Love for Peaks and Valleys
All Music - 4 stars (out of 5)
Chris Richards has been a hero to Midwest power pop fans for close to three decades, but thankfully he's not content to rest on his laurels. Released in 2018, Peaks and Valleys is his third album with his combo the Subtractions, and while it's full of fine tunes, plentiful pop hooks, and ringing guitars galore, just like 2009's Sad Songs of the Summer and 2012's Get Yer La La's Out, this effort adds some new elements to his formula. Since the last time Richards took the Subtractions into the studio, the group has expanded to a quartet, with Richards (vocals and guitar), Todd Holmes (bass), and Larry Grodsky (drums) joined by Andy Reed, who contributes guitar, keyboards, and vocals, as well as co-producing the album with Richards. (Reed is also Richards' bandmate in another project, the Legal Matters.) With Reed on board, the Subtractions sound fuller and richer, still efficient but with a greater sense of dynamics than before, and the speedy chug of Richards' guitar has evolved into something more evocative. The harmonies are better on this set, with Reed a splendid vocal match for the headliner. And as the title suggests, Peaks and Valleys boasts an emotional range that's broader than that of the first two Subtractions LPs. "Half Asleep," "The Coast Is Clear," and "The End of Me" are upbeat and full of energy, which has long been Richards' stock in trade, but there's a moody undertow to "Call Me Out" and "Just Another Season" that conveys a heartache Richards hasn't often explored with this band, and the final one-two punch of "Thirteen" (a cover of Big Star's classic tale of adolescent longing) and "Weekend" packs an emotional wallop that sets this album apart. With Peaks and Valleys, Chris Richards & the Subtractions conjure both sunshine and shadow, and find beauty and heart on both sides. It's a welcome step forward from an artist who has always had plenty to offer. - Mark Deming 2018
Powerpopaholic - 9 (out of 10)
Chris Richards and The Subtractions take the next step in musical evolution. Newly added guitarist Andy Reed, who also works with Richards in their other band The Legal Matters adds his formidable skills. Regulars Todd Holmes(bass) and Larry Grodsky(drums and percussion) round out The Subtractions. And the band’s sound has shifted to be more in line with The Legal Matters crisp melodic style.
Opening with “Half Asleep” it balances the call-and-response guitars with a layer of harmonies and rich chord shifts that puts the band on a new level. “Just Another Season” is a mellower melody with some nice guitar subtleties, but it kicks back in gear with “The Coast Is Clear,” a west coast feel is all over those jangling guitar rhythms. The “hits” keep coming, with the music flowing in high energy peaks (“In A Sense”) and slower tempo valleys (“Wrapped In A Riddle”) throughout. After the album’s midpoint, it settles in a bit with some nicely written songs like “The End of Me” and “Maybe That’s All.” Fans of Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, and Matthew Sweet will enjoy the entire album and the cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and Sweet’s “Someone To Pull The Trigger” fit well here too. It’s all highly recommended and fits into my yearly top ten list for 2018. - Aaron Kupferberg 2018
Chris Richards has always written great melodic songs. As one of the Michigan Pop mafia, his work with others as been as impressive as his long established career. However, it's his albums with The Subtractions that show him at his best and most versatile. Their last album, 2012's Get Your La La's remains one of my favourite albums of that year.The trio have now expanded to a four piece and the addition of Andy Reed is a key addition. Away from Reed's Production on so many of fine albums over the past few years, his Reed Recording Company work remains highly sought, the main addition here are his Backing Vocals. Richards and Reed are two thirds of The Legal Matters and so it's no surprise about the Backing Vocals, but as a foursome, the sound seems fleshed out and brings the best out of these ten fine songs. Richards alone is a mark of quality, the expansion into a quartet has brought a whole new depth to his songwriting.The Quartet are completed by Todd Holmes and Larry Grodsky and lovers of the trio format need not fear as that Big Stir / Teenage Fanclub vine is still present and correct. It's just that this is taken further, best explained as a jangle dallying with Psych Pop. These ten songs provide his best collection yet. From the Psych Pop of opener, Half Asleep makes you realise that this is going to be a great trip and the melody doesn't let up. Riffs are plentiful, vocals awesome and Peaks And Valleys rarely slows down. On the odd occasion it does you get the likes of Thirteen and the exceptional, Weekend. Local Hero, Nick Piunti adds Guitar to In A Sense and Call Me Out, adding to the quality. If you want an lazy description, then Peaks And Valley is the sort of album Crowded House or Neil Finn should be making. I can't rate Peaks And Valleys higher, it's an absolute stormer.- Don Valentine 2018
Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Peaks and Valleys. Veteran power popper Chris Richards has been so active this decade with covers albums, compilations, live albums and appearances on other artists' records that it was almost shocking to realize that this is his first proper new album since 2009's Sad Sounds of the Summer. And a welcome return it is, as the man who was once hip enough to get a 7.3 on Pitchfork is back with ten new tracks that are most certainly more peaks than valleys. The peaks include the rocking opener "Half Asleep", the pop perfection of "Just Another Season" and the Raspberries-esque "The Coast is Clear". Other highlights include "The End of Me", "Call Me Out" (which sounds like a mid-80s AOR hit) and an interesting cover of Big Star's "Thirteen" which turns it into a mid-tempo band-backed performance as opposed to the largely acoustic Alex Chilton original. And not to be overlooked are the Subtractions themselves, with Andy Reed now on board in a clear case of Subtraction by addition, and Nick Piunti (who himself has an great-sounding album coming this summer) chiming in with guitar on a couple of tracks.
