Excellent Power Pop
After the fall of the Soviet Union and communism as a global political powerhouse, there must have been a great sense of hope for some, but also a sense of great apprehension about whether democracy would work. Boris Yeltsin, who was the first Russian president after the fall of the union, did nothing to ease this uncertainty, as his presidency was a period of great economic, social and political corruption. He was no Vladimir Putin. But don’t you worry Mr. Yeltsin, American indie rockers are here to assure you that you still matter. Or as they put it, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. While they did well to redeem their fallen namesake on their debut indie smash album, Broom—featuring cerebral guitar and introspective lyrics—they fell back into that same state of uneasiness with their last album, 2013’s Fly By The Wire, which veered into indie synth pop that was devoid of all emotion.
They regain their redeeming qualities on their new album, The High Country. It is a reinvention of sorts—like that of the modern day eastern block countries—from the outplayed and overdone cerebral synth pop to the invigorated guitar parts and sunny, ear worming melodies. It is reenergizing. A shifting of gears into power pop.
Power pop has always been America’s answer to the brilliant Britpop bands of the eighties and nineties. Combining the raw energy and instrumentation of rock and roll and the melodies and subject matters of pop, power pop masters like Fountains of Wayne and Blink-182 show that no song on the radio has to have a machine-generated beat. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin waste no time showing you this and joining the ranks of their fellow American masters of guitar-driven pop.
From the first ticks of the drums stick smashing together to count the Springfield, Missouri quintet in on the opening track, “Line On You,” you know this album is defined by one thing–guitar energy. The guitar explodes into the verses and then breaks down into a melody for the chorus that could rival the top-40 hooks. It is so addictive that you don’t really care what he is saying.
Similarly, “Step Brother City” takes its guitar inspiration from American punk, with a downward fast and furious strumming that Johnny Ramone would be proud of. It gives the song a frantic quality that fits perfectly with the subject: a girl of course, who seems to have gotten too big for her breeches because “someone’s been nice” to her, but still, “all the good songs” are about her and “all the bad ones too,” and he just “gets confused.” “Madeline” finds him in a less frantic state, calling out for the one he loves and recalling the soft, delicate guitar melodies of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s debut.
While “Full Possession of All Her Power” channels both sixties pop romanticism about girls—in particular, The Beach Boys—with lines like “Full possession of all her power / Smile on her lips cause she finds you attractive”; and the sunny, California guitar melodies of Weezer that make you feel like you’re standing near a beach, catching its salt-infused breeze.
The whole first half of the album is all about the guitar melody, while the second half veers into more toned-down experimental realms. This does not make the album any less good, just less easy to enjoy, less overtly pop. Still, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin returns to its mastery of ear-worming tunes with excellent guitar hooks on their latest, The High Country. Someone still loves you, indeed.