Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wanderlust - Prize (RCA, 1995)

"A Prize debut indeed, the twin-Rickenbacker gospel of Philly youngsters Wanderlust is enough to bring any power-pop aficionado to his knees. From the tony, brittle chords of "Wanna Feel New" onward, chiming cascades reverb in the shadow of The Searchers and the Beau Brummels with sufficient bite and edge to catapult the tradition to the '90s. While the opener sets the spiritual stage in reverent, Church of Bubblegum tone -- "I wanna feel new (so new)/with a clear blue mind/And the soft sunshine/New (so new)/Like a radio plays a brand new song" -- "I Walked" carves out the commandments. No hope of erasing this one from the cerebral cortex; its epic, multi-layered vocal harmonies sound equally timeless blasting over a tinny car radio as on a state-of-the-art stereo system (the true test of any "real" pop). It even pulls off the old "full-stop, lone-thunderous-bass-drum-beat, then guitars-come-crashing-back-in" trick to heart-stopping effect. "Troubled Man," with its handclappy chorus of "it's going to be a let down Saturday night," sounds like The Bay City Rollers with the Byrds (circa "Eight Miles High") as their backing band while "Coffee in the Kitchen" strives for exalted Undertones territory. The title track steamrolls in stellar fashion over a distinctive, unconventional time signature.

Like most new bands thrust early into the major-label spotlight (Prize was originally scheduled to be a four-track indie EP before RCA came knocking and extended the sessions to a full-length album), Wanderlust hasn't quite stocked enough fuel to cross the finish line in top gear. Mind you, it's hard to imagine anyone maintaining the momentum of this disc's first half, making it easier to forgive subsequent energy gaps. Even then, you'll find the delightfully wry "Stage Name." All in all, Prize accomplishes first time up what more experienced bands have tried in several at-bats without quite nailing it down." ( *You can now download Wanderlust's followup to this record over at the Power Pop Criminals Blog.

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1 comment:

jon sutton said...

I was visiting a friend in LA in 95/96/97 and we saw Gwenmars at the Garage in Silver Lake. I was talking with the soundman between sets and somehow we got onto one of my favorites, Jellyfish. Next thing I know I'm walking away with a Wanderlust CD. I don't recall if the soundman was a member of the band or a friend (or something similar) but the Jellyfish reference was quite valid. This album came out a year or so later and that was all they.... er... wrote.