Paul Collins, Feel The Noise
Even if you don’t know who Paul Collins is, trust me, you know him. You may not realize it, no, but if you’ve heard any kind of guitar-heavy pop-rock made in the last 30 years or so, odds are good that there’s at least a little bit of his influence floating around in there; the man’s a real-live godfather of American-made power-pop, and he laid down the blueprint that a whole slew of later bands would follow, from The Posies and Teenage Fanclub to Guided By Voices and The Hold Steady.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t aware of Collins during his days with seminal power-popsters The Nerves or The Beat (the latter of which has evolved in recent years into “The Paul Collins Beat”) — what can I say? I was a metalhead kid back then — but after years of loving bands like the aforementioned Teenage Fanclub, et al, I finally heard The Beat themselves, and it was like a lightbulb going on: “Oh. Okay, I get it now — this is where those other bands came from!”
These days, Collins may no longer have that unruly mop of hair (age grabs hold of us all, unfortunately), but musically, he’s barely missed a step. He’s wandered off the path in recent decades, dabbling in roots-rock and such, but Feel The Noise plays like some long-lost classic from 1979, rolling down the track full of fire and desperation and a big pile of bitterness.
Title track “Feel The Noise” sets the stage, fuzzed-out and defiant and sounding like a picture-perfect template for straight-up, punkish pop. Collins keeps up the speed for “Only Girl,” all bright and warm, barreling along with a great, nimble riff and some awesomely chiming, twinned-sounding, Byrdsian guitars. “Baby I Want You” is more forlorn, and even more classic-sounding for it, bumping and bouncing with a “London Calling”-esque rhythm.
“I Need My Rock n’Roll” amps things up again for a blast of Cars-sounding, jaunty pop, and its utterly gorgeous, so fervent you can’t help but believe Collins when he declares his love for the music. (Plus, the guitars make me think of The New Pornographers, which makes me grin extra-wide.) “With A Girl Like You” is similarly cool, albeit more sweet and delicate, as is the gentle, melancholy “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.”
For their part, “Baby I’m In Love With You” and “For All Eyes To See” come off defiant, galloping, and heroic, fist-pumping throwback anthems that’ll make you want to pump your fist at the sky. Then there’s “Little Suzy,” which is garage-y and addictive, with an excellent, excellent, stomping rhythm.
On a side note, I have to say that I’m a little conflicted on “Don’t Know How to Treat A Lady” — it’s a little weird to hear Collins sneering at his would-be rival, promising he’ll steal away their girl by treating her nicely…except that he’s still basically treating her like a possession anyway. That said, though, I still like the song a hell of a lot for what it is; it’s damn near perfect otherwise.
The album ends with an unexpected one-two punch; first, there’s a stellar cover of the Four Tops’ classic “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” which holds tight to the heartfelt soul of the original while grinding down the song’s edge to something that’s more jagged and roughened. Collins and company come off like distant cousins to The Animals, and that’s no bad place to be in my book. Then there’s “Walk Away,” sweet and forlorn, with Collins being left but seemingly resigned to the end of the relationship.
It’s a great ending to a great album, seriously, seemingly pointing backwards to the things that influenced Collins himself while letting the band slowly drift away into the distance, heads raised high despite the pain. Here’s hoping Paul Collins doesn’t ride off into the sunset like that for a good long while yet.