Reviews: 3.21.19: The Squires of the Subterrain’s Radio Silence: Ghosts are Afoot

By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

The Squires of the Subterrain | Radio Silence
(Rocket Racket, 2019)

In the achy, far-from-silent world that the characters of Christopher Earl’s new songs inhabit, ghosts, or feelings that go bump in the night, are afoot, the past is a bubbling mess ripe for healing, and actions have their consequences.

Channeling Tom Waits and Randy Newman’s somewhat-skewed New Orleans-flavored optimism, Earl tells some tales about people who may or may not ever emerge from their nightmarish stupor and, you know, be able to get a Slurpee at 7-Eleven without looking over their shoulders for that which is forever haunting them.

Radio Silence will come as a surprise to listeners who were expecting from this album some kind of rock and pop and roll exposition. Even within Earl’s considerable catalog, this album is something else entirely–an aberration of sorts, but still quirky, if a bit off-balance.

This is an album settled comfortably (or uncomfortably, as the case may be) in the waking netherworld of men and women haunted by their day-to-day uneasiness. That it is also tremendously entertaining and a thinking-person’s collection of wildly creative songwriting makes it a living, breathing object of your affection.

These songs, jazzy, bluesy, and loose-limbed-like-skeletons, function as a lo-fi song cycle masquerading as a waking nightmare. The characters on display have their work cut out for them, being haunted by the ghosts of feelings past that live inside and surround them. Telling these tales with saxes and trumpet, ukulele, piano, drums, guitar, banjo and vibraphone, Earl lets the narrative chips fall where they may as these compositions unravel.

A pair of songs about ghostly feelings rolls out after the moody title track. “House of Ghosts” is a New Orleans jazz stomper with blaring, loosey-goosey flurryed horns that almost celebrates a life surrounded by the ghostly remnants that haunt it. “Another Ghost (In the House),” a slow, moody, jazz grind punctuated by plinking piano and bluesy guitar lines, ponders the state of a home living with its secrets.

In the determined dance of “Whiskey Closet,” which sounds not unlike a hora, the narrator sings of the place underneath the stairs where you go to toss your cares away. In “Tequila and Gin,” a jazzy shuffle that finds Earl sliding brushes atop his snare drum, liquor is thicker and whatever you’re pouring is the cat’s meow.

The subject of the Steely Dan-ish slow, bluesy roll, “Fever Eyes,” holds sway as those in his gaze fold like cheap clothing. In prime Tom Waits territory, Earl sings about the “8th Wonder of the World,” a slow burner of a tune about a temptress with powers far beyond those of mortal women (“She’s a genius of deception and disguise/She’ll pull the wool right over your eyes”). The track rides atop thumping bass hits, bluesy piano and Earl’s emotive vocal.

The idea of ghostly feelings shadowing our waking souls is prevalent throughout this album. Earl finishes with a short, closing rumination, “Shadow,” in which piano, banjo and the artist’s lively vocal tell the tale. And the tale? Shadows follow and keep following, but what those shadows tell us is up for debate.

The Squire

What isn’t up for debate is the weight of The Squires of the Subterrain’s Radio Silence. For Squires of the Subterrain fans, and fans of eclectic, left-field turns that think outside of the box, this collection, “recorded in the basement on analog gear” according to the artist, dazzles. It is quite an achievement in a long career that is defined by them.

Where to Get It: The Squires of the Subterrain website, CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes

radio1

Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premiere website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We’ve been around since the first weekly Pure Pop Radio shows, which began broadcasting in 1995, and the 24-hour Pure Pop Radio station, which ended last August.

Welcome to your number one home for coverage of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe from the ’60s to today.

New on Pure Pop Radio 03-01-17: Vegas With Randolph, Terry Draper, The Del Zorros, The Squires of the Subterrain, and More

new on pp banner hybrid 2-use this one, it's fixed

Spins and Reviews | 03.01.17
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio

Today’s batch of reviews features a preview of a new song from Pure Pop Radio favorites Vegas With Randolph, new releases from a trio of prolific melodic popsters, and much more…

vegas with randolph women in airportsVegas With Randolph | “Women in Airports”
Departing from Fountains of Wayne National Airport, Vegas With Randolph flies the friendly skies with this eminently catchy boarding pass of a song that happily charts a sweet flight path for these Washington, D.C. popsters. Captains of the pop industry, VWR is in full pop song mode with a look at love in all the airborne places, starting on the ground and looking up to 30,000 feet in the air.

The clever, observational lyric stipulates the narrator’s love for females in airports, no matter where they may come from or what their relationship status might be: “Women in airports/Are perfect for me.” But there is at least a small measure of concern in this well-appointed lyric: “I know she has baggage/But does she have baggage?” In fact, he seems quite content and self-assured: “We’ll hit cruising altitude and see/The best is yet to be.”

