CD Review: The Golden Seals “Increase the Sweetness”
The Golden Seals‘ new release, Increase the Sweetness, fits very comfortably in the powerpop mold. You know, songs about a girl or relationships gone wrong. Dave Merritt’s new set of songs adhere for the most part to this thematic tradition, but don’t let that fool you. Increase the Sweetness’ songs may fit topically, but these songs are anything but typical.
The first thing that strikes one when listening to the opening cut, “Kick It”, is the simple arrangements, a less is more approach that usually has me thinking “less is less”. Not here. This stripped down approach lets the lyrics shine through. That was a great decision because lyrically, this is a great record.
In “Kick It” Merritt sings:
“Kick it away like a dog on your leg but it won’t let go / You could change if you wanted to change but I need to know: / is this the real stuff? If it’s not then enough’s enough.”
And he’s just getting warmed up. “Wetsuit” starts off with drums right out of Elvis Costello’s “The Beat” and then provides us with another memorable line.
“Put your wetsuit on, we’ve got important work to do / like raising the titanic mess we’ve made of me and you.”
But for me, the tipping point is the fourth song on the record, “The Year Things fell Apart”. Not only is the song one sticky sweet pop hook after another, but Merritt grabs the listener with his humorous reference to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. “We could use some education, we could use some thought control / To help us pull ourselves out of this hole”, Merritt sings.
“No more arsonists above us or arseholes down below . You say things could get worse but I don’t know…”
“Half Life” slows things down at just the right moment, “Civil Unrest” is another song that I found
to be amusing (and kinda Squeeze-like, but just a bit), “July 1st” keeps the momentum going, and “Woke Up Laughing” is something that wanders outside the powerpop blueprint just a bit. The LP finishes with “We’re Doing Something Right”, a song that sounds like it should have been the theme song to a 70’s sitcom. I say that with a great deal of affection for the genre as it takes a tremendous songwriter to come up with something so hummable that Paul Williams, Carol King, or Niel Sedaka could have written it.
Increase the Sweetness isn’t just a good pop record. It’s really good entertainment.
Finally, here’s The Golden Seals performing “The Year Things Fell Apart”