Oh, The Sweet, Sweet Changes
By: Eric G.
When bands cover such a small, predetermined niche, particularly one that has been beaten into our subconscious for so long, it’s hard to appreciate the subtleties and nuances without immediately referencing other bands. The Photon Band doesn’t seem to care. Its brand of mod power pop ignores the cynical side of the music industry- the one that took over in the early 1970’s and turned rock and roll into the boring and predictable institution that exists today. Instead, the Photon Band only seems interested in rock and roll’s heyday- pre-Ziggy Stardust, pre-bloated Elvis but post-Beatlemania. Of course, aspects of The Who and The Kinks crop up- perhaps even some Yardbirds, but the Photon Band surges inside its retro-bubble oblivious, for the most part, to every strain of rock since the first British invasion.
Dock all the points you want for lack of originality, but this band delivers music on par with its distinguished influences. The Photon Band captures the innocence that was intrinsic to those early rebellious days of The Who and The Kinks. The songs mix sparse 1950’s rhythm and blues with the harder rocking sounds of mid-60’s psychedelia. It’s a tight package. The Photon band is a formidable trio with driving, melodic bass lines and propulsive, Keith Moon-style drumming. The guitars by turn jangle furiously and explore the darker, more reflective tones that bands like the Kinks and the Beatles executed so perfectly on Something Else by The Kinks and Rubber Soul, respectively.
The Photon Band carefully balances its catchy hooks with hard driving music so as not to appear too lightweight like many 60’s bubblegum acts do in retrospect. “Genius” is a perfect example of the Photon Band’s formula: short bursts of energy interspersed with dynamic build-ups and explosive changes. The vocals are just as immediate and potent as the music. “End Of The Week” proves there’s nothing too deep going on here besides rollicking riffs and sing-along choruses, though. The lo-fi recording techniques adhere to the retro sound the band emulates so well. “Could It Be?” just might be the album’s finest track. Its dark verses and harmonic vocals erupt into a Pete Townshend-style guitar upsurge. The Photon band can’t help but inject a memorable chorus into even its darkest songs.
Of course, there’s a lot of competition in the mod power pop crowd. Several Elephant 6 bands tread similar terrain, for example, but the Photon Band is the most consistent of its peers. “Disillusion” evokes a hint of “I Dig A Pony”-era Beatles, but the Photon Band never quite steps over the line into comical mimicry. It would be foolish to try to imitate the Beatles, and these guys know it. It’s more like a musical nod- very subtle but very effective. The band’s greatest asset is its pop craftsmanship. The songs rarely run out of steam. “Now It’s Over (And Over)” is sugary pop, bordering on bubblegum, but it’s played with such energy that you don’t mind the repetitious chorus being rammed down your throat.
Oh, The Sweet, Sweet Changes probably won’t impact listeners the way a comparable record would have thirty years ago (for obvious reasons), but it’s an undeniably good time.