Jeremy Thompson demonstrated he knew classic first-generation punk rock like the back of his hand with his band the Busy Signals, and after that fine group's breakup, Thompson has headed further into the past with his latest combo, Games. Games specialize in pre-punk power pop, delivering tart, hooky tunes that the Raspberries, Dwight Twilley, or the Scruffs would have given their seal of approval, and while the performances on Games' self-titled debut album have a bit more grit than most of their influences, the harmonies, the guitar interplay, and the energetic but midtempo attack is the work of a band who have studied their influences carefully and are determined to do right by them. Guitarists Dustan Nigro and John Fraser Carpenter show just enough smarts and restraint to focus on melodies rather than power chords, and they can even slow down and play pretty on "When the Time " to impressive effect, while drummer Dave Rahn and Thompson on bass are a solid and tasteful rhythm section, holding down the bottom end cleanly as they add color and shading to the music. Considering Thompson's obvious love for old-school punk, what's most surprising about Games is that this music is clearly meant to evoke the period before power pop became synonymous with "new wave" -- this band can and do rock, but they're not aiming for the snotty abandon of the late '70s, instead evoking something with a lot more nuance and texture, and this music is tough but heartfelt and emotionally honest, suffused with a real joy that's all but impossible to resist. Games have made an album that conjures the sound of a very specific era with impressive skill, but you don't have to be obsessed with mid-'70s power pop to enjoy this -- the ability to enjoy great tunes played by a fine band is more than enough.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming