EXHUMED: Pumphouse Gang LP

posted Wednesday Jan 18th, 2012

I can’t remember if it was Stuart Home, Johan Kugelberg, John Savage or that guy from the Pooh Sticks who infamously touted the superior arithmetic of U.K. power pop (that is, ‘77’ year zero punk + Merseybeat = gold). Whoever it was though, suffice it to say, I find their reasoning flawed and their equations extremely unbalanced.* For me, much of what has been accorded classic killer status across the pond is missing most, if not all, of the elements that make power pop so much fun to listen to. There’s no schmaltz, there’s no shamelessness, there’s no drama. There’s not nearly enough guitar solos or stadium-style sing-a-long choruses. No Small Faces. Little to no perms or mustaches either (and besides, anyway, NO FOREIGN JUNK!).

Now, I fully realize and readily admit that this complaint is born out of an unreasonably stringent personal aesthetic, which someone once described in a method meant to wound as being defined as much by the width of collars and lapels as it is content (they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; I say why can’t you have both?). That said, I don’t know if there’s any Teenage Treats/Low Down Kids/Bloodstains-style money-record mega-rarity that I’ve heard from the U.K. that does the job at satisfying my personal pop prerequisites better than buck platters by the likes of the Only Ones or Generation X.

However, the good folks at Sing Sing Records seem intent on nothing so much than relishment in watching me swallow down my Monroe Doctrine prejudices whole, and with this long-playing collection by the Isle Of Wight’s great white hopes, the Pumphouse Gang, they may yet get their wish (and sooner rather than later).

Long-time faves at Worthless Trash and, yes, Low Down Kids too, this time it seems the doyen-dons of Blighty obscurity finally got their times-tables correct. Indeed, forgiveness could be extended, if, initially – upon needle hitting groove – one thought they were listening to the cutting-room floor of some aborted Junk Shop Glam comp or Trevor White out-takes. The sound of the Pumphouse Gang – fantastic, post-glam pop-rock – owes as much to the Saturday gig style of ’75 (Mott The Hoople, Sweet) as it does to the Brickfield Nights of ’78 (Boys, Roll-Ups, Marseille). Sounding right up to date without having to engage in any histrionic bath-water draining or pre-punk baby jettisoning, the Pumphouse Gang are the spiritual heirs to the great stiff mantle of the Jook and, sadly, shared about as much commercial success. …which is just as well now, thanks to this tidy little package which gathers the Gang’s best single moments and a handful of unreleased recordings for you, the darling consumer.

Once-and-shoulda-been-contenders on offer here include the Sparks-y ‘Spotlight,’ the Kidda Band-
gone-starry-eyed-stadium-rock of ‘When We Were Young’ and my two personal stand-outs: ‘Teenage Lament’ – featuring First Class backing vocals, vulnerability and cry-baby guitar, virtually demanding the parenthetical sobriquet (’79’) - and ‘Stay With Me’ – whose overlapping Venn Diagram circles of Cheap Trick commerciality and Ian Hunter compositional quality cannot be, and should not be understated. If you haven’t ordered this one yet, I don’t really know what to say to you.

They can play better than the Kidda Band, they can sing better than Billy Idol, they CAN DRESS (almost) as good as Graham Parker (okay, 2 out of 3) – the Pumphouse Gang earn from me the highest praise I can reserve for any U.K. new wave act: they almost sound American. So, if you’re sick to death of flat, warmed-over Jam-copy with lyrics about being young (today) or living in the modern world (today) featuring patented Paul Weller marbles-in-the-mouth vocals and having about as much to do with power pop as fogged-up moped side-mirrors or white reggae, then you should consider investing your money (today) in the genuine article. Grab it HERE.

Oh I wish it were true: “No Elvis (Costello), Police or Boomtown Rats in 1977!”

* I checked and it was that guy from the Pooh Sticks. However, that dude was also in What To Wear so
what does he know!

Here's an audio clip of Pumphouse Gang's "Stay With Me":