The year is not even half over, and Chris Richards and The Subtractions' Peaks and Valleys has already become one of my favorite releases of the year.
Chris Richards and The Subtractions (In addition to Richards, the group also includes Todd Holmes on bass and Larry Grodsky on drums and percussion) have been around since 2004, and Peaks and Valleys is their first album since 2012's Get Yer La La's Out. In the interim, Richards and The Subtractions have released a trilogy of cover EPs called That Covers That. More importantly, Richards has been recording with the fantastic power pop trio, The Legal Matters, who released a self-titled album in 2014 and Conrad in 2016. Conrad was my favorite album from that year. Officially adding to the Subtractions as of the new album is Andy Reed, Richards's band mate from The Legal Matters and that group's other principal songwriter, bringing along his talents on guitar and harmonies. The Legal Matters also includes Keith Klingensmith, and all three of the 'Matters have contributed backing vocals to That Covers That EPs under the name The Phenomenal Cats.
If you wanted a template for the great guitars and harmonies on Peaks and Valleys, listen no further than Big Star's #1 Record and Teenage Fanclub's Grand Prix. The Legal Matters have covered both of these bands on their wonderful Trapper Keeper EP, so it's not surprising that the sounds are part of Richards's and Reed's musical DNA. One of the real treats on Peaks and Valleys is the cover of Big Star's "Thirteen." Other versions I've heard follow the guide of acoustic guitar and voice laid down by Alex Chilton on the original recording. The Peaks and Valleys "Thirteen" is a full-band version, and it's fantastic. It's even better than the one on the That Covers That EP from 2012. Richards's voice is full of teenage angst, and the kind of just-waiting-to-be-turned-down feeling that you might have when you're about to ask someone out. In some ways, it could have been an outtake from the first Big Star album if they decided to have Chris Bell take a go at the vocal. The sound of a heartbreak-waiting-to-happen is also very much a part of the slow groove that is "Wrapped In A Riddle." There are also some fine harmonies and strings. "Half Asleep" kicks off the album with a bang, and it's a tune that demands you crank up the volume. The Legal Matters covered The Beatles' "She Said She Said" from Revolver on their Trapper Keeper EP, and there's more than a little of that album's sound on this song. It rocks like "And Your Bird Can Sing," and there's a backwards vocal at the end just like "Rain," which was recorded during the Revolver sessions. Great guitar is all over Peaks and Valleys. There's "In A Sense," "Maybe That's All," "The End Of Me," which is a stellar showcase -- one of many on the album -- for the rhythm section of Holmes and Grodsky, and a wailing psych-blues finish to "Weekend." - Henry Lipput 2018
The great state of Michigan is proving to be a serious hotbed of indie pop music activity. On their latest release, Chris Richards and his Subtractions prove that quality songwriting and musicianship didn’t die with Tom Petty. Jangly guitars and sweet harmonies abound throughout “Peaks and Valleys,” leaving the listener with content ears. “Half Asleep” and “In a Sense” are both great, driving singles — the perfect accompaniment to car windows being rolled down for a summer road trip. Even when the tempo slows down, as it does on the pretty ballad “Wrapped in a Riddle,” there is an undeniable strength supporting it. Very highly recommended.- Dan Pavelich 2018
The Futureman label’s track record is still going strong with another fine, fine release, this one by Midwestern (Detroit, man) power pop guy Chris Richards. He’s been on the scene for a number of years (I reviewed his Get Yer La La’s Out back in 2012 when it was released) and here is this, the terrific Peaks and Valleys. Richards and his crew which includes another power pop guy with some real good records Andy Reed (who joins Richards on vocals and guitars and also chips in with some keyboards) plus rhythm section of drummer Larry Grodsky and bassist Todd Holmes. Oh and yes, Richards and Reed are also in the Legal Matters, another terrific pop band so with two bands and I’m guessing jobs and families, friends, etc….ummm…do they ever sleep?! With Richards’ songwriting and he and the bands playing they really nailed it here, 10 songs and no filler. Originals like “Half Asleep”, “Just Another Season” and “The Coast is Clear” (right out of the gate, the first three tunes!) and the “The End of Me” are all fabulous pop tunes with hooks galore and a tight, rockin’ sound. They also add in a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen” to show you where their hearts are and voila! Peaks and Valleys is a winner through and through. Between this record and the new Well Wishers one it looks like 2018 is shaping up to be a year of stellar pop records.
