Friday, August 28, 2009

CD of the Day, 8/28/09: Vinyl Candy-Land

They don't make albums like this any more. (OK, they do, but they're hard to find, which is why I've been blogging here for the past 3 1/2 years). Land is a rarity - a power pop concept album, and it's about the rise and fall of a rock star with the titular name. But to work as a power pop concept album (unlike concept albums in other genres), the individual songs need to stand up as well and here they do.

Vinyl Candy is from LA, and they're Californian through and through. In 2004, they released the outstanding Pacific Ocean Park, which is a must-have for any power popper. Land is their followup, and it's been a painstaking process as this album has been billed to be released at any time over the past couple of years and is finally seeing the light of day. It's an ambitious project and thankfully their reach hasn't exceed their grasp for the most part as they bring hints of touchstones from The Beach Boys to Jellyfish to the table.

After a 20-second cacophony of random sounds, things start off with "I'll Be Fine (Part One)", a bouncy pop number that recalls Jellyfish and their SoCal brethren, Big Kid. The brash "Fan Club History" finds our hero acquiring a fanbase, and "All Along the Way" is a tuneful rocker with some quality guitar work. The Rundgren-esque "Chasing Time" (teamed with a reprise of "I'll Be Fine") features minor keys and synths as Land starts to get the blues over his new life of travel, while "California (Part 2)" - there is no part 1 - serves a fever dream of the idyllilc life left behind for our hero.

The midway point of the disc gives us the winning "Gasoline & Tangerines", which finds the hitherto unfound sweet spot between Jellyfish, Supertramp and Everclear, and the breezy melody of "Living a Lie", which mixes a little 70s Philly soul into the mix. Meanwhile, "Star Struck" is the homage/ripoff of Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Under Foot" that's been sitting out there for 35 years, and the Zep imagery is perfect to illustrate how "Land" has become a jaded, burned-out rocker. The anthemic, cleansing "Want it So Bad" finds our hero downsizing and getting back to basics, and the instrumental "Synthetic Therapy" could serve as the score to the story should it ever be filmed. Things come full circle to close out the album (and the story) with "I'll Be Fine (Part 2)", which recasts the original version as a drunken singalong performed in an intimate venue. One can almost see the "Puppet Show and Spinal Tap" sign in his or her mind's eye.

As I said out at the outset, they don't make too many of 'em like this any more, so make sure you give this a listen all the way through to get the full effect. You'll be glad you did.

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