Sunday, November 6, 2022

Freedy Johnston returns with a great new album

 By Henry Lipput

Although it’s been seven years since Freedy Johnston’s Neon Repairman, from the opening notes of his great new album Back on the Road to You (Forty Below Records) it’s clear he hasn’t missed a beat.

My favorite songs on Back on the Road to You recall the things I’ve liked in his past work. For instance, my first listen to the glorious pop of “There Goes a Brooklyn Girl” made me think of Never Home’s “I’m Not Hypnotized.” The five-minute long instant classic “Somewhere Love” has the same melancholy vibe of his masterpiece Blue Days, Black Nights.


The back-to-basics rock and roll delight that is “Tryin’ to Move On,” about a man on the run, sounds like the inspiration for an early Jonathan Demme film with a theme song written by Chuck Berry. The album’s title song is a return to form as he’s helped by a crack roots music team that adds nifty touches like a pedal steel and organ fills. But it’s the banjo that begins the song that can make you want to run to your CD collection and give his break-out release Can You Fly yet another listen (but listen the new album first).

Johnston gets some help along the way from friends who happen to be major-talent singer/songwriters. Aimee Mann provides lovely backing vocals to “Darlin.” Long-time collaborator Susan Cowsills matches him note for note on the rave-up “The Power of Love” (NOT the Huey Lewis song). And Susanna Hoffs brings a twang to her backing vocals on “That’s Life.”

The first song, “Back on the Road to You,” and the last, “The I Really Miss Ya Blues,” bookend the album. In addition to what the lyrics tell us about a man trying to get back to someone who means a lot to him, they work as well for long-time Johnston fans who, for nearly a decade, have had the really miss him blues.

Welcome back, Freedy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

the black watch has pressing concerns

 By Henry Lipput

Deciding to wait until their new album, future strangers, was available on vinyl (sometime in early 2023) before releasing it on any format, the LA-based indie guitar pop band the black watch has treated us to a digital EP that includes “the neverland of spoken things,” a song to be included on the album, as well as two non-album tracks (ATOM Records).

John Andrew Fredrick and company (including this time around the backing vocals of the wonderful Lindsay Murray of Gretchen’s Wheel) are again plugged in and ready to bring on the fuzz and the crunch to the melodies.



“the neverland of spoken things” is a perfect example of the band’s dreampop sound. There’s a cool “Penny Lane”-style horn and Murray makes an appearance that’s more than a support role but instead a partner to Fredrick’s lead vocal.

The other two tracks, “precious little” and “living backwards.” aren’t demos or outtakes but fully formed songs that just didn’t make it onto the album. You can think of them as bonus tracks as well as yet another example of the creative geyser that is John Andrew Fredrick, allowing the band to release an album a year between 2019 and 2021 (actually there were two full-length albums in 2020).

On “precious” the guitars are upfront in the mix and the drums drive the song along; it ends with some terrific lead guitar work by Bernard Yin. “living backwards” is the kind of melodic gem for which Fredrick is known and he joins Yin by taking turns on the lead. Both songs would find pride of place on an album by any other indie guitar pop band.


Monday, October 17, 2022

The very complete Nick Frater

 By Henry Lipput

Glenn Tilbrook, lead singer, lead guitarist, and the melody half of the Difford and Tilbrook musical partnership, didn’t make a solo album until 2001’s The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook in between one the many Squeeze retrofittings. But, just for the sake of argument, what if he had made such an album between his band’s Argybargy and East Side Story?

That album would sound very much like Nick Frater’s Aerodrome Motel (Big Stir Records). Like Tilbrook, Nick Frater is always there with a cracking tune. And his latest, his third album in three years, is no exception.

The lead-off track from Frater’s Aerodrome Motel, “The Pleasure is Mine,” is a perfect example, not only in the melody but also in the vocal.  It’s what Frater does best; he adapts a style and makes it his own.



Frater has always seemed to be something of a musical magpie; in earlier reviews (for 2020’s Fast & Loose and 2021’s Earworms [a very apt title because that’s what his songs are] I’ve compared the sound of his songs to Raspberries, Wings, Elton John, Emitt Rhodes, and Big Star.