Chris Richards and The Subtractions are back with an addition. Andy Reed of The Legal Matters joins The Subtractions for Peaks and Valleys. As with past releases, guitar pop is the order of the day punctuated by some of Richards’ best songs ever, lots o’ guitar and big harmonies. The catchy “Half Asleep” starts things off just right leading into “Just Another Season”. With it’s chiming guitar and whopping hook of a chorus, this latter track is definite singles material. The slower “Wrapped in a Riddle” juxtaposes the earlier songs on Peaks and Valleys beautifully. A stunningly good version of Big Star’s “Thirteen” as well as a cover of Matthew Sweet’s “Someone to Pull the Trigger” serve to further bolster a top notch collection of originals. With all that said, the best songs are later in the album. “The End of Me” and “Call Me Out” feature stellar guitar work and killer harmonies. Come to think of it, the song writing and harmonies are awesome throughout the entirety of Chris Richards and the Subtractions’ Peaks and Valleys. Richard Rossi
WoodyJagger.com (roughly translated)
The last news we had from Chris Richards & The Subtractions was his recent participation in the excellent tribute to Matthew Sweet (disc edited also by Futureman Records and reviewed here ) with an excellent version of " Someone to the trigger " , now included in this new album " Peaks and valleys " as a digital bonus track. That collaboration foreshadowed an imminent record return after the "Get yer la's out" of 2012 that included tributes to some of his musical heroes, such as Elvis Costello, Sloan, The Kinks, Cheap Trick or the Rolling Stones.As is logical throughout his long career, guitars and voices once again coexist in perfect harmony, reaching on this occasion a very special luminosity together with a precious homogeneity that inherits the best melodic virtues of the Fab Four and, very especially, of Matthew Sweet as the closest influence in time. Michigan's album is opened with two delicacies like the glass of wine ( " Half asleep " and " Just another season " ). Another couple ( " The coast is clear " and " Maybe that's all " ) were responsible for heating engines in the promotion prior to the official release of the album.We have the marvelous " In sense " , the ballads " Wrapped in a riddle " and " Thirteen " , the contagious " The end of me " and " Call me out " , as well as the intense climax " Weekend " that completes a work that is positioned as clear aspirant to become the best album of melodic powerpop of this vintage. Johnny JJ 2018
Love for - A Smattering of Mystery and Sound (UK LP)
Chris Richards may not be a household name, yet, but he is no newcomer to the scene. He has been performing for numerous years in a variety of bands and guises since the mid-eighties. The most recent incarnation sees him playing with The Subtractions. Whilst the band may find themselves sharing the stage with many younger bands, this album offers a fresh and poppy sound which will appeal not only to Chris’ existing fans but also attract a whole lot more.
First song, “In A Sense” makes you aware, straight from the off, that this album is firmly in the power pop genre. Songs like this and “Call Me Out” have all the right ingredients in the shapes of crunchy guitar lines, vocal harmonies and a huge melody.
The album hits an early pop high with “She Belongs To Me” which is like a long lost Enuff Z’ Nuff song but without the lipstick and in full on Elvis Costello mood. It’s a similar style that returns on a number of tracks, including “Everyday Girl”. Whilst “Doesn’t Sound Like You” and “I Cant Quit Her” have a more sixties vibe that recall the likes of Jellyfish or The Posies.
They really step things up with the summertime feel of the effortlessly charming “Don’t Forget About Love”. The laid back feel also continues on the more traditional ballad esque “She’s Just Falling Out Of Love”. Really though, this album is just chock full of brilliant pop/rock numbers. Tracks like “Consolation”, “I, Miss July” and “Oh Canada (part deux)” are all equally excellent songs that demand listening to. Having a song titled “Sunny Day” is just perfect for this album as that would be the ideal climate in which to give it a listen. However, even on a wet, miserable day, the songs on the album will leave you feeling a lot warmer and summery.
