Though I’m regularly pleased by the Popkid label’s offerings, I readily admit that I had no idea that I would take such a liking to Reno, Nevada’s Crushstory. Crushstory rarely deviates from the five-piece rock setting (using a Rhodes as the fifth) because, as A+ Electric demonstrates, they have little need to.
A+ Electric is quite simply a great pop record, a well-studied amalgamation of rock styles spanning the past 30 years on both sides of the Atlantic, punctuated by Jim Bowers’ Elvis Costello-esque vocals. At times, Crushstory come off modish, sometimes like new wavers, occasionally vaguely Smiths-like, but always excellent, consistently reminding me of the independent music proliferated by college radio of the 1980s and early ‘90s.
On an album where almost every song feels like a single, “Let’s [Action]” instantly gets the ball rolling. Huge guitars spin bigger melodies as Bowers’ vocal is so sweet throughout that I can’t help but shake my head as in a different era of American music this would be on the charts rather than relegated to indie status (no slight on Popkid intended, for I credit them immensely for holding on). “White” is the kind of teary-eyed pop that would have made even John Hughes blush at having it on one of his soundtracks, so pristine and tender that its 90-second running time is ideal. “Return of Tremolo” lives up to its billing, as Bowers and Ty Williams make their guitars ache in controlled distortion, modish and Marrish alike. Bowers shrewdly adds a “la la la” sing-along vocal that twists into a Rhodes supported call-and-answer beauty. And a mere four tracks in, it seems Crushstory have covered the entire spectrum when they unleash even greater ranger with a dreamy, pensive pop ballad, “R Relativity”, complete with heavily drawn out vocals begging to “watch the satellites” with “Sarah Anne”. “All Natural” succeeds with an organ and guitar mesh that is like the Small Faces meeting Donovan for cocktail of the new millenium, while Bowers’ Costello-esque pipes are accentuated by horns and an androgynous backing vocal. “...New Rock” goes punkier but doesn’t sacrifice a drop of quality; “Sick of Me” might be a great lost Elvis Costello single; Kathy Cagigas lends enhanced vocal dimension on “Spook Out”; “Young Adults” is a reliable, mildly folky acoustic closer with a cruelly hidden hook.
With its 12 diverse but always dead-on tracks, Crushstory’s A+ Electric is a record from a sadly forgotten pop era and hopefully also a rebirth.