Writing and believing in the spirit of power pop is a slippery slope in 2012. Try to reinvent the wheel too much and you lose grip on the importance of harmonies and those big hooks. Ply too close and you might as well be The Knack. It would be just as effective digging up old Dwight Twilley records. Despite the fashion mistakes and the long standing traditions of the genre, Brooklyn’s Nude Beach is more than willing to take the risk and ride that incline, balancing on the fence between spotless imitation and tried and true pop songs which should no doubt remain timeless for those that decide to latch on. Nude Beach’s latest came with notes describing “Asbury Park and pounding beers,” and while the early pub heroics of the Boss (and to a lesser extent Tom Petty) weigh as a heavy influence, especially on the ham-fisted Americana of “Love Can’t Wait,” the sheer frivolity that comes with a house party and a house band full of anthems wins out on their sophomore record. Most endearing about II is the chutzpah put forth, eschewing all and every trend and modern convention in order to attack from the heart. The 30-odd minutes of II are pure unadulterated fun from the start, so much so you could feel guilty for enjoying this. Even when the prom-themed waltz of “Don’t Have to Try,” sucks the momentum from the dancefloor, the nostalgia of a simpler time is narcotic.
Every band of this ilk needs a song like “Radio” to introduce their intent. There are no frills on the tune. This is Top 40 were it 1979 and new wave was inching closer to threatening traditions. The same goes for “Walkin’ Down My Street,” as it displays a purity that trumps any seriousness or wayward inklings to purchase a synthesizer. They don’t need it. And in this zone, there are a number of acts who favor the over-romanticism or hyper-dramatics of the E Street fumes (I’m looking directly at the Hold Steady), and never get a real sense for what it means to be true popsmiths. Nude Beach follows in a long lineage of pop greatness, from Buddy Holly to Big Star and from the (long lamented Cleveland band) Revelers to something as slight as the Lemonheads. All that really matters is the power of the song, and Nude Beach counters in spades. If there’s one signifier that confirms Nude Beach is of this decade, it’s the college-rock sparkle and jangle that inform the playing of Mike Mills. “Some Kinda’ Love” is that rough-hewn, catchy-as-fuck hit, filtered through prismatic progressions rather than clunky dive-bar chords. I suppose there’s also a sophistication that sets Nude Beach apart and allows them to tread in well-traveled waters and scoff at anyone who questions a band mining power-pop many years after it has become unfashionable. Perhaps they even prove that power-pop is a state of mind that has never actually gone out of style.
Kevin J. Elliott