At the start of this album, we were expecting another decent collection or slightly retro feeling power pop songs. By the end, it is quite obvious that we had underestimated it. The album is packed full of brilliant pop songs with the necessary strength and power to ensure that they aren’t ever lightweight. To have achieved this level of quality and consistency over thirteen tracks is no mean feat. If you’re looking for music to give you a pick me up, then this is definitely one to grab.
Love for Get Yer La La's Out
Long one of the unsung heroes of Midwest power pop, Chris Richards made one of the most engaging pop albums of recent memory with 2009's Sad Sounds of the Summer, his first album with his latest backing combo the Subtractions, and Richards and the Subtractions clearly know enough not to fix what isn't broken on 2012's Get Yer La La's Out. Everything that made Sad Sounds a treat is present and accounted for on Get Yer La La's Out -- big guitars that jangle or roar on command, a taut and energetic rhythm section that gives these songs the muscle and drive they need, a dollop of harmonies that give the melodies just the right amount of sweetness without losing the bite, and songs that have soaring melodies and killer hooks. If all this suggests Get Yer La La's Out is just a retread of Sad Sounds, that misses the point: that was a fine album and so is this one, and besides, you can certainly hear that this is a stronger and more confident band that works better together than they did three years ago. Bassist Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky are tighter and cut a leaner, more potent groove on this material, and there's more swagger and flash in Richards' guitar work, though he thankfully knows when to strut and when to get to the point. And Get Yer La La's Out rocks harder than its predecessor; this is still a pop album first and foremost, but the punch of the performances and the bark of these melodies is tougher, and clocking in at just under half-an-hour, this album makes a virtue of concision, delivering ten portions of high-energy guitar-centric bliss with spirit and panache, and then clearing out before they can be accused of wearing out their welcome. Simply said, Chris Richards & the Subtractions have made two top-notch albums in a row, and if you love power pop, Get Yer La La's Out confirms this band is as good as the Midwest has to offer in the new millennium. Mark Deming
Motor City Rocks
Chris Richards And The Subtractions new record – Get Yer La La’s Out – is chock full of the tasty hooks and melody you’ve come to expect from this Detroit trio. It’s no surprise that the songs are great and served up on top of a thick bed of jangly-but-edgy guitars and the harmonies are all sweet and “oooooh”-ey. What is surprising, though, is that they’ve actually one-upped their last effort – 2009’s brilliant Sad Sounds of the Summer. This time around, they seem even more comfortable in their shoes and confident in their step. Like they’ve got nothing to prove (and they don’t, really). There’s elements of The Beatles, Kinks, Matthew Sweet and Cheap Trick. I’d bet Chris listens to The Raspberries on his way to band practice. Then Hüsker Dü on the way home. Then The Bangles on Sunday morning (no shame in that!). Given these influences, you’d expect the songwriting to be top-notch, and it is. The driving power-pop if It’s Something keeps your head boppin’ while I’m No Saint keeps the balls-out attack restrained just enough to allow the hook to sit front and center. There’s no runt in this litter, and the LP version includes a Who cover bonus-track. Jeremy Porter 6/20/12
Now This Rocks!
I’ve been eagerly awaiting a follow-up to the 2009 effort, "Sad Sounds of the Summer" (review here), from Chris Richards and the Subtractions. I’m happy to say the band has raised the bar even higher on their new release, “Get Yer La La’s Out”, comprised of 10 near-perfect guitar-driven pop rock confections.
The sparkling opener, “Don’t Do Anything Tonight” reaffirms that you are in for a treat. It’s the perfect track for cruising with the top down, radiating with sunny melodies and gentle backing vocals. “It’s Something” adds to the happy-go-lucky atmosphere with its stomping verses and soothing chorus. The crunchy “Sleep All Day” and “December” provide a taste of the extra bite that imbues this collection of tunes compared to their previous outings. Other highlights include “And Suddenly”, “Head Above Water”, and the harmony-laden “They Won’t Mind”.
Combining the heartland rock vibe of Tom Petty and Will Hoge with the power pop prowess of Wanderlust and Tommy Keene, Chris Richards and the Subtractions have outdone themselves here – highly recommended.
The Bodhisattva Beat
Remember all the great power pop posing as alt-rock in the early 90’s? Even if you don’t, there was some really good stuff being going out over the airwaves (this was pre-internet too) before the music business decided all it would back was rap, pseudo-grunge and boy bands.
