Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just Another Pop Album: The Titan Sampler

Just Another Pop Album: The Titan Sampler (1980) ****

Ultra-obscure compilations from local record labels (in this case, Kansas City, MO) are usually the sort of grab-bag that might, might, maybe by a longshot if you're lucky contain one or two genuinely good songs and a whole bunches of barely listenable, derivative amateurism from bar bands that shall forever and justly be stuck in beer-splattered redneck dives for the rest of their lives as working musicians.  Obviously going by my rating this one's very much an exception.  And judging by the title, you'd assume that the chosen genre is power-pop, and you'd be dead to rights. Apparently there's a two disc, 42-song disc, Titan: It's All Pop! compiling everything the label released during its lifetime, but since I haven't listened all the way through that, I'm reviewing the only compilation longplayer released by that label during its brief lifespan:  13 songs, four artists, who all sound like you'd expect - late '70s Mid-Western power-pop, shades of the Raspberries (especially the vocals), Big Star, Cheap Trick, Shoes, etc.  Let's proceed in the alphabetical order emblazoned on the cover jacket.

1) Arlis! - Not merely Arlis, but Arlis!  Rather hubristic as they are most prosaic of the bands here, profferring mildly generic, rockist power-pop with a raspy singer who sounds like Jon Waits (The Babys?  "Missing You"?  Anybody missing that guy at all?).  Of their two songs, "Good Friends," is merely ordinary and slightly annoying, but "No Way Baby" is a fine Rod Stewart-ish stomper.

2) The Boys - Not to be confused with the late '70s U.K. power-poppers, or the jillion other bands adopting the moniker.  Fortunately, their name is their weakest link:  these boys are really fine, fine, fine.  Their four songs are all this side of excellent, with "We're Too Young," (not to be confused with the classic doo-wop number) surging, storming power-pop worthy of belonging next to the same breathless rush as the U.K. Boys' "Brickfield Nights," - which is to say, as danceable as power-pop gets.  "(Baby) It's You," (not to be confused with the Bacharach/David chestnut - sigh, words weren't these Boys' strong point) which inexplicably precedes with a bit of spoken-word French, is almost as fine.  Perhaps with a more distinctive name people would've taken up notice of this band.

3) Gary Charlson - Perhaps the most talented musician on the Titan roster, Charlson comes across as a corn-field bred Dwight Twilley, a comparison not disspelled by the opening track of this compilation, a cover of Twilley's "Shark."   Never exactly one of my favorite Twilley tunes (I find its "I'm a shark, you're a shark, in the dark!" chorus hokey, childish, and annoying) but he does a decent enough job on this Twilley rocker.  "Goodbye Goodtimes," is another dud, with its hokey sax edging him uncomfortably close to Eddie Money territory, but his other two tunes are easily the compilation's highlights.  "Brown Eyes," is a pounding kiss-off that rocks punchily, while "Not The Way It Seems," is a sheer rush of jangly breathiness and loveliness, and earns a spot on my Top 100 Poppinjayest Power-Pop Songs of All Time.

4) J.P. McClain & the Intruders - These dorks sound so derivative of Elvis Costello that it's laughable, but hey - there are worse influences.  Their three songs range from a punchy This Year's Model pleader ("Baby Don't Laugh") to a Get Happy!!! piano-soul stomper ("Just Another Pop Song") to Armed Forces lush balladry ("The Last Song (Dry Your Eyes)").  I doubt I'd be able to take an entire J.P. McClain & the Intruders album seriously, but in this context they're highly entertaining - they do the Declan McManus pastiche professionally and admirably well.  Completely lacking in bitingly clever wordplay, though - lyrically, they're quite bland.  Do your homework better next time, guys!

Obviously this long, long, long out of print LP is unavailable on CD (was it even released on cassette?), unless you pick up that two-disc comprehensive I linked above, but thanks to the wonders of MP3 blogs - you guessed it:

And yes, Virginia, we have YouTubes!

None for Arlis! and J.P. & the Intruders. Nobody cares about them.

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