(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, August 16, 2010

CD review - New Collisions, The Optimist (2010)

The New Collisions offer up a danceable version of '80s power pop. Singer Sarah Guild's voice hits a mix of Chrissie Hynde, Terri Nunn (Berlin), and Mary Prankster. The band matches her sound, playing like the Pretenders meet 10,000 Maniacs. Some of the songs drift closer to the girl bands of the '80s like the GoGo's and the Bangles, but still maintain a rocking pop feel. Across the 9 tracks of The Optimist, they lay down an assertive guitar sound with backing synth elements.

A tense driving bass kicks off Swift Destruction. It reminds me of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. The changes are interesting, with some of Costello's phrasing and arrangement touches. The keys balance the strong guitar levels, providing the perfect accent. The flow pulls you in and sets your feet to tapping. The lyrics are about hitting the end of a long fall..."We're the dregs of America, I see that now." Still, there's a strong will behind this, rather than despair:
I'd like to order up a swift destruction
Make this house no more
I'd like to order up a swift destruction
Leave us for dead, leave us for dead, leave us for dead
Let the robins pick our bones
The song ends abruptly without tonal resolution, which sets up...Well, it doesn't really fit the next song, Over.

Over hits the other end of the New Collisions' sound, aiming for the girl-band pop. It's like a frantic Manic Monday crossed with the Pretenders, especially Guild's voice, which takes on that knowing Chrissie Hynde tone (like Middle of the Road). The splashes of rhythm guitar are straight from the Pretenders. Guitarist Scott Guild has a wonderful tone and nice ear for power pop. Casey Gruttadauria's keyboard work adds a satisfying veneer here, as well.

My favorite track on The Optimist is another speedy number, Ne'er-Do-Well. After a heavy intro, it leaps forward with Alex Stern's wonderful bass line. The lyrics are a clever, hyper flow of words. Sarah Guild's voice sounds something like Mary Prankster meets Natalie Merchant. The upbeat feel of the music contrasts nicely with the lyrics:
Bring me all your able bodied men
So I can live in comfort once again
And I can have a nervous breakdown every now and then
And no one will come visit me. a frightening possibility
I might seem desperate in fact, I like my dignity intact
Drinking on the deck, stopping payment on the rent check
The dire lyrics wouldn't work as well with more mournful music. It offers some hope and an element of "Damn the torpedoes".

There are plenty of other interesting tunes: Coattail Rider channels a chunk of Berlin's Metro and there's a decent cover of the B-52's Give Me Back My Man. The Optimist may be an ironic title, but it's a strong debut album. Sweet, sour and powerful: it reminds me of Jack and Coke.

Here's the only single available. Also, Swift Destruction is available on their MySpace page.

New Collisions - Dying Alone (PopMatters)

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