Somebody sure remembers because that’s what Chris Richards and the Subtractions are all about. They also do it very well on their latest release “Get Yer La La’s Out.” There are plenty of retro bands out there that just make me want to play the originals instead. Not so with these guys. The music is more akin to a breath of fresh air with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Plus the songwriting is first rate. Don’t we all miss fun rock and roll that stands up to critical musical scrutiny? Sure some recent groups have offered up a song or two that meet the criteria, but here is an entire album’s worth.
Matthew Sweet was the first comparison that came to mind, especially with the guitar riffs. Then I saw the Big Star influence, a bit of the Lemonheads, a touch of Tom Petty and the occasional 70’s arena rock guitar thrown in just for kicks. “Get Yer La La’s Out” doesn’t let up either. With no ballads to be found, it is a concise 30 minutes of good rockin’. Perfect stuff for driving (with the top down in my case) and singing along. The brevity of the collection also keeps it from wearing thin. Far to many artists unnecessarily feel compelled to fill a CD to the brim. This band makes their stament and gets out. There is truth in the old showbiz axiom, “Always leave ‘em wanting more.”
If you think that I am biased because this is a band from Southeast Michigan, you are wrong. I had never heard of Chris Richards and the Subtractions until a friend recommended them (thanks Will). The close proximity is just icing on the cake because I will have convenient opportunities to see live performances. I may be heavily into more complex and avant-garde music but I love me some quality rock-n-roll as well. “Get Yer La La’s Out” is a fix for a jones I didn’t even realize I was experiencing.
Pop Geek Heaven 4 1/2 stars
The Subtractions new record is a stunning display of power pop dynamics, the kind of record that never lets up, one churning popper after another like Meyerman or The Turnback. Lead singer Chris Richards is a compelling guitarist who could probably entertain all night with just the guitar. ”It’s Something” shares some DNA with Supraluxe in its addictive dynamic, like a Ford assembly line that snags your sleeves as its going by. That’s before the Turtlesque bridge. ”And Suddenly” emits a slight Posies fragrance but stomps a little harder and chimes a little louder.
“I’m No Better Than You” is a Sloan-like rocker that cleverly incorporates the title into the music before a word is sung. Richards’ guitar dazzles on “Head Under Water” with a multi-tiered Mayan solo. ”I’m No Saint” sounds like a long lost Zombies hit. Mike Baron
Powerpopaholic- Get Yer La La's Out review (9 out of 10 stars)
Chris Richards is one of the Midwest’s finest power pop stars and he continues to dazzle us on Get Yer La La’s Out. Both veterans, bassist Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky join in the fun. On the opener “Don’t Do Anything Tonight” is rich in jangling rhythm, driving melody full of memorable hooks. Fans of REM, Tommy Keene, Sloan and Teenage Fanclub will gleefully soak it all in. The next several tracks “It’s Something” and “And Suddenly” continue this pure pop bliss. The entire album follows this template, and although we are missing a slower song, or ballad you may not notice. This is guitar pop heaven, as the riffs on “Head Under Water” ring in your head.
There is a slight danger of songs sounding too similar, but the composition and tone changes keep things fresh. On “December” the band takes more of a hard rock approach and “Uncertainly” is a rousing finale that recalls Squeeze with Chris’ vocal even sounding like Glenn Tilbrook at times. Turn up the stereo and blast this one, summer’s here in a big way!
Metrotimes- City Slang- Get Yer La La's Review
Chris Richards and the Subtractions should be commended many times over. First of all, the title of the album Get Yer La La’s Out is awesome. A Rolling Stones tribute and boobies all in one title. But the music, ah the music. Think Cheap Trick, think Marshall Crenshaw, think Elvis Costello. It’s poppy, new wavey, Brit invasion-y goodness. Great song writing, awesome musicianship, normal looking dudes. Much to love. - Brett Callwood
Wilfully Obscure Chris Richards and the Subtractions - Get Yer La La's Out (2012, Gangplank) - a brief overview
A couple months ago when I was introduced to a nationally unknown Detroit-area export from the late '80s, Hippodrome, there was a name in the lineup that rung a significant bell. It turns out that had I already been exposed to the solo offerings of Hippodrome's figurehead, Chris Richards. In fact a compilation of his work in Hippodrome, The Pantookas and beyond, Pathetic History 1990-2000, had already made an impression on me a decade prior. With a penchant for linear yet savvy power pop Richards hasn't exactly been perched on the cutting edge of his chosen genre, but much like Tommy Keene, his songs beam with an irrepressible Midas touch. That was certainly the case with 2009's Sad Sounds of the Summer, the first album credited to his latest assemblage Chris Richards and the Subtractions, a trio also featuring one of his Hippodrome henchmen, bassist Todd Holmes.
