As a music journalist, there are
certain constants in my life. I have more CDs in my car than most
people have in their entire extended family. I take a perverse pride
in discovering a band before anyone else. I won't admit that I like
ABBA more than Led Zeppelin. (Oh wait, I just did.)
The biggest one is that I just don't
understand why power pop never seems to catch
If rock critics had their way, Big
Star, Matthew Sweet, Jellyfish and the Records would be the Super Bowl
half-time entertainment rather than Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's
boob. However, despite forests worth of good press and occasional short-lived popular outbreaks of artists like the Knack, Nick
Lowe and Marshall Crenshaw (and no, it's not a coincidence that I have to
reach back to the early 80s to find breakout power-pop acts), the art form
just never seems to capture the audience it so richly deserves.
Owsley is yet another example of an
artist that should be on everyone's iPod, but is more likely to be the
personal secret of a bunch of pretentious rock geeks. The world is a
lesser place for it, because The Hard Way is one of the better albums
I've heard so far this year. Owsley was a member of the sadly
forgotten pop outfit the Semantics in the mid-90s and released a self-titled
solo CD in 1999 on Irving Azoff's Giant label.
It's hard to believe it took five
years for him to come back, but at least he has a primo crop of tunes for
his return. From the soaring power chords of "Rise" to the
stuttering groove of "She's the One," this album is wall-to-wall pop bliss.
"Undone" has a nearly perfect hook. The psychedelic "Rainy Day People,"
the wonderfully old-fashioned ballad "Matriarch" and the mope-pop midtempo
jam "Dude" have taken
up permanent residence in my head.