Tuesday, January 3, 2017
So What's debut album!
Hard 'gum, obviously, is short for hard bubblegum. Think late '60s/early '70s bubblegum pop meets classic era U.K. junkshop glam forged under the heavy influence of perhaps the most underrated rock n' roll band of all-time - The Equals. So What's first two singles were nothing short of fantastic, and for sure I had high hopes that the Oakland foursome would deliver an equally strong LP. Hard Gum, a split release between singer/guitarist Jason Duncan's venerable Just Add Water imprint and Italy's Surfin' Ki Records, is absolutely the hand-clapping, foot-stomping extravaganza I was hoping for! The existing A-sides "What You Do To Me" (re-recorded for the album) and "Why Can't I See You Tonight" bookend a stellar collection of rockin' and massively hook-laden tunes. This is probably the most fun you can have with your pants on (although I don't think that's necessarily a requirement). And while So What is just one of many modern-day bands to draw from glam rock and bubblegum influences, I don't think anyone does it with greater authenticity or a more thorough appreciation for the history of these genres. For one thing, the sound is totally spot-on. If you're looking for big drums and fuzzy guitars with just the right touch of Moog synth, So What has got it! It would be easy to convince just about anyone that this album was actually recorded in 1973! Just as importantly, Duncan is a fine songwriter with a terrific grasp of what a three minute pop song ought to be. The new take on "What You Do To Me" burns even hotter than the single version- kicking off the album with such a bang that you just know the whole thing is gonna be great! Tracks such as "Don't Wanna Come Back To You" and "Where We Goin'" sizzle in a similar vein, while that Equals influence really comes through in riff-tastic booty-shakers like "What You Said" and "Don't Come Back". The '50s flavored "Untouched By Life" brings to mind label mates Juvie, and the teen hooligan anthem "My Life Is Tight" puts the "hard" in 'hard gum!
I can't think of a better way to kick off another year of F & L than with this post on Hard Gum! This is one of those albums that was just made to be enjoyed. I don't see how you can listen to this record and not wanna dance around like crazy while you tear it up on air guitar. If you dig super-catchy pop with balls, no one's doing it better than So What!