Ken Sharp – New Mourning (Jet Fighter Records)
The power pop underground keeps on keeping on although the musical style has never captured the audience that its most rabid fans feel it deserves. A delirious mixture of rock crunch and bubble gum beats that has flirted with mainstream success since the 70s, the style has spawned such respected short-term stars as Jellyfish, Matthew Sweet, The Knack, Marshall Crenshaw, The Romantics, Dwight Twilley, The Rubinoos and others. In fairness, some power pop artists did spawn pretty long careers: The Cars, Rick Springfield, Cheap Trick, The Bangles, etc. However, the style has never gotten its due.
It did not go away, though, it just went underground. To this day, there is a thriving power pop scene in Los Angeles and spread around the world. We feel quite lucky to be intimately involved with one of the better talents of the style. Ken Sharp is a long-time PopEntertainment.com contributor as an interviewer and reviewer. He has also written dozens of books about popular music history including KISS: Behind The Mask, Overnight Sensation: The Story of the Raspberries, Reputation Is A Fragile Thing: The Story of Cheap Trick, Elvis: Vegas ’69 and Starting Over: The Making of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy.
However, Sharp is not just one of those dry academics who knows everything about music, except how to make it. He walks the walk and talks the talk as a stellar power pop singer/songwriter. New Mourning is Sharp’s fourth CD, his first in nine years. It is also by far his most diverse and strongest disk yet. It also features guest appearances by such power pop luminaries as Rick Springfield, guitarist Wally Stocker of The Babys, bassist Prescott Niles of The Knack, Rob Bonfiglio of Wanderlust and Wilson Phillips and Ritchie Rubini of The Caulfields.
We admit straight up that we are a tiny bit biased toward Ken’s music. Not to worry, though, we would not recommend New Mourning if it did not have the goods, and for sure it does.
The new album allows Sharp to reach out into some new musical waters – check out the new wave electronic beats of “Satellite” – and yet he still can do a spectacularly gorgeous break-up ballad like “Put the Blame on Me” or a near-perfect hooky sixties pastiche like “Solid Ground.”
He also touches on arena rock – is it my imagination, but is the intro to “Dynamite and Kerosene” a little nod towards The Grand Illusion-era Styx? – before he up-shifts into a more traditional hooky grandeur.
On the other hand, “Bad News” is a sweet marriage of Byrdsy jangle pop and British Invasion propulsion. “Loser” is a wonder of studio overdubbing, starting with a theatrical intro straight out of The Phantom of the Paradise before downshifting into a gorgeous bit of electric light introspection.
Any one of these songs feels like it could have been a hit on the Billboard charts in the 60s or 70s. It’s just that kind of party. Ken Sharp may have been born in the wrong era, but thankfully he keeps bringing that era’s music back to us.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 2, 2016.