Powerpop wears a blue collar
Stuck in a Job b/w Living In The Borough – Joe Normal & The Anytown'rs (Big Stir Records)
I'm always late to the party, and in the wrong place, at the wrong time, so ya know it was no big surprise, by that year when I finally made it to Hollywood, seeking out competent shag-haired glam punks for my own set to self-destruct before our 15-minute flash metal suicide glitter gang. It was really all over but the pouting, and I hadda get a series of telemarketing and janitorial gigs, sweeping up the silly string and confetti of last year's hairbands!
All the bombshell temptress girlfriends with the come hither, tilted just so police hats, and over blackened hootchie kootchie eyes, had already moved on to gangsta rap or grunge, which was a total buzzkill that I never related to at all, 'just proved the power of corporate media to strongarm any fictitious, manufactured trend or phony narrative upon the masses by overplaying it all day, they did the exact same thing with even more awful boybands two years later, so anyways, in the Hollywood limelite's last gleamings, the purple haired Zeros were like the biggest buzz in town, seemingly poised to make it, at least, as far as Faster Pussycat or L.A. Guns or whoever. They had lines around the block of devoted fans who all formed kooky colored glam groups and copied them slavishly.
I was living with an ex girlfriend and her 16 black-haired, male musician roommates, in an appallingly filthy one bedroom apartment kinda across the street from the Saharan Hotel. I clearly remember all the goofy no hope Motley kids living in communal squalor and bottle strewn wreckage all gazing religiously upon that big poster of the cartoon Zeros recklessly commandeering the Cadillac or whatever on that poster that dominated the living room wall.
To me, the Zeros were like the Sweet and Ramones and Bay City Rollers - upbeat, extremely marketable comic book or Saturday morning sugary cereal pop for young teenagers, they were fun, catchy, looked cool, hip, cartoonish.....maybe the singer was a bit too zaney and wigged out buffoonish? I dunno why they never broke big on Headbanger's Ball, but by then, even Motley Crue and their party band metal-head ilk were all kinda, "goin' grunge"!
The next thing I heard by the ridiculously talented Joe Normal, and company, was the way more earnest and sophisticated, Hutchinsons,whose essential LP "Plastic Fruit & Popcorn" was reminiscent of Material Issue, the Gin Blossoms and the Replacements. It featured their undeniably outstanding musicianship, top-notch melodic songwriting with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics, and vocals ala the Beatles and Badfinger, Matthew Sweet and Soul Asylum who sold millions of records were, perhaps, not as good as the underplayed Hutchinsons.
Joe Normal also did time in a promising powerhouse stadium pop band called, Slow Motorcade, who made one heavy-duty power pop masterpiece you should look for, and eventually collaborated with various Jetboys, Bangles, Big Elfs, Dramaramas, Lords of The New Church, Shiteland Ponies and Lions & Ghosts. His rockabilly horror band, Cold Blue Rebels, really did the business for a few years.
Finally, in most recent days, he assembled this world class wrecking crew of power pop constellations, Joe Normal & The Anytown'rs, who are all such talented and charismatic musicians, you might think they are slick show-biz studio pros. But they have so much heart, you find yourself rooting for them to somehow go radio! They keep releasing this steady succession of solid platinum, would be, pop hits (!!!) you'd think any halfway honest DJ would be eager to play on his drivetime radio shift, or drunken podcast, or that highpaid mainstream critics would be inclined to wanna write about in some glossy imported magazines!
If you like Cheap Trick, Candy, Rick Springfield, Big Star, Eddie & The Hotrods - anything bubblegum sticky and brimming with Eddie Cochran attitude - you'll become an instant Anytown'rs collector, first thing upon hearing this shiny disc! All of Joe Normal's bands have been people's bands, beloved by the proles, the hard boozing rowdies, the vinyl purist record store pop purists, goths, glams, psychobillies, and everyday people! Cult bands!
I don't understand how show-biz works, I just know everything in the big media is shit and lies and garbage, always best avoided, and never, never, never to be trusted. Now the death-plague's killin' vulnerable populations and big business is gleefully cashing in on our suffering and misery and the landlords and oligarchs and pandemic profiteers and surveillance techlords and their private jet owning congressional bribe takers, are refusing to fork over significant relief checks to the USA USA working class, preferring to give themselves and their donor class mega rich friends more stimulus handouts, so most all the rockers and rollers who struggle to make a humble living at bars are sadly fucked. No crisis relief is forthcoming for essential workers, minimum wage earners, or humble renters, ya know?
This CD single is at Joe Normal's usual standard of super-pop excellence, and I like how it has inter-generational appeal. Whether you grew up with ‘60s golden age pop music, seventies silvery glam anthems, or ‘80s new wave skinny tie perfection ala the Beat, or Knack, or Records, or Stiv Bators Band, you're likely to wanna turn up the upbeat A side, where a jovial Joe and friends holler 'bout responsibilities, bills, and frustrating, nowhere, dead-end, wage slave, shit jobs. It's tight and catchy, like the happier and more cheerful Smithereens stuff. I never knew how hard-times survivin' Joe Normal had so much good humor and enthusiasm and sunny, optimism even in grim times, but he is undoubtedly a positive force for good, and his passionate "you can't keep a good man down" energy will surely lift your spirits, if you care to boost a round or three, and sing along with them. The Anytown'rs also star: Tony Snow on drums, Tony Babylon on bass, and Michael Lockwood on guitars and have the best hats, Anywhere.
To me, the B-Side is the one I'd play first if I was an ownership society grownup insider industry type, as Joe Normal is really at his best when he writes from experience about his own hang-ups, hardships, traumas and trials. "Living In The Borough" reminded me of that first solo Paul Westerberg album with its picturesque storyteller lyrics, 'little bit of old Faces era Rod Stewart in there, too. I love the singing, the mandolin, and the intimate scrapbook lyrics. It really pulls my heartstrings. I could not think of ten things I liked about this year to contribute to the bar's year end top ten list, so I'll just tell ya, JOE NORMAL & THE ANYTOWN'RS are fucking great, as always, working class dog, courageously pure , "It's A Wonderful Life" bleeding hearted, wild spirited pop ‘n’ roll that will pull you up and outta your holiday lockdown depression, isolation, anxiety, dread and poverty woes-at least for a few moments, and how much more can you ask for, from four forgotten rebels in big hats? Nothing 'bout Joe is Normal - bring on the revolution!