POP YER BOOMERANG 2 – Various Artists (Popboomerang)
Yep. It's pop - but not the abject shit that masquerades as music on mainstream radio. This is the stuff that hopefully grows, rather than festers, in tiny kitchens-doubling-as-studios and mouldy rehearsal rooms around Australia.

Popboomerang is a tiny Melbourne label that’s doing more than anyone on the Australian scene (whatever happened to the eclectic Antfarm label?) to give oxygen to those little bands. This compilation of 23 cuts by some (relatively) well-known bands - and some positively unknown acts – probably isn’t going to be topped for a long time in the listenability stakes.

It’s a step forward from Volume 1, where some of the material (admittedly, in many cases, demo’s) seemed a little undercooked, and possibly not as immediately arresting as the international compile, “Planet of the Popboomerang”, on the same label. But we’re talking degrees, here.

Personally, some of the more saccharine or ephemeral stuff on collections like these will leave me reaching for the Forward button, but there’s enough rocks among the flowers to keep me happy. It’s a bit like listening to Triple Jay on a Saturday morning about 10 years ago, without back announcements by clueless tossers and before the Rock Inc. and rap crap started crowding out dinosaurs like me. Another generalisation: Australian pop (as opposed to internationalist, packaged, radio pop) mostly has a rocking heart. It was probably more noticeable pre-globalisation, but it’s still there on many of these tracks.

Dunno that a track-by-track dissertation is necessary or valid. I’m under-qualified to make personal observations about most of the members of a floating cast that’s involved in many of these bands, and I’ll make a case that the best pop, even in its rocking sense, is disposable enough to suit most people, depending on their mood. That’s not to say the music is worthless, but that academic descriptions are invalid - plus they shit me.

As mentioned, some of the names will be relatively obvious to anyone with a passing interest in the Australian scene: veterans like Sneeze and Even, up-and-comers like Dappled Cities Fly, hardworkers like Peabody and fab hit tips like Remake Remodel. A few less familiar ones might just catch your fancy too, like Tama Wells, The Suits and Her Majesty’s Finest (contributing the almost traditional label namedropping promo tune – and a good ‘un it is, too).

You read a lot about pop experiencing a re-birth and all that crap. Fact is, it never goes away, and good on Popboomerang for taking the trouble to shine a light with their zealous enthusiasm. A mix-and-match collection with something to please most of us. The Barman



1/4

 

PLANET OF THE POPBOOMERANG - A GLOBAL POP COMPILATION - Various Artists (Popboomerang)
It's no longer a crime to like pop. I don't mean the crap that passes for mainstream, major label FM radio fodder, but the stuff that's bubbling up from under the surface from bedroom studios and garages all around the world. This is the second compilation in less than a year for fast-blooming Melbourne label Popboomerang and where their first, "Shake Yer Popboomerang", drew on demos and outtakes from Australia's powerpop/pop identities (some well-known, some positively obscure), this one's an international affair.

Part of the charm of "Shake Yer Popboomerang" was the underdeveloped nature of much of the material; it was like thumbing through someone's sketchbook. "Planet" heavily leans on the finished product and consequently comes across as a stronger collection. Lots of variety here and some killer hooks. Some of the material ranges from mildly saccharine to a full-on sugar hit, but I'm betting there'll be enough substance among the salad to keep most anyone with a liking for guitars married to melody dipping in for more.

The opener, "Don't Change a Thing", is slightly scummy, hooky guitar pop - the sort of tune DM3 used to reel off six or seven times in the course of one album. Its perpetrators, Lolas, come from Alabama and if there are any more songs like this back home, they deserve to be huge. Israel's Shy Nobelmen resort to horns to sweeten their contribution, "Spring B# (Stevie Winwood)", which owes an obvious musical debt to the slightly twee/psych strain of English '60s pop.

"The Turnaround" is a tightly-wound pop song with enough quirkiness to stand it out from the pack. Tinny keyboards and a quaint "oooo-wooo-oooo" chorus propel it on its way. Its owner is a band called Vocoder who are from New Zealand, but ewe knew that (sorry). At the other end of the scale, it doesn't get much more languid than "Come to Me" by American one-man band Florapop (aka Mark Flora). This one's from a planned trib to Jeremy Morris (nah, new one on me, too).

Every pop album must have a Sgt Pepper's-influenced cut and "Hollywood is Babyfood" by Spanish band Bondage fills that bill. Can't argument with a lyrical sentiment like that, though. England's The Samurai Seven sound like a cynical mob and that's just fine when they slag off fakes with a song like "Flaming Hell Blake". Tight harmonies and some tasty guitar top a clever lyric. Who said small rustic pubs were Aylesbury's only asset? Jeremy is a Michigan solo artist who's anti-war/anti-bullying tune "This is War" is brash pop and pretty bracing.