Get Yer La La's Out is the slightly more assertive yin to Sad Sounds' brighter, goes-down-easy yang. With ten (or eleven if you take the vinyl route) short but sweet nuggets, Richards proves once again he's a thoughtful steward of quality control. This time out, the band have created an album that's just as much Buffalo Tom and Dillon Fence as it is Matthew Sweet and Velvet Crush. La La's... is guitar pop perfection on a stick, without any of the cotton candy fluff. Wherever the needle or laser lands here is likely to yield a blissful result, but I'd start with "Don't Do Anything Tonight," "It's Something" and "Uncertainty." You can stream the whole thing from their Bandcamp site, and if you like what you hear buy a physical copy at CD Baby or through Chris Richards and the Subtractions website.
The Indie Page
Some stellar new power pop from one of Detroit’s indie institutions. Chris Richards has been churning out hummable, strummable, guitar-driven power pop for the better part of two decades now. This, his 2nd LP with his band the Subtractions, is a fresh new platter of that tried and true formula – with warm, chimey guitars, infectious melodic hooks, and spine-tingling harmonies.
RIYL:Teenage Fanclub, Big Star, Tommy Keene, Matthew Sweet
Pop Underground- 5 New Things
I loved his last album, and this is even better than that. Winning all around… a great track is They Won’t Mind.
Sad Sounds of the Summer Press
Chris Richards And The Subtractions- Goldmine
One of the joys of this pop writing gig is running across discs that come flying out of left field and lodge themselves in the ‘ol CD player for quite a while. One such recent goodie is Sad Sounds of the Summer by Chris Richards and the Subtractions (Gangplank Records). The Michigan-based Richards has been on the fringes of the pop scene for quite a while, with bands such as The Pantookas, Hippodrome and the Phenomenal Cats, but he comes a cropper on this record, with track after track (there’s 10 of ‘em) of propulsive power pop with sticky melodies. Richards’ voice recalls a smoother version of the Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey, and is bolstered by honey-sweet backing vox. Picks to click: “Consolation,” “Take it From Me” and “I Do Declare” (with drummer Larry Grodsky doing his best Keith Moon). John Borack
CD Review: Chris Richards - Sad Sounds of The Summer (Gangplank Records)-Rock and Roll report
June 18, 2009 by Scott Homewood
(ed. note - It seems like the new Chris Richards CD is a big hit here at The Rock and Roll Report. Aaron Kuperberg gave it a rave back in April and Scott Homewood seems to enjoy it as well. Two reviews for the price of one! Sounds like a keeper!)
Let me tell you: nothing gets me ready for the summer quite like a great power pop record! I can remember when I was eighteen and driving the first car I had bought myself. I had just graduated high school and was determined to celebrate the hell out of the Summer before going to college in the Fall. The car was a gift I had bought myself as I was sick of bumming rides off friends and just hanging around waiting for someone else to take me somewhere. It was MINE, dammit! Nothing is quite like that feeling when you’re that young, having your own car and being alone on the road without your parents driving with you (or driving you) and being able to go where you want to go when you want to go there - the whole calling your own shots thing. The first thing I used to do after inserting the key into the ignition and starting it up was turn on the radio and try to find some sort of driving rock and roll I could sing (poorly) along to. Cheap Trick, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Greg Kihn (c’mon - you know you love it) - and all the other great catchy new wave of the day just made driving as fast as you could more fun than it should’ve been.
Somehow, I survived that summer, Lord knows I did so much partying and racing around I probably shouldn’t have - but I am glad I did, because besides all of the other cool things in my life, those artists and tons of new ones who have released incendiary power pop over the years have kept me charged up for more summers and every other time of year. In fact, I have been tuning up my car recently, just waiting to hit the open road with this new Chris Richards CD I knew his “people” would be sending me to review. You see, I have all of Richards’ previous CDs and Richards has long been one of the better craftsmen at creating propulsive power pop and has spent the last decade or so proving it on the four solo albums he’s released during that time, all of which I enjoy immensely.
Thankfully, this album is no different as Richards once again proves he can go catchy-chorus-for-catchy-chorus with the heavyweights like Fountains of Wayne and even though his songs are not as bombastic as some, with the big drums sound etc, Richards hits all the right spots with his Tommy Keene-like style. Another great thing about Richards’ music besides his guitar work being simply spot-on riff and solo wise, with a bunch of sleazy rock style thrown in is his vocals. Not an overpowering singer, Richards’ voice nonetheless embodies the rock and roll spirit as much as Tom Petty’s or Neil Young’s and his vocals are perfect for the kinds of songs he writes. For me, yet another winner from Richards.
