Jeremy Porter’s 2016 EP ‘Barrel of Tears’ was a three track gem. Its two original cuts shared some great guitar driven rock pop that harked back to the slightly rootsier end of the 90s, and the big hooks showed a huge love for material from the Soul Asylum and Kevin Salem catalogues. Best of all though, the release shared a superb cover of ‘Blue Letter’, a tune best remembered in its Fleetwood Mac incarnation from ’75, given slightly more of a country rock twang, and showing off Jeremy and The Tuco’s gifts for tight melodies with ease.
Seven years on – and following a couple of cult LPs, including a Christmas disc – Jeremy and The Tucos have actually improved, and rather dramatically. They were great before, but this two track 7” shares the work of a musical act absolutely overflowing with musical joy.
A Tucos original, ‘Five Foot Three & Tiger Eyes’ echews the roots rock of the earlier EP for some full blown power pop. Across two and a half minutes, shiny rhythm guitars bristle against a solid rhythm, and the band cast themselves in the mould of the early 80s skinny tie wearing bands, but take the style and make it their own. The lead vocals are equally bright, but a soaring backing vocal on a spirited chorus gives an already enjoyable tune a lift. Punching in with an instant feel good factor, musically speaking, it’s half a world away from the Nancy Sinatra catalogue that inspired it, but listen a little more closely and you’ll hear a pleasing 60s style production on the guitars, and the middle eight introduces a surf-ish quality that comes much closer to the era in which Nancy’s career hit its peak. The succinct playing time, too, is certainly a homage to the days of AM radio, making this a bite sized treat that should appeal to retro pop geeks everywhere.
On the flip, a version of Waxwings’ ‘While You Spiral’ is very respectful. The Tucos cling rigidly onto the chiming guitar sound that drove the original cut, but if anything, make it sound bigger with the help of a couple of briefly applied twin leads. There’s also a brief burst or two from a big guitar sound that leans towards the more psychedelic. The core of the track is modelled on the original cut, though, and although the dancing bassline is a little lower in the mix, the vocal harmonies are pin-sharp. Overall, a the jubilant feel of the song carries everything with ease. Those familiar with the original will certainly not be disappointed, and – more likely – those coming to the track for the first time will discover a power pop number that really bristles with life.
Even when measured against a couple of the other 7” releases in i-94 Records’ enjoyable “Detroit Cover Series”, Jeremy’s recordings are among the best. They don’t quite hit the heights of the brilliant Bellrays disc, but to compare such different records seems a little unfair. These tracks are almost perfect in their own way, and it’s great to hear The Tucos when they’re at their most optimistic sounding. The retro rock-pop here has a timeless appeal, and this is definitely worth having for the a-side alone, but even the cover tune shows a band that has sharpened up over the previous few years. For fans and new listeners alike, this double shot of power pop represents a must-hear.
Buy the vinyl here: Jeremy Porter and The Tucos – i-94 Detroit Cover Series 7″