Sunday, March 18, 2007

Now Playing: Marshall Cresnshaw, The Definitive Pop Collection

Marshall Crenshaw is one of those artists I just kinda take for granted. Every time I hear one of his songs, on the radio or wherever (ok, fine, can't say I've listened to music radio in about five years, but you know what I mean), I tend to think, geez, what a great song, I really oughtta buy some of his stuff. But I never have. Fortunately, I finally caved a few weeks ago when I spotted this nifty li'l collection, which pretty much sums up his 15-ish year career on two discs. Naturally, Disc One is the stunner. You've got the 5 crucial Crenshaw tracks, each of which is the sort of perfect pop song that no artist should be able to pull off more than once, much less repeatedly -- "Someday, Someway," "Cynical Girl," "Mary Anne," "You're My Favorite Waste Of Time," and "Whenever You're On My Mind." I mean, seriously, can you not hear any one of these and immediately conclude it's the best song ever, at least for the 2:30 that it's playing on your radio? (Yeah, there I go again mentioning this "radio" thing, but in a better world, Crenshaw pretty much defines my vision of what pop radio should sound like.) And, of course, most of the first disc, though perhaps lesser known, is nearly as good. Perhaps one can complain that there's a bit of a retro-schtick going on here, with Crenshaw playing the (early) Elvis Costello crossed with Buddy Holly card (both visually and musically) a bit too plainly, but as long as the songs are great, who really cares?

The more impressive aspect of this collection, however, is the fact that Disc Two is almost as great as Disc One. Can't say I'm familiar with any of it, but you've got another half dozen tracks that are simply wonderful power pop nuggets -- ok, nothing as great as those 5 killer songs, but solid tunes nonetheless. Which means that, on the whole, you've got a lot more unforgettable jangly 3-chord pop tunes than you'll find on most collections. Sure, by the end of the 2-disc set, you're kinda heard the same song several times; after all, there's only so much you can do with three chords, a Byrds-y Rickenbacker jangle, and boy-meets-girl-and-falls-in-love-and-worries-about-losing-girl lyrics. But Crenshaw does the best one could hope to do with his formula.

My one complaint is that the second disc sounds kinda tinny and overprocessed. Not sure if the original albums were recorded that way, or the remastering used too much compression (a common problem on a lot of remasters), but the high-end (particularly the cymbals) is way too harsh, like a kitten in a blender. But you can always tweak the treble on your stereo, I suppose.


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