Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Toxic Melons Bus Therapy Album Review

Through my interview with Jason Falkner, I discovered two power pop gems at the end of 2014 - one through Jason himself (which I will be discussing in a later post), and one where the band actually reached out to me. 

Being that this isn’t my full time job, I don’t have time to listen to every album that someone sends along.  But in this case, it was worth taking the time for a listen because of the names in the power pop genre that contributed to the album.  So when Paul Fairbairn of Toxic Melons emailed me and mentioned that Linus of Hollywood, Taylor Locke, Chris Price, and Eric Dover (among others) had all contributed to the project, I had to take a listen!

Who is Toxic Melons you ask?  Toxic Melons is a project spearheaded by Paul Fairbairn, a self-proclaimed power pop junkie.  In fact, if you peruse the Toxic Melons Facebook page, you’ll see Paul sporting Jellyfish and Imperial Drag t-shirts as well as pictures of him with power pop legends such as Jason Falkner, Colin Blunstone, Eric Dover, and Linus of Hollywood.

After giving the album a thorough listening, it’s clear that Paul has the chops to write great pop songs that span the entire power pop spectrum.  On this album we get everything from Jellyfish inspired work to 60’s era pop to a Brian Wilson inspired piece at the end of the album.  Bus Therapy even wanders off into electro-pop territory with a cut called Disco Balls.  So what you basically get from this record is a walk down power pop lane that’s loaded with a diverse collection of tasty pop treats.

You absolutely cannot give this album a one and done listen.  To do it justice, you really need to sit down and give it a few listens.  If you just put it on in the background while you’re working or doing things around the house, etc. etc. – the album will absolutely pass the sniff test.  If you really want to appreciate this album though, it warrants a sit down to absorb the pop goodness!  The reason being…well, it could use a little punch as far as the production goes – so I could see how it might not suck you in completely right off the bat.  Please don’t misinterpret that to mean that this album has flat out shoddy production, etc. etc.  That’s not what I’m saying all.  What I’m trying to say is that this has more of a R. Stevie Moore DIY production type feel but with more power pop overtones – i.e. leaning more towards Jellyfish, Brit pop, etc.  I give Paul a ton of credit for landing the folks he landed on this album, and it’s safe to say that they wouldn’t lend their talents or name to a project that didn’t make the cut.

Another point that’s worth stating is this; at times, listening to this album feels like a compilation record of good power pop music because of the different singers on all of the tracks.  I’m making no judgment as to whether that’s a good thing or bad thing – that’s up to the listener to decide!  Personally, I think it gives the listener a chance to listen to the album in multiple ways, which adds depth to the project.  One day, you might want to listen to the album as a cohesive whole, seeing how all of the songs work together.  Another day, you might want to listen to it like an all-star compilation of different power pop celebs singing on each track.  Either way you choose to listen to it, you can’t go wrong!

All in all, this is an exciting album once you tear into it.  This is a must own for power pop enthusiasts.  It’s a real diamond in the rough, as it does need a little bit of production to give it some oomph (And no, I’m not talking about the German gothic band!!), but well worth it.

You can buy your copy HERE.

Now let’s get into the tracks…

More Or Less

The upbeat opener to grab your attention!  The song opens with a church organ riff that moves into an upbeat piano line.  This track features “YouTube Sensation" Fredde Gredde on vocals and Chadwick Salls on bass.  What I like about this track is that they were able to capture a lot of energy, which uplifts and drives the song.


In an unexpected turn, Bus Therapy slams on the breaks here and goes instrumental; ambient, spacey instrumental that is.  Every time I hear this song I can’t help but think of the Moog Music Animoog soft synth app for the iPhone / iPad.  The lead synth sound sounds identical to my app – so I’d be curious to see what they used here.  With that being said, you might already be able to guess that this is a synth number.  After thinking about it, it actually is placed well in the sequence of the album because it allows the album to move into the next track by bridging the super upbeat opener with “Let Me Sleep”.

“Let Me Sleep”

After the little synth ditty finishes the album moves into the relaxing “Let Me Sleep”.  The next all-star contribution to Bus Therapy arrives here in Taylor Locke playing guitar.  I may be crazy, and this may be how my musical brain works, but when I hear the somewhat raspy vocals - I’m reminded of a lower range version of an Ashley Holt type voice – for some reason he keeps popping into my head when I hear this song.  A real treat in the song though, is the sequence leading up to the chorus when he (I believe it’s Paul) sings, “The rumor…can never…live up to…my abstract…fantasy”.  It’s a nice twist in the song that adds an interesting element.

“Change The World”

All right, I’m going to do it…if there was a song on this album that sounded like Manning or Sturmer had their hands in it, it would be this one.  It really sounds like Paul’s Jellyfish influences were coming out on this one.  At about 40 seconds into the song, right as you here Linus sing “Their motives were changing…” you get this piano flutter that reminds me of something off of Spilt Milk.  The song has a really cool rolling verse and chorus and sounds like it’s full of key changes.  I think it might be the best song on the album.  The vocal arrangements are fantastic and Linus just shines on this song – both vocally and on the bass - and the production is probably the best on the album.  Love it - worth the price of admission alone.

“Disco Balls”

Bus Therapy throws another little curve at you here with this track.  Here, we are treated to more of an electro-pop type song that features Eric Dover’s electronic programming and Kurt Dirt on vocals.  It’s fitting that Dover is on this track because it feels like distant relative of a Sextus song.  If you put your imaginary play cap on and pretend Dover was singing and added his wicked guitar playing, you could see how this could possibly work on Stranger Than Fiction.

“Not In Love”

Do you remember when Jellyfish took “Sugar And Spice” and put hair on its chest when they played it live?  Well……this is not like that.  But what it is like is an original Archies song along the lines of “Sugar Sugar”.  It’s a great 60’s-esque pop song.  I really enjoyed the hell out of this song.

“Just One Beer”

Speaking of R. Stevie Moore, the lead vocals on this track are very similar to Ariel Pink’s vocal style in “Put Your Number In My Phone”.  I also like the divide between the music and the lyric.  The music, melody, and string arrangement are pretty upbeat and have a happy sing-a-long feel to them.  But when you listen to the lyric, it’s way darker and I love when artists put those to things together.  Another great example of this style would be Lily Allen’s “LDN”.  There’s just something so intriguing to me about combining those happy and not so happy elements together and it’s not until the listener pays attention to the lyric that they realize what’s going on.  Another high note is the crunchy "Smile Away" guitar bit that's used throughout the song.

“Getting Old”

For me, the weakest track on the record.  It’s decent song, but I didn’t connect with it like I did to the other songs.

“Take Me Back”

Paul ends the album on a high note here with, what sounds like to me, a Beach Boys inspired track.  Chris Price does a fantastic job on vocals here.  The arrangement is wonderful – one of the top tracks on the album…it’s a really good end to the album.

I can’t say enough about the effort put forth on this album.  It’s a solid power pop compilation that has fantastic songs and some great arrangements.  At 5 pounds (which is less than 10 dollars US) for the digital version, this is a FANTASTIC value for any power pop enthusiast.  I highly recommend this enjoyable album by Toxic Melons.

Be sure and pick up your copy HERE.


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Thanks For Reading.

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