Before the leaves start to fall, it’s time to get back to some quick thoughts about those late summer albums.
The New P*rnographers, Challengers. I’ve never quite been able to figure out how to classify this band. “Power pop” doesn’t really do them justice, because their songs are more complex than that. You can hear a bit of XTC in them, a bit of Brian Wilson at his most baroque, and even (dare I say it) some elements of art rock. And then you’ve got singers like Neko Case contributing vocals, singing on a handful of songs that don’t sound anything like what she sang on her last solo album. It makes for an entertaining mix, and it gets bonus points for not sounding like anything else that’s out there right now. Pick hits: “All the Old Showstoppers,” “Challengers,” Myriad Harbour,” “Failsafe,” “Adventures in Solitude.”
Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather. On the other hand, “power pop” describes these guys perfectly. This is my first Fountains of Wayne album, and in it I hear echoes of The Beatles, Beach Boys, Nick Lowe, Todd Rundgren, The Cars, and probably a half dozen others I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Christgau, who gave the album an “A,” calls them “lyric poets of what a more naive era called yuppieness, only now we know things aren’t so simple,” which apparently means that he’s studied the lyric sheet in much greater detail than I have. Pick hits: “Someone to Love,” “’92 Subaru,” “Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim,” “Planet Weed,” “New Routine.”