Power Pop or Not?
Trolley Recalls ’60s Brit Rock
Pete Townshend coined the term “power pop” in the 1960s to describe The Who, but the phrase was forgotten for more than a decade. In the late ’70s, rock critics began applying the pithy phrase to Big Star, The Plimsouls, The Last—bands recovering the endangered verities of mid-’60s rock in three-minute testimonials to melody and harmony, two guitars, bass and drums.
pop never produced another Beatles but has survived as a handy marketing label
for a genre of melodic rock. When one such band, Material Issue, recorded a
song called “International Pop Overthrow” in the early ’90s, they intended it
as an anthem for the music they loved. They had no idea their song title would
become the name of a festival dedicated to power pop, first in
year, International Pop Overthrow comes to
many other DIY acts in the Internet era, Trolley has been unable to sustain a
financially supportive career even as they acquired far-flung fans across the
world. Power pop has proven to be a handy label, leading aficionados in
“A lot of what’s called power pop has a glossy sheen,” says guitarist-vocalist Paul Wall. “I like stuff that’s more off the cuff, with a few mistakes. Maybe I’m a punk rocker at heart.”
Adds bassist-vocalist Terry Hackbarth, “A lot of power pop has lost the power. The first wave of power pop after Big Star, at the same time punk was happening, was pretty exciting.”
Trolley is aware of the irony that power pop isn’t actually popular, but merely one niche among many in a musical world without a center of gravity. “I like to say we’re a rock ’n’ roll band,” Hackbarth says. Sadly, rock ’n’ roll is a word that sticks like Velcro to anything with guitars and drums. The power pop label may be valuable precisely because it is more specific, signifying catchy melodies, layered harmonies and concise songs.
its May 1 performance at
“It’ll be a fun night,” Wall says. “Very fast and quick-paced. If you don’t like one band, stick around for 20 minutes and you’ll hear another.”