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A Power Pop Primer: 10 Gateway Songs to a Lifelong Addiction

December 6, 2008  |  7:00am
power_pop.jpgYou could argue all day about what is and what is not "power pop," a discussion that might ill-advisedly convince you to attempt an exhaustive list of the genre's finest songs. I have neither the time nor the energy to make such a list, but I do enjoy me some of what Wikipedia calls "a popular musical genre that draws its inspiration from 1960s British and American pop and rock music. It typically incorporates a combination of musical devices such as strong melodies, crisp vocal harmonies, economical arrangements, and prominent guitar riffs. Instrumental solos are usually kept to a minimum, and blues elements are largely downplayed. Recordings tend to display production values that lean toward compression and a forceful drum beat. Instruments usually include one or more electric guitars, an electric bass guitar, a drum kit, and sometimes electric keyboards or synthesizers."

What a blowhard, that Wikipedia! ANYWAY, there are more than a few power-pop compilations (not least of which is Numero Group's recently released two-disc deluxe package of vintage Kansas City power pop, Titan: It's All Pop!) with colorful covers like the one above, not to mention books, websites, comprehensive lists, festivals and more. But if you'd like a starter's kit, the 10 songs below are just about as good of a place to begin as any. Some are obvious and some are less so, but all are maddeningly catchy and will take you to other songs and albums and bands if but only you let them.

1. The Undertones - "Teenage Kicks"
Teenage Kicks EP (1978)

Late, legendary DJ John Peel called this his favorite song, once playing it back-to-back on his radio show. Whereas he normally awarded songs between one and five stars, he gave "Teenage Kicks" 28. Bet you can't listen just once:



2. The Exploding Hearts - "Sleeping Aides and Razorblades"
Guitar Romantic (2003)

The story of these Portland, Ore. rockers is a tragic one. Just months after the band's first (and only proper) album was released, on the heels of critical acclaim, three of the group's five members were killed in a van accident. Although the Exploding Hearts ceased to exist after the harrowing incident, an excellent compilation (Shattered) was released posthumously and the two surviving members went on to form The Nice Boys.



3. Cheap Trick - "Surrender"
Heaven Tonight (1978)

There has probably been more said about this song than any other on the list, so rather than adding to the accolades, I'll just recommend that you listen, sing along, pump your fists, and so on.



4. Gentleman Jesse & His Men - "I Don't Wanna Know"
"I Don't Wanna Know" 7" (2006)

Sure, he was crowned Artist of the Week on PasteMagazine.com, but how many dudes do you know who have a 17-second ukulele YouTube tribute in honor of one of their songs? That's right, none*.

* I did not verify this assertion in any way whatsoever.

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