By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Bill Lloyd | A Selection of Power Pop 1985-2020 – 15 Songs (Whole In One Records, 2021)
Somewhere, somehow, there’s a person who thinks he’s come up with the most perfectly sensible and usable definition of the term power pop but, like the formulas for pantyhose that won’t ever rip or paper that won’t tear, that definition, true or not, is hidden deep in the recesses of a virtual break-proof safe. It is virtually unfindable.
Someone, somewhere, who thinks he has the perfect definition of power pop, is giggling and thinking he could release it into the wild, but why would he? That would stop the daily, hourly, minute-by-minute parlor game power pop fans have been playing since the unveiling of the internet so many years ago, perpetuated by queries that suggest that their favorite song is power pop, but what do you guys think?
Regardless of what someone might think, definitively defining the term power pop is simply not possible. Like the act of standing an egg on its end and having it stand there all by its lonesome, the term power pop will likely always be pondered by the best minds in the business and never be satisfactorily defined. There’s even a book that artfully tackles the subject, Go All the Way–A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop, edited by Paul Myers and S.W. Lauden, that will soon have a sequel.
While the quest for the really, truly, definitive definition of the term power pop continues, we have an album that collects 15 top-notch recordings by top-of-the-pops pop songsmith Bill Lloyd, billed as “a selection of power pop” that comes as close as anyone has come to defining the term. For all anyone knows, Lloyd might be the guy who has the defining definition of power pop locked away in some secret location–the real, true definition, as evidenced by this latest release.
Drawing from nine career-defining records released by Lloyd from 1985-2020, A Selection of Power Pop is evidence personified that this important artist, whose career is defined by forays into numerous stylistic nooks and crannies during his long and storied career, can power pop with the best of them.
Moving chronologically through his career, A Selection of Power Pop presents songs, some co-written with pop luminaries such as Marshall Crenshaw and Jamie Hoover, that count power as perhaps their most intrinsic element (although “Kiss Your Sister,” from Back to Even and “The Best Record Ever Made,” from Boy King of Tokyo, seem more poppy than power poppy to me). Of course, without strong, catchy melodies the power component of these songs wouldn’t mean much; Lloyd is among the top purveyors of melody in pop working today, or yesterday for that matter, and these songs each have incredibly strong melodies. They are powerful and melodic, the total package.
Take the remake of “I Went Electric,” originally the opener on Lloyd’s iconic Set to Pop album, and here taken from Reset 2014; the surging, redoubtable melody, reminiscent of the best of the Kinks and the Pretenders, is indelible and feeds directly into the hair-raising electric guitar explosion that plays for about 45 glorious seconds before the song fades. A new remix by Glenn Rosenstein of “Mistakes Were Made,” which closed out the running order of Boy King of Tokyo and performs the same task here, presents a recording now zapped with extra-added dynamism and, not coincidentally, a stronger platform for one of Lloyd’s catchiest melodies. And an early Lloyd classic, Feeling the Elephant’s “Lisa Anne,” only hints at what combos of power and melody would deliver on future long-players.
How does Lloyd construct the 15 melodic power pop classics offered on A Selection of Power Pop? Only he knows, really; it’s something he does, and it comes naturally based on decades of experience and knowing what works. The idea is first, fully- or partially-formed; that idea gets worked on until it makes sense top to bottom. Then the instrumental makeup of the song gets crafted–guitars here, more guitars there, the lead vocal mixes with harmony stacks. The various elements of the song get properly mixed so there isn’t too much of that there and more of that where it makes sense; in the end, a balance is struck, causing every element to click.
These 15 songs, Lloyd’s carefully-curated selection of power pop released by him since 1985, clicks with a well-oiled touch. These songs, newly-remastered and featuring guests stars such as Al Kooper, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, Big Star’s Jody Stephens, The Smithereens’ Dennis Diken, Amy Rigby and more, are powerful; together, they rev up a virtual engine that sings with creative exuberance. They are, taken together, a shining example of the writer’s art, of the performer’s interpretation. And they are classics, each and every one of them.
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, interviews and a wide variety of features.