Various Artists

Poptopia! Power Pop Classics of the '90s

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The compilers of Poptopia! were on solid ground when they assembled the '70s and '80s editions of their series, since there was already an established canon of power pop greats for those decades. However, they ran into problems with Power Pop Classics of the '90s; first, the album was released in 1997, three years before the decade was finished. It's quite likely that all the significant power pop bands of the '90s had already appeared, but the major hurdle the compilers faced was the possibility that some artists might not be available for licensing. That certainly is the case with Power Pop Classics of the '90s; there's even a disclaimer in the liner notes that apologizes for the absence of Material Issue, the Gin Blossoms, and Teenage Fanclub. It's hard to believe that Material Issue and Teenage Fanclub were unavailable, considering that Matthew Sweet, the Lemonheads, and the Posies -- three acts that sold more than those bands -- are present, but their absence accentuates how uneven this collection actually is. There are some wonderful songs on Power Pop Classics of the '90s, but the remainder of the record proves that '90s power pop was a classicist genre, caring more about form than content. Most of these songs sound good but just aren't that memorable, an especially frustrating situation in the case of Velocity Girl, the Rembrandts, and the Posies, bands that all have better songs in their catalogs. And that draws attention to the fact that many of the liveliest and best pop bands of the '90s -- from Sloan and Sugar to Cast and Fountains of Wayne -- are not here. Consequently, Power Pop Classics of the '90s can only be seen as an admirable effort, not a definitive collection.

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