Power pop – true, honest-to-goodness power pop like that made by Big Star, Cheap Trick and the Replacements – is a genuine thing of beauty. Bands often attempt it, but few are able to get past cliché and repetition. Lawrence, Kansas, band the Dead Girls are not one of those bands, and they prove it with their latest, Fade In/Fade Out.
Fade In/Fade Out is another exercise in how to do it right. The Dead Girls, featuring members of Lawrence’s Ultimate Facebook, have spent years, three full-length records, two EPs and a 7” building a sound that can shift gears on a dime, be as expansive and breezy as a CSN&Y B-side or wind itself up tighter than an 8-day clock. While most tracks are radio ready and stay around the standard single length of the 3- or 4-minute mark, there are some that break that rule, especially the 7:31 Chris Bell-meets-Matthew Sweet “I Feel You.”
This is a sound that is entwined throughout Fade In/Fade Out. The influence of the aforementioned Big Star and Cheap trick, along with the more mainstream ‘70s icons KISS and ELO, is undeniable, while echoes of more recent artists such as Sweet, Soul Asylum, Wilco, Superdrag, The Fags, The Lemonheads, Nada Surf and even Someone Still Love You Boris Yeltsin can also be heard. Fade In/Fade Out has a joyfulness runs the full length of the record: it’s in the songs of principle writers Cameron Hawk and JoJo Longbottom; in the duo’s guitar work that flies along like Richard Lloyd and Matthew Sweet on Sweet’s masterpiece Girlfriend; and in the steady bass work of Nick Colby and the gittiness of Eric Melin’s drumming. From the first listen, it should be clear that The Dead Girls are topnotch musicians who, after many weary miles on the road, deserve to have some kudos thrown their way.
The songs that make up Fade In/Fade Out are all bouncy, though melancholy is indeed a key component. “Never Erased” says “You’re here for a moment/ Then you’re gone,” defeatism coupled with the feel good riffs kicked out by a band like Superdrag or a young, rebellious, pissed off Joe Jackson. “Find Your Way Back to Me (Oh My Soul)” would have fit just as easily on Big Star’s Radio City or on Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Punch The Clock. Translation: it is a near perfect track.
The song “Under Siege” owes its existence to the likes of Gram Parsons or The Byrds. It has its roots in folk, country and the late great Harry Nilsson. However, though the influences are heard clearly on Fade In/Fade Out, it’s not just another case of a record sounding like someone else. It is one of substance, honesty and good old pop bounciness. In this case of Fade In/Fade Out, at least, that is a good thing.
DOWNLOAD: “Find Your Way Back To Me (Oh My Soul),” “Wall of Boxes” —DANNY R. PHILLIPS