Welcome to my brand-new column Pop Goes the World, which aims to serve as an antidote of sorts to the sad, sad, sad world of Mope Like Me. (That scream you just heard is Ted Asregadoo, who loved to watch me wallow in self-pity. Sick bastard.) The column will focus primarily on newer acts that have yet to get their big break, though I’ll be sprinkling in some lesser-known songs from big-name bands to add a little variety. Ready, Freddies and Bettys?
The hyperbole machine went into overdrive earlier this year over a new Scottish group that was going to be the next Band That Matters. That band, of course, was Glasvegas, and their debut record is fine, but it’s the kind of album that’s easier to dispassionately admire than it is to love. You might look like a hipster if you own it, but if you play it at your next party, prepare to see a bunch of your guests start glancing at their watches.
As it turns out, the hype machine had the right country. They just had the wrong band.
If, instead, you had popped on Friday Night Lights, the debut album from Glasgow quintet Attic Lights, you’d have been peppered with questions. “Is this Teenage Fanclub?” “Are the Beach Boys singing backup?” “What decade is this from?” That last question stings a little, but it’s fitting; most bands just don’t do the four-part harmonies on top of jangly, sun-kissed guitars anymore – it takes too much effort, I’m guessing – and the ones that do sell about six records. There was a brief resurgence in harmonic rock songs when the Feeling’s (awesome) debut album Twelve Stops and Home blew up in the UK, and we’re guessing it was their success that led Island UK to take a gamble on Attic Lights (well, that and the fact that Attic Lights are amazing, of course). But amazing doesn’t always mean million-selling, and sadly, these guys are no exception. Friday Night Lights peaked at #151 (!) on the UK chart, none of their singles have charted, and there are currently no plans to release the album in the US.
I’m not surprised that Attic Lights are having trouble finding an American audience. We’re beyond hope, lost in a landscape where people think Conor Oberst should be allowed within a hundred yards of a recording studio. I did, however, think the album would fare better on the other side of the pond. Any place that welcomed bands like the Lightning Seeds with open arms would surely embrace these guys, right? Look at how economical “Walkie Talkie” is with its hooks. It’s already starting the second verse at the 40-second mark, and sports a chorus stuffed to the gills with a good old fashioned “Bop bada dadat, bop, ba dada dada.” (Remember those?) The band’s “other” singer, Colin McArdle (Kev Sherry and his impossibly high tenor do the honors on “Walkie Talkie”), tends to sing the band’s rootsier songs – fans of the Jayhawks and early Wilco should check out “Nothing but Love” at once – but on “Late Night Sunshine” he unleashes another massive, lighter/cell phone-waving chorus, the kind the Oasis always gets credit for writing but never actually writes. There really isn’t a bum note to be found on this record. Not one.
What is probably going to happen with Friday Night Lights is that the power pop community will rally around it, and when that happens, Attic Lights are toast. Now, I happen to own a slew of power pop records, so I know of what I speak: the kiss of power pop fans is the commercial kiss of death. (Ask Taxiride, Evan and Jaron, Owsley, Swirl 360, and anyone tangentially related to Jellyfish.) So all you power pop fans out there, for the love of God, I’m begging you, stay away from these guys. If no one’s caught on to them by their second album, they’re all yours. But for now, please, back the fuck off.
As further proof of Friday Night Lights‘ awesomeness, I’ve included links to the five videos of songs from the album (embedding disabled, grrrr), plus one very amusing short film about them and their influences. Buy the record, save the world.