After a five year absence, the princes of power pop have released Odd Fellows, an amazing collection of superbly written songs that combine early Beatles merseybeat, hook-filled punchy rock, and classic harmonies. The first impression one has of the Spongetones is that of pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles having been transported to today. This is much more than just mimicry as these fun-loving rockers have captured the spirit of those early albums and updated the sound and style, much like The Rutles but without the cheese and onions.
Opening with the harmonica laden "You'll Come Running' Back", you'll swear it's a lost Beatles track that was left off Anthology 1. "Dark Brown Eyes" combines more of this retro sound with Everly Brothers harmonies and a dead-on Paul vocal style in a gentle love song. More snappy rhythms are to be found in "Eyedoan Geddit", a roaring up-beat party song that shows a big Cheap Trick influence. The gentle "Home" treats the listener with a great singable George Harrison melody backed with some superb finger-picking. As much as I like the Beatles, my two favorite songs on the album are those that show almost no Beatles influence. "Love Song To Mrs. Parker" is a sorrowful piano-driven song about chances not taken with lyrics such as "I would have held her that night / I would have pulled her from the fight / I could have made her smile just once/ In another time." The album ends with my other favorite, "Much Too Slow" with its heavy, punchy, power pop rhythms that remind me of the best of Badfinger. These four gents from North Carolina have soaked up the best of the last few decades of music and spew forth incredible songs as easily as most people breath. With just one album, The Spongetones have converted me to an instant fan!
This article first appeared in WhatzUp, July 2000.