Are airports the choice spot for companionship in the ’10s? The narrator seems convinced. “I would really like to take you/On the greatest trip you’ve ever seen (so snap your seat belt),” he sings. “Find that sunny place inside your dreams (clouds are fading)/As we pry into the skies of possibility/We will smash the past in our jet stream/The best is yet to be.”

“Women in Airports” is a great Vegas With Randolph song, a pop and roll track sweetened by a gooey, catchy center. Fly in lots of guitars, popping percussion, and great vocals, and you have a classic number that will stay with you as you negotiate your future flight path. Get your ticket today!

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: Bandcamp

terry draper - if i only had a brain graphicTerry Draper | “If I Only Had a Brain”
The former Klaatu member’s creative juices have been flowing fairly regularly of late, which makes us very, very happy. Releasing, since 2014, two full albums–Searching and When the World Was Young–and a retrospective of unreleased material, Window on the World: The Lost 80’s Tapes, Terry has been busy, and he shows no signs of stopping. He’s recorded a treasured number from The Wizard of Oz, the ultimate “what if” song. Terry’s whimsical arrangement is pure sugary heaven. Fun fact, according to Wikipedia: “Originally written by (Harold) Arlen and (E.Y.) Harburg as ‘I’m Hanging On to You’ for the 1937 Broadway musical Hooray for What!, the song was ultimately dropped from that show, and when the pair was later hired to do the songs for (The Wizard of) Oz, Harburg simply wrote new lyrics to the tune.” Purchase immediately? The Scarecrow would probably say “Gosh, it would be awful pleasin’,” and we wholeheartedly agree.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: iTunes, Amazon

the del zorros prudenceThe Del Zorros | “Prudence”
Speaking of continually flowing creative juices, there’s also something in the water over at Casa de Del Zorro. Monty and Stede’s latest is an immensely satisfying tribute to the magic of The Beatles, an easygoing shuffle, in the rhythmic, melodic and lyrical senses. Weaving a bevy of Beatles song titles and melodies into three minutes of Del Zorros charm, the brothers wink along with you and ask that you only sway to the feel and smile. Clueing you into all of the so-that’s-where-that-comes-froms would mean you’d miss out on some of all of the fun, so we’ll only put the spotlight on “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” “I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,” and “Please Please Me.” Oh, and there’s a touch of “Sugar, Sugar” in here, too. Sweet!

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: CD Baby

scot sax grooved pavementScot Sax | “Busy Bee”
Another pretty prolific popster, this one out of Nashville, is beating the drum for pop and roll, with a healthy smidge of soul blended into the mix. We go back a long way with Scot Sax’s music–songs from his time with Wanderlust and Bachelor Number One continue to play in rotation on our air. We’re also playing songs from Scot’s recent releases; his duo album with wife Suzie, Our Album Doesn’t Like You Either, is another Pure Pop Radio favorite playlist add. From Scot’s current collection, Grooved Pavement, comes this fun, soul-pop confection, a singalongable, clapalongable earworm that is a joy from first note to last. Get busy, and bee-lieve!

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes

geno and the jukebox hipster coffee shopGeno and the Jukebox | “(Kicked Outta the) Hipster Coffee Shop”
Gene Pompilio, formerly of New Jersey’s prime pop outfit Cosmic Avenger, which also counted his brother John as a member, returns to Pure Pop Radio with a lighthearted, smiling workhorse of a pop song, another mirthful number that will put a smile on your face. There are lots more of these just-over-two-minute-long creations on Gene’s Soundcloud page. Go get ’em!

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: Soundcloud

the squires of the subterrain slightly radio activeThe Squires of the Subterrain | “Slightly Radio Active”
The Squire (aka Chris Earl) returns to Pure Pop Radio and the world-at-large with the first, powerhouse track off of his upcoming album, Slightly Radio Active. A rather straightforward (for the Squire, at least) pop and roll workout, “Slightly Radio Active” features a guitar line somewhat reminiscent of the Beatles, and the Squire’s usual joie de vivre. And a lot of guitars. Stomp along with the Squire.

black box Now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio

black box Where to Get It: The Squires of the Subterrain website

alanhaberspurepopradiographiclarge1

Pure Pop Radio’s Very Special Explosion of New-to-the-Station Melodic Pop Songs is Finished, But…

… we’ve gotten lots more great music in the past week, so it looks like we’re going to have to keep our noses to the grindstone next week. We’ve got to admit that it’s fun, and pretty spectacular at that, to see the number of songs in our library continue to rise. As of today, we’ve passed the 5,000 mark appreciably. That means more songs, more artists, more variety for you, our faithful listeners.

