Pop Princes

They're not quite in the same league as the Replacements -- but give them time.

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.