But the songs on Aerodrome Motel have more of a consistent sound and in doing so make the case (whether he's aware of it or not) for the solo album Glenn Tilbrook didn’t make. Frater’s music has always looked back to the 70s and 80s for inspiration so it’s no surprise he’s picked one of the most melodic bands (and a specific musician) from that era to dig into and to pay tribute. 



Thursday, October 6, 2022

Video premiere: Theatre Royal’s “Ship beneath the floor”

 By Henry Lipput

How did timbers from the HMS Namur turn up at the Dockyard in Chatham in the UK?  The ship was built at the Dockyard and launched in 1756, broken up in 1833, and 10% of its frame was found underneath the floor at the Dockyard in 1995. All the timbers were from the Namur rather than being in a storage area holding timbers from various ships.

This mystery was the lyrical inspiration for “Ship Beneath the Floor,” the title track from Theatre Royal’s terrific EP Beneath the Floor (Bandcamp) released earlier this year. The Historic Dockyard Chatham found out about the song and invited the band to film a video in and around the Namur exhibit. Here’s the video:


The video is not only a release/relaunch of the track but also coincides with Theatre Royal’s next show in support of The Darling Buds at the Islington O2 Academy this Saturday (October 8th). You can buy tickets here.





Tuesday, October 4, 2022

My new favorite song #1

 By Henry Lipput

This post is the first in a series of new songs (for me) that tickle my ears.

Last Friday Peter Hall released “In Plain Sight” (Bandcamp), the first track of many he’ll be sending our way over the next six months perhaps to get us ready for a new album. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that Peter’s work is nothing new to me. His Light the Stars was my favorite album from last year and the 2020 EP There’s Something Wrong with Everyone was, for me, a wonderful introduction to his work.


So what’s so special about “In Plain Sight”? As far as I know Peter wrote the song, played all the instruments, and recorded the track in his own Daisyland Studio just as he’s done for everything else. But there’s something about the sound that keeps me going back for a listen. Peter has always had a special way with melody and, having pulled all of his influences together, he’s developed his own unique sound. For me, “In Plain Sight” seems to be just a bit different, a step ahead in the development of his craft.

Bottom line: I love the sound of this song. “In Plain Sight,” as far as I’m concerned, is pop of the highest quality,


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Everything you ever wanted to know about Neighborhood Weekly Radio (but were afraid to ask)

By Henry Lipput

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitch Lynch and Mark Harvie (you know them as your friends and mine Mitch and Mark of Neighborhood Weekly Radio; their show is on most Friday evenings at 5) by email. I asked them how they met, their backgrounds in radio, how the station and their show got started, where they are now, and what they think (and hope) the future of the station will be. (No Cheez-its or alcohol/beer were harmed during the conducting of this interview.)

PURE POP 4 NOW PEOPLE: Mitch is from New Jersey and Mark is from Maine: How did you guys meet?

MITCH: In the neighborhood!  When we moved to Maine in 2011, our daughters were in the same grade and played together in the neighborhood, and we would get together for typical social occasions.

MARK: Mitch and his family relocated to Maine for work (and to escape the swamps of Jersey) about 12 years ago.  The neighborhood was very boring until that happened. I think the first time we met was a Halloween party at our house and Mitch just never left…

PURE POP: How did Neighborhood Weekly Radio come to be?

MITCH: I had a thought of doing some sort of podcast/show about music and connections, etc., based on what Mark and I would chat about at get-togethers. We were at my bar while I was discussing it, and Mark was interested in doing it too.  Together, we evolved it from a podcast (where you can't legally stream/play copyrighted material) to an actual Internet radio station, through Live365.  Live365 is the only platform that pays all royalties, etc., for music we play.

