“And her watermelon smiles in her sunshine dress
With the sticky feet patter and a powerkiss
On a window in the morning it was cool breeze & Christmas”
Inane and absurd they may read, the lyrics from “Powerkiss” above when coupled with The Katies’ music, a peculiar superior blend of power pop was announced to a world in 1999 that either didn’t get the chance or didn’t want to hear. The Katies were described as being part Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Nirvana – a valid statement putting brand names to their mix of power pop, heavy classic rock, and grunge. That blend of styles may be one of the reasons why their self-titled debut album sank into the immense sea of annual releases destined for anonymity and commercial oblivion. Mike Love was infamous for his desire that The Beach Boys stick to their formula – girls, cars, and surf – and he was probably right in the narrow commercial sense. The Katies formula was a recipe for confusing the type of music consumers likely to drive an album to gold status. The Katies were too heavy for those who like their rock soft and too soft for those who wanted their rock and roll heavy. Perhaps Elektra Records didn’t put up enough cash or spend enough energy promoting the band. It could have just been that The Katies sounded a lot like The Posies who had beat them to the marketplace. There was also the matter that the “J” word was used in a couple of the songs on the debut – Jesus has a way of scaring away leather clad rockers. This commercial response was a shame because The Katies deserved better than oblivion.
It’s this very oblivion that does guarantee the album its “lost classic” status and undoubtedly plays a role in the appeal to my more snobbish rock critic standards. But that’s not the only thing going on here. The real draw is the music which when played live was raw, raucous, and ramshackle, but in the studio achieves a shine and sonic clarity – a power trio with all its parts gleaming. The Katies were comprised of two brothers: Jason Moore on vocals and guitars and Josh Moore on drums. Gary Welch played bass and brought much of the heavy rock appeal to the band. What more could one expect from a guy with an Angus Young tattoo on one arm and Malcolm on the other. He composed the hardest rocker, “Noggin Poundin’” and it’s a good one even if the line about being “tongue tied and under spoken” could use a little work. “Powerkiss” puts the template into place – the beginning and prototype for the whole album – with huge drums and quick rhythm leading to moderately paced sing song verse and chorus moments filled up with the angelic voice of Jason Moore. “Shiseido” is one of the songs that drop the Jesus bomb in the lyrics along with “Jesus Pick”, but it’s the product of growing up in a South heavily infused with Christian spirituality and not formulaic Contemporary Christian proselytizing. Another highlight is the yearning “Drowner” with its protagonist wanting to be a drowner being saved by his lover.
During The Katies brief run at rock stardom, they did attract a small but rabid group of fans so a Katies website is still maintained with music downloads of their unreleased tracks free to the public. The thunderous grunge pop may be silent now, but their sound is as fresh today as it was six years ago. Fans of power pop should search their one official release out – it was going for mere pennies at Amazon the last time I looked. You won’t be disappointed with its earthquaking catchiness.