There’s a fine line between homage and throwback. Much like punk rock, power pop is a genre that’s as indebted to the past as it is to progression. For every torchbearer there are countless stagnant piss pools, each mere steps away from becoming the next dad band. Without so much as a squeak of integrity, they remain forever second fiddle, aping rather than innovating. Thankfully, with Crushin’, Marvelous Mark has avoided the pitfalls of ponytails and tone obsessions to produce a record worthy of our attention, and there’s not a convertible nor pair of cargo pants in sight.
Previously of Canada’s infamous Marvelous Darlings, Mark Fosco’s first extended solo effort arrives on England’s own Drunken Sailor Records. Here the ante is upped, the songs are bigger, the guitars louder. Over the course of 8 tracks, Crushin’ delivers a blast of wall-to-wall guitar pop bangers drenched in youthful nostalgia and nervous energy, but with an earnestness that keeps things fresh.
Opening with a muted chug, first track “Silhouette” teeters between piercing feedback and tension, before kicking in with a wall of guitar that cuddles rather than pummels. It’s a warm delivery, with treacly thick harmonies giving way to twin leads, all backed by a driving mid-paced stomp. Hooks take precedence over technicality and it’s all the better for it. In a bold move, Crushin’s first track is its longest, yet it works. It’s the sort of perfect pop nugget that recalls 90’s acts such as Weezer and My Bloody Valentine in equal measure.
“I Dunno” takes things up a notch, less yearning and more urgent, whilst continuing the same musical themes as the opener. Acting as the album’s lead, curious readers may want to check out the accompanying video, where a disturbed Mark smears himself with facepaint as he’s squirted with silly string. This wouldn’t be so creepy in itself were it not for the footage of Hanson’s “Mmm Bop” playing in the background. Creepy.
There is a consistency that remains over the course of the release, the tracks swinging between a lope and a gentle jog. Fast is a word that never quite applies, yet there are plenty of crashing moments that propel proceedings. Whilst the buzzing sounds of 70’s power pop and 90’s alternative are mostly displayed, in amongst the fuzz are slower tracks that bookend each side. “Would You Believe” is all shimmering acoustic guitar and ethereal backing vocals, recalling The Beach Boys in their 1964-66 period, right before the drugs and beards took hold, whilst album closer, “Under the Rain” plays heavily on the 60’s British psych sound with it’s wash of harmonic haze. It’s good stuff, and a welcome change of pace.
At times, the vocals verge on being too sickly, but it’s an addictive sugariness that works within the context of the album. Should it induce vomiting, it would most probably be the sweetest, most glittery sick ever, and for that we should be thankful. Clocking in at under 27 minutes, Crushin’ fills the ground between an EP and LP. It’s neither here nor there, instead existing awkwardly somewhere between the two. Whilst this may be sympathetic to the youthful vibe captured on Crushin’, I can’t help but wish there were just a few more tracks.
Despite this, Crushin’ is a bold record, built on brazen simplicity, massive hooks and with enough heart to fix a cardiac ward. It plays out with a classic sense of delivery, unashamedly recalling greats of yesteryear whilst paving a path of its own. These are the sort of songs made for obsessing over. The sort of songs that you listened to in school whilst longing for the object of your affections. It’s a catalyst for time travel that takes you back to the days of acne and alcopops, only with enough clout to keep middle-aged spread ever present in your mind. We’re only a short way into 2016, and already I suspect that this release might make it to many end of year lists. Solid stuff.