TonyDoug's CD Reviews: AqPop, Pretendo
by tonydoug wright
AqPOP, Beautifully Smart (35G Records, 2004)
THE BAND: Thor Jørgen Holm (Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Bass and Drums), Karl Morten Dahl (Guitars), Jade Hasselgard (Vocals and Piano), Thomas Ingdal (Bass and Drums) and Andreas Knudsen (Drums)
THE HISTORY: AqPop was formed in Trondheim, Norway in 1999 but was known as Chime Poppers and then as the Aquarium Poppers. Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records released Beautifully Smart, the band's debut album, in the U.S. AqPop has also released three 7" albums and are featured on six compilation CD's.
THE REVIEW: I thought about impressing the readers with a little bit of Norwegian history, because when I was an undergraduate student, I took a class on Scandinavian History. Then I remembered that my professor's specialty was the rule of King Christian IV and his involvement in the Thirty Years War but Christian was Danish. But after that I remembered that I wrote a paper about the military efforts of King Gustav Adolph II at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632 but he was the King of Sweden. Finally, I remembered Norway's role in the development of the Union of Kalmar and you all could probably care less on what I know about Norwegian history.
That's enough of my trip down history lane, so now let's focus on Beautifully Smart by AqPop. This album can be best described as a 1960's pop- and Elephant 6-influenced psychedelic rock effort that features two fantastic vocalists in Thor Jørgen Holm and Jade Hasselgard. Holm and Hasselgard are good vocalists on their own but they do blend well vocally on tracks such as 'The Day', 'Command Smileable' and 'Syranid'. AqPop also delivers some rock numbers with 'Relate That Something' and 'Radio 60', which should get you dancing within a matter of seconds. Beautifully Smart is a marvelous debut from AqPop thanks to their great musicianship and exceptional vocals.
Pretendo, Pretendo (Country Club Records)
THE BAND: Devon E. Levins (Guitar and Vocals), John Castro (Bass and Vocals) and Stephen Calhoon (Drums)
THE HISTORY: The saga of Pretendo involves Las Vegas, San Diego, New York City, instant breakfast drinks and love for Kiss Army merchandise. Pretendo is the debut release from this band of ex-members of Creedle, The DaoSon For, Skeleton Key and Enon.
THE REVIEW: The name Pretendo reminds me of an obscure comic book villain from the 1960s who I picture as a crazy bald guy with a black goatee, a red cape and an uncontrollable urge to take over the world. Pretendo would be the number one nemesis to an American Cold War propaganda hero like Jimmy "Gee-Whiz" America or Captain Democracy. And during each issue we would see poor Pretendo try to take over the world but the hero would stop him at the last moment and the world would be safe until the next issue.
Now let us focus our attention on the band called Pretendo who really tested my nerves with their self-titled release of post-punk-noise-rock that is somewhat vocally similar to Modest Mouse and musically similar to Mission Of Burma. I am not going to lie to you but the first few listens of this Pretendo album were less-than-impressive. But as a true reviewer I gave this band plenty of listens and their music grew on me a little bit more every time.
'MC Hot Chef', the opening track, really sets the pace for this album with its caffeine-fueled attitude and catchy chorus. Pretendo keeps up the frantic tempo with 'Samurai Sessions' and 'The Scorpion' but they slow it down for another great track titled 'Never trust A Waitress'. From there Pretendo finishes well with 'Cherry Tomatoes' and 'Young Ones'. Overall, this self-titled release is a good debut from a bunch of bald guys with black goatees and red capes who want to take over the world.