Philly's bigger lovers appeared on the radar with 2001's How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and it was almost as if, judging from reviews, the power-pop saviors the world had been waiting for had finally descended. You know, from that sanctified concert in the sky featuring a dream bill of the Beatles, Kinks, Hollies, Who, Nazz, Big Star, Flamin' Groovies, Dwight Twilley, dB's, Tommy Keene, Velvet Crush, Posies, etc. Of course, "saviors" was perhaps too strong a term, but as a rule, pop acolytes tend toward intense hyperbole.
THE BIGGER LOVERS BOBBY BARE JR., THE LAWNMOWERS Tractor Tavern, 206-789-3599 $10/$8 adv. 9:30 p.m. Sat., March 22
Still, when Britain's Bucketful of Brains observed of the record, "Just as you start feeling that the pop revival is getting a bit stale and predictable, this reinstates your faith in all things melodic," the logic was undeniable. Especially when the follow-up, Honey in the Hive (Yep Roc), was released last fall, and thanks to an astonishing growth in the degree of sophistication the band evidenced in the songwriting, arranging, and harmonizing departments, raised the bar even higher.
With such a band, a casual listener would be forgiven for mistakenly thinking "pastiche" with regard to much of the Honey repertoire: Gloriously surging dynamics and Sell Out-era Who guitar/drum motifs make "Half Richard's" the definitive album opener; the benevolent spirit of pre-Buckingham/ Nicks Fleetwood Mac hovers over the lush ballad "Emmanuelle"; the ornate "Minivan" is pure Brian Wilson; the jangle-encrusted "Don't Know Why" evidences a deep and abiding Big Star fetish. Subjectwise, the songs don't fall too far from the pop tree, either: Boy obsesses over girl, girl spurns boy, boy obsesses over girl even more.
If you're a power-pop devotee like me, however, you're not so easily let off the hook, and besides, the genre's not for dilettantes in the first place. Full disclosure: I'm one of the editors for MAGNET, a national rock mag that the Lovers' rock-crit drummer Pat Berkery writes for. (He also contributes to Seattle Weekly.) My conflict of interest aside, however, I know a great band when I hear one. And what I hear are charisma-fueled songs that transcend both overt and subliminal influences to stake out their own turf. The stuff that'll send you strutting down the sidewalk with a tune on your lips and an air guitar at your hips or barreling down the highway with the windows cranked wide open, as you revisit every teenage symphony you ever loved and add a handful of new ones to your mental jukebox in the process.