We're on the road to more great melodic pop!

We’re on the road to more great melodic pop!

So let’s get the show on the road, shall we? Let’s begin with a couple of hurrahs for three of our favorite artists, each of whom took the time to record an original jingle for Pure Pop Radio. Let’s clap for the great Jay Stansfield, the lovely and talented The Taters, and the master of a thousand instruments and banjo player extraordinaire Jacob Panic. We love you and thank you all! You’re tops of the pops!

With that said, here are some more artists and songs that we’ve added to the playlist. They’re all streaming now in rotation on your home of the hits–the original 24-hour Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop songs from the ’60’s to today.

* The Penguin Party. With their new album Mesherlek  just a hop, skip and a jump rope from being released on July 21, we’re playing a couple of typically clever tunes from the album that will burrow inside your noggin and stay there through the coming spring. We’d been playing an early version of the wild and woolly song “The Anti Russell Brand, ” but now we’re spinning the completed track, sporting a rather emotionally-invested choir to open the proceedings. It’s very cool. We’re also spinning two more songs from Mesherlek: the radio edit of the atmospheric, kind-of spooky “My Big Bad Self,” complete with horns!, and the piano pop of the jaunty “Glorious.” All three of these classics point to Mesherlek being one of 2014’s greatest recorded triumphs.

* The Squires of the SubterrainThe Squires of the Subterrain. We’ve been playing the Squire’s unique brand of pop music for many years. We simply dig his take on the catchy tune. The Squire always delivers the goods. From his new, self-titled album, we’re chosen five wonderful songs: “History,” “This Charming Place,” “Private Gherkin’s Psychedelic Silly Mustache Band,” “Attitude and Altitude,” and “You Gave Me the Cold Shoulder (to Cry On).” A splendid time will be had by all who listen to this consistently top-shelf artist and his new collection of top tunes.

* The Jeremy BandAll Over the World. We’ve been spinning Jeremy Morris’s great music since we started Pure Pop Radio nearly 20 years ago. Jeremy’s music is always fun to listen to, and now he’s done it again with this new album stacked high with songs recorded all over the world (Hey! That’s a catchy title!). We treasure Jeremy’s music and are thrilled to be able to bring you more of it. We know you’ll dig the three songs we’ve chosen to add to the playlist: “Cool Your Jets,” “Rise Above the Clouds,” and “Not of this World.”

* Silver Ships. Songs from a Room that Never Moves. Wonderful, creative tunes are the order of the day when multi-instrumentalist Chazz Bessette is at the helm. From the contemporary pop-meets-vaudeville opener, “Poor Thief of Hearts,” to the charming, melodic campfire stomper “My Dear Friend” and the pretty, tempo-changing closer, “We Believe in Love,” Songs from a Room that Never Moves delivers the goods like no other pop album you’ll hear this year. In addition to the previously-mentioned songs, we’ve also added “There Were Trees,” “Summer’s Gone,” “Silver Moon,” and “A Room that Never Moves.” Pure genius.

* Nine Times BlueMatter of Time. We’re happy to bring to you a couple of songs from Nine Times Blue’s latest release. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the band plays power pop with just a hint of Gin Blossoms in their DNA. Listen for these cool tunes: “Sometimes” and “Matter of Time.”

* Three Minute TeaseBite the Hand. With longtime Pure Pop Radio favorite Anton Barbeau in the mix, you know you’re going to get an eclectic approach to pop music, and this new release doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s a solid fun-to-listen-to album full of great songs and Anton’s expressive vocals. We’re thrilled to be spinning the mighty catchy “Drinking Horn,” which, without warning, takes a decidedly and cool left turn into the psychedelic zone with about a minute and thirty-seven seconds left. We’re also thrilled to be spinning “Ciao Ciao Chicken,” “Tie My Laces,” “Coffee that Makes the Man Go Mad,” and “Wave Hello.” Very Anton! Very wonderful!

* Edward RogersKaye. A New York City dweller since the age of 12, Rogers serves up a dozen great songs inspired by the late Kevin Ayers. We’re excited to be bringing to you five numbers, including a cover of Ayers’ “After the Show,” and original tunes “Worry for the World,” “What Happened to the News Today,” “Copper Coin,” and “Borrowed and Blue.”

* Steve CarawayUpon this Rock. From Steve’s latest album, we’ve added two terrific tunes: the emotional title song and the rock and pop number “Justine.”

But wait…there will be more! The newest releases and songs from yesteryear are starting to pile up once again, so look for more adds to the playlist next week and beyond. We’re committed to bringing you, our dear listeners, the greatest pop in the universe, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do! Have fun listening to Pure Pop Radio (just click on one of the handy listening links below) and have a great weekend!

 

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes