Usually, my practice is to listen to a CD over a couple of weeks before putting up a review, to get a feel for it and to make sure I initially don't overrate or underrate it. Then there's this disc, which I received three days ago and have listened to only a couple of times, and which I can say is easily the best new disc I've heard in many a month.
Adrian Whitehead hails from Melbourne, Australia, and he's on the incomparable Popboomerang label, home of many great power poppers. He's been mostly a sideman, with my only exposure to him being the track "Spector's Dead" (which appears here) on a Popboomerang comp from a few years ago. As good as that track is, nothing prepared me for how great this full-length is, in which Whitehead has shown his utter mastery of 60s and 70s-influenced pop forms that all of us in the power pop community enjoy. The Rolling Stone record guide once said that not liking the Beatles was as perverse as not liking the sun; the same could be said of this disc if you're a reader of this blog. While it draws its influences from the pop greats like the Beatles and Brian Wilson, it's also reminiscent of contemporary acts such as personal favorites like Derby and The Red Button as well as Jason Falkner, Michael Carpenter and Ken Sharp.
The bouncy and appropriately titled "Caitlin's 60's Pop Song" gets things going, and if your ears don't perk up within the first 30 seconds or so, you might be better off reading Pitchfork. The 6-minute "Saving Caroline" follows, and while my normal philosophy regarding songs is that 3-4 minutes is more than enough for a pop song (unless it's "Hey Jude"), it never wears out its welcome as it captures the late-period Beatles sensibility perfectly. "Radio One" is as catchy as it gets, and its breezy midtempo quality reminds me of Carpenter; "You Are The Sun" is piano ballad bliss that builds to a poptastic crescendo; and "Julia" may be even better than the Beatle track of the same name. Meanwhile, the aforementioned "Spector's Dead" doesn't have a wall of sound but provides enough sonic detours to keep things interesting, and "Ways of Man" has a bit of a Todd Rundgren-at-his-poppiest feel. And "Better Man" might be the coolest track on the disc, complete with an awesome honky tonk piano break in the middle.
Folks, step right up and meet the #1 disc of 2008.
Absolute Powerpop 10/6/08
“Bouncy hooky, enchanting melodies ride proudly atop simple arrangements, letting the pop shine clearly, without hesitation. Whitehead is a bright new talent and we should be talking about him for some years to come - Its a grown up sound that reels you in with its infectious melodies and delicious arrangements”
Not Lame: August 2008
Melbournian Whitehead shines a slightly summer hazy light on an album that just adores pop music. Whitehead’s abiding influence seems to be John Lennon without the cynicism but there’s also some pure CS&N vocal prettiness and plenty of the more ‘70’s guitar driven power pop of a more recent influence, Jason Faulkner. A double-bill gig with fellow Victorian pop fan Brian Estepa could be blissful.
Sydney Morning Herald: 12/9/08
Embracing the sound of the ’60’s is almost de riguer these days, what with artists such as Amy Winehouse and Duffy scoring huge hits with their ’60’s girl group sounds. But it’s not just women who are seeking to emulate the sounds of the ’60’s. Male artists such as James Hunter, The White Stripes, Black Keys and many other bands are striving to recapture the glory days of rock and roll by using vintage equipment and seeking to slavishly copy the sounds of their heroes. While revivalism can sometimes lead to nothing more than a dead end, sometimes it’s the means to an end in itself, sparking new creativity as often when someone goes back to square one they find the spark that energizes them into new discoveries.
Adrian Whitehead has decided to follow a similar path, but not the same one. Revving up his DeLorean to 88 miles per hour, Whitehead travels back in time to the mid ’60’s, when pop music wasn’t afraid to have catchy melodies and arrangements which were well-orchestrated and lush. Produced by Jak Housden, who knows his ’60’s rock, Whitehead has come up with an album as gorgeous as any 5th Dimension, sunshine-pop fest. Brilliantly written songs and perfectly catchy summer melodies fill the air wherever this is played and I am as giddy as a schoolgirl whenever I hear it. Great, great stuff for summer. Or anytime.
Rock And Roll Report 24/10/08