MARK: It was definitely music that connected us before everything else (oh, and beer). I didn’t know a lot of people (other than my wife) who loved The Smithereens, The Clarks, Connells, Jayhawks, and on and on. We invented a series of musical games which mostly consisted of one of us having to play a song that somehow connected (sonically, lyrically, thematically?) to the song the other was playing.  Mitch had the crazy idea that there could be other crazy people who might find us (or at least our musical choices) entertaining.  And here we are…goofing off on the air, three years later…

PURE POP: Did each of you have experience in radio?

MITCH: Mark had experience. I had more experience in the technical side of things since I've been playing music and recording for a while.  I had mixers and mics and the knowledge of how to hook things up. 


MARK: I did the college radio thing between 1981 to 1983.  What a great time to have access to albums that were not being heard anywhere else (at least in Maine).  I became a huge fan of Elvis Costello, R.E.M., The Beat (both of them), The Clash, and the Boston underground scene (Lyres, O Positive, Cavedogs, Big Dipper, Dumptruck, Chain Link Fence, Bebe Buelle).  I also did basketball play-by-play on the college station for two years and was able to land an overnight DJ gig at a big top 40 station and did that for about a year while I was still in school.  

PURE POP: What has changed since you started doing the show?

MITCH: We are poorer? I think, for me, the biggest change was when we started interviewing bands/artists/labels to bring a new dynamic to the show.  We have had a chance to meet so many people, even if just through Twitter or email.  It's been cool to promote music we love that doesn't always get the attention of radio or other outlets.

MARK: Well, we don’t have to spend as much money on music as we did when we started. While we each owned enough music to start the station, one of the major components was finding and playing new music or obscure music that we didn’t know yet.  That got pretty expensive. Now, we are a bit on the radar with some of our favorite labels and are provided with so much free music we almost can’t get to it all.  A great problem to have.  Also, I feel like our laidback style has helped us develop into better than average interviewers. I work very hard not to talk over our guests. Mitch is kind of a given…


PURE POP: In the last year or so you’ve added other shows and DJs to NWR. How do you decide who to bring to the station?

MITCH: Some people were folks I've known for years, and that I know had interesting musical tastes and have good personalities.  Others we have met after starting the station (Chip is a great example) and organically it happened.  I think Mark reached out to Chip?  And then Chip recommended Alan?  And also Tom?  It was all Chip's work!

MARK: Our first (Cam) was an early listener and someone I knew.  He brought a whole new batch of listeners with a hard rock focus, but he had a great pop sensibility as well.  Beth was also a listener. I am pretty sure that I was a fan of hers before she became one of ours.  It was a no-brainer to ask her to join us and, wow, she played a very important role in our growth and we miss having her on!

By the way, Twitter has been our connection to most of our DJ’s, listeners, labels, and artists.  We started playing The Hangabouts and when Chip was between DJ gigs, we were one of the stations he contacted and again – No-Brainer! He’s connected us to a couple of other DJs (Alan and Tom). 

We were also lucky enough to connect with Wally Salem early on (pretty sure it was the SUPER 8’s cover of “Serious Drugs” and, again, Twitter).  You and Wally have been around since the start and to have two guys with such musical knowledge show interest in what we do has meant a lot to us.

PURE POP: What’s next for Neighborhood Weekly Radio?

MITCH: Prison. One of us is going to jail and it ain’t gonna be me!  Something about inappropriate use of NFTs…

Mark touches on a lot of the things we are looking to do as far as video content, editing shows quicker, diversity, etc.  I do hope we can interview folks in person at some point. Till then, we need to upgrade the studio equipment to do better zoom/video interviews.  I’m also thinking of new shows with more of a podcast format (no music) that can be recorded and played multiple times a week.  These shows would discuss music in general, books, current events, whatever.  I also want to get more station IDs recorded to promote the shows/DJs we currently have. Most of our IDs are older before we had other DJs, so would be good to promote all the shows.

And, as we have said, you have to spend money to lose money. Hopefully we can lose a little less :-)

MARK: We hope to continue to add programming, especially live shows.  I’d like to see some diversity.  Without meaning to do so, we have become an “older white guys playing indie pop” station.  We certainly miss the class that Beth brought to the station and would also welcome other musical genres (we had a jam band show and a hard rock show at one point and I think a soul/R&B show would be great).

