The Richies: Forever and Today

[24 February 2004]

By Jason MacNeil

I don’t know what it is about Aussie groups or New Zealand bands that often appeals to me. Perhaps it’s the fact they are often as good or better than the British bands without the large music magazines singing their weekly hyperbolic praises. Or it might be that nobody else seems to know what or who the hell I’m raving about. The Richies are such an example. A fusion of two bands—the Stereos and the Pyramidiacs—the quartet of Charley Davis, Eddie Owen, Michael Carpenter, and Bob Susnjara mix sweet and sinful harmonies with a tight bubble gum pop sparkle for most of these 11 tracks. At times it might come off as a bit over the top, especially on the lead off tune “Fallen Stars”, but it’s worth the repeated listens nonetheless. Davis and Owen trade off guitar licks during the bridge and elongate it past the first eight thankfully. And then there are the McCartney-esque head bobbles, my word the McCartney head bobbles.

With all members sharing vocal duties, the Richies perfect this sound on “Up & Out”, a slightly faster and more infectious pop tune that brings the Wondermints to mind instantly. You pretty much know the blueprint to this song and where each instrument will kick in, but the way they pull it off is what separates them from so many other bands of the same ilk. “Every Little Thing” comes across just a bit lightweight and formulaic with only brief moments of grin-inducing riffs. Had they taken it the acoustic route, which is something they go out with, the result might be much better. “I Wanna Make It with You” is pure sixties Brit pop à la Dave Clark Five. It’s probably the first true nugget and winds into a psychedelic sixties sound halfway through. You can almost see Austin Powers shaking his booty to this tune. “I Won’t Give In” is perhaps too sixties as the Richies tend to go over the line here. But there are some fine guitar solos here and a great sense of frantic energy.

The first “ballad” on the album comes as a good time. “My Love Is True” is the sort of title that might have you gagging at first. And the Beach Boys campfire aura to it, in the vein of “Kokomo”, certainly won’t win them any brownie points. Yet there is still enough to make it passable, which is a credit to the musicianship of the foursome. It leads seamlessly into the bouncy pop of “I Do”, another highlight on the record that soars easily. There are also a plethora or “do do do do"s to keep you going for the song’s short but sweet duration (tambourine included). A crunchier sound comes from “Little Petty Things”, bringing early to mid-life Sloan to mind.

One song is divided up into two sections, the latter of which closes the record. “Today (Part 1)” is a rather inane attempt at recreating the Beatles or, at worst, the Stone Roses. A series of notes and vocals that the listener has to endure for a painful thirty seconds. Even if there were some Satanic or subliminal messages you could hear, it might be worthwhile. Alas, that is not the case. What works for the group is catchy and sometimes quirky pop, which they find often on “Little Charms”, a charmer in itself. The spacey conclusion sounds suitable here also for some strange reason.

Like most albums, there are a couple of songs near the end that are there because, well, either as experiments or filler. “You Fill Me Up” is a mixture of the two, with bizarre harps and keyboards dotting the song. Then there are tablas or some sort of percussion added for a trippy effect. And then there is a cheesy organ. Okay, enough already! Prior to the painful coda of “Today (Part 2)”, “Oh No, Okay” is a cheerful acoustic guitar strumming pop song that has a bit more bite than other songs. The Richies might not get rich off this album, but they have tapped into something quite natural and beautiful all the same.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/richies-forever/