Echoes of that '60s craze called "Group Sounds" cuts through "Rock'n Roll Girl High School" from Japan's bouncy Movin' Jelly, who feature the dinkiest keyboards in many a moon (or rising sun). With a name like Space Gu-Tara Man, their singer wins extra brownie points. Also from Japan are The Oranges and their "All Day All Night" is bouncy, infectious pop (even with the wheezy synth line). Great stuff. "Sunbeams" by Game is Nipponese buzzsaw pop with a sharp edge. Japan brings up the rear with the closing track by Salt Water Taffy, a cover of Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" that's clangy metal pop with cute chick vocals. Do you really want to be reminded of Twisted Sister? A curiousity.

Australia's well represented with Dom Mariani dusting off a demo from Someloves days ("Fireplace") that kills most of the material they released, for mine. Sydney's Finkers are one of the best Aussie pop outfits ever to straddle two cities (Melbourne and Sydney) and "Santa Came in Stripes" comes from the (slightly) slick side of their catalogue. Nice, if not their best moment, and a tune with obvious Xmas affectations. Consistently great Danny McDonald offers up "A Bitter End to a Sweet Weekend Away" finds him in ballad mode with a guitar line swiped straight from the Church, but it works well. Michael Carpenter swerves on the glossy side of polished on his solo outings but "Rolling Ball" sounds like one of those songs that he didn't try hard to write (or produce) yet still sticks in the mind.

The Richies are a Pyramidiacs outgrowth with a sharp Beatles bent (the Everywhereman, Michael Carpenter, is a member) but the aptly-titled "Fanclubesque" seems to borrow more from the Scots band of the same name (even though it was written by Leon Mullins of 2 Litre Dolby/The Welcome Mat). Transplanted West Australian Joe Algeri teams up with Swede Magnus Karlsson for "Stories Remain Untold" but it doesn't really go anywhere.

You're hard to please if you don't find something to like on "Planet of the Popboomerang". Infectious and fun. - The Barman




 

SHAKE YER POP BOOMERANG - Various Artists (Popboomerang)
If you're not too pooped to pop after the recent run of Lost Weekend shows, this quirky collection from Melbourne label/online shop Popboomerang might just tickle your tailfeather. More pop than power, it's 23 songs from Australian artists drawn from the length and breadth of this Wide Brown Land (plus an expat living in Sweden, who collaborated over the 'Net).

So who's here? A lot of bands I've never struck, actually. An exception, however, is my second dose of Magneto in a couple of weeks (their "Leaving Look" was a highlight of "Lost Weekend" volume 2) and they don't do much wrong. Yep, "Living on the Moon" is a winner. Dunno who scored the Teenage Fanclub support in Melbourne at the time of writing but these guys would have suited nicely.

If anyone ever wrote a song called "I-94" we'd be honoured. (Hang on...someone did? Yeah, but a long time ago and not for us.) Similarly, "Shake Your Popboomerang" by Melbourne's Stoneage Hearts is the branded quasi-titletrack. It also sounds like a thorwaway, but then the label was hardly going to knock it back, were they? Still looking forward to the next Hearts album, though.

Never Loved Elvis peddle a brand of mod-pop with their clever paen to yuppiedom, "Rodney Smart". "Her Majesty's Finest are similar mod-beat merchants and "Peggy Wednesday" slides by on the back of a ringing Rickenbacker and melodramatic vocals. By way of contrast, Smallgoods' acoustic "Listen to the Radio" is tremulous with delicate multi-part harmonies, almost too light for its own good.

Starky's "Yesterday I Drove Your Girlfriend Home" is lilting pop driven by trombone and not as supercharged as their mighty "That's How I'll Know You" single, but still pretty good. Sarah Sarah are still cutesty bubblegum and slightly addictive in an annoying way - but the lyrics of "Ignorance and Arrogance" are one in the eye for critics like yours truly anyway. Dom Mariani weighs in with a 13-year-old jangle-pop song called "Brothers and Sisters" that was intended for a second Someloves album.

We at the I-94 Bar love a good handclap song and "Karenin's Smile" manages to be one. Not much idea about Run on One, the four-piece that plays it (the liner notes area little light on) but it's appealing '60s beat pop. Tim Reid does a singer-songwriter thing with not enough edge for mine on the strength of the sleepy "Dancing Girl".

There's a fair bit of Danny McDonald on this compile and that can't be a bad thing. As well as being a recent Stoneage Hearts member he's one half of the aforementioned trans-global collaboration, working up "Til The End" over the Internet with expat Sandgroper Joe Algeri, who's re-located to Sweden. It's pure and pleasurable acoustic pop. Similiarly toned is Danny's own "In the Comfort of a Summer's Day" which closes the disc and I figure he probably does with full band as well.

No Australian pop album would be complete without a Michael Carpenter touch and West Australian band Showbag's "Goodbye Friend" was mixed at his Stagefright Studios in Sydney. It's simple guitar pop that peters out after 1min30sec. Curious. WA labelmates (they're both on Zip) Superscope flesh out the Perth representation with a slightly laboured song called "Untitled Demo # 1".

Production values are respectable (and sometimes just this side of lo-fi) but that's half the charm. Most of it is unaffected, almost demo-ish in tone, comprising as it does outtakes and unreleased material. It's a mixed bag with some obvious highlights and a few forgettable ones. Still, it is a good chance to sample a range of bands that might normally not figure on the radar screen. - The Barman



 

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