Ashtray Babyhead – Radio

Well, you know how they say you’ll never miss something until it’s gone? Little Rock, Arkansas’ Ashtray Babyhead reminded me how much I missed the purest of power-pop rock without even knowing it. I mean, what was the last pure power-pop band that has come out? With radio rock moving either into rage-rock or mediocre messiness, the power-pop band may be going the way of the dinosaur.

But don’t tell Ashtray Babyhead that, because they’re playing that power-pop style that has been a staple of rock for several years. Strong, powerful guitars, nice vocals, and songs about girls, space, politics, radio and more make up this band. And with catchy, poppy rhythms yet a harder sound and pure guitar riffage, these guys could be the new banner-bearer for power-pop. I can’t help but be reminded of Figdish, probably my favorite power-pop band, in this band’s music.

The album starts off with one of the purest power-pop songs I’ve heard in a long time, “Mir.” It has a damn infectious beat, a catchy chorus of “cosmonaut, cosmonaut, I wanna be an astronaut, yo-ho?” and some driving guitars. “I’ll Do Anything” is especially bouncy, and if you can listen to this song without either a) bobbing your head along or b) playing air guitar, you’re probably dead. As a contrast, “Bomb” has a more edgy sound, especially in the beginning, but it explodes with an almost punk-pop energy and sing-along chorus. And, by contrast, “Popstar Radio Crown” is almost all-out pop, just with some killer guitar backing it up. Probably my favorite song on the album is “Radar,” which isn’t so much power-pop as power in an emotional and intense sense, with a killer guitar line and breaking into screams at several points. Wow. The guitars on “Pill” have a more sonic sound, a bit edgier, while “Banana Seat” is damn catchy and crunchy, and it’s endearing just because it’s actually about bikes with banana seats. Damn cool. Synthesizers come in and fit well on the very poppy “Ninety-Nine.” The last track, “The Real Soft One,” is a bit more somber and slower, with some nice base, high-pitched vocals, and a nice flow.

You can sum Ashtray Babyhead up by just listening to one song, but one song just isn’t enough. These power-pop gems are so damn catchy, I find myself returning to this disc too often. Ripping guitar hooks, powerful drums, lyrics with some depth, and a sense of fun and energy makes this band something catchy. Now if only the fickle mainstream media turned back to its power-pop roots, these guys could be huge.