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"WILD YEARS-THE MUSIC & MYTH OF TOM WAITS" BY JAY S. JACOBS

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MUSIC REVIEWS

 

Owsley-The Hard Way (Lakeview Entertainment)

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 on.  

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.  Then the album closes out with a kick-ass hidden bonus track -- a fantastic stomping  cover of Paul McCartney & Wings' "Band on the Run."

So if you've stumbled across Fountain of Wayne's new album and want to catch onto more of their vibe, give Owsley a shot.  (3/04)    

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 23, 2004.

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Copyright 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 23, 2004.