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Apples in Stereo, Velocity of Sound

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The title of the new Apples in Stereo disc, Velocity of Sound (Spinart), sets the ground rules from the hey-ho-get-go. This is gonna be a collection of speedy rock: pop punk that could’ve come out in the 80’s from the likes of the Undertones, Rezillos or (let’s buy American) Shoes. More songs about ice cream and girls from a songwriter with a definite knack for the velocitous hook.
More focused in its sound than the band’s last full release (The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone), the disc is a barrage of bracin’ guitar fuzz chords adorned by frontguy Robert Schneider’s poppy wimpvoice (reminiscent of new wave singer/producer Mitch Easter) and the occasional Bangle-y vocal turn by straightahead drummer/wife Hilarie Sidney. Velocity is a compact collection (less than 29 minutes – Schneider is like Harry Nilsson in his desire to get in quickly, state all he’s got and then leave) of sharp pop sentiments. If more bands in the 80’s had possessed Schneider’s sense of economy and songwriting chops, the short-lived Power Pop blitz wouldn’t have zipped so quickly into irrelevancy.
I first came into contact with the band via Kid Rhino’s Powerpuff Girls collection (Heroes and Villains, which also featured an appearance by Dressy Bessy, a group that’s also featured Schneider’s guitarwork). Its kid-friendly contrib to that project isn’t as punchy as the new stuff, but it does show the group’s way with a strongly tuneful pop ditty. Got me looking into the Apples’ own releases, at least.
The disc opens with a controlled blast (“Please”), a pleading song about trying to reach the unreachable, then follows with “Rainfall” (one of Hilarie’s two numbers), a distaff turn on the same basic theme. From there, Schneider grabs the persona of a defensive teen “fool” for several tracks and plays it for all it’s worth (“If I had my day/I’d burn down the factories/They sicken me/And make the weather grey!”) It’d all come off condescendingly if the guy wasn’t so damn catchy. Good popzip will mask a multitude of sins.
In the meantime, for us older-than-teen fools, there’s the band slipping a hint of “Gloria” in its street-livin’ loner song (“Where We Meet”), pulling in the ghost of early Kinks for “Better Days” (the title of one of Ray Davies’ better later era songs, come to think of it), then sneaking in an atonal organ flourish at song’s end. They’ll call a song “Baroque,” open it with chords from the Road to Ruin songbook, then add a bababa chorus like Spanky McFarlane has just entered the studio. As a North American bonus track, Schneider and friends end w./ a Beach Boys slam against a duplicitous teengirl (“She’s a little girl who works at Dairy Queen/She’s talking to the kids when they get ice cream.”) Much more fun – to my ears at least – than all those retro bands spewing out secondhand garage screech. But I tend to replay my old Shoes albums more than I do the Standells, anyway . . .

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About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.