In addition to that, we have some ideas for multi-media shows (we will need a good makeup person) that we can add to our YouTube channel (cooking, “How to” - with a comic twist, etc.).

Eventually, we hope to have enough Patreon members to be able to afford studio space that would be more conducive to live music and easier for guests to join us live. We know we need to improve our production turnaround time to be offering a Patreon product that stands out from the crowd.



Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Catch the signal The Radio Field is sending

 By Henry Lipput

The Radio Field is the latest project from Lars Schmidt of Subterfuge and “Clover” is the taster single from Simple, a 4-song EP out this Friday (September 30th) on the Subjangle label.


What does a musician do when he lives in a country that’s experiencing its second lockdown at the end of 2020? Schmidt has said it only takes enough boredom and a musical instrument to create something good. So with the shops closed, he mail ordered a Rickenbacker 12-string and in a couple of days three songs were written. And later, when it was possible, he went to the studio with some friends to record the guitar, drums, and backing vocals.

The result of Schmidt’s back-to-the-roots bedroom band’s efforts is the Simple EP with half of it the joyful jangle of “Clover” and “Years Ago” and another half the melancholy melodies of “The Wait” and “Congratulations” (a cover of a song from Strange Magic, a one-man band from New Mexico).


A word to the wise: Subjangle only manufactures about 125 CDs of any given release and these have been known to sell out within 48 hours (some have already been sold through a pre-order campaign.)  







Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The enduring influence of the Nerk Twins

 By Henry Lipput

Wonderful albums by Caleb Nichols and The Vague Ideas reflect the enduring influence of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

Ramon, Caleb Nichols

On Ramon (Kill Rock Stars) the names have been changed to protect the broken-hearted as well as those who break hearts. We have Ramon, Jerome, Mr. Mustard, and Captain Custard in a gay love story.

Drawing on both McCartney and Lennon’s lyrical ideas as well as McCartney’s (and his own) history, Nichols creates a gay love story that he has called #QueeringtheBeatles. Nichols is both gay and a Beatles fan; in the Elliot Smith-influenced opener “Listen to the Beatles” he tells of coming home from Middle School, putting on headphones, and listening to the Beatles as a means of escape.

(A side note: At first listen Ramon was something I could identify with, not because I’m a gay Beatles fan, but because my best friend was. He was the first person I knew who not only had bootlegs, but vinyl bootlegs.)



Ramon is not only the album’s title but also the last name Paul McCartney took when The Beatles had their first real gig in 1960 as the backing band for Johnny Gentle on a tour of Scotland. And when you separate the word into Ram and on, it’s a song on Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 RAM album. On “Ramon,” Nichols borrows the line “Ramon, give your heart to somebody soon” from RAM’s “Ram On.” Nichol’s take is just as lovely and melancholy as McCartney’s.

The album’s centerpiece is the love story between a Mr. Mustard and Captain Custard. It doesn’t go well and on “Captain Custard” he moves out because his lover is not called Mean Mr. Mustard for nothing. The instrumental “Mustard’s Blues” recalls McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It” and the neatly six-minute “From a Hole in the Road” (or is it a hole in the heart?) with its repeated line “I’ve been dreaming you” and then “I still dream of you” becomes a mantra and a hope that dreams can come true.

Whether the story ends on a positive note is up to the listener but based on the final song on Ramon (and my new favorite Christmas song), “I Fell in Love On Xmas Day,” it appears to be resolved.

By the way, Nichols has just released a two-song EP, Double Mantasy (Kill Rock Stars), with covers of McCartney’s “Waterfalls (featuring Rogue Wave)” and Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” (listen to this one all the way through for its chilling ending). Here’s the video for “Waterfalls” with John kissing a crying Paul.


