The Bigger Lovers
Honey in the Hive
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2003, Volume 10, #1
Written by T.J. Simon
Catchy power chords and monster hooks blended with harmonies and likable instrumentation are the basic ingredients to power pop success. In its purest form, music from this genre should kick you in the fanny and stick in your head long after the first listen. Remember the first time you heard Matthew Sweet’s 1991 masterpiece Girlfriend? If you never heard it again, odds are you’d still be able to hum some of the album’s more memorable songs eleven years hence. A Philadelphia quartet known as The Bigger Lovers puts this formula to the test on its second release Honey in the Hive. The disc features the shared vocals of Bret Tobias, Ed Hogarty, and Scott Jefferson along with Pat Berkery on drums. The album was produced by Thom Monahan who has worked with Scud Mountain Boys, Pernice Brothers, and Beachwood Sparks.
The Bigger Lovers cites as influences the power pop canon of The Move, The Beach Boys, Cheap Trick, The Soft Boys, and Big Star, and the harmony vocals on Honey in the Hive are delivered in a falsetto register making the group sound, at times, like a Flaming Lips unplugged session — particularly on the tracks Make Your Day and Half Richard’s. The singers often use a faux brit-pop inflection that works quite well on Don’t Know Why, but fizzles on A Simple How Are You. The exceptional tracks (Ivy Grows and Bought Your Ghost) are balanced by the crummy You’re in Love Again and the uninventive They Haunt Me Still. The only song featuring piano is the album’s final cut Minivan Blues, and if the track sounds at all familiar, try singing Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You over it. It fits like a glove.
Honey in the Hive is not a bad album, and the songs become more tolerable with each passing listen. Unfortunately, power pop shouldn’t have to grow on you. It’s supposed to be audio ear candy that grabs you after the first sampling, not something requiring a sizable investment in time before the listener gets it. This album has some wondrous moments, but they are sadly few and far between. Among other problems, Honey in the Hive is in desperate need of a cadence change as many of the songs share the exact same tempos. There are lots of other groups today doing the same thing much better than The Bigger Lovers. Try Frisbie, Starch Martins, or The Waxwings to hear what the power of pop can be if only it’s placed in the right hands. ½
Honey in the Hive is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box