[3 December 2008]
Philly’s Transit of Venus has become sort of a hub for 1960s-loving power pop, first with the Trolleyvox, later Julie Ocean, and now Like a Fox. This latest band follows the crunchy guitars and catchy melodies trajectory of the other two, with a big dose of Beatlemania. You can hear a dash of 1990s lo-fi, even Elephant 6 fantasy in the skewed acoustic strums that open “A Feeling that Launched a Thousand Wars”, as songwriter Jay Laughlin sings through a cracked mic cable. “Happiness is so elusive”, he ventures in the brief pause before the song picks up a beat and starts to swagger. When the electric guitar comes in, it has the rich, 1970s bravadoccio of Cheap Trick or Queen. But it’s a sweet-ish sort of power pop, the kind that undercuts its sugary harmonies with minor key choruses and disturbing thoughts. “Internal/External”, the album’s best cut, comes on like a Guided by Voices fragment, all aggressive slanting guitars, but it breaks into a big trippy psych interlude with “Lucy in the Sky” overtones. “Oh yeah, it comes on like a tickle / Oh yeah, it leaves you like a cripple”, sings Laughlin, neatly summing up the seemingly ephemeral, but actually quite durable appeal of power pop bands like these. Laughlin relies on Dave Grubb, from his old band Lenola, to add the hyper-colored, harpsichord-ish keyboards that turn simple songs into 1960s baroque overtures. There are also some grand, expansive Pink Floydish moments late in the album, particularly in the closer “Just a Light Hit”. Not exactly revolutionary, but consistently solid and engaging.