Art Rock

In Case You Missed It: K. Campbell With Pure Pop For Jaded Punks

K. Campbell echoes Elliott Smith & Ramones on his latest release.
K. Campbell echoes Elliott Smith & Ramones on his latest release. Photo Courtesy of Poison Moon Records

If you had planned to release an album of punk infused pop songs, you'd probably call it pop punk. Just like you'd do the same if you had planned to release a record full of pop infused punk tracks.  However, when you listen to Houston's K. Campbell, his music isn't really pop punk nor is it punk or straight pop. It may say confusing, but in the first bars of the opening track, it's obvious that what Campbell is doing on Pure Pop For Jaded Punks is all his own. Reminding you at times of what would happen if Elliott Smith and Jeff Rosenstock formed a Ramones cover band, whatever Campbell's intentions were with this release, it's definitely an album you should get into your ears as soon as possible.

Opening with the hook heavy guitar of "No Cops," the way the song is structured should remind you of those doo wop structures that Joey Ramone was so obsessed with. The song is definitely pop with jangled punk guitar matching right up with the snappy drums. The song, one of the many standouts of the record definitely lays the groundwork for the absolutely stellar release.  Campbell slows things down on the following track, "So Much To Say," where his vocals eerily remind you of Elliott Smith in the opening notes. While this isn't a lift by any means, it's almost as if he takes the cues Smith was inspired by from The Beatles. Dual vocals in the chorus, a pop heavy beat, and a bridge that glides closest to tracks from Smith like "Independence Day" and "Stupidity Tries," like he's just picking up where the legendary singer left off.

The third track in, "Summer Dress" should solidify your attention and adoration for this well crafted album. The song is light and airy without feeling like there's a lack of substance. Again, the bridge adds plenty of depth before Campbell sways into a solo that seems to come from another era.  Two tracks later, Campbell breaks out the acoustic on "Breaking Blue" and echoes Smith again from his Either Or era, though not really a copied version of what Smith did as this sound is all Campbell's. Granted, it reminded me of Smith, but didn't feel like it was a carbon copy either. He follows this with another standout on "Can't Go Back" where the singular guitar mixed with his soft voice creates a sound that you can't get out of your head. Even after the first spin, the backing vocals, the catchy demeanor, and the pop structure makes the song one you won't soon forget. That singular guitar and vocal from the opening returns again, and this time it makes the song hard to shake.

click to enlarge K. Campbell dropped an album last year that's as solid as it is memorable. - ALBUM COVER COURTESY OF POISON MOON RECORDS
K. Campbell dropped an album last year that's as solid as it is memorable.
Album cover Courtesy of Poison Moon Records

All of the songs here are catchy, poppy, and full of arrangements that hit like they're intended to. Even the murky bass opening of "130 Watts" mixed with hand claps and a tambourine don't deter from the hooks on this album that seem to just flow from Campbell's head. There's a small part around the one minute and 17 second mark on this song where a guitar cuts through what you've already heard, and while it's not rocket science, it works and just makes the song that much more memorable.

The same could be said about "No Reaction," where Campbell opens the song in a different way while utilizing distorted vocals to add depth. While these may seem like simple additions to the way the songs are performed, it still holds your attention. Little things like adding female vocals on the chorus, breaking down to bass and drums while Campbell sings, and letting the guitar come into the mix alongside a synth just add to what's happening here. If this is straight pop music, you haven't heard it this way in a long time, or perhaps ever before.

Campbell closes the album off with a pop infused acoustic track, "All The Time" that feels like the best way to finish. The song doesn't steer from what else is here, but adds a sweet sound to make you want to place the album on repeat. The way the electric comes in and cuts through the drums and Campbell's backing vocals is pretty magical, and shows the strengths of the record by taking another turn that pays off.

The result is a record that plays well no matter where or what you're doing. The sheer pop structure alone makes this album noteworthy, and the fact that Campbell played all of the instruments on it, makes it that much more impressive. You can stream Pure Pop For Jaded Punks in all of the usual places, or purchase it from the Poison Moon Records Bandcamp, or on cassette from Deep End Records.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.