The Dates

Ask Again Later

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The guy behind the Dates is named Garret Goddard, and he's done time playing in bands like King Tuff, Personal and the Pizzas, Girls, and Howlin Rain. All along he must have been harboring a secret love of power pop because Ask Again Later is a perfect match of sleek '70s pop songcraft and lo-fi '90s power pop revivalism that's brimming with overloaded, chiming guitars, shimmering vocal harmonies, lovestruck lyrics, and sticky-sweet melodies. Goddard doesn't just nail the sound, he has the songs to back it up and, like his contemporary Young Guv, he's making music that's the equal of the best '70s and '90s power pop. It's not some note-perfect effort to re-create a sound or feel; it doesn't lack heart or soul. Ask Again Later is a little too warped and fuzzy around the edges to fall victim to that particular curse. Most of the songs lope along breezily in the verses with layers of guitars jangling around Goddard's relaxed vocals, then pop in the singalong choruses. "Any Other Night" is the template and it's a beautiful song that has the warmth of sun poking through the clouds on an overcast summer day. The rest of the album doesn't stray far from this easygoing, ultra-melodic approach. Sometimes there's a little bit of rock & roll swagger ("Pictures with Rene"), jacked-up tempo and rocked-out guitar attack ("Nervous"), or a breathless, star-crossed feeling that comes through in Goddard's aching vocals ("Summer Girl"), but it all falls firmly in the power pop category. The only stray bit of business is the stripped-down, acoustic-guitar-and-drum-machine ballad "TRU Wolfpack," and it works just as well as the rest thanks to his superior songwriting skills. He's such a fine writer that initially it's a bit of a bummer to see that there are two covers on the record. Buddy Holly's "Love's Made a Fool of You" is dispatched in strange, slowed-down style, but the Dates conjure up magic on the Stealers Wheel song "Star," turning the strummy ballad into a massive guitar blowout that conjures up memories of the Pooh Sticks at their most guilelessly epic. It's fitting that they cover a song called "Star" because this is a star-making debut that is sure to send the power pop cognoscenti into paroxysms of joy. The sound has ebbed and flowed over the years, with the occasional band breaking through the perfectly manicured stylistic bonds to deliver something fresh and exciting. Ask Again Later is both of those things and more. It's the equal of the best power pop around, whether it's from the '70s, '90s, or anytime.

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