Some of us are just suckers for bubblegum rock. While there are those that instantly recoil at the very mention of, say, The Archies, others feel an irresistible urge to experience that warm jingle-jangle-tingle. Saying the name Jeff Whalen out loud may not cause immediate recoiling (the same way verbalization of The Archies might), these songs he’s created with 10 More Super Rock Hits ought to touch a nerve — whether positively or negatively, depending upon the hearer’s sweet toothed point of view.
Maybe it’s just a locals only thing, but the moment when Whalen sings “a song about a girl that goes to Dominguez Hills” to kick off “Jendy!,” brings joy to this SoCal guy’s heart. Sure, much of this music is derivative. But it’s intended to be. “Goofing Around” shares both a syllabic structure and melody with Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride,” but we let it transport us away, willingly, anyway.
Whalen is formerly with the band Tsar, not surprisingly a Los Angeles power pop act, and his solo work just adds extra sugar to that punch. Culturally, Whalen oftentimes sounds like a man out of time, exemplified best by the dance hall piano shuffle and kazoo accented “Shanghai Surprise.” During “Don’t Give Up” he sings, “I left a message on your answer phone.” He so old school, man, I’ll bet he’s also the kind that’s kind and rewinds. “Soylent Blue” is proof he can also sing a tender piano ballad, if he wants to.
No matter the instrumental accompaniment, Whalen consistently sings like a hormonally-overloaded teen. Yes, much of this K-Tel inspired 10-track album may give you brain freeze and a sugar rush. Then again, we could all use a few sweets to wash away the bitterness of modern life.