New York Letters, The Vague Ideas

New York Letters (Trouserphonic) is a unique idea by US-based musician and writer Mare Rozzelle and set during the period John Lennon lived in New York between 1971 and 1980. Originally conceived as a stage play, Rozzelle asked UK-based songwriter and musician Glenn Prangnell to write the music for songs that took the form of letters and messages both to and from Lennon. Rozelle used the Hunter Davies “The John Lennon Letters,” Cynthia Lennon’s book, and books by John and Yoko’s assistants, as well as the many television shows he was on to gain insight into John’s conversational style.

The songs on New York Letters lift licks and sounds from Lennon’s work during this period. It’s like the songs that Neil Innes wrote for The Rutles but without the jokes (although “Always Good to Hear from You [Letter from Mimi]” is funny with its swipe at Paul and a tune like the “granny music” John detested.)

The album begins with the rocking “NYC (Letter to Julia)” following his primal scream therapy and sounding like an outtake from Walls and Bridges or Milk and Honey. The snarky “Nixon’s Listening (Letter to Tricky Dicky)” is a response to that president’s attempt to throw Lennon out of the country and tap his phone because of John's political activities.

With a sound that fittingly recalls Double Fantasy’s  “I’m Losing You,” “Bread and Jam (Letter to Julian)” has John writing to his young son who lives with his mother across the ocean: “I know you can’t be happy that I’m so far away/But someday soon I’m gonna send for you/And I promise you can come and stay.”




The amazing “Revolution 9”- inspired “Prelude to the Lost Weekend” is Prangnell’s look at Lennon’s state-of-mind as he leaves Yoko and goes to California to drink and hang out with folks like Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, and Ringo Starr. The Macca-like, bouncy and piano-based “Something’ll Happen (Letter from Paul)” is his hope for a reunion, not of the greatest band in the world, but a friendship (I love the line “Talk about us/We thought it was heaven/Riding the bus in search of B7”).

The last two songs on the album are the saddest as well as the most beautiful. “When You Turn Five (Lullaby for Sean)” is the future that neither of them will see together. And “No More Crying (Message to Paul)” is a love song to McCartney; it’s his version of “Here Today” and even begins with the same chord. “It’s only me, Paul” the lyric goes, a remark that McCartney has said would happen when he and John argued during the Fab times.


Monday, September 5, 2022

When it comes to Jeremy Porter and the Tucos every night is the night

 By Henry Lipput

If you’ve read more than a few of my reviews on this blog you’ll notice there’s not a lot of straight up rock and roll in the mix. What tends to attract my ears and pen and paper is melodic pop and more than a bit of jangle.

One of the exceptions is my review last year of Candy Coated Cannonball, the album by Jeremy Porter and the Tucos. In the review I wrote: “Jeremy Porter and the Tucos is one of the best rock and roll trios I’ve heard since Ben Folds Five released their debut album more than 20 years ago.”

And now they’re back with a new 7’ single that, as David Letterman was fond of saying, blows the roof off the dump. It’s available only from their website as a preorder from GTG Records and at shows. (You can find out about the dates for the band’s Fall tour here.)

“Tonight is Not the Night” b/w “DTW” is pressed on limited-edition red vinyl and comes with great cover art by Kentucky's Nick Walters, a hand-screened insert, and a download card. Recorded during the Candy Coated Cannonball sessions, “Tonight is Not the Night” is nowhere near a left-over but a worthy addition to the band’s greatest hits.

Speaking of greatest hits, if you like what you hear you need to check out Jeremy Porter and the Tucos 3-CD career retrospective Bottled Regrets: The First Ten Years on Bandcamp

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Tamar Berk’s “Alone Tonight” Video Premiere

 By Henry Lipput

Singer-songwriters can be a serious bunch and Tamar Berk is no exception. On her second solo album Start at the End (Bandcamp) released earlier this year (and a strong follow-up to 2021's The Restless Dreams of Youth -- no sophomore slump for Berk), she once again writes honestly about adult relationships.

Berk describes her new single and video, “Alone Tonight,” as “a song about those moments when you are very aware that you are not going to be good company.” As a child she was content to be alone for hours, making fake radio shows on her cassette player and setting up her toys as an adoring audience.

