The Lickerish Quartet Volume 3

The Lickerish Quartet’s ‘Threesome Vol. 3’ Is a Bubblegum/Power-Pop Confection

The Lickerish Quartet’s Threesome trilogy suffers from all the genre’s shortcomings, but the devoted bubblegum/power-pop demographic will absolutely eat these records up.

Threesome Vol. 3
The Lickerish Quartet
Stranger Danger Records
20 May 2022

In a just world, entertainment reviews should incorporate two ratings. The first might represent a standard “main” rating, as compared to other music or films as a whole. The second would be a “genre” grade aimed at fans of a specific style, whose apples-vs-oranges taste buds might predispose them to a better impression. Perfect film-world example? No critic in his right mind would give 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the same flawless rating as 1972’s The Godfather. But for sci-fi aficionados in general, and Trekkies in particular, Trek II may be the finest major-franchise screenplay ever written – and well-deserving of the same perfect ten as The Godfather, if only within its narrow classification.

Along those lines, the Lickerish Quartet‘s collected three-volume EP set Threesome isn’t even the best album this month, let alone the past two years. But for a certain bubblegum/power-pop demographic – think the Orange Peels, the Wondermints, and of course, Lickerish progenitors Jellyfish – such music is manna from heaven. This modest but devoted fan base will absolutely eat these records up and beg for Volume 4.

From an objective standpoint, power-pop’s limitations as a brand are on full display here. Such a frustrating genre! Decent first impression; the cursory sugar high; then a quick flameout after just a few spins. With the brilliant exceptions of Big Star, the Raspberries, Let’s Active, the Orange Humble Band, and Tommy Keene‘s numerous collaborations (to name a few), the lion’s share of power-pop hooks the eardrums effectively enough but doesn’t reward multiple listens. For this reviewer, the original Jellyfish fell into the latter category. College radio couldn’t get enough of their 1990 debut Bellybutton, nor its ubiquitous singles “Baby’s Coming Back” and “The King Is Half Undressed”. Three decades later, the entire undertaking comes off as too precious by half.

Yet as stated above, power pop aficionados – and Jellyfish fans in particular – are a rabid and dedicated bunch. So when former members Roger Manning Jr., Tim Smith, and Eric Dover reunited in 2017 to record new material (sans original lead singer Andy Sturmer), the pump was well-primed for adulation. Sure enough, a quick survey yields praise like “compelling” and “masterpiece” for this 12-song, three EP set. The good news is that Volume 3 is the strongest of the trilogy; regrettably, it suffers from the same malady as 95% of the other power-pop out there, including Jellyfish. This is decent, well-constructed pop/rock songwriting, with several highs to be found. But the music lacks longevity and depth, remaining just too darn cute for its own good.

As an example, it might behoove a responsible journalist to dig up the meaning of a song title like “Snollygoster Goon” off Volume 2. Thanks, but no thanks. Volume 1’s “Fadoodle” and “Bluebird’s Blues” are two more pretentious sobriquets we could do without. To deliver praise where it belongs on Volume 3, “New Days” is the best track of the 12, with a pleading chorus, fantastic over-the-rainbow bridge, and some of 2022’s most irresistible double-helix harmonies. It’s also five-and-a-half minutes long, practically a Topographic Oceans eternity in power-pop circles. “You All Alone” ranks second, featuring a stomach-dropping chord change destined for earworm status. There’s also plenty to like about the final track, “In the Meantime”, whose swirling-guitar intro takes its cue from countless other power-pop confections. Even without Sturmer on board, the group’s vocals mesh well overall.

Yet still. One hates to apply the term “shallow” to this fully serviceable EP collection, but there it is. Nevertheless, if you’re a certified Jellyfish/power-pop fan – and you know who you are! – in that case, disregard everything you just read, and download all three EPs posthaste.

RATING 5 / 10