The power pop landscape is littered with bands that shine brightly for one or two albums and then seem to disappear. One such band is Los Angeles’ Tsar, who’s 2000 self-title release was one of the great pop albums of the previous decade.
A potent mixture of glam, new wave, and killer hooks, Tsar is one of those albums that still kicks even after 12 years. Created from a template of Cheap Trick and T Rex and adding a healthy dose of Redd Kross and a dash of Supergrass, the four-piece found a way to mix the elements that made each song equally fist-pumping and memorable.
The album begins with one of the best one-two power pop punches ever, the snarling Calling All Destroyers and the swooning, swooping I Don’t Wanna Break Up. After hundreds and hundreds of listens, these two still get me every time. The songs weren’t produced into sterility, so there’s a vibrancy and element of danger to the tracks that often gets filtered out in production. The band takes it down a notch with the psych-laced Silver Shifter before powering back up with the punky and propulsive Kathy Fong is the Bomb. Check out a recent acoustic version below.
The album settles into a more consistent groove after that, highlighted by the pop perfection of Monostereo and ballad, Ordinary Gurl. The record rounds out with Bowie meets Teenage Fanclub gem, The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die.
After some label issues, the band returned with a follow-up, Band-Girls-Money, in 2005. The album had a handful of notable songs, including the classic, Love Explosion, but it didn’t have quite the impact of the debut. The band has been quiet since, though word is an E.P. may be on the horizon. I certainly hope that’s the case.
Have you heard Tsar? If not, get busy for the sake of my power pop heart.