By Peter Gerstenzang
12:40 PM EDT, March 26, 2013
The Rick Murnane Band
March 30, at The Hartford Room (126 Ann Uccello St.), along with the Fawns and the Girlfriend Project. 9 p.m. $5. For more info call (855) 486-5399
Not that it's easy to rile the unflappable Rick Murnane anyway, but you certainly won't upset him by calling his music "Power Pop." A few spins of his most recent disc, Wednesday Child, proves this point all too well. It's classic, chiming stuff. If this isn't pure Power Pop, nothing is. Need further proof? Go to the Hartford Room on March 30th and see Murnane and his band live. Those tunes, the title track, especially, will stay in your head, like ear-worms, for days.
"I know some people get upset by the 'Power Pop' tag," says the pacific-sounding Murnane, "but not me. Two of my favorite bands are Cheap Trick and the Jam. That's how I'd describe their stuff. Not to mention the music I grew up listening to: the Beatles and the Hollies. Pop best heard through an AM car speaker. I still think of the tunes I write as descending from those bands. Except, when I mix them, I know people will be listening to them through iPod ear buds."
Classic sounds, modern approach, that's Murnane's m.o. This practicality applies to the rest of his life, as well. Although this Massachusetts native has made several fine records, like Wednesday, which was engineered by Fountains Of Wayne co-founder, Chris Collingwood, Murnane has kept his day job. He supports himself as a graphic designer. Maybe that's what accounts for his general calm. Not worrying about music paying the bills takes the pressure off and allows his muse free rein.
"I was actually an English major in college," says the bespectacled songwriter. "I also wrote for the school paper. But when I graduated, even though I'd been writing songs, I didn't have a lot of confidence, musically, back then. Plus, I also drew and painted. The first time I got paid for a painting, it was clear. I figured, that was the way I'd make my living. I'm a little sorry I didn't believe more in myself as a musician at first. But, the more I play live now, the easier it gets."
Of course, there are exceptions. Which must make it clear to Murnane, that spending his days drawing has its compensations. Take that night he and his band played with a certain British Invasion supergroup.
"Some years back, we were picked to open for the Animals,' says Murnane, comic-anxiety still vivid in his voice. "It didn't help that they were also showing classic clips of '60s British bands on a screen before we went on. Clearly, everyone there was stoked to see the headliners. And out came us Power Poppers. The people who didn't boo? They threw stuff and wanted to kill us. That was a rough night."
Murnane's melodic music is usually much better received. And when you have a booster like Collingwood, it clearly validates your work. This is what the Fountains Of Wayne member has to say about the man.
"Rick and I share a fondness for the songwriters of the British Invasion and the generations of subsequent artists who took them as inspiration," says Collingwood. "But where I can claim the Kinks as an influence, for example, Rick can name a dozen Kinks songs I've never heard. For each, he could tell me where and when it was recorded. Rick brings this fanatical attention to his songs, which are decorated with incisive detail, and as such, tend to play out like short stories. What's more, it's never boring because he's got new material every time I see him."
This claim should be substantiated soon, if Murnane can stay on schedule.
"The band and I (which features Fred Goodhue on bass and Nick Dines on drums) should have a new EP out soon. Hopefully before the summer," says the artist-musician. "That's my deadline, at least. We've got four new songs mostly recorded and when they're done, they'll be available on iTunes, Band Camp and on disc to buy at gigs."
For anyone looking for a preview, this purveyor of the Power Pop sound is bound to play some of these tunes on the 30th. And, if you're the sort of listener who feels a bit lost in these craft-deficient days, this tunesmith should restore your faith in the art of the song. And although the man is an artist, one listen, and the music you recall loving will be fully restored. In other words? Give Murnane a listen. And you won't need him to draw you a picture.
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