Okay, this is the shit – straight up. Some very obvious hook-mastery and full-bodied classic power pop but then it gets weird and spikey in an XTC kind of way. Can you go wrong with an album of this calibre? No – are you insane? Populuxe, who hail from Brooklyn, formed in 1996 and have had no less than 20 members pass through their ranks. The current line-up are Rob Shapiro on guitar and vocals, Mark Pardy on drums and Mike Mallory on bass – this configuration has been together since 2011 and have cut one stellar album.
The opening track, “Play Her Loud” opens with a guitar figure that instantly reminded me of The Bongos’ “Clay Midgets” but then kicks into a more refined XTC-type number (think around the period of The Big Express or Skylarking). “Love Is The Only Law” is clean and sparse – you can hear the simplicity of a three-piece, but it doesn’t sound empty or lacking and has some great backing vocals in a near call-and-response on the chorus; “Shannon Road” is quieter; restrained with a nice tension to it. “I Will Love You” has a tight 4/4 time and neatly disjointed guitar dipping around harmonica punches; “Prayer #1” has an angular guitar that weaves itself though a very Bowie-eque vocal, builds to rocking out with mega-balls and is catchy as all get-out. “End Of The Affair” goes in a ’70’s-styled hard rock direction with crisp riffage and “Requiem” is a twangy, atmospheric piece that ends the album on a fine note.
How can a band that mixes so many quality influences go wrong? – rhetorical question, I know. Populuxe don’t; that’s the beauty of this record. They use the influences and mix and skewer them in a way that works and provides a very solid album that stands on its own. Well-produced, interesting – a total package. Populuxe. Good way to describe it.