Music

Peel: Peel

Adam Bunch

Sure to be one of the best power pop albums of the year -- from yet another great Austin band.


Peel

Peel

Label: Peek-a-Boo Industries
US Release Date: 2007-03-13
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
iTunes

According to Wikipedia, the city of Austin, Texas (located on the banks of the Colorado River; founded in 1835; named after the "Father of Texas", Stephen F. Austin) has a population of just under 700,000. And that puts it 16th on the list of the largest cities in the United States. In other words, there are 15 American cities with bigger populations -- and, therefore, bigger pools of potential musicians. But do you ever hear about the great new band from Columbus, Ohio? No. You don't. Ever since it was put on the map by artists like Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson, Austin's been punching above its weight, producing one great act after the other -- the 13th Floor Elevators, Explosions in the Sky, Okkervil River, Spoon, Voxtrot, the Butthole Surfers -- playing host to SXSW and Austin City Limits, and just generally hogging all the attention. And now, with the arrival of Peel, things are only going to get worse. What's a city like Indianapolis to do?

The self-titled debut from Austin's newest power pop quintet is filled with two- and three-minute tunes; straight-forward pop songs made rough around the edges with a healthy dose of distortion and the occasional random weirdness. Sure, it's an approach we've heard before -- gospel to bands like Pavement and those Elephant 6ers over in that other overachieving bastion of southern indie rock, Athens. But just because we've heard it before doesn't mean it isn't any good, and Peel have just the kind of raw contagious energy that you need to be able to pull it off.

A lot of that has do with the fact that they avoid repeating themselves within the strict confines of the three-minute pop song. Instead of an album full of eleven variations on essentially the same song, which you see more often than not, Peel have put together a collection of tracks distinct enough from each other that the listener is kept interested the whole way through. It opens with two excellent, catchy pop tunes ("Oxford" and "Bells"), but it's not until the third track that you get to one of the record's best. "In the City" is a full-out rocker with a shout-along chorus and a big, fat mess of distorted guitars. It's immediately followed by the steel-guitar psychedelia of "Sliding Doors", which traces Peel's musical roots all the way back to the Beatles, by way of the Apples in Stereo, with a Strawberry Fields-y organ buried under their usual grungy surface. Topped off with a ridiculously catchy refrain at the end of the song -- "Gonna start living the right way / I'm setting my mind on Sunday", they belt out under swirling guitars -- it challenges for the title of the Album's Best Track. And just a moment later, they launch directly into their most dance-friendly tune, with lead vocal duties passing to one of the girls for the stilted synth-romp "Workers, Wake Up!". Toss in the pocket-sized rager "Moxy Blues" and the more acoustic-based "Love Soaked in Blood" and the band manages to keep things fresh and interesting the whole way through the record.

It all makes for what is sure to be one of the best power pop albums of the year. Peel may not be strikingly original or groundbreaking, but they are a hell of a lot of catchy fun. It's just a shame that on top of that, they're yet another feather in the cap of Austin, Texas -- a city that already has way more than its fair share. I mean, really, it's getting ridiculous. Who says Austin gets all the great bands? When is it going to be Jacksonville's turn?

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.