Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Steven Bradley - Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears

Steven Bradley - Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears

So, I have this little game I play. When I'm working at my desk, I have a huge stack of unlistened to LP's on the floor near my feet, in no particular order.  I've mastered the art of reaching down into the stack, grabbing a record, removing it from the sleeve and placing the needle, all without ever seeing the album cover or the labels.  This allows me to get the music going sight unseen.  No preconceived notions.  No expectations.  Just let the music do the talking.

And man, does Steven Bradley do some fine talking.  To be fair, this was actually my third (or fourth) listen of the album.  Each time I was entranced by it, but not like this time.  As the first strains of Love Tumbles Into Obsession came out, the crystal clear power-pop a la Elvis Costello filled that perfect place.   One listen and you'll be shocked to learn that Nick Lowe didn't produce this.  There are no players from Rockpile.  This is simply note perfect, bouncy, joyous power pop.

Summer Bliss indeed.

Now, turns out Steven Bradley is no stranger to making fine music, even if this is his debut solo LP.  Bradley has been the producer of Less Than Jake and Blink 182, so the gent knows how to craft a song.  Bradley is also no masquerading musician.  While he has guest help from members of MC5, Social Distortion, Redd Kross, MXPX and Grapes of Wrath, Bradley essentially plays every instrument on the record, contributing vocals, acoustic, electric, high string and 12 string guitars, mandolin, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion.  So while the hype sticker will list all the guest performances, don't pick this up expecting to hear anything like MC5, even though Wayne Krammer guests.  No, pick this up because you are a fan of solid, catchy, sunshine captured in a 4 minute pop song.  That's what Bradley does.

And each song is a solid encapsulation of that buoyant pop.  While each song brings it's own vibe, the solid bounce of Love Tumbles Into Obsession and Pre-Emptive Strike are particularly perfect.  Timeless in their execution, sublime in their production.   These songs are so full of melodic hooks, that you can't help but get them stuck smack in your mid-brain.  That place where good feelings reside, and memories lie.

Bradley's voice doesn't seek to stretch beyond it's comfort zone, which is fine.  He has more than a taste of the sneer of the Angry Young Man movement of British New Pop a la Graham Parker.  He brings nuance and comfort with his straight forward delivery.  And most importantly, he carries those perfect melodies

In the end, Summer Bliss and Autumn Tears is the perfect title for this album, as lurking beneath the sunshine pop that can carry the best summer albums, there's a fractured wound of heartbreak to bring the autumn tears. 

Check this one out, it may be your party by the pool album of the summer.  You can get it at Porterhouse Records.


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