Photo by Tenaya HillsTHE INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW
FITZGERALD'S IRISH PUB, HUNTINGTON BEACH
SUNDAY, AUG. 1
Quick blurts from a five-week cross-country road trip: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is the global capital of miniature golf courses. Wisconsin has the country's worst drivers—vicious tailgaters. Waitresses in South Indianapolis have crooked, scabby, fake-looking Billy Bob teeth, except they're real. And Alan O'Day may go down as one of aural history's Great Forgotten Popsters. We caught O'Day (he scored a smash back in 1977 with "Undercover Angel," which our then-nine-year-old selves thought was the greatest song ever) at Nashville's Bluebird Caf, where he was charming and funny and told stories about co-writing "Rock & Roll Heaven" and "Angie Baby."
We thought about ol' Alan whilst imbibing in this year's International Pop Overthrow (IPO) and how perfectly his stuff would have fit in on this bill, paying heed to the adage of a great pop song's timelessness. Even though everything we heard this night may never come within earshot of a radio dial (please prove us wrong, great broadcast gods), just about all of it sounded pure and wonderful—the Grand Unheard Pop, music sadly destined to pass the planet by.
Or maybe not. David Bash's IPO fest, now in its seventh year and originally an LA/OC-only affair, has been doing some serious spreading. There's an annual IPO now in Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and several other burgs, and it's even metastasized to Liverpool. But Bash hasn't sold out yet, even though he could probably use the cash. IPO compilation CDs are shockingly still free (this year's was another three-disc, 69-track behemoth), and the closing set returned to the cozy confines of Fitzgerald's, a guaranteed good time—even if the music bored you, you could always watch the chesty bartendress' bosoms nearly avalanche out her top.
Like all IPO fests, this night catered toward people with ADHD—short, 20- to 30-minute sets from seven bands (some we know and love, some we'd never heard of), an evening filled with revelation and reassurance. First were the Irises, a Vancouver, British Columbia, band with a pretty good chick singer. The mix was initially overbearing—nothing but treble!—and everything seemed to be blending into a single, screechy, scabrous monster, but we could still deduce they had some decent songs. "Perfect Boyfriend" sounded like a sweet, high-school-romance ode, even though, heh, it could just as easily be about how the ideal male mate would be all cock and no head. If only we had better lip-reading skills.
Sparklejets UK were terrific as always, though the big scoop from them wasn't onstage, but plastic. They've just cheekily re-released their classic-in-another-realm 1998 album In, Through and Beyond in a special expanded edition, with all sorts of added features and extra music, and they just put out a new single in which they Slayer-ize the 1972 Osmonds hit "Crazy Horses," which our then-four-year-old selves thought was the greatest song ever. (It's off the first album we ever owned—the Osmonds go heavy metal, and we're so not kidding!). We criminally didn't get "Crazy Horses" this night, but we did get singer/guitarist Susan West banging on a cowbell and a new song, "Love Burn," which may or may not be about herpes—we just haven't paid close enough attention to the lyrics yet.
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Next was John Hoskinson, who slipped us a free CD before his set, so naturally we hereby proclaim him to be a visionary musical genius, truly the next New Dylan. Or something. But good songs all, sonic slices of pop music history, from fervent '50s guitar tunes to bright, swirly, '60s psychedelia-tinged material to acoustic-fronted '70s-ish melodies right on up to some sweet numbers that could have been Posies outtakes.
When Hoskinson was through, he stepped to the side and made space for his guitar player, Eugene Edwards, who was—oh, how about completely fucking brilliant? Edwards brought loud, ornery, impossibly catchy melodies to the stage, and he played everything with the passion of a man who was combusting right before you on a night when we really needed to hear something new and fantastic and life-affirming (we had just returned from three weeks in a region where we fear "Redneck Woman" has been declared the new National Anthem). He's a killer guitar man, and we'd totally do a huge feature story on him had Joel Beers not beaten us to it ["This Is Pop," March 5, 2004]. The girl running the IPO merch stand in back seemed to agree with us, mouthing the words to all his songs and bopping her head along, with a glassy gaze in her eyes that said, "Life can't possibly get any better than watching Eugene Edwards." We can only concur.
After that, Phamous Phaces were a serious comedown. The IPO program said they were "purveyors of those classic pop stylings," but that was the problem—their sound wasn't all that distinctive, just one same-tempo tune after another. Also, the same five notes played over and over again does not a bass solo make. They weren't horrible, but at the IPO, we've come to expect high quality. Better were Cherry Blossom Clinic, a Dallas band that kept things fast and loose, with melodies clearly gleaned from a lifetime of Cheap Trick record collecting.
Scarlet Crush rounded out the evening with yet another fantabulous set, but really, you should know this by now. Just go to the Weekly website, type their name into the search engine, and peruse till you go blind—all the niceties you'll read still hold up. (Rich Kane)