Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mountains pop out of the cake

Whatever I was doing in 1998 I somehow missed one of the great power pop albums of the last twenty years. The Wondermints may be familiar to you as the backing band for Brian Wilson over the last decade, so needless to say they have instrumental chops and vocal harmony prowess in spades. Early on they released a covers album well worth a listen. Their power pop take on Abba's Knowing You Knowing Me is mega tasty. In 1998 they released Bali - their debut of original material. The Beach Boys and Beatles debt is instantly apparent, although to their credit the songwriting is quite original in its synthesis of the last 40 years of pop music.

It was a difficult choice to cull just one song from the album for this blog, but I decided to go with In And Around Greg Lake. Yes that really is the title and I have not a clue as to what it is really about. The lyrics contain references to MacArthur park ("left the cake out in the rain"), the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and of course the obtuse geographical place name attributed to the fine guitarist from ELP.

On a side note, Mr. Lake was the only member of ELP that I have much appreciation for, and to this day it is his songs From the Beginning and Lucky Man that remain listenable to me. But I digress. From the opening piano ostinato chords pumping away, IAAGL hooked me from first listen. There is definitely an Abbey Road vibe to this song, especially the searing guitar and bass hooks that come out of nowhere. Consider this a one-off as nothing else on the album sounds remotely like it - but believe me it is all just as compelling.