[POP SONGS] I don’t think I ask too much of pop songs. I want them to physically move me and say something interesting or clever. In fact, if a song can do one of those two things well, I’ll take it. Alas, most pop music that comes across my desk neither makes me want to dance or gives me anything to think about. In Portland, pop artists have a tendency to enlist the help of a string section, a horn section and a choir before they ever learn how to write a catchy hook or pen a smart lyric—so it’s encouraging to hear a young band, with little in the way of resources, write a batch of songs that stand on their songwriting strength alone.
Your Rival’s new cassette/MP3 EP, Seven Sparkling Children, scratched my pop-song itch for the first time in ages. This music is fun, energetic and loose: Think of pioneering Midwest emo outfits like Promise Ring and Cap’n Jazz; or, better yet, think of early Weezer if Geffen Records had never come along. Frontman/multi-instrumentalist Mo Troper knows his way around a hook beautifully, and he is a passionate singer who reminds at times of Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook. Each song from the band’s sophomore EP has at least one brilliant, knife-twisting moment. And in fact, most of these songs have more than one such “fuck yeah” moment. Opening power-pop blast “My Canary,” which sounds like a Beach Boys summer jam reinterpreted by Superchunk, has four by my count, including a brief “Surfwax America”-esque guitar refrain, some brilliant whoa-ohs and a Big Star strum at the precise moment that the tune stops on a dime. The next song, “Wing Commander,” has too many clever twists count.
So what are these
songs about? Combat and girls, mostly, though the themes are less
important than the easy confidence and smart construction Troper
demonstrates as he builds them. “Sugar & Cream” is one of the
silliest songs I’ve ever heard, and yet, like many a towering Kinks
tune, I’m genuinely moved by it anyway. Closer “Rules of the Tub” is a
startlingly beautiful 90-second song about bath time etiquette. Your
Rival has my undivided attention. I hope it doesn’t wait too long for
SEE IT. Your Rival plays Backspace on Sunday, Aug. 21, with Kyle Morton. 4 pm. $5. All-ages benefit show.