Cassius Clay – Special Guest Star

Cassius Clay
Special Guest Star

Ahhhh, the guilty pleasures of nerdy power-pop, and Cassius Clay is exactly that sort of band. The power comes in the form of big, crunchy riffs and pounding drum and bass work. The pop comes via sweet guitar hooks, polished vocals, simple but thoughtful lyrics everyone can relate to, and swirling high-pitched keyboards. Together, these elements create the perfect soundtrack to a carefree summer day in the sun, or just lounging around the house.
Some songs, like “Been Waiting” and “Sweating Bullets,” blend the sugary sweet pop of bands like Weezer with a more classic rock vibe. Others, like the excellent “More Like Me,” as well as “Simulated Actions” and “Every Time,” rock harder than the others and aren’t too terribly far away from being able to fit in with modern rock-pop bands like Foo Fighters or Everclear. A couple of songs, like the nerdy-as-hell “Fucked Me Over,” a true anthem for anyone with relationship problems, bring about a sort of Elvis Costello feel, with simple harmonies and vintage sounding keyboards. “Dress Up in Real Life” features glimpses of shear pop gooey-ness, making the Weezer or Rentals comparison almost a necessity. And the band knows the pop format well, keeping things short and sweet, with five of the nine songs not taking more than three minutes to finish up, and the other four not daring to take more than four. But there is still a complexity here, most evident on tracks like “AM Radio” and “Lemon Tree,” which takes a couple of listens to notice. The multiple layers of instrumentation and effects are quite smart, but without sprawling out and taking the song in too many different directions.
For a debut album from a young and small band on a similarly small label, Special Guest Star leaves a deeper impression than expected. Any fans of simple, sweet, and short power-pop will eat this up. This is the sort of fun you wouldn’t be surprised hearing stashed between the whines of Staind and Nickelback on some modern rock radio station you happen to come across on the radio dial. And though it is easy to toss them into the mindless mass-produced pop category, there also seems to be some hints at depth that should prove to be quite interesting on the follow-up.