What's a pop song for anyway? Historically, there's always been something
disposable about them, a lack of permanence to all but the best. Not that
there's anything bad about the throwaway single -- think you'll want to
hear "MMMbop" in five years? All the same, only the most sour-hearted of
listeners won't admit that it's an infectious song, and like it or not, it
plays in your head long after it's over.
There's a (learned) craft and an (innate) intuition that goes into making a
pop song -- that's why we have such begrudging respect for Hanson; it's not
only luck. The really lasting pop songs, the songs that you can't toss
out, that don't wear out their welcome, take craft and intuition, but their
main ingredient is something else, a kind of sorcery -- a science we can't
understand yet. No amount of analysis will reveal why "I Wanna Hold Your
Hand" or "I Will Dare" last, but they will, like virtual time capsules,
three and a half minutes of warts-and-all perfection.
It's stretching things to throw the Push Kings into the company of the
Beatles or the Replacements, but their recent record, Far Places,
leaves you with the same lasting feeling of a lot of really brilliant pop.
The songs' charms grab you at first listen, but there are new ones to
discover when the appeal of the old ones wears off.
On their first record, the Push Kings were rightly criticized with
indulging in a fair amount of Beatles-pastiche -- lead singers (and
guitarists, and brothers, and songwriters) Carrick and Finn Moore Gerety
sound uncannily like Paul McCartney from time to time, and their first
record's songs did have a mop-top swing to them. Far Places is
decidedly looser, much funkier, and it also succeeds in sounding like
nothing other than a Push Kings album.
They've expanded their palette, too: the instrumentation is varied without
sounding desperate for novelty. (Even the odd fit of scratching by drummer
David Benjamin fits in.) It's the songs, though, that make the record.
There's not a loser on the album. The Moore Geretys sing with a vigor and a
sweetness that wraps itself around songs as different as "Orange Glow," a
syncopated ballad, and "The Girl Who Only Loves Candy," the album's
centerpiece and a perfect object lesson for the lasting pop song.
Far Places fits together, working like a real album rather than just
a collection of good songs; there's a flavor that all of it has without
overpowering each song's identity. No doubt, this little-known band on a
small, Boston-area indie label won't sell many records. You don't earn indie
cred by making songs you can whistle, after all (with the exception of Belle and Sebastian). Those of us fortunate
enough to hear this record, though, may never stop playing it -- it'll
still find its way onto the stereo long after today's flavors of the month
have gone back to the used-record store. The Push Kings have made the
elusive persistent-pop record. You may now commence weeping with joy.