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The Now People - The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair - 2006

The Now People - The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair - 2006

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To complain about a lack of originality of an album like The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair would be to miss the point to a fairly astonishing degree. The very concept of originality barely enters into the equation for Now People, a Los Angeles-based chamber pop quartet whose apparent goal isn't to further the stylistic boundaries of pop music, but to create a Platonic ideal of a certain stripe of soft pop from the past. The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle is an obvious touchstone, naturally, as is Love's Forever Changes minus the paranoia and drug-induced angst. (Pet Sounds, like the Beatles' influence on power pop, is so obvious a starting point that it barely even bears mentioning.) Now People's leader, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Steve Stanley, is an old hand at this stuff, having produced or annotated literally dozens of reissues of soft pop rarities, and co-contributors Alan Rubens, Probyn Gregory, and Nelson Bragg have similarly long rГ©sumГ©s in the current L.A. pop underground. (Gregory and Bragg are also mainstays of Brian Wilson's current band.) The key to The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair is that Stanley and friends never get hung up on specific emulations of iconic AM pop gems: there are no ostentatious homages to rare Turtles' B-sides for the trainspotters to get excited over. The few overt musical references are impressively wide-ranging, from the lilting bossa nova feel of the summery "A New Life for Us" to the Stevie Wonder-style harmonica that graces the moody ballad "Waiting" to the incongruous appearance of "Old and Gray," a mock '20s trad jazz tune in the style of the early Bonzo Dog Band or the Temperance Seven. In the mold of other successful updatings of this musical style (the High Llamas' Hawaii and John Southworth's Mars, Pennsylvania come immediately to mind), the craft on display is in how Stanley evokes the feel of pop classics of times past in a new, more personal context. Now People are contemporary musicians creatively excited by now-unfashionable sounds and ideas, not clinical genre obsessives whose only artistic criterion is how closely they can approximate one particular retro vibe, which make s The Last Great 20th Century Love Affair an enjoyable, endearing listen. -AMG

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The album code is : ODI168893

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