Grunge tried, but it couldn't quite kill off power pop in the early '90s. Instead of succumbing to downtuned riffs and heroin-spiked bleakness like so many bands, there were plenty of starry-eyed kids who skirted the edges of the scene, borrowing the heavy guitars while injecting sunny melodies, giant singalong hooks, and layers of bright vocal harmonies. Teenage Fanclub's underrated Thirteen album is one of the better examples of how good it sounded when power pop and grunge intersected, so is most of Weezer's Blue album. There are plenty of other examples from the early '90s, and with Supercrush's SODO Pop, there's one from 2020. The band's leader Mark Palm no doubt spent a fair amount of time absorbing both grunge and power pop, because the re-creation of that magical point on the Venn diagram the band crank out is note-perfect. The chiming guitars, shimmering background vocals, and crystal-clear melodies are on loan from power pop; the booming bass, heartily bashed drums, and crunching rhythm guitars are taken from grunge. Add in some J. Mascis-y guitar leads that careen across a few of the songs, and the occasional bits of Matthew Sweet-styled balladry that come complete with pedal steel, and Supercrush score an early-'90s bingo. To make it even more authentic, Palm's lead vocals alternate between shoegaze breathiness and pop-punk brattiness, and most of the songs sound like they would have been standouts on the Clueless or Empire Records soundtracks. "Get It Right" is bubblegum sweetness with sugar sprinkles, "On the Telephone" is a perfect balance of overloaded guitars and sticky melodies, and "I Didn't Know (We Were Saying Goodbye)" melds melancholy with prettiness in heartbreaking fashion then tops it off with a guitar solo that drips like tears. Three songs in and power pop aficionados will start clearing space in their Top Tens -- it's that good -- and the rest of the album, like the glam-stomp rocker "Grace" or the autumnal TFC-like "I Can't Stop (Loving You)" -- is no letdown. Palm and his band breeze through it like they were floating down a lazy river, soaking up the sun and hoping the day will never end. Every song is perfectly constructed out of pieces lifted from the past and repurposed into something fresh and compelling. Not only does it sound just right in 2020, it would have been at the head of the class in the '90s, too.
(LP - Don Giovanni #206)