Any fan of a catchy, well-written song that just sounds great when you’re driving, dancing, fighting or fucking will love this new album by Chris Richards. Not only is he good at what he does, but he understands it. Just because there isn’t a missed trick on this album, doesn’t mean that Richards just throws them all in there willy-nilly. Richards knows when to throw in a middle-eight so good it’ll make you miss Badfinger and when to throw in some handclaps and ohh-ohh-ohh’s so that the whole thing makes sense. This is not a pastiche of a long-forgotten style. This is some of the best power pop you’re going to hear this year and all by an artists who excells at it. Trust me: buy this album and you’ll be singing these songs to the beach, to the picnic, to the bar, to your friend’s house etc. and before you know it, you’ll have a new favorite CD. I can say I’ve seen it happen….because it happened with me.
Not Lame-Product Description
I *knew* Chris Richards had it in time to deliver a true treasure. With "Sad Sounds Of The Summer" he has. With his band The Subtractions, Richards has found fellow musos to articulate his jangle pop vision. Just jump in head first below and start listening to what`s going on here. If you are a fan of The Windbreakers, Bobby Sutliff and Tim Lee, this kind of music is going to win you over big. Echoes of many Swedish power pop bands we love so much are here(check out Song #2 below), alongside pumping Velvet Crush-like guitar lines(see Track #1 below), Tommy Keene inspired melodies(Song #4) and The Lolas(Track #5 below) -- and so much more. The guitars ring proudly, the vocals soar heavenward and the hooks rip the line off the fishing rod - it`s pure pop delight.
I mentioned that his previous albums were mansions of happy, sunny and bright pop melodies, chippy guitar sounds and snappy vocals and the same applies here, but in spades. All areas of the creation are upped to a higher level - everything rings stronger, brighter and exhibits quiet confidence that only a veteran can deliver. EXTREMELY Highly Recommended!!
All Music Guide (4 stars) by Mark Deming
Chris Richards has been kicking around the Detroit music scene for the better part of 20 years, releasing a handful of noteworthy records as a member of Hippodrome and the Pantookas, but he didn't start recording under his own name until 2004 with his fine solo debut Mystery Spot, and Sad Sounds of the Summer, his first disc with his new backing combo the Subtractions, confirms his status as one of the Midwest's unsung heroes of contemporary power pop. Richards has been in the game long enough to have a firm command of the classic hard pop lexicon, and he's learned to write a memorable hook and a ear-catching melody with the same ease and aplomb as Tommy Keene, the Posies, or Sloan. But Richards' tunes have a freshness, energy, and punch that shows he's a kindred spirit, not a follower, and the big guitars, spot-on vocal harmonies, and walloping backbeat of songs like "I Can't Quit Her," "I, Miss July," and "I Do Declare" are pure pop bliss of the sort that was supposed to have died out in the 1990s. Richards' guitar work is straightforward but powerful throughout this album, lending the melodies plenty of body and force, and bassist Todd Holmes and drummer Larry Grodsky (both veterans of Richards' earlier bands) give these performances the rock-solid framework they need. David Feeny's clean, resonant recording makes this album sound just as good as the songs deserve, and the result is one of the best examples of Nuevo power pop to emerge from the Rust Belt in many a moon; the title might be Sad Sounds of the Summer, but this disc is 37 minutes of guitar-powered joy that will satisfy your craving for hard-rocking pop all year round.
Monday, 29 June 2009 Power Pop Station (Brazil)
"Sounds Of The Sad Summer: CHRIS RICHARDS AND THE SUBTRACTIONS!
Counterpoint may be the art of combining different melodies harmoniously. Or the ability to harmonize guitars and fierce energy of rock with the soft and gentle climate of pop. Or, put issues in hopeless and sad songs to sound optimistic and radiant. Title Sounds Of The Sad Summer brings in itself a contradiction and irony. As the letter from "Sunnyday", "let me bring the rain for your sunny day" ...
And is this art of counterpoint exercises that Chris Richards and shows his mastery. The singer-composer from Detroit delivers his first album with The Subtractions (Todd Holmes and Larry Grodsky), after a career of nearly two decades with other groups and solo career. His references are great Beatles, Elvis Costello, Positions and Tommy Keene, and their interest, offer fresh breeze to the contemporary power pop.