It’s that sense of youthful abandon that makes the “Alone Tonight” video so delightful. Berk isn’t the first musician to make a video that doesn’t adhere to the song’s message so we have a dancing-around-the-living-room moment and it’s infectious.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

It’s not always lonely in Lonelyville

 By Henry Lipput

Dusty Wright pulled a fast one on us.

Before he announced his latest album, he released three singles: two would become album tracks including “Stare into the Sun” which he described as “an homage to carefree days playing underneath the canopy of the sun” and a non-album track was a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Sit Down I Think I Love You.

Of the album itself, Lonelyville (Pet Rock), Wright’s concept of isolation became the underlying narrative. There are of course examples of this in the title song in which following a routine takes the place of having a relationship (“I find peace in simple things/Repeating the same small things/My routine keeps me sharp/Melting away my pain … and loss”). The situation in “Making New Friends” is even more grim: “I’m playing with mud again/Watch me build my new friends.


But don't let the album’s title and the stated concept put you off because many songs on Lonelyville are about love in its many forms. It’s also a dramatic departure from Wright’s 2020 album Can Anyone Hear Me? which was full of protest songs about what we’re doing to the planet and each other.

One of my favorite songs on Lonelyville is “Unbearable Brightness” which asks the musical question: How bright does your love shine when it's not returned? (“But I don’t know what to say/I don’t know what to do/But I know you know/Just how you make me …  feel.”) It’s a situation many of us have been in and it’s a glorious feeling until we’re eventually shut down.


Despite these disappointments, the message of “To Find Love” is you have to share love to find love: “You have to love in spite of it all/You have to stand up after you fall/You have to give in to it all/You have to love to find love.”

Love can also be scary when it seems we’re in too deep too quickly. This is the situation in “Riptide of Love”: “Swimming to the surface/Trying to catch our breath/But I’m not certain/If we’re got our best/Caught in a riptide of love/Don’t know if we’re under or above.”

So how do you get out of Lonelyville? As four wise men once sang, all you need it love. Love is the exit ramp from Lonelyville and it's shouted loud and clear on the closing track, "Leaving Lonelyville," like a conductor calling for the final boarding of a train.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Trip to the stars

 By Henry Lipput

Here’s my question: Did SUPER 8 aka Trip aka Paul Ryan get an advance look at the pictures the Webb telescope had taken? It sure seems that way because his new album, Universal Journey (Bandcamp), is an out-of-this-world delight.

I’ve been enjoying and reviewing SUPER 8’s music since 2018, the year of his hat trick of three albums that are still a marvel of musical invention (start with the last one, HI/LO, and work your way backwards). He never fails to bring the tunes and arrangements and Universal Journey is no exception.

His new album is the first since 2020’s wonderful collaboration with Lisa Mychols which resulted in the Lisa Mychols and SUPER 8 album (Mychols provides guest vocals on many of Universal Journey’s songs). There have also been three singles in between these releases including “For My Friends” which has a lovely video made up of photos of his friends.


“California Road Trip,” a pop gem fronted by Mychols, opens with a terrific piano vamp lifted by Trip no doubt from a Goffin-King song and is just as good as “Timebomb” their first musical outing. The trip (pun intended) continues on the glorious “Rocky Road” with its lovely vocal from Mychols and, as always, a wonderful arrangement from Trip.

Trip takes over on the Dylan-esque “Cracks in The Pavement” bringing along his acoustic and his harmonica as well as some of The Bob’s wordplay: “I’ve got a friend who’s a poet/Drew me a picture of a boat/Friend who's a poet/Drew me a picture of a boat/But after reading through his poems/I wish he’d painted me a goat.” “On The Radio” is rocking little number with Trip in top-form musically and lyrically as he presents an ode about hearing new music (something we can all relate to).

The opening and closing tracks on Universal Journey (“Universe,” “Galactic 9,” “Feel,” and “The World Is Happening”) make up a soundtrack to a viewing of the incredible Webb telescope photos. “Galactic 9,” with vocals from Mychols, is the sexy sound of space travel with visions of a ship full of mile-high-and -a-half members.

