The Chicaynes/The Patriots
Second Thoughts/Pharoah's Land
(Bam Caruso; 1986)
By David Ritter | 5 May 2008
I will never see this LP in my waking life, but I see it in my dreams. I’m writing toward a lack, an inextinguishable desire, that lies beyond the realm of statistical possibility somewhere between the hospital (i.e. pansy-ass) lottery and the real (i.e. sucker) one. This LP (ok, split 12”) is rare in a way that makes your original pressing of Shake Some Action (1976) look like a 40th pressing of Live at Budokan (1979). You, me, and 99% of humanity aren’t intense enough about collecting obscure power pop wax to deserve this, the ultimate garage sale find—an album that a) no one has ever heard of, and b) is awesome. No, this privilege is reserved for la crème de la crème, the most no-lifenest, the rarefied collector with the one-in-a-million collection.
Rarefied Collector: Ha ha, I’m awesome!
Me: I am just a normal person.
RC: I leave record collections like yours in my wind. I despise you.
Me: Oh man, I stink.
[Enter the Internet]
The Internet: [Gleefully] I just digitized every record ever produced and made them available to you for free! Huddled masses, cling to me! I am democracy!
RC: My life’s work is a cruel farce.
Me: I smell better.
As the above dramatization proves without doubt, the internet has given us little folk the ability to hear shit we never could’ve hoped to hear. That is, without making some compromising life decisions. Granted, digitizing a rare, prized LP for wide distribution is like stealing the soul and leaving the body lifeless, but we the people are better off: we get to hear Second Thoughts/Pharoah’s Land, a little firecracker of a power-pop record that’s split between the Chicaynes’ skinny tie punk and the Patriots’ Beatle-esque pop.
Not much is known about either band. The Chicaynes are from Scotland and the Patriots from Pennsylvania, thus inverting the traditional pop/rock Atlantic divide. The Chicaynes provide the more American-style punk power pop on Second Thoughts, with lots of chunky palm muting and bright, spunky lead guitars. Songs like “Cry A Little” and “Another Pretty Face” are dead ringers for jointz off the first Beat album (those who know that record know this to be high praise). “Laughing Gas” is a strange one; the refrain is a Lord-of-the-Flies-after-things-go-to-shit level creepy chant that goes, “happy oh happy oh happy are we / happy till we breathe our last / happy oh happy oh happy are we / happy in the laughing gas.” Still, there’s even a touch of greatness here, with the reverb-soaked jangle and the “wa-oh wa-oh” vocals saving the tune from the faux-political rock wasteland. Each of the five songs on this side provides that double dose of fructose and high energy that constitutes the power-pop sweet spot. It’s rare that power-pop can transcend the genre ghetto: fuck the downticket volumes, this is Yellow Pills Vol. 1 material!
The Patriots’ Pharoah’s Land is more of a niche affair. Leaning more toward the Britpop side of power-pop, their offerings are appropriately inconsistent: standouts appropriate for singles are excellent, the rest have their “meh” moments. Side closer “That Way” is a killer early Beatles rip, with lots of sweet harmony, tambourine, and an intro to rival the best of ’em. “She Loves You Too” is a solid 1:44, and the rest of the side is a perfectly serviceable ’80s take on the ’60s. If you’re downloading (i.e. if you’re anyone), also nab the six demos floating around. They are the only other known recordings by the Patriots, and constitute the de facto bonus tracks of the reissue that will never come. “Last Night” is their crowning achievement: 2:20 of the best guitar pop that ranks as one of the great could’ve-been-hits. It’s a bright, two-part harmony affair that’s heavy on the Beatles (again) and brimming with hooks that would make Cyril Jordan jealous.
Nothing revelatory or genre-defining here, but for those of us always on the lookout for a collection of great songs with bang-on production to match, this is a hell of a ride. Power pop aficionados can lay claim to legions of unknown records, but few are as tightly focused and relentlessly catchy as this one. The unintended product of combining the two sides on one slab of wax is a prescient summation of late ‘70s and ‘80s power pop: before the genre went alternative in the ‘90s with Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, most bands went the American punk or the British pop route. That they’re separated on flip sides not only reinforces the “side of the coin” metaphor, but provides the perfect snapshot of a scene as conjoined as it was divided. The format, as apt as it is, we can’t experience. Still, happy are we: a once-rare power pop killer is now just a google search away.