Stepford Knives | Blue In The face B/w I Don’t Want Her (Anymore) on blue vinyl 45 with artwork sleeve!
Richard Rossi 2/12/20
Stepford Knives are Jamie Hoover and Otis Hughes. Their new single is a winner in more ways than one. This is pop music at it’s best and most effective – appropriately delivered on blue vinyl. Even the cover artwork is colorful and expressive.
“Blue in the Face” is the “A” side, hence the blue vinyl. For those who like their pop on the cerebral side, this is the track for you. The disjointed nature of the composition can make you squirm a bit, making it perfect for a theme that’s uncomfortable. Not unlike those Partridge/Moulding compositions of yesteryear, Hughes and Hoover aren’t afraid to shake things up a bit – or take the pop formula and turn it on it’s head.
By contrast, the “B” side is pure radio friendly power pop. Sponetones fans will absolutely dig “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)” with it’s bounce, guitar jangle and catchy chorus. Roll the car window down and turn it up.
Steve Stoeckel plays ukulele on the “A” side, which is pretty cool. And the cover artwork by Issa Ibraham expresses an angst that’s befitting of the “A” side.
Steford Knives’ “Blue in the Face” / “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)” is available on blue vinyl or digitally through CD Baby. Get the vinyl while supplies last.
Jamie And Steve | “Sub Textural”
Jamie & Steve Offer Yet Another Perfect Pairing
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN JULY 19, 2017
The Spongetones aren’t exactly what you would call your basic household name, but former bandmates Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel do deserve credit for an ability to produce almost perfect pop, the kind that strikes an immediate impression even on first listen. Hoover and Stoeckel have a terrific savvy and affinity when it comes to making memorable records, and although their new joint effort, Sub Textural, is only six songs in duration, it offers enough substantive material to affirm their creative prowess. While the brevity of the effort all but ensures that the odds against failure are stacked in their favor, the duo makes it clear that that they have matters well in hand when it comes to crafting exceptional songs. From the robust opener “Sword of Love” through the dreamy ballad “Flutter,” the funky deconstruction of “In a Little Tango” and the sprightly refrain of “Cry,” the music remains consistently compelling and quick to find the kind of connection that lingers long after the final notes fade away. Indeed, their ability to craft such consistently tuneful entires all but assures instant
Stepford Knives | “I Don’t Want Her (Anymore)”
Buy “I Don’ Want Her (Anymore)”here at iTunes only!
Jamie Hoover’s latest project with Otis Hughes, is the wonderfully-named Stepford Knives, which may or may not call to mind an image of sharp tools exhibiting zero emotion that still manage to live on the cutting edge. These Stepford Knives, however, are full of emotion and pop goodness, delivering a powerful take on a great song from the late David Enloe, guitarist for the Woods.
This insanely catchy, hook-filled song explodes with fireworks-powered percussion, lots of gutsy guitars, a strong melody, and in-your-face vocals. Mastered to impress (and boy does it!) by Dave Harris, the song’s quite-alive psychedelic light show-powered video, created by Phillip D’Angelo, is an essential component of the complete Stepford Knives package (see it here).
Bravo, Messrs. Hoover and Hughes, and don’t let too many days flutter away before your next wonderful creation hits our ears!
Jamie Hoover | “Jamie Two Ever”
Release Date: November 04, 2014
BY FRED MILLS
Anyone even remotely familiar with the North Carolina music scene knows of guitarist/songwriter/producer Jamie Hoover, a co-founding member of Charlotte’s beloved Brit-beat combo The SpongeTones as well as an in-demand producer (he operates his own Washateria studio in nearby Clover, SC). Hoover’s also a notable solo artist in his own right, and his latest offering began life as an a cappella project that was apparently necessitated by surgery leaving him temporarily unable to play any instruments. The material gradually evolved and resulted in an album with some vocals-only tracks and others fully fleshed out, and while fellow ‘Tone Steve Stoeckel guests on bass and guitar for one track,Jamie TWO Ever is otherwise an all-Hoover/all-the-time project.
Of the a capella tunes, perhaps most striking is the Beatles’ “Misery,” pure sonic bliss for any Fab Four fan. There’s also “Star,” a distinctively Fab Four-esque Stealer’s Wheel hit from ’74 penned by the Wheel’s Joe Egan: it’s cast as a full vocal group with multiple Hoovers (I counted either at least 4, and possibly 5 or 6, discrete voices, including a thumping basso bassline) and is appropriately jaunty—love those throaty “kazoos,” lads! Hoover’s original composition “Press Save,” meanwhile, hearkens back to the golden era of streetcorner singing groups, suggesting that had Hoover come of age prior to rather than after the British Invasion he might’ve fronted a charts-ascending doo-wop outfit.
SpongeTones fans are nicely served here as well. “Lost,” the track with Stoeckel, is warm and inviting Wilco-esque pop, and another early Lennon/McCartney classic, “I’m Looking Through You” hews true to the original while slipping in some intriguing key and chord twists. Then for all you Left Banke fans out there, sonic heaven awaits in the form of Hoover’s treatment of “Walk Away Renee.” Throw in a cover of longtime Hoover pal and studio cohort Don Dixon (“Righteous Side of Love,” done up in rousing rock ‘n’ soul fashion), and you’ve got a pretty damn inspired affair through-and-through. As most of these tunes retain a certain vocal-centric arrangement vibe that doesn’t fully obscure their a capella origins, the album additionally suggests that should Hoover decide one day to revisit the concept—or for that matter, make his original demos available—he will find a willing audience eager to listen.
Tee Shirts and Mech!
If you want to wear it-here it is! Other items will appear here-as the products develop
Jamie And Steve | “Circling”
February 27, 2014
There is a certain safety in knowing that you are in good hands–hands that have seen much the same landscape as you, hands and heads and hearts that have witnessed what you have, even if such witness comes from a slightly different perspective. In our lives, especially as we get older, we are either strong in our resolve to carry forth with a determined effort and create art that lives and breathes with a force of strong will, or we coast on our past triumphs, our heads held in our hands and pointing down, down, down.
