A weirdly out-of-time collection of big moody pop, producer-engineer Everett Young's new album features hushed vocals and electronic keyboard and drum sounds reminiscent of '80s easy-poppers Tears For Fears and Howard Jones. Thankfully lacking the over-emotive bombast of those acts, the subtle presence of acoustic guitar textures adds a hint of regret to the proceedings while casting a gauzy veil of sadness over most of the songs.
Produced and conducted in his studio in Stone Mountain with Tim Delaney of the Swimming Pool Q's and the Sight-Seers, Young formulated the core ideas of the album while on a writing retreat in Joshua Tree, Calif. The juxtaposition of dry West Coast ruminations with a humid Southern sensibility gives the album a uniquely divided feel. The division generally works, serving to create a subtle geographic tension.
Opening track "Paid for the Trade" sets the introspective tone for most of the disc. "Rags to Riches," like Night and Day-era Joe Jackson, artfully meshes gently biting Tin Pan Alley sarcasm with Midwestern idealism. Except for the mention of the Internet, album highlight "Every Time I Look at You" could very well be a lost nugget from the Valley Girl soundtrack. An enjoyable power-pop romp, it's the herky-jerky synth and guitar-driven retro pleasure fellow '80s causalities the Producers and the Romantics continue to recycle. Unfortunately, Young has buried his best and most overt rockers deep in the album.
Twenty-plus years after the New Wave explosion, as corporate rock promotes "new" American Idols and screaming wrestlers, the discerning pop fan can find comfort, solace and some good clever fun, deep in The Ground.