Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Plimsouls...Plus

The Plimsouls...Plus (1992) ***1/2

As one-third of the greatest LA power-pop trios to never record a full album, Peter Case contributed one tune ("When You Find Out") to the Nerves' 1976 eponymous four-song EP before the three songwriters/musicians went their separate ways, with Paul Collins forming the Beat ("Rock'n'Roll Girl") and Jack Lee basking in the royalties from Blondie's cover of the Nerves' "Hanging on the Telephone".  Case hooked up with the three Mexican-American Angelenos pictured on the cover of this compilation (not hard to guess which one's Pete) to form a beat combo entitled after the Beatles' sneakers.  Centered around Case's sharp songwriting chops and sharper voice, a distinctive Lennon-ish vox that slices in a not-unpleasant way (Gregg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs would essay a similar style a decade later), and beefed up by guitarist Eddie Munoz's slicily angular guitar riffing that's sharp and trebly cutting to match, the Plimsouls' blend of garage pop-soul has held up well.  This 20-track compilation pads out their eponymous 1981 LP with the 1980 Zero Hour EP, with some outtakes and B-sides thrown in for good measure.

The band fit in snuggly with the skinny-tie post-Knack power-pop crowd of the time but with an R&B grit and soul fire that most of the other whitebread representatives of that ilk lacked, covering "Mini-Skirt Minnie," Otis Redding's "I Can't Turn You Loose," and "Dizzy Miss Lizzie," to more perfunctory than exciting effect, though their turbo-charged zoom through the Easybeats' "Woman," is a stroke.  Case's originals make up for a slight lack in melodicism with forceful delivery in vocals and band performance as well as sharp (there's that adjective again) hookcraft.  The likes of "Zero Hour," and "Nickels and Dimes," buzz on the strength Munoz's sour-tart truncated riffage.  The boppy, Marshall Crenshaw-ish "Everyday Things,"; the driving blasts of "Hush, Hush," and "Now," (can't wait, gotta get it on this night, babe); Tom Petty-ish heartland rockers "Lost Time," and "Great Big World,"; and the sprung-from-stone mid-tempo outtake, "Memory," are as well all clear highlights.  An enjoyable if minor classic that'll please fans of the form, in toto.  (Not Kansas, no not anymore.)  The 'Souls, or the Plims as I like to call'em, went on to release a major-label followup that wasn't quite as good, but did score a coup in 1983 with the inclusion of their best song, "A Million Miles Away," (not on this disc, natch) prominently in the teensploitation smash Valley Girl flick where you can witness a very young Nicholas Cage ham it up as badly as the rest of his career, thereby scraping the band a minor hit on the farthest ends of the charts and allowing them to limp on a bit further before the inevitable breakup.  Case went on to a solo career as some sort of folkish singer-songwriter and the band reformed in the early '00s to record a third album, but I've never heard none of that.

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