Rich Cox

Designer Fetish

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Pop music can be funny, since the pop label doesn't denote whether music is made for the masses or if it's more classicist and for a cult audience, even though it does define that it's somehow catchy. But Rich Cox doesn't seem to care much on his debut, Designer Fetish. Mixing up charging power pop, mid-tempo boy-band balladry, Philly soul, a dash of hip-hop, and slick production straight out of 1988, he's crafted a truly genre-bending record. While it may be tempting to call Designer Fetish a power pop record -- and Cox does sound a lot like power popsters John Faye and Scot Sax in many places here -- it's much more a pop record in the grand late-'80s tradition, where genres outlined earlier in the decade had begun to mix to the point where even stodgier artists like Elton John were experimenting. But what makes Designer Fetish interesting, then, is that it wasn't made in the late '80s, it was made in the early 2000s, and is rife with musical and lyrical clues of its own time period. And as a true music geek should know, genuine nostalgia even for the gaudiest periods in rock history has a tendency to sound good on tape. Unlike most debut albums from scrappy guitar pop upstarts, Cox not only brought an instantly memorable set of material (the opener, "Here We Go," is a hit waiting to happen, and it's not the only one here), but he and Mitch Kricun give the record a clean, accessible surface courtesy of their near-perfect production. On "Mainstream," Cox sings, "You think you're underground but you're mainstream." Well, he could just be both.

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