“Feel,” which could be thought of as the album’s alternate title, is a woozy, psychedelic track and reflects the look of the cover painting: “We're floating through the sky on a flimsy wicker basket/The earth is just a ball suspended in the sky/Now here we find ourselves just learning how to fly.” There’s the repeated line “feel the air” and the song closes with “just keep me in your memory” as if the wonders of space travel might let you forget where you’re from and who you may be missing.

“The World Is Happening” wraps up the voyage. There’s a callback to the opening track with a repeated “The world is happening for you” and its used as part of a message of hope. If the stars shine in your eyes, it can make you stronger “when you feel the rhythm in your soul.” The song builds as it goes on and by the end with its chorus of backing vocals and a repeated refrain of the song’s title, you get an almost “Hey Jude” rush and wouldn’t mind if the song went on for a while longer.


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The New Fools works in pairs

 By Henry Lipput 

The outstanding new album Vanille (Everlasting Records) from The New Fools is their third (although I’d argue that it’s their fourth because the terrific lockdown sessions collection released as Papillion in 2020 is, to my mind, a proper album). The CD version of Vanille comes with an eight-song disc with new songs while the second disc contains bits of radio interviews and song introductions for the four singles released between Papillion and Vanille and there’s also solo acoustic versions of four songs from Vanille performed by Tony Jenkins, the band’s lyricist and singer, for Stagger radio in Cambridge UK.

Why do I say The New Fools work in pairs? Well, for me six of the eight songs on Vanille are connected in a bizarre reverse mirror way: one song is a character study about a lonely, troubled person and the following song is hopeful and sometimes about love. It’s as if on the Revolver album track listing “Eleanor Rigby” was followed by “Here, There and Everywhere.”



The best example is “The Boy Needs a Miracle.” A man sits in his local cafĂ©, “Every day is just like the last/He sits watching the world going past.” Like his favorite music, now repackaged and remastered, his life has lost its meaning, it “seems empty now.” The world is changing too fast, his favorite programs are no longer on the television, and in a nod to Anthony Newley’s 1960’s musical, he screams “Stop the world!” he wants to get off.

As you begin to listen to the next song, with the lyrics “When you’re alone/Your footsteps seem to echo down/This city street hollow/A sound so desolate/It cuts right to the bone” you might think it’s a continuation of the previous song. But the song takes a joyous turn and “I Found You” becomes an ode to a new-found love that is so out-of-the-blue it doesn’t seem real: “I put my finger to your lips/Brush them with my fingertips/Just to make sure you are real.”

The next pairing consists of “Samantha Sits” and “Better Days.” Samantha “sits and thinks about her life/Ponders on the things she’s never done/She’s never been anybody’s wife/Never been somebody’s mum.” She’s happy that she’s never had to tow the line or bite her tongue but the choices she’s made have resulted in a life of loneliness.

As a result, Samantha has never had to deal with the difficulties that the couple in “Better Days” are having. But is that a good thing? It can be hard work: “We’ve had some hard times, Baby, but we’ve seen enough/To feel secure when the going gets tough/And though we’re not smart girl, we know it’s not enough/To close our eyes and pray for better days.” And he promises: “I’d go the extra mile for the sight of your smile.”

“If Things Don’t Change” and “…A Campfire Song” may be more of a stretch but stay with me on this. The man in “If Things Don’t Change” is the polar opposite of the people in Vanille’s first song “New Fools.” “New Fools” is not the band’s theme song but a look at all the people who bite down hard on the lies and misinformation they get from the government and media. “If Things Don’t Change” is the picture of a man who makes up his own mind and can’t sleep or even get out of bed because of it: “I can’t fall into line and have someone/Whose language and culture is different than mine.”

But what’s the solution? Well, as a certain foursome once sang “All you need is love” and “…A Campfire Song” finds another way of saying it: “But when I wake up and the sun still shines/And there’s magic when your eyes meet mine.” And it’s both friends and lovers that make a community: “Let’s start ourselves a fire/Hold hands and laugh for a while/Don’t you know nothing can go wrong/Cos you got me and we’ve got this song.”