Fingertips Explores the Archives: The A-Sides - Sidewalk Chalk


Jeremy from Fingertips joins us every Friday as he scours the betterPropaganda archives, highlighting gems buried a few years back in our database.

This week we bring you "Sidewalk Chalk" from The A-Sides.

I like how the garagey stomp that opens this song is incorporated into a shimmeringly upbeat bit of neo-power pop--it sounds cool, and also encapsulates this Philadelphia band's approach, which seems to draw simultaneously from two divergent '60s sounds: garage-rock psychedelia (think Nuggets) on the one hand, glistening orchestral pop (think Pet Sounds) on the other. The interesting result of this particular blend is how much more emerges in the sound beyond mere revival of the A-Sides' seemingly obvious, and admirable, influences (Kinks, Who, Beach Boys). Tuning more carefully in to the song's various charms--including a smiley descending melody and some great guitar interplay (Beatley lines contrasting with psychedelic howling)--I sensed the influences and confluences multiply. Now I'm hearing Robyn Hitchcock, I'm hearing XTC, I'm even hearing the Strokes--and I begin to realize how it's really the band's own spirit and musical capacities that I'm hearing most of all. While some rock'n'roll has appeared on the scene as if from another dimension entirely, most of the best stuff over the years is neither more nor less than a skillful distillation of previously available ideas. Picking out influences can be fun and instructive if the point is to understand a piece of music in a broader context; when influence-spotting becomes a reductive game (as it, sadly, does quite frequently with online music criticism), then this usually says more about the writer than the musician. "Sidewalk Chalk" was the lead track on the A-Sides' debut full-length CD, Hello, Hello, which was released in May 2005 on Prison Jazz Records. The band broke up earlier this month; two of the members have gone on to form the band Sun Airway.

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- Jeremy Schlosberg

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