Question: How often is power pop so transmittable that you're left understanding exactly why Staind is huge and George Bush leads the free world? Answer: When it's a record crammed of sparkle and wonder, harmonies and longing, big riffs and sensitivity that's obviously too good, too smart and too sweet to nail any sort of mass acceptance.
But it takes real men (boys?) like those in Arizona's Sugar High to reveal the compassion and acceptance in chords and song, particularly ones sprinkled with bells, mellotrone, tambourine, hand claps, a sitar thingy, strings, harmonica and guitar tones that sound all vintage. Let the Sunshine Out presents bubblegum nihilism, straight-between-the-eyes pop and song-driven rock 'n' roll with gentle restraint juxtaposed against literate lines of alcohol-based losses, revelations and, of course, sprightly turns involving The Girl — themes that actually become redemptive, as reflected in the album's title.
Singer Adrian Evans is blessed with a breathy midrange that'd put goosebumps on dudes comfortable with their sexuality as much as it'd put twinkles inside chick miniskirts. His lyrics show healthy library card usage and we feel the hard "the cold floor" at his "cheek" as much as the "suicide postcards of Rothko and Van Gogh" from his love whose red flags finally flew.
Reference points bloom: The Kinks-ish "The King" and The Gin Blossom-y "Everyone Has to Go" and the baroque-ish bridge in "Around You" finger-pistols late-period Zombies. Other bursts of style and taste abound too, namely Cheap Trick because there's a cover of their brilliant "Oh, Candy" (about a trannie's suicide) included. Tackling that song could easily be a huge misstep; the deceptively tricky Rick Nielson song structure and harmonies are as difficult to grasp as Robin Zander's dynamic vocal range. Shit, it'd be like covering, oh, say, "Magical Mystery Tour." But SH does CT proud.
Gently picked guitar motifs and instrumental swoons finish and start songs throughout and the tempo change in "Do Yourself a Favor" is a quiet surprise, tender as a spring sunrise. And there are indisputable perfect-world smashes including "My Star," "Scatter" and "Tainted." Out looking for Dwight Twilley poltergeists or the record Super Deluxe should've made to become super huge? Here 'tis, kids, and then some. What's more, this clever, 12-song pop tart was produced and mixed in pure analog joy by the unheralded Bob Hoag; so it's a sonic marvel, natural and engaging. Go to sugarhighonline.com or notlame.com.
Brian Smith is the features editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.