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Blue Skies Up: Welcome To The Pop Revolution (Dogbox Records)

“…real artists are much better at pop than major label production line fodder has ever been” (Dogbox Records web site).

Welcome, indeed, to a brave new world which hums and fizzes with bright and shining pop possibilities.

It’s kind of like the old brave new world before it became weakened and cowardly at the hands of the hard-eyed businessmen as they throttled any sense of creativity, personality, vibrancy or humanity out of our pop life. Happily, Dogbox Records are breezing fearlessly into the breach armed to the bleedin’ teeth with top tuneage in the form of a smashing pop music compilation sizzling with sixteen snappy songs.

Swimmer One’s ‘We Just Make Music For Ourselves’ (sadly they never actually sing “and if anyone else likes it it’s a bonus”) is a hymn to quiet self-belief (or possibly self-delusion). A soothing bleepscape with a bumptiously huggable bass line and a breezy chorus that reminds me of Saint Etienne’s take on ‘Kiss and Make Up’. Dogbox superstars Luxembourg offer up ‘an exclusive new recording’, ‘Not My Number’, which sees them flexing their finely honed mighty pop muscles and making it look as easy as crooking a little finger. A sardonic David lectures disapprovingly on telephone etiquette, whilst the band sashays through this nag nag naggingly insistent bustling pop rush. It’s good to hear bad manners brought to task in song form.

“Now you ask the radio and TV stations what they think of records before they come out and the result is the road of least offence. Which leads to Westlife.”
(Pet Shop Boys article – The Word magazine, April 2006)

When the tooth-rottingly sweet merry-go-round piping of ‘Suburban Voyager’ is playing, as performed by the marvellously monikered Jonny Cola, all comes right with the world. “I ride around the city on my space-ship” he sings as you float by woozily, safely ensconced in a cosy bubble(gum) of sugary electro-pop psychedelia, even if he is singing about ‘concrete prisons’. Continuing with the confectionery theme, The Sweethearts provide us with the lilting, tootling ‘Pop Machine!’ that positively demands that you sway from side to side to its sweetly sung strum. Nothing short of totally delightful. In this company those matching mistresses of the pop dressing-up box The Schla La Las sound positively hardcore with ‘Gotta Go’ their raucous celebration of that crazee little thing called rock ‘n’ roll. And is that the spirit of the late, great We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It I detect amongst the three hundred mile an hour whoops and shrieks? ‘You’re gonna love us so much you’re gonna blow your load.’ Rawr! Feisty Schlas!

“Unlike the brittle teenage show-ponies of today’s stage-school system, the pop-stars of the ‘80s weren’t over-protected. They were older and brighter, they’d been out in the real world.”
(‘Amateur Hour’ article about Smash Hits – The Word)

We find The Boyfriends in a perkily reflective mood with ‘Remember’. Richard ladles sparkling guitary goodness over the top of David’s military two-step bass thump like warm golden syrup over ginger cake, whilst Martin’s vocals waft out soothingly, all smooth and freshly baked. It’s good this simile lark, eh? Such is the embarrassment of luscious pop riches on offer here that I’m in danger of a shameful over-use of the word ‘swooning’ in this review, which, you must admit, is a good sign for a pop compilation. Matters aren’t helped any by the inclusion of The Lodger’s dreamy, achey breaky ’Not So Fast’. Serwooon! It’s the bestest. ‘Jobs-On-Line ‘06’ by Bib is a lugubrious and distressingly spot-on analysis of shit-job office politics set against buoyant basslines and a velvety synth shimmer.

“Today’s pop stars are built by machines for a family audience, but these mascara’ed mannequins [popstars in the ‘80s] were designed to force a wedge between the generations”
('Amateur Hour' – The Word)

Robots in Disguise’ ‘Bed Scenes’ is a tangle of electroid voodoo bamboozling but it features a monster monster cranky bass riffin’ chorus, cling to it like a raft and ride those riotous sonic rapids. On ‘International Love Affair’, The Laurel Collective play dreamy, airy bleepo lushpop until a trumpet sneaks in to add a sleek blast of martinis and speedboats glamour. Devastatingly dashing. The Bleeding Hearts ‘Stars’ swoops and dives luxuriantly lead by Markus’ satiny vocals, knee-weakeningly lovely. Morton Valence close the show with some Mercury Rev-style lustrous late night twinkling on ‘The Kiss’. Imagine Klimt’s painting in song-form and drown in its depths. True pop fact! Morton Valence’s Gigi performed in my work’s staff pantomime (yes, I work in the kind of place where they have staff pantomimes. Indeed.) – her singing was marvy, whilst the panto was a highly entertaining abomination.
I mention this merely so that Dogbox can take the last four words from that previous sentence entirely out of context and use them to promote this album. Hey, it’s what the cynical bizfolks do all the time.

(N.B. It comes to something when you’re using olden persons’ mag ‘The Word’ to support your witterings on the Pop Revolution, does it not? They did have an excellent Smash Hits! article though.)

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