Thankfully, the team of Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel, Spongetones and Van DeLecki’s and writers and co-writers and solo and duo performers on the world music stage, have the strength and resolve to carry on swinging for the fences. Their guitars and mandolins and percussion instruments tuned and strung and subsequently alive, they continue to perfect their sound, always looking to raise their bar and achieve something new and grand and simply outstanding.
When, not too long ago, the power went out in the venue they were playing one fateful night, Jamie and Steve took the ball and punted. They created, on the spot and in the moment, the concept of circling, of eschewing the stage and performing on the floor, the patrons surrounding them–circling them–as they hung their acoustic guitars over their shoulders and simply played. Lit candles, their flames glowing, added more than a touch of intimacy to the proceedings. The duo played and sung their hearts out, and those patrons, witness to a new and exciting concept in performance, came away with an experience they would remember always.
In this newly-charged manner of performance, the audience circles around Jamie and Steve, who become the inner circle. This concept of circling, a term which, if all is fair, will enter the various dictionaries that watch the language of the world, has given way to the fourth Jamie and Steve release, an EP calledCircling, a six-song collection in which the duo applies the very idea of circling to their always fertile imaginations. Just as they have invented a new way of performing, they have come up with new ways of giving birth to songs, of surrounding them with their deep skill and delivering a new experience to their audience. Thus, at least two of the songs on Circling take the collective output of Jamie and Steve and turn it on its very head.
The opener, the upbeat, propulsive, sort-of psychedelic “Origami Woman,” is one example of Jamie and Steve’s bold new approach. With electric guitars that sound like they were borrowed from Queen’s Brian May, the song starts out with a pseudo-Who vibe and quickly sports a complex chord structure and a couple of rhythmic shifts. Steve’s bass is a standout as the story of the vision of a woman who appears through the smoke and mirrors of, perhaps, a dream is laid out: “like a paper just unfolding/turns to vapor as I’m holding/bits and pieces tiny creases/revealing secrets of/my Origami woman.” Mysterious and tantalizing–a dream turns to reality turns to…
Another song that surprises with new touches of bold creation is the rather amazing and vital “Spin Drift,” which begins life as a pretty ballad, telling the story of perhaps the most perfect place on earth and then the sudden, as the music turns dark and stormy and percussive, tumbling down into waves of turmoil: “Down down to see the headlights next to bones of Atlantic sea flights/Cold and darkness it bubbles up eventually to see the…Sunlight!” and then calmer seas and sky erase the scare of the ocean… “Such a perfect place to be found/Bleeding me of desire to ever go home/I’ll spin and drift.” The moral of the story: Even paradise has its dark corners. But never has paradise, even with its hidden treachery, seemed to exciting.
Two of Circling’s songs are straight-ahead, linear pop numbers with lovely melodies and, especially in the wonderful “You,” delicious chord changes and harmonies. “Wonder Girl” sits firmly in A Hard Day’s Night ballad territory, with a delectable guitar solo pulled straight out of the 1964 George Harrison playbook. The rather contemporary, upbeat pop song, “Skeletons,” and the gorgeous ’60′s vibe of the title song, a jazzy specimen thanks to an understated horn arrangement, complete the latest Jamie and Steve package.
What occurred to me as Circling played through was that if musicians are on top of their game, they will deliver disc after disc of purely magical songs. Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel have been on top of their game for more than three decades. Here, for 21 minutes, they are more than on top of their game. They are just about floating above it. They have worked hard on these songs, and it shows. You, thankfully, don’t have to work as hard. You just have to listen.
Jamie And Steve | “Imaginary Cafe'”
(2013) by Beverly Paterson
For the past few years, Jamie Hoover and Steve Stoeckel of the Spongetones have been moonlighting as a duo. Clinging tight the melody-matted pop rock essence their long-running North Carolina band is universally adored for, the terrific twosome, needless to say, craft an immediately likeable sound.
Here on Jamie and Steve’s third full-length effort, Imaginary Café (Loaded Goat Records), we’re once again showered with a showcase stashed with clever songwriting and instrumentation.
An imaginary café, as Jamie informs us, is a place where the guitars are always in tune, the voices are in great shape, the audience smiles after every song, and it’s the perfect gig. Well, in my opinion, the fellows have accomplished such a lofty feat!
Sprinkled with sheets of spacey distortion, complemented by a quirky angle, the title track of the disc nails psychedelic exploratory practices to a new wave outlook with impressive results, and then there’s the super catchy “Gold Mine” that bounces merrily to rousing rockabilly rhythms tinged with touches of Merseybeat magnetism.
A hard-edged undercurrent penetrates the angst-ridden “A Dangerous Man To Know,” and “Your Name Here” strolls and rolls to an easygoing, lazy summer day kind of pace dripping with the type of tipsy dance hall music overtures Ray Davies of the Kinks possesses an affinity for.
Suffused with harmonious singing, punchy guitar chords, spirited keyboard movements and herds of biting hooks, Imaginary Café radiates righteously with radio-ready fare. Jamie and Steve are top of the line pop rock architects, and this highly enjoyable record is a solid testimony to their creativity.
Jamie & Steve | “The Next Big Thing”
By Dan Pavelich
Following their full-length debut album, “English Afterthoughts,” Jamie Hoover and Stoeckel decided on a different approach. Rather than record another full-length, the duo agreed that releasing an e.p. would allow them to release more music, with a shorter turn-around time.
As with their long-time combo The Spongetones, the approach is pretty similar; write catchy pop songs that would’ve been right at home on the a.m. radio of the ’60’s and ’70’s. While that rule wasn’t strictly adhered to, it does furnish the listener with a familiarity and appetite for the material as soon as it is heard.
On “Seaside Sparrow,” which sounds like a fabulous Wings’ outtake, Stoeckel’s sweet verses are meshed perfectly with Hoover’s unexpected Eastern-flavored responses. Injecting little surprises like this are the duo’s strong suit. Check out the ukulele they sneak into the second verse of the bouncy, Carnaby-Street “Dancing On Ice.” It’s a brilliant idea that most retro-leaning musicians would never come up with.
