Various Artists: Planet of the Popboomerang, Vol. 2

[11 July 2005]

By Jason MacNeil

Labels shouldn’t turn a person off but some labels seem to have a knack for whetting the appetite of people. If you want metal or hardcore rock, check out Relapse or The End. If you want punk, Epitaph or Victory is a good start. But some of the lesser known labels consistently put out great material, and Australia’s Popboomerang is one the leaders when it comes to issuing sinfully delightful pop. After growing in stature over the last few years, the label has taken the time to release a large 46-track, two-disc collection of nuggets created by bands both in Australia and the rest of the world (disc one) as well as in the good ol’ U.S.A (disc two). Regardless of where these groups hail from, they can certainly create highbrow, smart infectious melodies that will make the disc fly from start to finish.

As Japan’s the Oranges start out with “Beautiful”, you’ll find yourself wanting to start driving and going back into a ‘60s time machine. The accents are thick, but the simplicity of the song and the melody are its charm. Several tracks here are exclusive, but they all follow a similar pattern, sort of like a Weezer-lite feel, especially on “No Matter Where You Go” by Shiner 22. By song three you’ll lose count of the “ba da bahs” and clap-along choruses but “That Extra Mile” by Britain’s Ricky is almost too sugary for its own good, complete with the horns and light, flighty Beatles-esque feel. However, Dead Somebody’s “Scrambled Eggs” is pure bliss, despite it being a French band beating the Brit popster groups at their own game, sort of like an early version of Keane but with guitar. Even more Keane-ish is “Spector’s Dead” by Aussie native Adrian Whitehead. We’re not sure if Phil would approve as it involves his recent run in with the law, but the Lennon-like melody is indeed beautiful.

Some of the songs come off too schmaltzy, or with that early ‘70s Carpenters-like sound, particularly on somber “Blink Of An Eye” by Scotland’s Green Peppers. Cosmic Rough Riders’ “I Call Her Name” shines in spite of the group’s monotone singing. Thankfully, there are some rockier moments with a remix version of “Invisible Hold” by Kelly’s Heels complete with a raucous tambourine added in. But Chris Murphy’s “Confide” is a paltry attempt at mixing Neil Finn with John Mayer. And Tim Reid’s “This Time ‘Round” tends to fall into the same vein. Yet the joy of the album is that each of these bands pack as much punch, often in under three minutes, that several bigger bands can in five or six minutes.

Perhaps the highlight of the first disc—or at least sleeper pick—is “If I Could See You” by the Rumours. Maybe I’ve been listening to New Order’s “Krafty” too much, but this tune has a lot of assets going for it in the Sumner and Hook vibe. A close second, though, has to be Michael Carpenter’s “Miracles”, which brings to mind Elliott Smith or Michael Penn—witty and extremely melodic despite the odd twist and turn. The last few tunes on Disc One are just as stellar with the jangle of Idiot Grin’s “Reluctant Guy” being the keeper of the last trio. Oops, strike that. I mean the ensuing “Norwegian” by New Zealand’s Vocoder.

So now that the label has shown the U.S. what it has to offer, Disc Two replies almost as strongly. Not with the rather pompous “Star Spangled Banner” performed on guitar by Jeremy. Just a bit over the top to say the least! Fortunately, the disc returns to form with the catchy, up-tempo “Staying Inside” by the Lolas, bringing to mind the Kinks in some respects. One notices that the American bands rely on the guitar hooks to carry the songs, not necessarily the melodies. The same can be said for Spinning Jennies’ “Big Deal”. But then again, there is more than one way to skin a cat (sorry PETA people!). It’s a different route but ends up in the same happy-go-lucky pop spot.

A few songs don’t have that spark or intangible, beginning with “Cleopatra” by Dutch Elms, a tune which sounds like the Delgados on a sugar rush. However, the good tends to outweigh the average or poor here judging by the retro-riffs of Brad Harvey’s “Blinded By Your Love”. And then there is the well-crafted, Brendan Benson-like “Beautiful Mess” by Maple Mars. The lone roots-sounding effort comes during the fine duet on “Every Whisper From You” courtesy of Mark DeCarbo and vocalists Eve Selis. Then there is also the soft, singer-songwriter side of Neilson Hubbard’s “If the Memories Lose Their Minds”. For the most part, it is gems such as Chris Richards (“I’m No Better than You”) and Bobby Sutliff churning out “Oh Lorelei” that make the second disc as strong as the first one. Jeremy, the capo de tutti capo when it comes to shimmering pop that keeps hiding under the radar, lends his hand again with “Here to Stay” before Blue Ash rounds things out with its own one-two punch. On the whole, lengthy, exhaustive but almost vital to your record collection!

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/various-popboomerang2/