PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

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

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


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.