"I Can not Quit Her" starts the string of pearls of energy and charisma instrumental pop. "Consolation" equalizes the brightness of guitars with vocal harmonies and angelic "Sunnyday" brings rascantes riffs and sweet melodies. "Oh Canada (Pt. Two)" applies a catchy chorus ganchudo while "Take It From Me" invites to sing with his perfect pop.
"I Do Declare" recalls the power trio is the motor city and progression of chords of "Beg Or Borrow 'and forget that it is the specialty here pop powerful. The battery plate of sticky pop melodies and flying in "Southern Belle" to summarize here the counterpoint favorite of Chris Richards and Subtractions is called, simply, power pop.
Power Popaholic April 08, 2009
Chris Richards and The Subtractions "Sad Sounds of the Summer"
Detroit's Chris Richards and the Subtractions have released their latest collection of hook-laden, power pop. Richards has been doing this for a long time (since 1989) and the experience shows. The crunchy guitar riffs lead the opening "I Can't Quit Her" and more sweet melodies and luscious harmonies follow. There is enough rich reverb on the Raspberries-like "Consolation" and heavy rock guitar on "I, Miss July" that it demands repeat listens. Richards has expanded the popularity of the group worldwide, where he explains, “I've been fortunate to have my records released and do well in Spain, Sweden, Japan, and Australia and both the press and fan reaction have been amazing. It's a challenge trying to let fans in multiple countries know we’ve got a record out, but there’s such a great network of the music’s fans out there that word just seems to spread.” Some tracks have a thick jangle texture to them, like "Oh Canada (Part Deux)" and others remove the wall of sound and keep the melodies in the forefront (reminding me of Del Amitri a little) in "Take It From Me." It's hard to argue with such good music, but we only have mid-tempo and heavy rockers here (no ballads) if you want to be picky. "I Do Declare" has some great percussion work courtesy of drummer Larry Grodsky and "Beg or Borrow"has an amazing guitar solo ending. Fans of the Posies, Lolas and Tommy Keene will be in pop heaven with this one. Overall, this album is exemplary of the genre, and thus deserves a top ten nod for 2009.
3/31/2009 Detour- Detroit's Indie City Guide
Being classified as “power pop” is often a dangerous, slippery slope. On one hand, you get instant adoration from a group of music fans that are as fanatic and devoted to the genre as most Europeans are to watching soccer (er, uh, football). On the other, the often over-earnestness of some power pop groups seem to turn off the hipsters; indeed, the “cool kids” aren’t often accepting of the “everyman.” But, when you have somebody as purely talented as Livonia-based power-pop legend Chris Richards — backed on his new disc by the Subtractions — giving a shit about what’s cool and hip becomes secondary when you focus on the guts and glory of the songs. On Sad Sounds of The Summer, thick guitars tangle with a locked-in rhythm section, and Richards’ familiar tenor rolls nicely over top, as each song is blanketed in a hefty amount of jangle and fuzz. Oh, and let it be known: the man knows his way around a quality bridge. Fans of the Posies, Teenage Fanclub, and Big Star are certainly going to dig the shit out of this, hipsters be damned. — Ryan Allen
3/30/2009 Absolute Powerpop
Chris Richards & The Subtractions-Sad Sounds of the Summer. Talk about patience paying off. The power pop community has been waiting a good five years for the followup to Chris Richards' Mystery Spot, a power pop disc so well-received that it even managed a 7.3 from Pitchfork. Well, our long national nightmare is over. The Detroit popper has added a backing band and released Sad Sounds of the Summer, and it's just what the doctor ordered - even if the sounds aren't sad and it's springtime. Some tracks jangle more than others (opener "I Can't Quit Her"), some rock harder ("I, Miss July"), and some do both ("Oh Canada"), but all are quite fine. Meanwhile, Richards' backing band really helps him focus his sound here, a clear case of addition by Subtractions. A must-have for classic power poppers.
Detroit Free Press 3/22/09
Detroit power-pop threesome Chris Richards and the Subtractions have plenty of snap and crackle on their full-length debut "Sad Sounds of the Summer" (***, Gangplank, out now), a brisk, punchy outing that belies the implications of its title.
Everybody in this trio has been on the music scene for decades, with Richards' solo work preceded by stints in Hippodrome and the Pantookas. It was in those groups that he met his current rhythm section of Larry Grodsky (drums) and Todd Holmes (bass). Sweet melodies and luscious harmonies put this one in the Gin Blossoms-Marshall Crenshaw-British invasion ballpark, which is not at all a bad place to be.