Power Pop Playlist: 13 Songs That Mix Sweet Hooks With Rockin’ Riffs

If you know me (and if you don’t, Hi!  I’m Paul! Pleased to meet you!) you know that I seriously love crunchy rockin’ power pop goodness. To me, it’s always in fashion. Or out of fashion… my point, and I do have one, is that I don’t care if it’s cool or not! (Although I secretly know that it is.)

Ric Menck - right on.

Ric Menck, drummer for Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet, recently said on his Facebook page: “I love the term power pop. The words look and sound so good together.”

I concur Ric, but would add that there is equal need for both words in the term. Power Pop must have POWER and POP – two great tastes that taste great together. It means four on the floor, crunchy guitar, soaring melodies and tight harmonies. It’s the sound of young love, innocent lust and the first all-nighter of spring. I’ll wear it proudly.

Of course the notion of power pop is said to date back to a quip made by Peter Townshend to describe The Who, and that makes sense when you hear “Pictures of Lily”:

And now, for Power Pop Thursday, I humbly submit a Power Pop Rock n Hooks Playlist to illustrate. *Note: I have limited today’s focus to big guitar hooks and tight drumming and big vocal choruses. There will be other features in the future, COMMENTS and SUGGESTIONS are always welcome at the bottom of this post (not on my Facebook page) – comments left here are like cookies left for Santa!

One of the first times I was aware of power pop’s unique adrenalinability was when I heard Badfinger sing “No Matter What”

And lately we’ve all been remembering recently departed Alex Chilton and Big Star‘s influence and contributions, and you have to admit that “September Gurls” is a landmark of the genre.

And of course, Raspberries “Go All The Way” (audio only) was a big hooky thing too.

Here’s a raw live version of Todd Rundgren’s “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” from the Back To The Bars tour in 1978. This song, originally on Something/Anything?, is very Who-influenced if you ask me, and really why would you?

I always through in some of the New Wave pop bands of the Seventies, such as The Records, and “Starry Eyes”. Here’s a clip someone put up where they synched the album version to a TV show appearance. Yay!


Of course, this always reminds me of Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl Of My Dreams”

Of course the Nineties were a great time for updating the sound, and Matthew Sweet made several contributions to the legacy, here’s one I never tire of, “Sick Of Myself” (clip directed by Roman Coppola).

I really liked Material Issue’s take on power pop, a little angstier than most but sweet as all get out.

Material Issue

This is the band, after all, who coined the term “International Pop Overthrow” and whose singer Jim Ellison died way too young, at his own hand by carbon monoxide poisoning (!) and is arguably, the Kurt Cobain of 90′s power pop.  Here’s a clip I found for “Diane” by Material Issue.

Here’s The Smithereens “A Girl Like You”

How about Cheap Trick’s “I Can’t Take It” (audio only, produced by Todd Rundgren):

The Pursuit of Happiness “She’s So Young”(also produced by Rundgren) is a fine, fine example of a big hooky song.

Heck, I even see the chorus of Paul Westerberg’s “World Class Fad” as power pop, so I’ll throw it in, free!

We’re out of time now, and we haven’t even gotten Tommy Keene and a slew of other greats on here, but I have to get back to work.  I bet you’ll be humming at least one of these tomorrow.

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5 Responses to “Power Pop Playlist: 13 Songs That Mix Sweet Hooks With Rockin’ Riffs”

  1. Great choices, Paul! Some Material Issue came on my iPod today and it just reminded how much I miss them. I would have loved to have heard how they progressed.

  2. Hello Paul–I love me some Power Pop also. I like your selections. Keep the power pop posts coming. Thanks.

  3. Excellent list. Keep ‘em coming.

  4. Andrew Snell Says:

    Great list, indeed. The mind boggles with suggestions… but Sugar (Bob Mould’s) If I Can’t Change Your Mind always sparkled for me. A question, does material like Sloan’s Underwhelmed or The Killjoys’ Soaked mine the same vein? Or is this all another genre… Garage Pop?

  5. pulmyears Says:

    Hey Andrew: Glad to hear from you. Of course, Sugar’s “If I Can’t Change” is kind of in the ballpark! I consider Sloan to be a great example of PowerPop in the post-grunge world, they have such Beatles and Kiss roots (latent though they they are). Jay and Chris especially. I’d concur with “Underwhelmed”, of course, but also suggest Sloan’s later work, “The Good In Everyone” “Coax Me” “Money City Maniacs”. I once opened for the Killjoys in the Hammer, they struck me as very Teenage Fanclub (at the time). Not sure if they knew that though.

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