Sunday, May 31, 2015

Awake In The World: My Quick Review Of The Splendid New Chris Stamey Record

I'm still mad at myself that I missed the Chris Stamey gig in Arlington last week. All the more bummed, really, 'cause my buddies in Dot Dash were supporting Stamey at the gig. But, you know, it was a work night and knowing that the alarm bell is gonna ring at 5:30 AM tends to put a damper on me enjoying anything on a work-night, even if it is a concert by a legend.

Chris Stamey's new album, Euphoria, is out next Tuesday on Yep Roc. It is, like everything this cat touches, a crash course in how to craft pop music. Remarkably tuneful and concise, Euphoria is another gem in a string of gems from this guy who started so long ago with the Sneakers album and other early endeavors.

The opener, "Universe-Sized Arms", is, as Stamey's notes on the album indicate, a sort of Psychedelic Furs-sounding tune...even if it was penned by one Ryan Adams. Be that as it may, it's a perfect showcase for Stamey's skills as a musician and singer. "Where Does The Time Go?" is pure AM Gold goodness in terms of melody and hooks. "Invisible" is closer to what Stamey has been doing all along with a nod in the direction of Marshall Crenshaw (who owes a big debt to this guy's work, obviously).

"Make Up Your Mind" and the title tune take their influences from various periods of the Beatles' output while "Awake in the World" offers up a vaguely trippy ballad that seems equal parts solo George Harrison and Harry Nilsson. Sounds like an odd combo in some sense but it works perfectly.

The second half of the album provides a bit more variety as the mood varies from the more uptempo "Rocketship" to the gentle and lyrical "You are Beautiful" and on to "When the Fever Breaks" and its near-bluesy excursions.

Depending on what version of Euphoria you buy or order, you may be getting a sampling of bonus cuts including Chris' cover of "Draggin' The Line" from Tommy James and the Shondells. The presence of Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster on the track makes this more than just a straight cover as Stamey and his crew make the tune their own.

Euphoria is, as can be expected, a remarkably solid set of pop tunes from a guy who knows that that word is not an insult. This is pop of the highest order and I admire greatly guys who can pen stuff like this. Things here are concise and punchy in spots. This is a set of tunes with big hooks that you can easily fall in love with. Every time I play a Stamey album, I usually think: Why isn't this guy more famous?

Well, his place in the books is secure thanks to his past association with The dB's but, still, it would be nice if Stamey had the name recognition of Elvis Costello. Stamey's Euphoria is an effortless blending of American power pop traditions forged in the years following the Beatles' break-up and perfected in the 1980s and after. That Stamey seems to be actually even more consistent now is something that should humble younger musicians. Euphoria is further proof of the constancy of Chris Stamey's pop genius. He's in his prime. Still.

Euphoria is out on Tuesday via Yep Roc.

Follow Chris Stamey via his official Facebook page or via his official website.

[Photo: Gail Goers]