Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pure Joy

I first became aware of Pure Joy when they released their 1990 LP Carnivore on the Popllama label. Carnivore is a nice slab of power-pop with a healthy dose of Cheap Trick influence. Pure Joy leader Rusty Rusty Willoughby's subsequent band Flop also mined the power-pop vein and gained enough attention to land on a major label (who subsequently did nothing to support them). In my mind I very much slotted Pure Joy into the power-pop ghetto (and I mean that in both a good and bad way).

So when I borrowed their 1986 self-titled EP from my friend Adam, I was a little surprised at the sounds I heard as the diamond vibrated in sympathy with the record groove. I expected a rougher version of what the band delivered on Carnivore, and what I heard instead was a band that sounded much more like The Chameleons UK, Echo & The Bunnymen or The Mighty Lemon Drops than any of the usual power-pop touchstones. It was only after listening to this that it dawned on me that the band obviously took their name from a track on the second The Teardrop Explodes album, Wilder.

After this revelation, I went back and listened to their fantastic 1988 LP Unsung [buy it!] that was not widely distributed until it was reissued by Flydaddy in 1994.  The fixation with British neo-psychedelica is evident on this album, if not as obvious as it is on the EP, but since I approached the album from a power-pop frame when I listened to it previously, I hadn't noticed it before.

The other thing that surprised me about the EP was that despite the fact that it was self-released by the band, and predates their first widely distributed album by a good four years, the recording quality is very professional and the band's playing is polished. So not only does the EP not sound like a rougher version of Carnivore, it actually sounds slicker both in terms of production and performance than their later work. In fact, when I threw Carnivore on my turntable for the first time in many years, I was somewhat disappointed by the muffled sound of the recording which holds back the very energetic performances somewhat.

Pure Joy reunited for new albums in 1997 and 2003, and I plan on tracking those down soon. And if you ever come across a copy of this EP, pick it up!

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