Tony Molina

SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY

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Though he first broke through to a larger audience with his 2014 album Dissed and Dismissed, Tony Molina had already been making similarly noisy and weird pop records for a long time as a member of Ovens and Violent Change, to name just two bands. SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY is a collection of unreleased tracks recorded over the previous decade, some when he was recording as Ovens, some while he was a member of Violent Change, and some as a solo act, both pre- and post-Dismissed. For the most part, it forgoes the gentle, acoustic side of his approach in favor of the kind of blown-out power pop he made his name on. Tracks like "Can't Find My Way," "I'm Not Down," and "Hard to Know" are like Gerry Love-led Teenage Fanclub songs with the two guitarists from Thin Lizzy dropping in at the end for some brief and overheated solos. These tracks are magical and it's amazing that Molina didn't want to release them when they were recorded. It's good that he finally relented and let them see the light of day here. Also on the set are a few quieter, more fully realized songs that have some jangle to the guitars, more relaxed tempos, and a gentler feel. The melancholy "Not the Way to Be" packs a lot of autumnal arpeggios and downcast into a just over a minute, "Been Here Before" has a lovely acoustic picking that surrounds a rippling mid-tempo song, and "Word Around Town" is a wonderfully crisp power pop ballad that adds some rich organ and muscular soloing. Add in a couple very short acoustic interludes, and SONGS FROM SAN MATEO COUNTY gives an almost full account of Molina's particular and impressive talents. The only thing it's missing are examples of his more Beatles-y songs; maybe some will show up on a much-needed second volume of rarities. He's an artist whose work should be fully documented if only because of songs as heart-stoppingly huge and brilliant as "Separate Ways," which sounds like everything good about the Fastbacks, Teenage Fanclub, and Flop boiled down into two minutes of heartbreaking genius.

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