Pity the long-suffering powerpop fan. Do a Web search on the name “Steve Barton” and 9 out of 10 links will net you a veteran stage actor (he played Count von Krolock in Tanz der Vampire) who died in 2001. This Steve Barton, however, is very much alive and kicking, although you’d be forgiven if you’d counted him among the undead. His early ’80s San Fran combo Translator enjoyed a bona fide chart hit with minor chord jangler “Everywhere That I’m Not,” but dissolved after four albums, leaving Barton to wander the wilderness from 1986-99 before resurfacing with Boy Who Rode His Bike Around the World.
Six years on, the follow-up platter’s got everything that’s great about powerpop: 12-string chimes and meaty Pete Townshendesque riffs, soaring vocal harmonies and handclap choruses, raveups and reveries. “When You’re Gone” issues forth on a bedspring of Byrdsian guitar and thrumming bass, while the tuff-as-nails “Kiss This” sounds like a bastard offspring of “Dirty Water” and “What I Like About You.” A dash of Star Club-period Beatles and a dollop of early Dwight Twilley informs the hopped-up “Bertha Jane,” and speaking of the Fab Four, Barton reworks “She’s Leaving Home” as a Buzzcockian thrasher. Plus you gotta love a guy who starts a song off with the lines, “I wanna be your monument/Crawl between your dreams and your legs” (“Monument”). Powerpop’s always had a reputation — undeserved — for being wimpy. Born-and-bred rockers like Barton put the lie to that. (Contact Sleepless via [email protected].)
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].