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Killer Pop Songs, Round 2

Another batch of great pop songs, pulled from the humming in my head....

“Strangers When We Meet” The Smithereens

The leadoff track from their stunning debut album.  The Smithereens play the best blend of sixties-influenced pop around.  Sure, they had a brief brush with greater fame in the late eighties, but they remain a solid cult act with serious songwriting and musical chops. 

Amsterdam” Guster

I always thought Guster was a jam band, but I guess they are really just a great pop act from Boston or thereabouts.  I don’t own any of their stuff and have heard little but this track was all over radio a couple of summers ago, and deservedly so. “I want to write you a letter/ want to write you a book/ want to see your reaction/ want to see how it looks”.  Great hook.

“Downtown Train” Tom Waits

Why does Rod Stewart have to take great original songs and suck every bit of life out of them then smush them to hell with his overproduced crap? This track off of Rain Dogs sets aside the everything including the kitchen sink production and paints a great picture of hope in a busy, disconnected world.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” Guns N’ Roses

Gn’R came storming onto the scene in ’87 or so and blew the doors off of the hair metal world.  In fact, Appetite for Destruction likely was the first real rock, if not exactly metal album that many listeners of the spandex set ever heard.  ‘Sweet Child’ is just a wonderful pop song, as evidenced by its strength in carrying over to produced pop treatment by Sheryl Crow.  While crow shined it up and glossed it up, the original of course will always shine with just the right rock edge.  Proof that real rock bands can make great hooky pop music without compromising their sound.

“Radiation Vibe” Fountains Of Wayne

This was all over ‘alternative’ radio in the fall of ’96.  I remember hearing it almost daily while picking apples that year.  While FoW may suffer a bit from being so regional in their songwriting they sure know how to craft the hooks. “And now I’ve got to say/ what I forgot to say/ baby, baby, baby/ come on, what’s wrong?/ it’s a radiation vibe I’m groovin’ on/ don’t it make you want to get some sun/ so shine on, shine on shine on…”

“Talk of the Town” Pretenders

I was a little dismayed to see the Pretenders get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I mean they are a great pop band, but are they truly the cream of the crop, considering how few get into that hallowed (hollow?) institution.  Regardless, this one off Learning to Crawl is a great pop gem

“In Your Bed” cub

When I first heard cub, lumped loosely into the twee-pop collective of the early nineties, I will admit I dismissed them as a little too simplistic and cutesy.  Successive listenings to their work has proven to me that that is exactly their strength.   cub write simple punky-pop songs about relationships, particularly crushes and breakups.  While their earlier output does lean a bit toward the amateurish, their second-to-last album Come Out, Come Out gets it all right.  This album should be required listening for swoony teenagers instead of the crappy mainstream pop shit that’s foisted on them nowadays. Great stuff.

“Deepest Shade of Blue” Pernice Brothers

My brother turned me onto the Pernice Brothers last summer.  I just don’t know why they aren’t better known.  These guys craft indie pop in the best traditions of Big Star, the Cure, the Kinks, and Matthew Sweet. “So don’t cry baby/ no don’t cry baby/ I will love you until the day I die/ this love I have for you/ is beautiful and true/ how this sheltered loveless life/ fades into a deeper shade of blue…”

“Black Coffee in Bed” Squeeze

“There’s a stain on my notebook where your coffee cup was…” Squeeze often write music a little too hooky and melodic, but this one is simply brilliant, a combination of solid lyric-writing and that sticky opening keyboard riff. “Now she’s gone/ and I’m back on the street/ that stain on my notebook/ means nothing to me/ now she’s gone/ and I’m out with a friend/ with lips full of passion/ and coffee in bed…”

“With a Gun” Minus Five

Scott McAughey bagged the punk-pop Young Fresh Fellows in the early nineties to focus on this pure pop one-time supergroup.   The Fivers put out some of the best indie pop around nowadays, and their eponymous 2005 release with the gun on the cover is brilliant.  I can’t stop humming this sucker, along with the rest of the platter.


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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com