Check these guys out, you really won’t regret it. Rarely will you ever come across musicians like this, who not only strike out to scratch their own creative itch, but your’s as well. Drop by iTunes and sample some of their ear candy.
Jamie & Steve | “English Afterthoughts”
By Alan Haber
Another home run from the Spongetones and related wellspring! Sounds like the first of a long run by the newly-crowned Spongerly Brothers! If the Everlys made pop records in 2009, this would be the result. And with these songs… I’m glad to see you and Steve doing the duo thing! “Emily’s Ghost” is another ofthose too-rare-these-days examples of the perfect pop song, one of those songs you play to someone who you want to hear what they’ve been missing. Short and sweet and exploding with melodic bliss, it’s just something out of this world. I also love “Fly Girl,” with its glorious harmonies. “Let’s Don’t Count this One” explodes, a slice of modern-day beat music, with great harmonies and backgrounds. And “Girly Girl” drips pop bliss, with a gorgeous chord sequence wrapped around a hooky melody. I mean, I love the whole thing, but there you go–you and Steve have made a wonderful record, on permanent spin here at Pure Pop and buhdge headquarters. You have made the holiday season a wonderful place to be.
Jamie Hoover | “Coupons, Questions, and Comments”
The following is a review from The Hard Report (June 15 1990):
As admitted earlier, it was a week that memories ran rampant on the old music box, but time was set aside for things new. Jamie Hoover ‘s “Coupons. Questions and Comments” has been lying next to the play pile for a while, and when it finally got an audition I had to smack myself in the head for waiting. Jamie is no newcomer, as any fan of the late great Spongetones will attest. You’ve also seen his name on records by pal Don Dixon , Marti Jones and most of the things recorded at Charlotte ‘s Reflection Studios. The 13 tracks on this Triapore Records release swell with solid pop ingredients, and hooks that were made for Summer nights. These are singles, as in seven inches with a big hole in the middle. They’re the kind of singles that when played on a jukebox, mesmerize you into following them with your eyes as they spin at 45 RPM. The trio of “Coupons”, “Questions” and “Ve Box” are Big Star/dB’s/Records/Todd beauties, and “Duo-Not” leases the intro to Joe Jackson’s “Friday”before settling in to a pure pop groove. All the tracks shine brightly, and this kid can’t stop playing “Lie In Tlie Fire”, a song that is too beautiful for words. Find this record and play it every day.
Jamie Hoover | “Jamie Hoo-Ever”
Outstanding collection of “New Classics” and Beautiful Music
I’ve been a fan of “Spongetone” music for awhile and have (of course) now become a fan of Jamie Hoover’s solo work and work with other projects. I generally don’t like (or buy) “remake”, “best of” or “as presented by” products but this one is different and remarkably so! The surprising, metal treatment of “Sukiyaki” is the best I’ve heard. “Izzat Love” sounds like the Beatles AND Todd Rundren (on their best days) .. “Cathy’s Clown” sounds as good as the original. I was most astounded by “A Summer’s Place” and “Elusive Butterfly” – OUTSTANDING treatments on both of these. Bottom line: it’s a a Jamie Hoover product, it’s outstanding and it is worth every single penny of it’s purchase price.
Jamie Hoover and Bill Lloyd | “Paparazzi”
by Alan Haber
Hoover and Lloyd come together as one on Paparazzi, the duo’s first album together after a long history of co-writes. The boys play the two-sides-of-a-coin approach so well that it is sometimes hard to tell who is singing lead, or how much input either had into any given song. It’s that seamless. Any music fan would do well to add this album to his collection. You pop neophytes without a CD collection to call your own: start here and build from there.
In partnership with the great Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken (a more knowledgeable music guy cannot possibly exist), Hoover and Lloyd pull off the unimaginable: a perfect pop album that’s going to be hard to surpass in this or any year. The classy love letter to sixties pop, “Show & Tell the World,” is a hit single if ever I heard one; the vibes and tympani accents alone allow this song to soar to previously unreached heights.
The softer side of Hoover and Lloyd can be heard on the gorgeous ballad “As You Were.” Lloyd’s vocal, somewhat understated, is one for the ages. There is no mistaking the Partridge Family (or is that Jellyfish channeling the Partridge Family?) influence in the spirited “Still Not Over You.” The could’ve-been-should’ve-been sentiment of the jangly “It Could Have Been You” is similarly infectious.
So there you are: two great performers, performing at the peak of their powers together and on their own (and don’t forget Diken’s drumming on Paparazzi, which only takes the enterprise to another, higher level).
Hopefully, the three albums under discussion here will see wide distribution and win the artists untold new fans. Genre distribution being what it is, the limitations forced on even the greatest records unfairly keep them from having what are often referred to as legs. That’s where you, the music fan, comes in: Don’t hesitate to spread the word on these great albums to everyone you know, from the classic rock fan to the classical enthusiast; from folk aficionados to just plain folk who love simply great music. Encourage your local record stores, no matter how large or small, to stock them and other great albums that suffer the curse of many a great record: little or no radio play or print coverage. Photocopy this review and stick it under the doors of every apartment in every apartment building in your neighborhood. Cut the grass of people you don’t know if they’ll just listen to these records. Call people blindly by picking their names out of the phone book; in this election year, they’ll be happy to be getting a call from someone other than a politician or a pollster. I can just hear it now…”You want to recommend the latest albums by Jamie Hoover and Bill Llloyd…?”
The Van DeLecki’s | “Letters From The Desk Of Count S. Van DeLecki”
**** Chris Woodstra, All Music Guide The Van Delecki’s Letters From the Desk of S.Van Delecki isn’t much of a departure from Jamie Hoover’s band, the Spongetones — lots of harmonies, pure pop melodies, and plenty of hooks. The album, for the most part, is more relaxed and has fewer blatant Mersey references with light acoustic, folky arrangements playing a bigger role. And while the Spongetones album that preceded this project moved into the same territory, this one is more effectively executed. __ Bob Lind For those readers unaware of Jamie’s work. He played guitar for years with the cult favorite group VanDelecki. He not only writes his own songs, but is also a top-notch interpreter of other people’s music, including mine. He’s just come out with two new CDs: JAMIE HOO-EVER — a best-of collection (which features “Elusive Butterfly,” by the way) — and PAPPARAZZI, which features him with Bill Lloyd and Dennis Diken.
