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Sad Sounds of the Summer

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Album Review

Chris Richards has been kicking around the Detroit music scene for the better part of 20 years, releasing a handful of noteworthy records as a member of Hippodrome and the Pantookas, but he didn't start recording under his own name until 2004 with his fine solo debut Mystery Spot, and Sad Sounds of the Summer, his first disc with his new backing combo the Subtractions, confirms his status as one of the Midwest's unsung heroes of contemporary power pop. Richards has been in the game long enough to have a firm command of the classic hard pop lexicon, and he's learned to write a memorable hook and a ear-catching melody with the same ease and aplomb as Tommy Keene, the Posies, or Sloan. But Richards' tunes have a freshness, energy, and punch that shows he's a kindred spirit, not a follower, and the big guitars, spot-on vocal harmonies, and walloping backbeat of songs like "I Can't Quit Her," "I, Miss July," and "I Do Declare" are pure pop bliss of the sort that was supposed to have died out in the 1990s. Richards' guitar work is straightforward but powerful throughout this album, lending the melodies plenty of body and force, and bassist Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky (both veterans of Richards' earlier bands) give these performances the rock-solid framework they need. Dave Feeny's clean, resonant recording makes this album sound just as good as the songs deserve, and the result is one of the best examples of Nuevo power pop to emerge from the Rust Belt in many a moon; the title might be Sad Sounds of the Summer, but this disc is 37 minutes of guitar-powered joy that will satisfy your craving for hard-rocking pop all year round.

Sad Sounds of the Summer, Chris Richards and the Subtractions
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