Music

Bubblegum Lemonade: Sophomore Release

With Sophomore Release, you get nearly pitch-perfect recreations of gold sounds from popular music’s past that are unleashed in quick two to three minute bursts.


Bubblegum Lemonade

Sophomore Release

Label: Matinée
US Release Date: 2010-11-30
UK Release Date: 2010-11-30
Amazon
iTunes

There’s not a heck of a lot of information out there on the one-man band that comprises the jangle pop revivalist Bubblegum Lemonade. Basically the brainchild of Glasgow, Scotland’s Lawrence "Laz" McCluskey, and deriving its name from a Mama Cass (aka Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas) album, there’s little else that can be said about the, erm, “group”. Bubblegum Lemonade is about as low profile and obscure as it gets, which makes hearing the not-so-imaginatively titled Sophomore Release (yes, it is the second official full-length album, not counting a handful of EPs) all that more wonderful.

Bubblegum Lemonade is a throwback to the sounds of ‘60s jangle pop groups like the Byrds and the sun-bleached psychedelia of the early ‘80s Paisley Underground with some Jesus and Mary Chain-esque elements injected for good measure. The sound is light, it’s bubbly, and it’s a little bit twee. And, for the most part, it works. The enigmatic McCluskey has a real handle on his song craft, even though the end results found on the 12-track Sophomore Release are hardly original. He’s going back to a simpler time of music making, recalling an era when Top 40 albums weren’t computer processed to death -- and this is something he relishes with glee in the liner notes by stating that the album is 100 percent Auto-Tune free.

Here, you get nearly pitch-perfect recreations of gold sounds from popular music’s past that are unleashed in quick two to three minute bursts. McCluskey is a skilled re-creationist, which is evident in the list of instruments used on the record as stated in the liner notes: You’ve got your standard Roger McGuinn Rickenbacker 12 string guitar. You’ve got a bass plugged into a Marshall amp. You’ve got your groovy red plastic tambourine (not just a tambourine, but a red one). And let’s not forget about that shaker egg to stir things up. Does that sound like fun to you? That sure sounds like fun to me.

The album kicks off with “Caroline’s Radio”, which pays tribute to the ‘60s offshore “pirate” radio station Radio Caroline, and has a jangle pop quality to it that is unique in that it has a start-stop stutter in its verses. The song references the Beach Boys in its lyrics, and I would go so far to add that it has a sunshiny vibe that recalls the early hits of said band, if not the Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation”. When McCluskey intones “Caroline knows” in the song, it is a wink and a nod to Brian Wilson’s “Caroline, No”, which was originally titled “Caroline, I Know”. If anything, this illustrates that our man certainly has a knack for incorporating music history on a multitude of levels into his songs.

And the hits keep coming from there. “Maybe Someday” features a slinky bass line and more jingly guitars than you can shake a fistful of quarters at, but it also broods in the best tradition of the Jesus and Mary Chain. “She’s Got a Gun” has a kind of masculine Camera Obscura quality to it, which is only natural considering that they, too, hail from Glasgow. The goofy “You Only Leave Twice” follows, with a softly strummed acoustic guitar and bongos as the main means of percussion backing it up.

“We Could Send Emails” is a delicious slice of twee with infectious “bah bah bahs” introducing the song, which could pass for a shoegazey Teenage Fanclub, another band that comes from Scotland -- notice a pattern emerging here? The recycling of sounds continues with the memorable “When She Goes”, which was a song originally recorded by McCluskey’s former band, the Search Engines, and is the closest thing you have here to an actual cover despite the fact that all of these songs sound like they belong to other bands. Closing track “Last Train to Clarkston” even recalls the L.A. ‘60s pop of the Monkees, and not just by making a passing reference to “Last Train to Clarksville”. It is so exact and note-on that you could easily mistake the tune as one being done by that prefabricated American band.

While the tracks here are fairly strong, Sophomore Release’s production values, to an extent, could have used a bit of tweaking. Though the sound is generally crisp and clean, there are a couple of songs here that have a touch too much fuzz on the guitars, making my stereo speakers, which didn’t come cheap, crackle a bit. I’ve found no mention of a vinyl release anywhere online, and I would argue that Bubblegum Lemonade is crying out to be released on that medium, where one can be a bit more forgiving to guitars pushed just a smidge into the red.

Still, the songwriting is pretty much impeccable and “Laz” isn’t kidding in the liners when he welcomes listeners to “Bubblegum Lemonade’s greatest hits volume two!” There isn’t really a bad song to be found on Sophomore Release, even though I’m not crazy about the hazy, laid-back acoustic mid-tempo “Autumn Sky”, which does serve a utility in varying things on the record by being written in 3/4 time, or the plodding “Alice Please”. That said, there isn’t really a stellar “Oh my God! You have to hear this!” moment on the album, either. The songs here are simply workmanlike, skilled, serviceable and sturdy. I even had the impression listening to this that many of the songs would make memorable B-sides, in that they are well-executed, but have a sort of disposable, throw-way quality to them -- which, I hasten to add, is not necessarily a bad thing. For that reason, those who miss the glory days of ‘60s pop and have pretty much exhausted music along those lines wouldn’t really go wrong picking up Sophomore Release. The songs here will give you a bit of a head buzz and they are generally pleasing, even if McCluskey isn’t really the next incarnation of Brian Wilson. For that, Bubblegum Lemonade is probably destined to be mired in obscurity, but if you have a little extra coin in your pocket, you can’t go wrong discovering the jingle-jangle to be heard on Sophomore Release. The taste is sticky sweet, and is, at the best of times, ultimately downright memorable, even if it goes down merely as a reprocessing of styles. Sophomore Release is simply good stuff.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image