The Van DeLecki’s | “Ebum Shoobum Shoobum”
The Van DeLecki’s are Jamie Hoover and Bryan Shumate.
Jamie has been an original member of The Spongetones for the past 27 years-as well as guitarist for Don Dixon, Marti Jones, Graham Parker, utility musician for Hootie & The Blowfish, and fill-in bass player for The Smithereens. Jamie’s duties in The Spongetones include songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, producer, recording engineer, arranger, bassist, sometimes drummer, and other various musical noises. Jamie has recorded and produced all nine records for The Spongetones, with rave reviews in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Trouser Press, Goldmine, and many others.
Bryan Shumate fronted Charlotte pop band “Let’s Get Mikey” and recorded a solo cd entitled “Alamo”. Bryan sings and plays guitar.
This is their second effort-they’re first being “Letters From The Desk Of Count S. Van Delecki”-also on Permanet Press recordings.
The SpongeTones | “Beat And Torn”
The SpongeTones | “Beat Music” (cover shot of Airmail Recordings version-Japan)
Beat Music • Ripete • LP-Parke Puterbaugh
Rolling Stone, 1983
One of the things that keeps me listening to rock & roll is its almost magical power of spontaneous generation. As one vine withers away, healthy new shoots appear in the most unlikely places. Among the more promising of the new breed are the SpongeTones, a neo-Merseybeat group from Charlotte, North Carolina. Though the band coalesced out of a pool of local musicians who played Beatles covers at a Charlotte club, the SpongeTones’ maiden LP is full of nothing but originals. From the jump to it opening bars of the beat raver “Here I Go Again” to the woozy, slow-mo psychedelia of “Eloquent Spokesman,” the grooves on Beat Music are aglow with a forward-thrusting musical abandon that recalls the glory days of many of the most familiar British Invasion front-liners, including the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, the Zombies and the Who of “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.” But the SpongeTones’ music has little of the rote, dogmatic obeisance of mere revivalism; instead, it sounds like the soundtrack to a party so good it could never happen in real life.
My favorite cut is “Cool Hearted Girl,” which wraps an irresistible guitar hook around a pumping, “She’s a Woman”-style tune. But this is the sort of album that’ll have twelve different people picking twelve different favorite cuts. Get hip — tune into the SpongeTones.
Japanese Release of “Torn Apart” EP on Airmail Records.
Torn Apart • Ripete EP -Kurt Loder
Rolling Stone, 1984
Merserybeat was a brief musical moment on the rock & roll time line, but what a moment. Twenty years later, its trademark jangling guitars and high harmonies can still induce instant nostalgia for the irrecoverable innocence of that era. North Carolina’s SpongeTones have the sound of the first British invasion down cold, as they demonstrated on their debut album, Beat Music, and on Torn Apart, their new, six song EP, they offer further proof that they can write, too.
The SpongeTones’ main aural icons are the Beatles, of course. The yearning vocal that rises above the whining combo organ and lagged beat of “Lana-NaNa” is eerily Lennon-esque, and there’s good, dumb fun to be had inserting your own head shaking oohs into the exhilarating “Have You Ever Been Torn Apart?” Equally neat are the lovely “Now Your Gone,” with its crispy strummed acoustic guitar, and (My Girl) Maryanne,” which conjures up the gorgeous fizz of peak-period Hollies. Not every song works: “Shock Therapy,” a respectable rocker that does not partake of the Mersey canon, sounds out of place in these highly stylized surroundings, and “Annie Dear,” which evokes the playful mannerisms of Paul McCartney, may seem less than lovable to those who feel that Paulie’s particular brand of whimsy played itself out long ago. For the most part, though, the SpongeTones’ delightful tributes to the mist-shrouded Mersey era are so well crafted that they might well have been hits back then. Certainly they deserve to be heard here and now.
The SpongeTones | “Where-Ever-Land” (Originally on Triapore Records-and rereleased on Permanent Press Recordings)
This album received a “Recommended” in Rolling Stone magazine!-Parke Puterbaugh
A wonderful, now-out-of-print reissue of this 1987 release from the fabulific Spongetones! This version comes with five bonus tracks (two unreleased demos and three acoustic songs performed live on a radio program), so one has to have it just for that, yes! “Power-pop neo-classicists whose chrome-shiny originals sound better than yesterday and fresher than tomorrow. “Forget About Mary” is a rollicking kickoff. “Anna” and the title song are lacy aural dreamscapes with gorgeous harmonies. All in all, a side trip to a pop rock nirvana that`s well worth making”-Rolling Stone. “The greatest paying tribute to pub-rock as well as Merseybeat”-Billboard. A release that is all-too-often over-looked by fans and one that many don`t, sadly, know about since it was fairly hard to find upon its initial release. Don`t miss these copies before they disappear,as well, as it`s not to be missed for fans of the band!
The SpongeTones | “Oh Yeah!”
Their first three CDs, Beat Music, Torn Apart, and Where-Ever-Land were all three very positively reviewed in Rolling Stone Magazine.
This, their fourth record was released on Black Vinyl Records-owned by power pop icons Shoes to rave critical acclaim and provides nothing but fun and excitement.
Piloted by ringing guitars, honking harmonicas and songs so infectious they could almost be branded sinful, the album tastefully blends charming Merseybeat roots with a dash of Kinks infested fury and resonant folk rock ala the Beau Brummels.
The SpongeTones | “Textural Drone Thing”
*This album contains the song “Skinny”-by The Spongetones-as heard on ABC “World News Now” every night on “The Skinny” section of the show!*
Their first three CDs, Beat Music, Torn Apart, and Where-Ever-Land were all three very positively reviewed in Rolling Stone Magazine.
This, their fifth record was released on Black Vinyl Records also to receive much critical acclaim.
