This debut EP from Wesley Fuller is gloriously retro. Almost everything about it – from the 70s musical influences to the garish 80s artwork and Fuller’s own fashion sense – has at least one foot in the dirt of the past. The Aussie singer songwriter so loves retro synths and glam rock stomps, bubblegum choruses and power pop guitars and while his work rarely displays the kind of perfection you’d find from, say, Mike Viola or the vastly underrated David Myhr, ‘Melvista’ presents five tracks of guitar oriented pop that should appeal to those whom reach for Pezband and Off Broadway (USA) records on a semi-regular basis.
Shamelessly old school, ‘Change Your Mind’ flaunts a carefree Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn stomp, over which Fuller adds various pop quirks, from 80s keyboards to fuzzy laters of glam rock guitar. A keyboard solo somewhere along the way is equally flippant and not especially melodic, but the thoughtful vocals – somewhere between Brendan Benson’s more nasal moments and Justin Kline’s sugary pop stylings – make up for any musical missteps. Fuller really asserts himself as a confident but freewheeling performer who has utter belief in the melding of these retro styles. Try and let yourself go and get swept along with the enthusiasm…it may take a few plays, but once he’s got you, it’s a great. Like hearing a piece of unearthed gold from power pop’s golden age, the title track grabs a Cars influenced keyboard line and weaves a strong melody over beats and handclaps before a 60s inspired chorus hook finally allows more of a glimpse into Fuller’s song writing and arranging talents. The chorus hits and becomes like a paean to Scruffs hits and long forgotten tunes by Pearl Harbor and The Explosions; this is Fuller really letting go and, pretty soon, you’re in the presence of an underground classic. Fuller’s unfussy vocal collides with chiming guitar and it’s a reminder of every reason why power pop is so enduring. It gets better, though… The best of the bunch, ‘Runaway Renee’ is a power pop master class . The basic rhythms reinforce the performer’s basic love of glam rock with stomps and handclaps, but from there on, the music unfolds in a way that’s more appealing than ever before. The opening guitar salvo and Lennon-ish vocal hints at British Invasion sounds before a muted guitar part evokes The Cars via Brendan Benson and a brief harmony drenched hook reinforces the good times such music is set to soundtrack. Spiky, bouncy and – above all – great fun, even a brief Ventures homage doesn’t feel out of place, thanks to Fuller’s knowing sense of style.
In a slight change of mood, ‘Shock Me’ (not a Kiss cover), shifts the balance further towards 80s synth pop due to an increased use of programmed rhythms and keyboard washes, but the older style power pop still runs through the centre, with melodies that nod towards 10cc and Andrew Gold, before everything reaches a strong climax via a louder guitar solo and increasing bass work. This is one of those tunes that sounds a little empty – arrangement wise – upon first hearing, but later reveals so much to like. Fuller’s Brendan Benson-esque voice lends everything a certain naivete, while a decent hook proves quite infectious. Lastly, ‘The Dancer’ works some mean Cheap Trick harmonies over a melodic fuzz-toned guitar, not always dissimilar to The Raconteurs cutting loose and having fun. There’s a glam-ish tint to everything here, too, from the ground up – the strutting rhythms are rather direct, while a swirling retro keyboard and a world of harmonies show a genuine power pop heart.
This EP is full of great musical ideas. Most of them are appropriated from New York and Los Angeles circa 1980, but when transplanted to the Melbourne suburbs in 2016, they lose none of their sparkle. Despite an occasional over reliance on programmed elements, Fuller shows a great understanding of the genre’s sense of drive and spirit. A love letter to a musical golden age, ‘Melvista’ is well worth hearing…and then hearing again.