Army Navy - "The Last Place" You'd Expect To Hear Vintage Power Pop!!

For a brief, shining moment back in 1979, Power Pop (the genre) completely dominated the music scene, swept into mainstream relevance by the breakout success of The Knack's "My Sharona", "Good Girls Don't" and their Platinum-selling debut album, Get The Knack. The impact of those first two singles was so overwhelming that every major label dropped whatever they'd been doing and immediately began signing any power pop band they could get their hands on. Then, just as quickly as they'd become become the biggest band since the Fab Four, The Knack stopped all interviews, leading the press to surmise that the band's massive stardom had gone to their heads. The backlash against The Knack was fierce, culminating in critics and former fans sporting "Knuke The Knack" t-shirts around town. It didn't just stop there, though, as the press surrepticiously ignored the many power pop albums being released by bands signed in the wake of The Knack's success, leaving bands such as 20/20, Great Buildings and others dead in the water.

Since then, Power Pop bands have been almost universally ignored by the major labels and those that have managed to get signed - bands like Jellyfish, the Posies, and Wanderlust - have languished in obscurity.

So when we hear a record as blatantly Power Pop in spirit as Army Navy's stunning new album, The Last Place, we can't help but feel that the band is just setting themselves up for heartbreak and misery, destined to see their music marginalized and pigeonholed by an industry that turns its nose up at anything that even smacks of Power Pop.

Maybe, just maybe, this band has what it takes to overcome such narrow-minded thinking on the part of an industry whose inability to learn from their own mistakes has resulted in its own downsizing, if not complete downfall. Former Elvis Costello & The Attractions drummer, Pete Thomas apparently thinks so, as he volunteered his services to the band after their original drummer left the band to become a screenwriter just prior to the start of sessions for this album.

Add to that fact that the album is a thinly veiled paean to a female celebrity, who also happens to be married, with whom singer Justin Kennedy had brief, but tormenting fling. He remains mum about the identity of said actress, but we can give you a hint by saying that she was once married to one of her backing dancers.

While name-dropping and gossip of this sort is usually enough to buy you a little attention in L.A. circles, unless the music is a step above, you're just setting yourself up to be yesterday's news. Thankfully, Army Navy's music is, indeed, a step above.

Album opener "Last Legs" recalls early, pre-Budokan Cheap Trick, which is always a very good thing. From that point, it seems each tune builds perfectrly upon that foundation, working new colors into the equation and proving this band to be much more thana one-trick pony.

"Ex-Electric" and "A Circus" quickly follow, proving to be the best songs the Shoes (never heard of them? Check them out on Spotify) never wrote, with Kennedy's vocals eerily recalling Shoes singer Jeff Murphy's lilting voice at times.

Taking into consideration how well produced and how strong the songs are, it's literally mind-boggling, even in the age of Pro Tools and auto-tune, that an album of such elegance and majesty was recorded for a mere $5,000.

Here's hoping the few remaining major labels still around these days are taking notes. And here's hoping that Army Navy are slow to sign to a major label when they seem to be doing just fine without one.

After all, this is the sort of album that gives you hope that artistry and commerciality are not mutually exclusive of one another - that they can co-exist without needing to "dumb it down" for the cheap seats with break beats, cheesy synths, or vocoders set on stun. This is real music, performed by people who visibly (and audibly) have a love for their craft, and also know a thing or ten about classic pop song-craft.


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