By incorporating their trademark stance of sincere power pop with a heap of heady psychedelic madness and even a touch of Claptonesque guitar moves, the band skillfully explores and embraces a novel territory on the positively awesome Textural Drone Thing.
The album is clearly highlighted by the brilliant songwriting of Stoeckel, Walters, and Hoover, and as an added bonus, famed country popster Bill Lloyd teamed up with Hoover to write a trio of tunes for the album.
Music listeners far and wide are sure to appreciate and enjoy Textural Drone Thing, while radio programmers across the land will no doubt spin the daylights out of the disc. (quote by Beverly Paterson)
Note: The cd itself included in this Black Vinyl packaging is a new artwork design by Michael Slawter, and is a second pressing-pressed from the original master!
The SpongeTones | “Odd Fellows”
PopMatters Music and Comics Critic
When does mimicry end and innovation begin?
It is perhaps superfluous to comment that nothing is original in the 21st century pop music scene. Not when the main objective of most up-and-coming bands/acts is to imitate and reproduce whatever is successful. And no, I won’t bore you with examples.
For the Spongetones (viz. Steve Stoeckel < vocals and bass, Pat Walters < vocals and guitar, Jamie Hoover < vocals and guitar, Rob Thorne < drums), success meant being lauded for an uncanny ability to evoke the sound and style of their major musical influence (the Beatles circa 1964), not as a cynical act of self-promotion but a sincere labor of love.
This strength has been the band’s distinctive feature on all their albums since debuting in the early ’80s. However, with diminishing commercial returns, the Spongetones as a unit, went into hibernation and new album, Odd Fellows, represents a comeback of sorts after five long years.
The label in question, Gadfly Records, has an excellent track record in releasing music made, not by the hippest, trendiest cats on the block but by artists of consistent quality like Kimberley (Soft Boys, Katrina and the Waves) Rew, Robert Crenshaw and Western Electric (featuring ex-Long Ryder Sid Griffin).
Never out of place in such exalted company, Odd Fellows finds the Spongetones doing what they do best < crafting songs in the mid-sixties style and fashion without embarrassment and without artifice. Right out of the blocks, “You’ll Come Running Back” suggests the R&B-informed beat pop popularized by the likes of the Animals and there’s no stopping the ‘Tones from that point. The muscular “Boy Meets Girl”, charming “Dark Brown Eyes”, rollin’ “Eyedoan Geddit”, bouncin’ “Too Much Talk”, heartfelt “Home”, rustic “Nightsong”, wistful “A Love Song for Mrs. Parker” and lusty “Much Too Slow” suggest that the hiatus has not left the ‘Tones bereft of ideas and verve.
That said, the best moment on Odd Fellows is a sparkling version of Paul McCartney’s “On the Wings of a Nightingale”, a song McCartney penned for the Everly Brothers. The ‘Tones attack the tune with gumption, with crisp harmonies and slinky harmony guitars < if anyone out there has doubts about the relevance of classic music making, The Spongetones should lay them all to rest.
The Spongetones | “BEAT! THE SONGETONES”
by Robert Sharp
“JUST GOT TO SAY YOU GUYS ARE JUST GREAT ON EVERY ALBUM!CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY ALBUM FROM YOU!”
One of the most underrated power pop bands of the ’80s, the Spongetones released several albums of effortlessly catchy guitar pop that captured the feel of ’60s British Invasion pop with remarkable accuracy and innocent charm. While they never received much critical or commercial attention, their music has aged much better than most power pop of the era (late ’70s and early ’80s), and among specialists they’re highly revered not only for their studio prowess but also for their spirited live shows. They are one of the few bands that gracefully carried on past the “skinny tie” fad into the ’90s and beyond — not as strict revivalists but as something unique. The band, comprised of Steve Stoeckel (vocals, bass), Pat Walters (vocals, guitar), Jamie Hoover (vocals, guitar), and Rob Thorne (drums), began as a covers band in Charlotte, NC in the early ’80s. They signed to the Ripete label in 1982 and released their first full-length, Beat Music, the same year, following with the Torn Apart EP in 1984 — the latter featuring esteemed guests Don Dixon, Mitch Easter, and R.E.M. on handclaps. Stoeckel temporarily left the band, returning in 1991.
By 1987, it seemed the Spongetones wanted to distance themselves from their revivalist reputation, leaving Ripete in favor of the independent Triapore and recording probably their most experimental and most un-Spongetones album, Where-Ever-Land. The album, produced by Don Dixon, flirted with garage rock, psychedelia, and the more fashionable jangle pop — all in all it marked a more muscular and harder-edged approach. The experiment failed for the most part and was short-lived. The band signed to Black Vinyl Records (owned by power pop icons Shoes) and found a true home in 1991. There they created, in the mold of their first two releases, possibly their most focused Mersey pastiche, Oh Yeah! Textural Drone Thing followed in 1995. In addition to regular band activities, Jamie Hoover released a solo album, Coupons Questions and Comments, for Triapore in 1990, and also formed the Van Delecki’s with Bryan Shumate, releasing Letters from the Desk of Count S. Van Delecki on Permanent Press in 1996. After a five-year band silence, the Spongetones finally returned in 2000 with the album Odd Fellows. Number 9 followed in 2005.
This is an archival release-of demos from the early years……..
The Spongetones | “Mersey Christmas”
I look for a new Christmas CD each year, but it has to meet certain criteria: alternative, up-beat fun; an anti-dote to retail radio I hear at work; definitely not cheesy! I found this CD on CD BABY; I hadn’t even heard of the Spongetones. I decided that I would buy it based largely on the hilarious “Little Wiped-Out Drummer Boy” track (named for the “Wipe-Out!”, surfer-style guitar riffs) and found it to be overall good listening. The kids like it (especially “Jingle Bells”), the husband likes it, and in spite of the braod range of musical styles we enjoy popping the thing in wholesale and listening to it as an album (not just for certain cuts.)
My friends tell me that the Spongetones are in general a great Beatles-like band, and you can certainly hear that in some of the cuts. I will likely check out their website and maybe even buy other of their albums, which are sure to be more polished and produced overall. No problems with the slap-dash or inconsistent here, though, because a real spirit of fun glows right through it all, tying it up in one great Christmas package. If you like Brit-pop-fun, I hope you will listen to a few cuts and check it out for yourself.
