Gigolo Aunts – Pacific Ocean Blues

Gigolo Aunts
Pacific Ocean Blues

Gigolo Aunts was one of a vast number of bands that seemed to rise to popularity in the mid-90s rush of major labels to sign every “alternative” act they could get their hands on. That was the brief period when college rock and radio rock merged, before radio rock took a more glossy, mainstream course and college rock went indie. This Boston by way of Potsdam, NY band (now playing in LA) had a few major label releases, playing their brand of 70s-influenced power-pop for Alias (1993’s Full on Bloom) and RCA (1994’s Flippin’ Out).
But the Aunts had been playing together since the early 80s, and that brief period of popularity – while it may have brought the most fans – was really a flash in the pan in this power-pop band’s longstanding career. Apparently more popular in Europe than the US since leaving the majors, they’ve released several other albums that completely passed me by, including their last two on the Spanish label Bittersweet Recordings (The One Before the Last and now Pacific Ocean Blues). Q Division has wisely picked up this album for US release, and the hope is the band will gain a wider recognition in the indie world.
Originally I assumed the Gigolo Aunts had been out of the picture since their mid-90s flourish, but that’s far from the case. The thing is, their sound hasn’t changed much. They still fall in among the style of bands playing mid-90s jangly guitar-pop that harks back to mid-70s guitar-pop. Like contemporaries Velvet Crush, Teenage Fanclub, and Matthew Sweet, the Gigolo Aunts’ biggest influences are the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Velvet Underground. Much in the way Sloan and the Posies have leant their own unique sound and enthusiasm to the retro-minded style, the Gigolo Aunts’ jangly power-pop is still tight, catchy, and fun, even if it’s not remarkably original.
The track listing is split into side one and two, and it’s a fitting division. The first “side” is definitely the most purely upbeat and poppy stuff, right from the opening, as jangly guitars and tambourine lead the catchy rocker “Hello.” The band really shines with the Matthew Sweet-like pretty pop of “Let Go!” that incorporates some nice horns and acoustic guitars and the catchy “Maybe the Change Will Do Us Good.” The band harks back to their influences with the Beatles-esque vocal harmonies to “Mr. Tomorrow” and the Who-like classic-rock-influenced “Stay” and show their maturity are the mid-tempo radio-friendly songs like “Even Though (The One Before the Last” and the soft, heartbreaking “My Favorite Regret.” A couple of rather tame tracks, like the too-sweet acoustic ballad of the title track, the very soft “Lay Your Weary Body Down,” and the poor vocals on “Once in Awhile” slow down the album but don’t ruin it.
In short, Pacific Ocean Blues isn’t a perfect album, nor is it groundbreaking, but it’s still a fun listen. Fans of power-pop – especially the hay day of that genre in the mid-90s – will really enjoy the Gigolo Aunts. This album is mature, impeccably produced, and quite nice. If not for the few tracks that go the quiet, contemplative, “mature” route, this one is a great listen. It makes me wish I didn’t miss out on all the Aunts albums in between.