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.



About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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