The Spongetones | “Number 9”
by Mike Ringle
Their Strongest Album Yet !
This is the album I’ve been waiting for The Spongetones to make. I own and love all of their previous work, but this is the strongest and most consistent effort I’ve heard from them. Great songwriting, musicianship, vocals, you name it, they’ve captured it on this CD. This is a must for anyone who loves straight ahead pop-rock. The spirit of the Fab Four and the 60’s lives on in these wonderfully talented artists, and their songs have a freshness and vitality that truly shines in today’s superficial musical world.
The Spongetones | “Too Clever By Half”
Alan Haber_April 12, 2008
“another spongetones classic, with extra-added cleverness on top”
The SpongeTones | Too Clever by Half (Loaded Goat, 2008) Proving once again that they are the collective gold standard for vocal pop groups, the SpongeTones return just one year on from their momentous best-of with a tremendously satisfying platter of digital wax that, like their stupendous Number 9 album from 2005, will be hard to beat when it comes time to tally up the list of best pop albums of 2008. Heck, it’s hard to beat right in the here and now, my friends, this collection of 18 perfect pop songs crafted with creative care by four music men whose keen melodic instincts are virtually unparalleled in the here, the now, and the wherever you care to imagine. Too Clever by Half is the latest chapter of a 30-year partnership between four finely-tuned musical wizards, and it’s just the sweetest gift a pop fan could hope for in this or any other year. Really, I could stop there, right then and there, because what could I say that I haven’t already said about the SpongeTones? Well, these fingers can always conjure up something to say when it comes to music this googly-good, so here I go tapping away… A finer leadoff track than Steve Stoeckel’s glorious “Invisible Girl” you wont’ find. A modern-day Merseybeat rocker with a sumptuous melody and rich, close harmonies that seem so effortless they float above the music, this song contains one of those shivers up the spine moments that are simply unforgettable: listen to the incredible harmonies at 1:58 and see if you don’t agree. Stoeckel, who had a hand in the writing of no less than 11 of these tracks (three of them with Jamie Hoover), scores with the short-and-sweet, straight-ahead pop song, “One More Day,” a beautiful showcase for the SpongeTones’ harmonies prowess and Jamie Hoover’s signature guitar style; the gorgeous “Erica,” a pretty ballad with more of those incredible harmonies; and the rockabillying, tongue-in-cheek “Elvis Doctor,” featuring some ultra-impressive, up-and-down-the-fretboard-at-the-speed-of-light guitar work and some white-hot drumming by the great percussionist extraordinaire, Rob Thorne. Hoover, wearing, as usual, the ceremonial SpongeTones All-Star Four-Cornered Hat (for producing, engineering, mixing and editing beyond the call of duty), teams up with the great Bill Lloyd for a trio of instant classics, one of which is a terrific showcase for a particularly ace, emotive lead vocal from Pat Walters. A how-to-survive-in-a-life-of-music song, “Your Entourage” zeroes in on some sage advice for a musician who has lost his way. The song is chock full of great lyrics, like “I’ve watched you change from my old friend to someone I didn’t know/Why do you need that flock of geese to follow you where you go?” It’s a great, great number, expertly performed. Amongst Hoover’s other hit bound tunes on this platter, the title track, co-written with Steve Stoeckel, is a bright, left-turn surprise. It’s an ultra-catchy love story sung by Hoover and Stoeckel against a lively orchestral backing, a welcome first for the group. Dig, especially, the very cool “Penny Lane” piccolo trumpet solo by band pal Doug Burns. “Three Kisses for You,” a lovely love song sung with conviction by Hoover, scores with an instantly lovable melody that will put a smile on your face and, hopefully, a kiss on the body part of your choice. But, as good as the title track and “Three Kisses for You” are, Hoover’s “Must Be Lust,” a wild and wooly amped-up, herky-jerky kind of springtime lust song that kicks off with a pretty face and gets jiggy with it with more creativity than can be expected to ooze out of an entire album, is the bomb. Ask Jamie where he got the idea for this one, and I’ll bet he’ll just smile back at you, a big honking twinkle in his eye. And so it goes. Too Clever by Half is another shining example of How. It. Should. Be. Done. And done well, I might add. Three kisses, uh, I mean three cheers for the mighty SpongeTones!
The Spongetones | “Scrambled Eggs”
Bevery Patterson-Twist & Shake-4/19/09
Ever since those mop topped British combos washed up on these shores in the early sixties, countless musicians have attempted to resurrect the excitement and sense of melody penetrating their snappy sentiments. Formed in 1978, The Spongetones are surely one of the best of the bunch. Although the North Carolina band has frequently flirted with other sounds and styles, they’ve never deserted their roots. Here on their latest album, “Scrambled Eggs,” The Spongetones channel the soul of John, Paul, George and Ringo (not to exclude occasional nods to The Searchers, The Dave Clark Five and The Hollies) with the same enthusiasm and expertise they’ve executed for years. Aside from the bluesy blast of the “Oh! Darling” influenced “Tough Love” and the rockabilly bop of “Propeller Flights,” the disc twinkles with pure pop action. Potent hooks as contagious as the chicken pox collide with jingly guitars and picture perfect choruses. “Talking Around It,” “All The Loving,” “It Can’t Go On Forever” and “Too Unlikely Two” are particular sparkling jewels found on “Scrambled Eggs.” Culling inspiration from “Something New” and “Beatles VI,” comparisons to the boys from Liverpool can’t be avoided. But The Spongetones are a clever and crafty lot, as they write their own songs that firmly stress their own creativity and originality. Ounce for ounce, cut for cut, “Scramble Eggs” is tasty and satisfying!
