Beat And Torn-(combination of Beat Music and Torn Apart)
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.
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.