V/A: The Connect Four Compilation, Vol. 1

2007 Cocktail Nation Records.

connect four comp cover

Are you nostalgic for a time that's before your time? Tired of the same old "in-your-face", aggro-induced tunes? Are you a big dork? Ever been in love?

Well then, give pop punk a shot!

Now, I ain't talkin' about any of that mall-core bullshit, people. This is the good stuff. Think late eighties/early nineties Lookout! Records bands. Sixties-influenced pop songs, by guitar players who graduated from the Johnny Ramone School for Young Boys. People who probably worship Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, and Tommy James. People who are, most likely, good candidates for carpel tunnel syndrome.

This comp features four bands, with four tracks from each (hence the name), and two-and-a-half of them just so happen to be from Youngstown, Ohio!

First up, Florida's The Hi-Life, whose bass player and drummer actually hail from the Y-Town area originally, hit us with their quadruple sonic assault, including the quirky little ditty "Myke Hollywood", a song about the Johnie 3 member of the same name. The lyrics make him out to be a lot tougher than he probably really is. He is cool, though. It's a fast and catchy song, and the other three are just as pleasant to the ear drums.

Speak of the devil! Next we have Johnie 3 themselves, Yompton's very own power trio, with 4 very well-crafted Riverdales-sounding instant classics. These are some of my favorite songs by this band, especially "Untitled", which should really just be called "Stupid, White Trash Fucking Whore", since it's only one of the two lines in it, and I can't quite get what the other one is ("I've got your name tattooed"??). Which sucks, because I hate humming non-verbals for two days on end.

The third stop on our tour, the slightly less happy-sounding Peabodys, play power-pop tunes with just a hint of garage rock. My favorite is probably the attitude-drenched "Don't Blame Me", with the country song "She Left My Heart in San Francisco" running a close second. The latter, which the liner notes reveal was recorded in the upstairs bathroom of singer/guitarist Eric Peabody, isn't even musically "punk rock". You could put it on any mix CD with songs by George Jones, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline, and not even realize a punk band from Oregon were behind it. Unless you started listening to the lyrics...

Last but not least are The Hollywood Blondes. Queers comparisons wouldn't be out-of-the-question. Joe King would be proud. Don't expect blatant filth, though, as these are relatively family-friendly songs, whereas the Queers offend damn near anyone who isn't at least mentally fourteen-years-old. The Blondes keep it pretty clean by comparison, aside from the occasional f-bomb, while still down-stroking their guitar strings at breakneck speed. "Bad Habit" is the best one, for sure. Songs about booze are always welcome. Stiv sounds just like Kill the Musicians-era Ben Foster on that one. Keep an eye out for these guys.

I know a lot of people who won't even give this type of music a chance. But let's not forget that this is meant to be fun music. Just fucking relax. If you don't like stuff like this, you probably just don't like rock and roll. You've probably never got excited while listening to the oldies station. You've probably got a huge chip on your shoulder, or maybe you're just not confident in your own amount of "punkness". Or maybe you're just a big turd.

Whatever the case, you've gotta admit, some of the best bands in punk's first and second wave were pop music fans, and their music definitely reflected this. Just listen to bands like The Buzzcocks, The Pointed Sticks, The Boys, Blondie, Wreckless Eric, The Dickies, The Misfits, The Damned, The Saints, The Undertones, Generation X, The Rezillos, and, of course, The Ramones. If you're a fan of any of these bands, or even early rock and roll bands, sixties American pop or garage, Brit invasion, girl groups, doo-wop, etc., there's no reason why you shouldn't be into this kinda shit. Quit making up stupid rules. If you don't like it, fine. But don't discredit these bands, because they probably know a lot more than you do about the roots of your music. Just shut up already.

--Sam Sinister

Thanks to Tommy Teabagger for additional insight.

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