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‘Harmony in My Head: UK Power Pop & New Wave 1977-81’• Various Artists (review)

Harmony in My Head:
UK Power Pop & New Wave 1977-81

Various Artists
Cherry Red Records

 

Nothing ruins friendships quite like an argument about Power Pop.

What is Power Pop?  What isn’t Power Pop?

More importantly, why do opinions vary so much when discussing a very basic, joy-inducing musical genre?

These same arguments come up when talking about Metal, Country, Jazz, and pretty much any other genre. Between you and me, it is all nonsense. There are wars going on all over the world, the homeless population continues to grow, and politicians are bringing humanity closer and closer to extinction. Why don’t we focus on those issues and stop fighting about unimportant twaddle like, “Do Buzzcocks fall under Punk, New Wave, or Power Pop.”

For the record, Buzzcocks are Punk. So, bite me!

On the other hand, there may be discourse when trying to compartmentalize a genre or band but there’s no denying that the music itself is what inspires our passions. And that is why arguing about genres can get pretty heated – we are all motivated by our emotional links to the music.  While some genres may be more popular, Power Pop and New Wave are particularly beloved by the more discriminate music fan.  Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, we had to search out this music and, in many cases, discover it for ourselves. And that, in a nutshell, is why we all still feel so connected to it.

Which brings us to the reason I’ve called you all here today…

HARMONY IN MY HEAD: UK POWER POP & NEW WAVE 1977-81 is a fab three CD set that contains 76 examples of why Power Pop, New Wave, and melodic Punk energized the music scene four decades ago and why this music has remained so revered and influential. From local independent releases to internationally distributed major label titles, the UK gave us some of the finest music of the era. From Elvis Costello & The Attractions, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Buzzcocks, and The Records to The Donkeys, Yachts, Squire, Any Trouble, and The Jags, this triple disc collection is bound to fill you with both wistful nostalgia and blood-pumping adrenaline.

With so much great music to choose from, the fine folks that compiled HARMONY IN MY HEAD didn’t take the easy route. Instead of choosing the biggest hits from the better-known artists, they’ve upped he game by choosing tracks that are equally representative of the band’s output, if not more so.  For example, instead of “Girl Of My Dreams” by Bram Tchaikovsky, this set features “Sarah Smiles,” a song just as catchy as ‘the hit’ but definitely closer to Bram’s overall sound.  While The Records’ defining Power Pop moment is “Starry Eyes,” you’re going to find the equally catchy “Teenarama” here. Speaking of The Records, The John Wicks/Will Birch composition “Hearts In Her Eyes” – as performed by The Searchers – is also featured.

The amazing New Musik is featured with “Straight Lines,” one of their only tracks not to be dominated by synths. The Mod scene is represented by Squire, New Hearts (an early incarnation of Secret Affair), and a few other bands that straddled the line between Mod and Power Pop. The sorely overlooked Any Trouble are represented by “Trouble With Love,” the instantly lovable first track off their second album. You even get to experience the majesty of Eddie & The Hot Rods’ “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” one of the era’s finest singles.

However, this set isn’t completely devoted to Power Pop. There are plenty of New Wave and melodic Punk tracks by the likes of The Boys, Ruts, The Radiators, Chelsea, Eater, Knox (from The Vibrators), and The Flys. There are even melodic gems by little known bands such as Shooter, The Smirks, The Chefs, The Tights, The 45’s, The Trend, and many others.

From the ‘I wouldn’t have considered them Power Pop or New Wave’ file comes Doctors Of Madness with “Sons Of Survival.” However, listening again with a new perspective, the song’s inclusion makes perfect sense.

Other random highlights include Snips’ “9 O’clock” (this could be a long-lost track by The Undertones), The Donkeys’ “Strike Talks,” Tonight’s “Drummer Man,” Wreckless Eric’s “Broken Doll,” Straight Eight’s “I’m Sorry,” and so many others.

Echoing my first paragraph, Buzzcocks are most certainly represented here. Their “Harmony In My Head” – one of the few A-sides penned by guitarist/vocalist Steve Diggle – opens Disc One and gives this excellent set its name.

On a more personal note, I’ve been an avid collector of this sort of music for 42 years and there is so much here that I was never able to get my hands on back in the day. Toss in a dozen bands I wasn’t aware of to begin with and you’ve got a recipe that I will enjoy over and over again.

So, let’s stop arguing about the music and start listening to it again. HARMONY IN MY HEAD is where melodic hooks meet manic energy. This is an essential set for anyone interested in Power Pop, New Wave, Mod, Punk, and melodic guitar Pop.

In a nutshell, this is where the action is!

 

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