The Spongetones | ALWAYS CARRY ON: THE BEST OF THE SPONGETONES, 1982-2005
It would be an exaggeration to say the Spongetones have mastered every nuance of melodic rock and pop from A to Z. However, I’d contend they’ve assimilated all the best from B to X. That’s B as in Beatles and X as in XTC. Those are the inspirational benchmarks for this beloved North Carolina foursome. More generally, they internalized the musical stylebooks of both British Invasions“ the Merseybeat one of the mid-to-late Sixties and the New Wave uprising that kicked off in the late Seventies“ and then refashioned them into their own likeably upbeat and unfailingly resourceful sound.
Part of the fun of hearing the Spongetones is detecting faint echoes of favorite bands not just the Fab Four and the weirdly wonderful XTC, but also such revered touchstones as the Dave Clark Five and Rockpile. An even bigger kick is realizing that this foursome moved beyond their influences to craft a catalog of original pop songs that can hold its own with any other you might care to name. Incidentally, I mean pop in the best sense of the term, connoting energetic, innovative and melodic music capable of lifting the spirits and moving the feet. In my non-American Idolized universe, pop is not a dirty word but a signifier of excellence in a particularly rich stylistic realm with roots in the Sixties.
I have just one complaint about this disc, and it is certainly no fault of the Spongetones. Instead of being a best of, this should be a greatest hits. Catch the difference? These are some of the choicest songs from an idealized Top Forty in which the cream actually does rise to the top. In a review for Rolling Stone, I wrote that the Spongetones first album, Beat Music (1982), played through “like the soundtrack to a party so good it could never happen in real life.” That observation applies equally well to every other album they’ve released, too. And it particularly holds true for this absurdly generous 26-track compilation, which culls the best from Beat Music through Number 9. If you’ve never heard the Spongetones before, let’s just say you’ve stumbled onto a veritable Tutankhamen’s tomb of musical treasure. If you’re already up to speed, this will serve as a very tasty sampler for a catalog that, as you know, is worth devouring in its entirety.
The Spongetones pop odyssey began back in 1978 when Jake Berger, a musical ideas man from Charlotte, NC, assembled an impromptu combo to play some Beatles covers because well, just because it sounded like a fun thing to do. The Fab Four were eight years disbanded, the worst of the Seventies had begun to ebb, and punk and New Wave were reinvigorating the musical landscape with hooky, high-energy songs and brash, youthful attitudes reminiscent of the previous decade’s tuneful cannonades. Given such a climate, it was both natural and innovative to revisit the work of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds and their like.
For bassist Steve Stoeckel, guitarist Pat Walters and drummer Rob Thorne the three other Spongetones at that juncture the Sixties covers concept offered a chance to bring an additional decade of musical mastery to songs they’d played when they were teenagers. We thought, ˜Now that we really know how to play the stuff we were banging away at when we were 16, let’s have some fun and play this music to the best of our ability,” Steve recalls.
“The time was ripe for it,” adds Pat. Everybody was responding to the music of their youth, and we were trying to do it right. We really did run the gamut: ˜For Your Love,˜House of the Rising Sun, ˜You Really Got Me” And, of course, scads of Beatles songs.
“It had a rawness, too,” says Rob, “the way the originals had that rawness way back then.”
Those sporadic first Spongetones gigs were great fun and began attracting crowds. One night, guitarist Jamie Hoover was in the house at the Double Door“ the group’s home base of longstanding – thinking to himself how badly he wanted to be onstage with them. As fate would have it, another early member was about to leave and Jamie was asked to join on the spot after the show when he made his interest known. The final piece of this four-way puzzle had fallen into place, and the Spongetones went from being an intermittent lark to a seriously committed endeavor.
What really sent the group into a higher orbit was their decision not just to replicate, with chops and feeling, the music of their youth but also to bottle that lightning for themselves by writing original songs that took the styles of their mentors and influences as starting points.
“Jamie was one of those guys who had a four-track recorder at home when he was in high school,” notes Pat. “He was already working in a studio and starting to produce records. So when he joined and the crowds began getting even bigger, we said, ˜Man, we need to write some songs and see if we can capture the energy and excitement on some records of our own!”
“We’d been playing in cover bands, and it never would have occurred to me to take a step past that, but immediately Jamie and Pat said, ˜We need to write songs. We can do this!” Steve recalls. “So we took it to the next step of writing and recording our own stuff.”
The Spongetones debuted in 1980 with a single “Better Take It Easy” b/w “You’re the One“ released on their own Gear Records label. They also began working original material into the live shows, too. This took no small amount of conviction, because almost any other band would have hesitated to rock a boat that was steaming ahead so successfully. If you never saw the Spongetones covering the work of the Beatles and others around the Carolinas in the early-to-mid Eighties, mere words cannot do justice to the spectacle of crowds crammed into venues and almost literally hanging from the rafters. The energy level was at the boiling point on both sides of the stage, and Jamie recalls they’d even talked about placing oxygen tanks onstage to keep them from passing out from the heat, sweat and intensity.
Given the opportunity to open for the Kinks in Charlotte, they played an all-original set. That set the course for the future, because as times changed and the mania for covers inevitably died down, the Spongetones were amassing a growing catalog of originals and a loyal audience that wanted to hear them. They debuted with the legendary Beat Music, a trailblazing American update of the British “beat music” style of the Sixties that was released on Ripete Records. Then came Torn Apart (1984), Where-Ever-Land (1987), Oh Yeah! (1991), Textural Drone Thing (1995), Odd Fellows (2000), Mersey Christmas (2001), Beat! The Spongetones (2001) and Number 9 (2005).
Over the years, their consistency on record has been remarkable. Of course there have been stylistic shifts here and experimental wiggles there, but they’ve always focused on making the best possible pop music. With a prodigious scoop of their finest waxings gathered in one place, Always Carry On: The Best of the Spongetones, 1982-2007 is an embarrassment of riches.
Where to begin? For starters, the way-cool DC5 homage “Cool Hearted Girl.” The magical swirl of voices in “Anna.” The anthemic ring and jump-to-it rhythms of “Oh Yeah!” The heartfelt pledge of loyalty and devotion “ a simultaneous paean to friends, loved ones and bandmates“ of “Always Carry On.” The lush, lovely melodic contours and clever wordplay of “Infatuation.” The ripping power-pop intensity of “(My Girl) Maryanne.” The heavenly Hollies-meets-Byrds harmonies of “Better Luck Next Time.” Their blistering live energy is on display in “Where Were You Last Night,” a previously unreleased performance from CBGB’s.
