What a blast. A blast from the past that is. I have been enjoying the music of Steve Stoeckel, founding member of Power Pop Hall Of Famers, The Spongtones.
I have been into New Wave music, from its baby steps to the New New Wave, which remains a force to be reckoned with today. Some of my favourite artists are from that era—like Nick Lowe, who has played with Rockpile and Brinsley Schwarz. Rockpile featured Dave Edmunds on vocal and guitar. Brinsley Schwarz was a band and an artist who both contributed to the musical journey of Nick Lowe. Nick Lowe is a favourite of mine and has a decent resume. Check it out. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Lowe
A few others from that era are Ian Gomm and Elvis Costello. Listening to The Power Of And brings back good memories tied to good music. [insert a happy, contented sigh]
Back to the present moment, we are talking about The Power Of And, an excellent album by Steve Stoeckel. Steve Stoeckel was in the Power Pop Hall Of Fame band, The Spongtones. This album opens by ripping the top off the speakers and letting the music blast into the room. In a single song, Laura Lynn simultaneously harkens back to the best of Mercybeat and New Wave. I love it!
I look forward to what the rest of the album sounds like.
Whoa! Track two shifts gears dramatically. I’m not sure if I like that or not. It seems like a big jump from the boisterous Laura Lynn to the acoustic melodic ballad Birds. It’s not just shifting down; it’s putting the brakes on, too—a good song, just a bit of a surprise after the energy of Laura Lynn.
Let’s see what track three, If/Then, does. It merges with neither of the first two tracks. If/Then sounds like Simon and Garfunkel inspired it. That’s not a bad thing. Simon & Garfunkel get fairly regular airplay in our place. It’s a decent-sounding track; however, we are three tracks in, and we haven’t established what kind of vibe The Power Of And is giving us, the listener.
Diving into track four, Mod Girl, I have great hope just from the title; it caused me to think of The Who and Quadrophenia. Mod Girl fits the era well and reestablishes some rock and roll territories from track one, Laura Lynn.
Strange Cameo. Cool song title. Now, listen here; this is the fifth song, and we have a new rhythm and a fresh feeling to this song. And a damn good feeling. I’m sitting here typing this out and listening to Strange Cameo repeatedly. “No particular place to go.” Good old Chuck Berry snuck in there.
The Emerald Sea is track six, a rollicking sea shanty with a penny whistle and electric guitar soloing off each other. It works somehow; good stuff. The Emerald Sea leads quickly into track seven, the title track, The Power Of And. Now we have what sounds like a ukelele and lap steel guitar, something new, and some excellent sound stage use during this track, especially at the end. Steve Stoeckel tells us, “The Power of And” is the title song, and as it suggests, it talks about the connective power this little word has. Just two chords, short verses with phrases on each side of “and.” It builds, then falls apart nicely at the end. That’s Keith Shamel on those exquisite electric guitar parts.
Eight, Skippy’s Parade is a happy little ditty instrumentally. Nine, Christine. Boom, Christine blasts us back to Laura Lynn territory. No rollicking or skipping for Christine; she is a rocker and has some excellent guitar work, both bass and electric.
Why? I don’t know. My ears tell me track ten, Why, is an ode to The Everly Brothers with sweet harmony singing. Why is the title, by the way. Why takes us right back to the 60s. Ringing acoustic guitar and that harmonious singing make this a lovely track. Listen closely to the lyrics; why is a breakup song that they make out to sound almost happy. It could also be an apocalyptic song, “we know the end is near.” An apocalyptic breakup song. I just invented a new genre of music.
Eleven is Just One Kiss, and we are back to a happy uke song. I can imagine listening to Just One Kiss at a tiki bar on some Pacific Ocean island. But then they crank the music up and turn it into a rocker all the way home. Have fun and kiss responsibly.
On the twelfth day, my true love sent to me. Stop. Christmas is over. But, if it was a Christmasy type of moment, I am sure my true love would send me a hummingbird. A Jamaican hummingbird. A Doctor Bird. Hummingbird, the song, has a nice acoustic feel to it, with a multitude of stringed instruments weaving around each other while Steve sings an ode to the beauty of the Hummingbird.
“The Monsters Under My Bed,” is a true anthem for the young at heart. “It’s a tribute to the wonderful Maurice Sendak, who, like me, knew the delightful things that wild things can bring to one’s life,” says Steve Stoeckel. “The song is a promise never to let them go, to keep a child’s view always.”
Heather Gray is a sad story song. It is the third in the trilogy of girl name songs. This song engaged me with its lyrics. For example. “the rage you feel can’t be danced away.”
The album The Power Of And closes with a powerhouse song, chugging electric guitars, and a back story that Steve Stoeckel will tell us.
“Whistling Past Graveyards is a political song. It’s also a very special tune because Chris Garges (the Spongetones drummer who passed away in February of 2022) heard my solo post on Facebook and called me, saying, “I want to play drums on this. I also want to record it.” I was
honoured; this was the first solo song he’d indicated an interest in. So, we dug in, and the result was, sadly, the only thing I got to record with Chris. We’d made noises about doing a new Spongetones song, but alas, it never happened. There’s a video of this tune with Chris playing that I watch from time to time.”
And that, my friends, brings us to the end of an excellent album that I was more than happy to go through track by track. I never did settle into a genre, and I am OK with that. This album brings together a multitude of ways to put a song together. And each of them is good in its unique way.
The Power Of And is releasing February 24 on CD in record stores worldwide and on all digital platforms and is now up for pre-order at www.bigstirrecords.com. It features the new single “Just One Kiss” as well as Steve’s prior hit Big Stir singles “Why” (featuring IRENE PEÑA) and “Birds,” as well as “Mod Girl,” which reunites Stoeckel with all of his Spongetones bandmates.