The Beach Boys, Beatles and Who are dead. XTC's best days are so far behind them that they might as well be on eight-track tape. And though pop music is alive and well, many purveyors of it garner high marks for effort, low ones for talent. Who's to carry the melodic, harmony-rich bubble gum mantle now that all the trailblazers of the form are forgotten? The Green & Yellow TV, that's who.
Busting loose from Los Angeles, this foursome crafts songs that aspire to both the polish and complexity of Pet Sounds. Those are lofty aspirations, and the boys fall a little shy. But when your goals are that damn high, falling short can still be pretty damn good. "What's the Message", a micro epic riddled with glorious swells and refreshing instrumentation, starts rolling with simple vocals over piano. And what vocals they are. I'm not usually one to be seduced by a set of pipes, but there's something about this fellow that charms and impresses without becoming obnoxious. As the track evolves, new instruments bloom. Punchy and sometimes odd sounds pipe up. My favorite is the tinny music box that peeks through and even manages to fit in. The CD is littered with these little gems.
"The Big Red Machine", the first cut, gets things going on an auspicious note. Thundering drums contrast well with acoustic guitars and a simple distorted lead line. As with the other songs, the arrangement on this one is a delight. It's so filled with surprising twists and turns and detours that it covers more ground in a single three-minute song than most acts can muster in an entire CD. Repeated listens prove especially rewarding, as the subtle contrasting lines and shy instruments only make themselves known after time. I could go on, but let's leave it with this: these are elegant ditties performed by smart kids who know a hell of a lot more than three chords and a hook. Here's to reanimating the long dead carcass of adventurous pop songs.