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Number Nine

The Spongetones

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Album Review

Just when you thought that Big Star and the Flamin' Groovies had said most of what needed saying in the vein of British-flavored '70s and '80s power pop, along came the Spongetones to add some unique wrinkles of their own. Their 2005 album Number 9 evokes, by turns, elements of '60s British beat and American sunshine pop, most of it played with a wattage level and attack closer in spirit to the top garage bands of the period — "The One That Gets You" sounds for all the world like an alternate universe outtake from the Beatles' Revolver or the Monkees Aquarius, Capricorn, Pisces, & Jones Ltd. (depending on the shape of the particular alternate universe you're talking about) while "Metal Mother World" has an eerie folk-cum-psychedelic caste to it, like the Modern Folk Quartet trying their hand at acid rock — but juxtaposed with them is the hard rocking, thoroughly post-'60s "Cruel and Unusual Punishment," which has a melody and chorus that reminds one of "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" from Godspell but is so highly animated with its crunchy guitars that it might be hard to notice it; and it drifts into "Future Perfect," a harmony-driven acoustic number that floats rather peacefully across a light folk-rock '60s landscape of sounds. And it leads us into "Other Girls" and "Hominym Girl," which sound like the late-'60s Kinks. The last four numbers, "Dance to You," "Nights in Deja Vu," "Still Life," and "Dreaming in English" show off the group working within the boundaries of their own sound and era, and they're no less attractive in this guise — the singing is powerful, the melodies memorable, and the attack on their instruments is pretty compelling. The album is fairly obscure, and the fact that the front cover art deliberately mimics the look and layout of The Beatles' Second Album doesn't help, since the latter design was also used for the more widely distributed Yo La Tengo Prisoners of Love compilation that same year.


Formed: 1980

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the most underrated power pop bands of the '80s, the Spongetones released several albums of effortlessly catchy guitar pop that captured the feel of '60s British Invasion pop with remarkable accuracy and innocent charm. While they never received much critical or commercial attention, their music has aged much better than most power pop of the era (late '70s and early '80s), and among specialists they're highly revered not only for their studio prowess but also for their spirited live shows....
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Number Nine, The Spongetones
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