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Monday, February 4, 2013

Mark’s Pick of the Week: The A’s by A’s

           The internet changed everything.  Now you really don’t need anything other then drive and talent to do something.  Things like connections, money, and influence are all still helpful, but anyone can make a bandcamp, facebook, etc.  If it’s really good people will flock to it no matter who’s backing it.  After listening to this album for about 21 years I can’t help, but wonder what would have happened if these guys had the internet. 
            The A’s (who will always be first in my record collection) were a power pop/ new wave band in 1978, arguably the best year to be a new wave band.  Every other iconic new wave act had laid the foundation by this point, and basically everyone was getting a shot.  However, in order to make it past the 80’s sometimes it took more then talent.  Sometimes you needed a lot of luck or a good publicist.
            The band itself was Richard Bush on vocals, Rick DiFonzo on guitar, Rocco Notte on keyboards, Terry Bortman on bass, and Michael Snyder on drums.  Each a petty good musican in their own right, however, they managed to be more then the sum of their parts in their songwriting ability. 

For starters the blending of genres is really good.  There are elements of retro rockabilly, proto-punk, standard syth-driven new-wave, and power-pop.  They also managed to have their own style without smothering the actual music.  Their songs were heartfelt, or reflective, but they managed to never take themselves to seriously, sacrificing the “serious artist” bit in favor of something more fun and relatable.  
The icing on the cake is their hooks.  When you think of a really catchy Car’s song or ELO song it’s all about the earworm, the chord or note progression that gets the song so far into your brain that you can help but to enjoy them.  These guys were REALLY good at hooks.  I think all but one or two songs have very “hum-able” parts to the point where I can’t understand how these guys weren’t bigger. 

Better still these songs still have substance when you strip off the earcandy. It’s certainly not Animal Collective or Sigor Ros or James Blake level of complexity, but sometimes all you need is a fun rockin’ power pop ballad about being grounded.  Where else are you going to get something like that? 
I was lucky enough to go see their (hopefully not) last show last week at Underground Arts.  Though these songs were recorded before I was critiquing my first Clash album they more then showed up.  Everyone has a great time listening to Philly’s best-kept secrets.  To suggest a song is timeless is kind of cliché, but what else can you call it when these guys in their 60’s are playing songs like they are in their 20’s?  If you’re only going to listen to one Philly local band from the late 70’s that you’ve never heard of this year…then make it these guys.

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