to be exhaustive. I include enough of the all-time, critic-approved power pop and proto-power pop must-haves (“Go All The Way,” “September Gurls,” “Starry Eyes,” et al.) to ground it in consensus, while skipping over a number of others (“Girl of My Dreams,” “Surrender” “Cruel To Be Kind,” et al.), just because that’s how this list played out for me. We start effortlessly, with the impeccable Shoes classic “Too Late,” veer unexpectedly into late-era Matthew Sweet, and move on idiosyncratically from there, ranging in time frame from the proto-power-pop years of the early-ish ’70s all the way through to 2012, but in no order except that dictated to me by the sound and flow of the music. Two Fingertips selections are mixed in (“Anime Eyes,” “Wildlife Control”), and some other left-field choices spice things up (the Ass Ponys song is a particular oddball gem, says me). My only regret is that there are not nearly enough women in here, but power pop has historically been a male pastime—although I obviously could have included another Blondie song or two had I chosen. And no doubt I left out some obvious others I have either forgotten or have yet to discover. I am delighted in any case to present the late great Kirsty MacColl, who can never be praised enough, and whose untimely demise 13 years ago (!) still brings tears to my eyes. That the only version Spotify has of “He’s on the Beach” is the long version is a bit of a shame; power pop doesn’t need to go much longer than four minutes and is ideal between 3:20 and 3:40, but there are plenty of exceptions. Hell, “Starry Eyes” is four and a half minutes, and it has long been considered by many the greatest power pop song of them all (and I would not disagree—notwithstanding production that sounds a little dead to my 2013 ears).

While each and every entry here strikes me as a power pop gem, note that I don’t believe so much in “power pop artists” as “power pop songs”; a wide variety of bands are here shown achieving some semblance of power pop bliss, even if few of them line up regularly in lists of notable purveyors of power pop. In my mind, few worthy artists hew that tightly to this idiosyncratic musical style to be filed entirely under power pop, and that’s all for the best. It’s a crazy-brilliant-slippery genre for intermittent songs, but to aim for this sound as a career move might simply be crazy-making.

That said, there are enough great songs past and present omitted or otherwise overlooked on this playlist that I leave at least the possibility for sequels. Thus, here is Power Pop, Vol. 1…..

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