You have to work harder these days to sell music and it can't get harder than selling the compilation album in an age where everyone compiles their own. Exclusions are comps of specially-commissioned or hard-to-find tracks with some kind of plot to their conjugation. 'Burning Sounds' bags up 20 'power pop' songs spanning 25 years and is gleefully wilful in eschewing many of the usual suspects for esoteria. A fine job is done of dusting down the likes of XTC spin-off The Dukes of Stratosphear, the Head brothers' pre-Shack incarnation The Pale Fountains, Wah's Pete Wylie, the deeply obscure as well as earlier acts such as The Babys. The US offers treats in the more mainstream Flamin' Grooves who kick the set off with their early 70's classic, 'Shake Some Action' while cult act, Jellyfish, is in with 1990's 'Baby's Coming Back'. Brian Wilson is much evoked and no less so than in The Raspberries 'Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)' while the influence of Lennon and McCartney is measured in contributions by the likes of Brinsley Schwartz, Klaatu, Orange, peaking with Beatles parodists The Rutles, whose Neil Innes' debt to the Fab Two dates to his earlier work with The Bonzo Dog Band. Packed with snap and vim, 'Burning Sounds' is a pacy slice through garage/pop music history.
There's no doubt that the world needs a good power pop anthology - and I bought this based on a couple of tracks I loved, and a couple of bands I liked - but I have to say its a bit of a disappointment; all over the place really. What is power pop after all? Its that post-Beatles/Who type of tuneful rock music that has singularly failed to make the charts in the next 30 years. Its Badfinger's "Come and Get it", its "I think we're alone now" (in any version), its Big Star (not included here) doing "Thirteen" - and perhaps over the last few years its been Elliot Smith at his best, or even the Posies "Frosting on the Beater" - yet, none of these are included here, and it reeks a little of those poorly focussed Northern Soul compilations that major labels come out with now and then. There are gems - the Pursuit of Happiness "Hard to Laugh" (one of the songs I already had) remains a wonder, but I kind of think that latterday Liverpool could have been better served than with the Pete Wylie and Pale Fountains tracks included here. And the best power pop track of the 80s - Cheap Trick's "If you want my love, you've got it" - is nowhere to be found. What you most notice is how this compilation is more pop and less power, which kind of misses the point. Power pop begat glam, and more recently, "indie" owes it a debt, but this album is a missed opportunity. Give me the keys to the vaults and I'll come up with something far better!