Punk and new wave was only one way of taking rock back to basics. Marshall Crenshaw took an altogether different approach, stripping back to three chord songs about girls, delivered by a tight three piece and earning comparisons to Buddy Holly. His 1982 debut features his brother Robert on drums, while Crenshaw handles all the guitar parts. The simplified arrangements of these songs are invigorating; the songs are snappy and intelligent, and even though the production places the album in the early 1980s, these melodies could have easily come from an earlier era. Crenshaw’s persona is so likeable that he can get away with a song simply about cruising around checking out girls, and make it innocent and laudable rather than seedy and leering. In a just world, half of these songs would be radio staples, and that these accessible songs didn’t make Crenshaw a superstar is almost unfathomable.
The lack of success of this album is magnified by the strong triple punch at the beginning; ‘There She Goes Again’, the power pop standard ‘Someday, Someway’ and the exuberant ‘Girls…’ (“You know I don’t want to be impolite/But I need someone to hold beside me tonight”) are some superlative examples of eighties pop. ‘Mary Anne’ builds a great song out of three chords and a minimalist melody, while ‘Cynical Girl’ is another winner. The other half of the record isn’t quite as strong, especially the cover of the ubiquitous ‘Soldier Of Love’, stopping this album some distance from perfection.
But any fan of intelligent guitar pop will cherish songs like ‘Someday, Someway’ and ‘Mary Anne’, and play this refreshingly sincere album often.