(Alive Natural Sound Records – 2010)
3 out of 4 ****
Paul Collins’ new record, The King of Power Pop!, is better than any Paul Collins record circa 2010 has a right to be. That is not to say it is an excellent record. His choice of cover tunes is tired (both the Box Tops hit “The Letter” and the Flamin’ Groovies “You Tore Me Down” have been done countless times by others). And his own songs rarely, if ever, stray outside of the generic power-pop codes that Collins himself helped establish in the late 70’s with his bands The Nerves (“Hangin’ on the Telephone”) and The Beat (“Rock’n’Roll Girl”). But Jim Diamond’s production serves the songs extremely well. The sound is focused and uncluttered with just the right touches of percussion and acoustic guitar added to the standard mix of electric guitar, bass and drums. Collins’ voice has held up well and he has new found gruff edge that is charming – no point in a middle aged man trying to sound like a hormonally challenged adolescent.
The 13 tunes zip by in just over a half hour with only one making even the three minute mark. The economy is refreshing. Every song has its hook, but the before they can grow tiresome he’s wrapped things up and moved on to the next one. And while much of the subject matter is fairly trite he has some moments of hard won clarity, whether it’s the self-effacing title track (“Sometimes people, they remember me and tell me how great they thought I used to be”) or the anthemic “This is America” which counts Trans Ams, Burger Kings and “The Kids” amongst our nation’s finest achievements. No point arguing with that. Or this record, for that matter. It is what it is and it is a very good power-pop record by an often overlooked originator.
Sal Cannestra is a New York City native who relocated to Philadelphia in 2006. He has been writing about rock’n’roll music since 1984 for various publications. He also plays in the bands The Gerunds (www.thegerunds.com) and The Thirteen (www.myspace.com/thethirteenphilly)