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

Music Lists

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.

5. Matthew Sweet – “Sick of Myself”
100% Fun (1995)

The only thing more fun than singing along to this bittersweet track is listening to Sweet shred and shred again at the end. He performed an acoustic version (video of which I’m told will be on the site in the next week or so) when he visited Paste in early November, and it totally made my day.

6. The Raspberries – “Go All the Way”
The Raspberries (1972)

Many* will never forgive Eric Carmen for foisting “All By Myself” onto the world, and yes, this song has some of those softer tendencies, but come on (come on)! That guitar riff is unimpeachable and the bridge rules and, well, come on (come on)!

* Including this guy.

7. The Nerves – “Hanging On the Telephone”
The Nerves EP (1976)

This spot could’ve gone to any of several tracks on the recently-released essential compilation One Way Ticket, but I chose the one perhaps best known as a Blondie song. (Cat Power and Def Leppard have also covered it.) Sing it with me: “Don’t leave me haaaaangin’ on the tellllephooooone.”

8. The Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)”
Love Bites (1978)

Another oft-covered gem best purchased on an fantastic comp (Singles Going Steady), this track showcases the poppiest side of one of punk’s finest acts.

9. Todd Rundgren – “Slut”
Something/Anything? (1972)

Come for the rambling introduction, stay for the horns, the female backing vocals and the sleazy good time. This is one of Rundgren’s best, bar none. I was introduced to the song by an excellent, seemingly-now-defunct cover band known as the Missouri Sex Offenders.

10. Squeeze – “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)”
Argybargy (1980)

A point I had to argue vehemently with a co-worker who shall remain nameless, Squeeze is not merely the band that wrote “Tempted.” Squeeze is also the band that crafted pop-perfect, less-heralded jams one after another throughout the late ’70s/early ’80s. Don’t get it twisted, haters.

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