Listen closely to some of the newer acts on the local garage-rock scene, and you'll hear real melodies emerging from behind the workmanlike chords. "I'm trying to get away from punk rock. I'm getting kind of tired of it," says guitarist Scott Rogers, who describes his latest project, The Perfect Fits, as "straight-ahead power pop.
"Power pop can be anything from Big Star to the Ramones. It's a pretty broad category," he says.
Listing his band mates — guitarist Joe T. Simpson (who also wrangles a six-string alongside Rogers in The Dutch Masters), bassist Tommy Trouble, and drummer Andrew McCalla — Rogers admits, "I'm playing with the same bunch of guys, and so we're still [musically] limited, but we're trying!"
On Saturday, May 26th, the Perfect Fits (MySpace.com/ThePerfectFits) are playing at The Buccaneer with New Orleans' Black Rose Band and The Everyday Parade, which pairs Jeff Golightly and Rick Camp, of '80s-era Memphis pop faves The Crime, with Noise Choir's J.B. Horrell and Leh Sammons.
"I'd heard talk about the Crime for years but never really heard them until Jeff played the Goner Records birthday bash, and he had all of these amazing songs," Rogers explains. "I'd heard Jeff talk about getting a band together, and so I e-mailed him to ask where he stood on that. He had his first practice set up within the week."
"Scott asking us to do the gig put me into high gear," says Golightly, who became acquainted with the Goner community as a fan of The Reigning Sound. "It seems like everybody's talking power pop now, although the Everyday Parade's not gonna change the world. We're just playing rock-and-roll with decent vocals."
In the same vein: I'm Your Man, Harlan T. Bobo's long-awaited sophomore album, is set for release on Goner July 17th. Cut with an all-star cast of local musicians, including Doug Easley, Jeremy Scott, Paul Buchignani, Jonathan Kirkscey, and Tim Prudhomme, it features brilliantly stripped-down anthems such as "My Life" and "One of These Days," the country-esque "So Bad?," and pop masterpieces "Last Step" and "Pretty Foolish Things," which bring to mind a blend of the Kinks' Village Green Preservation Society and Chris Bell's I Am the Cosmos.
With Lover!, Rich Crook, a sideman who's served time in The Reatards, Lost Sounds, and Knaughty Knights (he currently pounds the skins in Memphis Babylon), has also thrown his hat into the power-pop ring. At least that's how the Portland, Oregon-based label Empty Records is describing Crook's solo debut, released under the Lover! moniker this Tuesday.
"It's a funny name. I wanted something ridiculous," says Crook, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, who has spent the last decade in Memphis — except for a sojourn home last summer to earn some fast cash, an experience that ultimately inspired Lover! the album.
"I guess I took my job in Memphis for granted, because once it was gone, I couldn't afford to live here," he explains. "I cut my losses and moved to Natchez to work in an oil-rig yard. After a month, I got a job on a rig out in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I stayed for two hitches, and the entire time I was out there, my imagination took over. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I'd write these songs in my head and demo them later on a 16-track," Crook says of songs like "Pipe Is Too Tight" and "DeWaynne."
"DeWaynne was my crane operator, aka the boss. We had a hard time communicating with each other, to the point that he got the best of me. I couldn't win the fight. It was his world, and I was just livin' in it," he confesses, pointing to his MySpace page, MySpace.com/KillDeWaynne, which sums up the album as "ten songs of friendly brushes with animal poachers, in-the-closet crane operators, and pure blood lust for the men who had kept [Crook] down while being there."
Armed with a positive bank balance and plenty of material, Crook returned to Memphis in late 2006, booked time at Harry Koniditsiotis' Five and Dime Recording Studio, and began laying down tracks. "Greg Roberson played drums on seven songs," he notes. "For others, I'd sit behind the drum kit and play the melody in my head. Once I had the foundation, I put everything on top of that."
In June, German label Ptrash will release a vinyl edition of Lover!, which will be followed by 7-inch singles on the Solid Sex Lovie Doll and Dixie Gas labels. Crook is already rehearsing with Oscars drummer Abe White and Daphne and Marsh Nabors of Jackson, Mississippi's Overnight Lows, who will back him for Lover!'s record-release party, slated for the Buccaneer on Saturday, June 2nd, and a European tour, which begins in October.