Hello buffaBLOG readers. This is Adam Putzer, guitar player for The Tins, and your very excited new contributor to this awesome site. This is the initial edition of “For Your Reconsideration,” a look back at albums that have been perhaps unfairly maligned, unjustly forgotten, or just plain unusual, but all of which are ripe for rediscovery. This includes artists both well-known and absolutely obscure as well. I hope you enjoy going down this road as much as I will.
Marshall Crenshaw is perhaps best-known today for two reasons: co-writing the Gin Blossoms hit “’Til I Hear It From You,” and portraying Buddy Holly in the Richie Valens biopic La Bamba. Interestingly, comparisons to Buddy Holly have dogged Crenshaw throughout the majority of his career, from his thick black rimmed glasses and close cropped hair, to his love of classic guitar pop. Crenshaw has always professed a deep love for Holly and doesn’t shy away from the comparison. In fact, his self-titled debut album takes instrumental and lyrical cues from Holly, but it is no mere rip-off. Coming out at a time when synthesizers and hairspray were fogging up the atmosphere of popular music, Crenshaw’s debut sounds like it could have been recorded at any time, including today, and is still a fantastic show of tight song craft and musicianship.
Crenshaw’s lyrics don’t tend to deviate from the love tropes consistent with classic pop material (girls are great, girls will break your heart, I don’t understand girls, etc.), but all are clever and sung with conviction. The big hit here was "Someday Someway,” a song about misunderstanding in a relationship, based around a circular guitar riff and drum pattern that implies that these problems could continue foreve, However, it doesn’t matter, because our narrator is so convinced of his love, he will stick it out and continue the pattern. And Crenshaw’s vocal performance is flawless, sounding hopeful, yet naïve, in the face of what seems to be an impossible situation. Clever songwriting, indeed.
Other highlights include “Girls,” which expertly conveys his frustration with the opposite sex with its weary refrain of “girls, girls, girls,” and “Cynical Girl,” which adopts the use of a toy piano straight out of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” to great effect. Elsewhere, “The Usual Thing” transports rockabilly into the age of New Wave, and “Mary Anne” musically foreshadows many of Bruce Springsteen’s modern day rock anthems (take a listen to “We Take Care Of Our Own“ or “The Rising“ to see what I mean). In addition, if you pick up the deluxe edition of the record, which is reviewed here, there are a couple of essential bonus tracks. In fact, “You’re My Favorite Waste Of Time,” an early B-side, might be Crenshaw’s greatest song, a four-track recording based around drum machines and a circus organ that is absolutely brilliant, from the vocal melodies right down to the cheapness of the sound itself. It certainly can be seen as a precursor to indie pop.
Bringing it all back home is a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On.” It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is a loving and heartfelt performance by someone who is clearly a fan. In fact, nothing on this album could necessarily be seen as breaking new ground. But it is an undeniably enjoyable and meaningful work from an artist who should be highly regarded by people who like their guitar pop straight up, no bullshit.