Innocence Is Bliss
It's really what every Power Pop record should be. Each track on Frank Royster's "Innocence is Bliss" is infectious. Catchy. Fun. No skipping songs here. Think of a grown-up version of "That Thing You Do!" Elvis Costello meets the Beatles. Piano bouncing, hand claps, hints of harmonica, even a slide guitar has given Royster the sound he wanted: an album full of Brian Wilson and Beatle harmonies with a dollop of Lenny Kravitz and a country twang thrown in. The lyrics are biting. In the first track "Mr. Wonderful," Royster builds a smirky, smart chorus line contemplating the short memory of a lover. One night "in the moon light," he's all right. The next night-- not so much. In "Brena You!," Royster invokes the modern day McCartney. Piano banging, drum bopping, guitar grinding fun sewn together with a string of backup vocals "aahhing" and "oohing" on cue. I think I even heard Royster curdle a "Can't Buy Me Love" oooohhh. Well done. There's a ghost of Buck Owens in "Can't You Make Me Smile?," a tinge of Matthew Sweet longing for love in "Thank You (Back to Me)," even a trippy cosmic diddy in "I'm Gonna Take It." No surprise here, Royster's producer is Jamie Hoover, member of the Spongetones. Yep, the same power pop veteran with a recording resume that includes Don Dixon, Bill Lloyd, Hootie and the Blowfish, and even toured as a bassist with the Smithereens. Hoover sonically gleems Royster's sophomore effort into a superb sounding success. "Innocence is Bliss" is a terrific throwback to the quick, up-tempo pop songs your parents grew up with-but here, there's no feeling of being doo-wopped to death. The lyrics mean something. The music complicated. And in every track, you just can't wait to get to the chorus and sing. -Patrick Villegas.