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If you want to know what the term “power-pop” means, then you could do much worse than give “Passion Merchant,” the new one from Irish three-piece Spearside a spin. Everyone has a different definition of genres; arguments always ensue about where the boundary of one musical style ends and the next sound starts. But I would say that if power-pop is music combining the bright, day-glo sound of pop (especially pop that has picked up a few echoes of earlier era’s jangle and joy, melodics and mellifluous musicality) and the more weighted urges and drive of the rock realm, then this is certainly it.
There is something of the 60s about “Passion Merchant” but perhaps a second-hand sound of that decade, one as in a sound passed down via 80s scenes such as The Paisley Underground sound and more Jangle Pop sentiments. Nothing wrong with that, every era needs its torchbearers. There is too a touch of psychedelia to be found in their fuzzy tones and scintillating textures. There is infectiousness and accessibility. There is also an epic, cinematic, wide-screen quality to it, especially between the verses where the instruments seem to cut loose as soon as they are able, as if unable to wait for choruses or solo spots to come.
It’s a great song. It’s as simple as that. But an important one, too. You could argue that music like this is essential because it reminds people of how far pop has fallen in the twenty-first century. Imagine if the usual chart sound was not one of the digital beats, dance-routine inducing rhythms, lowest common denominator grooves and throwaway sounds that come and go with the winds of fad and fashion. Imagine if the mainstream and the charts that such music fuels sounded like this? How great would that be?
This is pop (as a band from my neighbourhood once sang.) But it is pop with power. Pop with purpose. Pop with poise. Pop with a PhD? Yes, why not?