In 2017, Justine and The Unclean made an impact on the power pop and pop-punk scenes with their debut release ‘Get Unclean’. The album didn’t especially break new ground, but between its instant hooks and Justine Covault’s sassy vocals, it didn’t take long for the songs to stick. The album also showed a strong musical talent in mixing bits of punk, power pop, classic rock and even the occasional metal riff together, creating something very potent.
Utilising the “mini album” format – a very 80s trait, but it was good enough for Billy Bragg and it certainly works for Justine – ‘Heartaches & Hot Problems’ values quality over quantity at just six songs and, as you’d hope, there are at least a couple of killer hooks to be found within the all too spritely seventeen minutes.
When people talk about British punk, first, they’ll invariably mention Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash. The breakthrough of a whole new wave of alternative music was never limited to the London suburbs, of course, and Manchester’s Buzzcocks were at the forefront of a whole musical revolution.
Back in the 90s, Rhino Records released two compilations celebrating the birth and subsequent explosion of power pop in the US between 1975-1981. Entitled ‘Come Out & Play (American Power Pop 1975-1978)’ and ‘Shake It Up (American Power Pop 1979-1981)’, those discs are an invaluable addition to any power pop collection, introducing many to the works of Pearl Harbor & The Explosions, 20/20 and Earth Quake, alongside more familiar cult recordings by Shoes, Off Broadway, Cheap Trick, Chris Bell and far more besides.
‘Harmony In My Head: UK Power Pop & New Wave 1977-1981’, a 2018 box set from Cherry Red Records exploring the UK power pop and new wave scenes, is every bit as wonderful as those US-centric discs, presenting the popular and familiar alongside some also-rans and bands whom never made the big time.
It has been well documented that second albums can be tricky to complete. For some artists, it’s a case of finding material with a rapidly advancing deadline and a record label breathing down their necks; for others, it’s more a case of real life getting in the way of art. For London-based singer-songwriter Mick Terry, the latter definitely applies. Following the release of his debut ‘The Grown Ups’ in 2009, he began making early plans for a follow up. A tentative completion date was scheduled for Easter 2012, but with a producer several thousand miles away and various other things proving a distraction, that time came and went.
By the end of 2012, a couple of songs had appeared online, but as far as a full release of any kind was concerned, there seemed to be nothing doing. Terry continued to talk about a second album, but still the years ticked by. Grey hairs were cultivated, songs were written; album names changed…Then, eventually, in the summer of 2018 – approximately eight years after a follow up to ‘The Grown Ups’ was first tentatively mentioned – the recording was finally complete and almost ready to fill the world’s collective lugholes.
Previously of Oxford Collapse, singer-songwriter Mike Pace takes a different approach on his 2018 LP ‘Smooth Sailing’. Recorded with his other band The Child Actors, the album moves away from the indie rock of their 2015 LP ‘Best Boy’ and is – in Mike’s own words “a big pop record…or something like it, recorded by a forty year old who grew up on indie rock and later discovered the joys of soft singer-songwriters, AOR and prog through bargain bins.”