REVIEW: Planet 10, There You Are (Metropark)
- John Walker
In this era of macho posturing in rock, with chest-beating grungers and badass rappers vying to see who can boast of the biggest organ (no, not the brain), engaging in that genre known as "power pop" is a risky proposition. Actual melodies don't do much for the machismo quotient and may indicate a state of geekdom or dweebishness that puts one's self-image as a musician or as a listener in a state of peril. There is actually an element of truth to this: if you've ever heard the execrable Barenaked Ladies, you'll know what I mean.
Pop, however, like any other genre of music, runs from the ridiculous (see aforementioned band) to the sublime (i.e. the Zombies Odyssey and Oracle the first record I ever bought and still a personal desert island disc). At its best, pop music is as potent a musical form as any other, perhaps even more so--where would the Beatles have been without pop? Stuck playing r&b covers in Hamburg nightclubs. As Sophie B. Hawkins recently put it, "Good pop fucking changes the world--it makes people large than life, and people deserve to be larger than life." Couldn't have said it better myself.
While not yet larger than life, Planet 10 is on the trail of great pop in the tradition of the Zombies, the Beatles, Big Star, and lesser known but still wonderful bands like the Shoes and the Records. There You Are has been kicking around the scene for awhile already, and certainly merits a listen by anyone interested in this line of music. Songs like "A Thousand Ways To Dream" and "Baby's Losing Her Mind," which lead off the album with sprightly harmonics and chiming guitars, are "Pure pop for now people", as Nick Lowe once remarked. The lyrics here are passable, but don't really matter: the medium is the message here, as the band strives for and achieves that sound that tickles those vital pleasure centres of the brain. Aural sex?
Only occasionally does There You Are veer too close Barenaked Ladiedom, where pop somehow picks up an extra "o" and becomes poop. "Mr. Universe" is perhaps a bit too cutesy; it's too hard here to shut out the sappy tale of thwarted romance and concentrate on the still-potent melody and overall sound of the song. "Magic Moment" boasts a great chorus (the magic moment?) and little else aside from some clumsy calypso noodling. That being said, neither of these is enough to make you hit the eject button; Planet 10 retains listenability even when they're annoying.
Any transgressions committed by the band can be easily forgiven, however, for the likes of "Round House," driven by a great guitar line courtesy of Rich Webster which veers into psychedelia, and some fine harmonizing by the boys. The album's clincher, however, is "Natural Apple Delight," which forgoes the generally sunny feel of the album for an ominous bassline and troubling lyrical considerations of the place of the male in an increasingly constricted, PC world ("If I swoon I will offend . . . cliche, we are friends), preparing for "an eternity of eternal restlessness." In this song, it all comes together for Planet 10, and the "There You Are" concludes on a high note.