Nearly 30 years after their first gigs, the Spongetones remain devoted to the band and all that it represents. They’re still gigging regularly and cutting incredible records, swearing there’s no end in sight because there’s nothing they’d rather do than make music with one another.
They cemented that vow on a New York street several years ago. They’d left a bar after knocking back a few shots of Drambuie (“The official drink of the Spongetones,” cracks Jamie) and were tipsily ambling down the sidewalk with arms locked in all-for-one camaraderie when Rob stopped to issue an edict.
“Fellas,” he said, the only way out of this band is death.”
I’ll drink to that, because it promises longevity, good health and many more Spongetones albums to come.
The Spongetones are often asked to name a favorite album among the nine they’ve released to date. Steve doesn’t hesitate to answer for all of them: “Our favorite record is the one we’re working on. I’m proud of everything we’ve done, but we’re always looking ahead to the next thing.”
Speaking of which, they are presently finishing up a new disc. From what I’ve heard it might be their best ever. And that is saying a mighty mouthful.
The Happy Eggs | “Wake Up EP”
This is an Itunes only release at this point in time. if you can find a real copy–BUY IT! It was recorded in one long day by Mark Williams and myself at Reflection Sound Studios in Charlotte, NC-with of course the band–Gil Ray, Murphy Moore, Kenny Phllips and me. It is now a collector’s item. At the time-Ralph Records (The Residents) gave us the coolest refusal–stating that “anyone who covers Timothy and DOA is either really weird…or our knida guys.” Trouser Press also favorably reviewed this EP. We referred to our music at Nightmare Music. The artwork was designed by Gil Ray. I produced it.
Jamie Hoover | “Most Loved Melodies”
by Ed Goodstein
***** Fab, Fab, Fab–Essential
Boy am I glad to see Jaime Hoover & The Spongetones stuff available here!!!
Even if you’ve got all the Spongetones stuff (hard to find some too), this is essential for the 4 Bob Lind songs. Hoover in various capacities is truly great at capturing a lot of what’s great ’bout ’60’s pop (like The Beatles– esp. early/middle Beatles & Mersey sound in general), with some Beau Brummels maybe, & smattering of New Wave attitude and various jangle pop currents. If you like those ’60’s groups, or even Big Star, Let’s Active, The Shoes, dB’s, Squeeze, Richard X. Heyman, or even maybe The Police, I think you’ll like Hoover (& The Spongetones). Great choices for this compilation too. And by the way I think his recent stuff w. Bill Lloyd, Spongetones, etc. is maybe even better than relatively better known ’80’s material.
Jamie Hoover | “Lind Me Four”
This is a four song EP I did-initially for Notlame Records to sell exclusively–only 100 CD’s ever pressed. They are all long gone-but it lives on here in Itunes. I truly love these songs and now have had the great pleasure to actually produce a record for Bob. His music is timeless…..
Bob Lind | “Finding You Again”
Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. But please, Bob, don’t make us wait another 41 years for the next studio album!
46 years ago, love was an “elusive butterfly” being chased with “nets of wonder”; now it’s more like “a bulldog growling at the gates of [his] heart.” That’s where decades of maturing will take you when you’re not too preoccupied with “the gravity of the world” and all the “lies that keep our trigger finger curled.” If it all becomes too much, then it just may be “time to let it go.” There, I’ve just quoted from 1966 AND my four favorite songs on this album (“Finding You Again”/”How Dare You Love Me”/”The Gravity of the World”/”Let It Go”). But that leaves another eight equally favorite Lind compositions, including “Somewhere in This City,” “The Thunder of Goodbye” and “Maybe It’s the Rain.” The point is that all his songs are meaningful and intelligent, unique and instantly memorable. As the producer here, Jamie Hoover is a more than worthy successor to Jack Nitzsche from Lind’s early years. Instrumentally, each track is beautifully layered, enhancing every nuance of Lind’s impeccable verbal phrasing. If it were a matter of pure musical ARTISTRY, as opposed to what’s really out there–a polluted commercial music INDUSTRY–this album would be bringing home multiple awards for excellence. A bit of a surprise here is the inclusion of a cover version: Peter Allen’s “Somebody’s Angel” from 32 years ago. I would love for Lind to put out an album of covers, if only to learn what his favorite songs by other artists are. There’s no doubt he could do them all justice. “Finding You Again” (the album) is what artistic and musical integrity sounds like. No, it’s not what one might call “contemporary,” thank goodness. It’s timeless.
Bob Lind | “Magellan Was Wrong”
“Magellan was wrong
This world is flat sometimes…” (5 star review)
With age and wisdom come doubt and disillusionment, which we must come to terms with in order to survive. Don’t just believe what you’ve been told and think that is sufficient. The reality we live is something else altogether. Excellent title tune…and it’s catchy and instantly memorable.
(Written by Bob Lind, as are 11 of the 12 tracks; arranged by Lind with Jamie Hoover, the principal producer here.) This is the 50th anniversary of Bob Lind’s one and only year on the national charts. In 1966 he had five pop chart entries, running a total of 31 weeks, topped by his brilliant début record “Elusive Butterfly,” which went to #5 in both the US and the UK. It was also poetic and forever memorable, but we mostly lost track of the elusive Bob Lind until four years ago and his superb comeback album “Finding You Again” (also with Jamie Hoover producing), which I reviewed on November 8, 2012. At that time I made the point that “all his songs are meaningful and intelligent” and that “each track is beautifully layered, enhancing every nuance of Lind’s impeccable verbal phrasing.” I added that this “is what artistic and musical integrity sounds like”; and that while “it’s not what one might call ‘contemporary’ (thank goodness), it’s timeless.” I will stay with that. It is very well-crafted singer-songwriter pop (occasionally verging on jazz), which could have been made any time from the ’60s until now; but it certainly helps that the author-performer has had half a century of life experience to work with in the interval, so that he can plumb the nuances and complexities he has encountered.