The Upshot: The kind of anthemic pop album that, in a just world, will be blasted from car stereos all summer long, windows down, fists pounding on steering wheels and young lovers sitting close beside one another.
BY FRED MILLS
It stars with one of those perfect pop—with power!—songs, all jangly descending riffage culled from the Guided by Voices Book of Oomph, a propulsive back beat (that you can’t lose, natch), yearning-yet-emphatic vocals that’d make a Superchunk fan stand up and salute, a heartbeat, drop-out midsection that steers you directly up to the pinnacle. No matter that “Exit Signs” is a cautionary, pessimistic tune about good times that are in danger of going bad (although the closing chorus tentatively reassures that “it’ll be all right”); by track’s end, Jared Putnam has hooked you, in all the ways rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to hook you. (Hold that thought, please….)
San Antonio-based Putnam, essentially a one-man band, now on full-length number three, has steadily been refining his musical vision, to the point that Saturdays is easily the most assured effort from the March Divide to date. There are songs so effortlessly accessible that you could imagine them being slotted into an I Heart Radio playlist without blinking—he’d teach the listening audience a thing or two about craft, methinks, as opposed to no-substance flash and image—and there are songs as visionary and forward-thinking as GbV’s Robert Pollard was back in the day, during his ahead-of-the-pop-curve days.
From the insistent push-pull pulse, sinewy strums and buoyant “whoah-ohh-oahhh” chorus of “Take Your Chances” and the Weezer-esque anthemism of “I Give Up,” to the Big Star-informed, strummy acoustic reverie that is “Over and Over” and the meaty minor chord rocker (and equally anthemic) “Go to Sleep,” Putnam demonstrates his mastery of the love song, in all its myriad variations. It’s a fun album, upbeat when it needs to be and soulful when you need it to be. The kind of album that, in a just world, will be blasted from car stereos all summer long, windows down, fists pounding on steering wheels and young lovers sitting close beside one another.
Speaking of “hooked,” above: Saturdays is a vinyl fetishist’s delight, pressed as it is on random shades of colored wax. Mine is a lovely magenta/purplish, blue-splotched platter, bolstered by a corresponding blue label. It’s the little touches that count, at least to these eyes and ears. If this is a March Divide, then I’m joining up.
DOWNLOAD: “Exit Signs,” “Over and Over,” “Go to Sleep”