CD Review of Spark by Peter Searcy

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starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Toucan Cove
Released: 2007
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Peter Searcy used to front the bands Squirrel Bait, Big Wheel and Starbilly. Haven’t heard of them? That’s okay, because even after flying under the radar for several years as a solo artist, Searcy continues to refine his pop hooks and deliver them with the precision you’d come to expect from a music industry veteran.

In addition, the Toucan Cove label has this knack for uncovering great artists from Louisville, Kentucky as if they’re removing the shrink-wrap from a surprisingly great sandwich. The Muckrakers and Digby signed to the label last year, and now they have found Searcy and teamed him with producer Todd Smith of business partner Label X. The result is Searcy’s first full-band studio album in seven years, the previous one being Time Bomb/Atlantic’s Could You Please and Thank You, which spawned a bunch of radio and video play but not nearly enough record sales to make him a household name.

Spark is full of post-H.O.R.D.E. songs that signify Searcy as being a bit cooler than the Gin Blossoms and Soul Asylum, but not quite the critic’s darling or household pop icon either. He’s entrenched somewhere in the middle, and if he keeps combining combustible melodies with his trademark tenor, his fans certainly won’t care.

Shuffling tracks with just enough distorted guitars and lush harmonies like “I Believe” and “Bird Songs” are the ones you’ll find yourself hitting “repeat” on. On “Let’s Put the Summer behind Us,” the end result is just a bit too formulaic, but this is the kind of song radio is going to likely feast on. The acoustic ballad “Don’t Let a Day Go By” is raw but somehow extremely compelling as Searcy uses falsetto the way it should be used – sparsely, and the triumphant “Sing Like It’s the Last Time” is a great closer.

Peter Searcy has done the acoustic thing before, as he did with 2004’s Couch Songs. But he shows with Spark that with a full band behind him is how he is best suited. And he keeps writing catchy pop/rock that is as accessible as anything on the radio should be, but never really is. Spark may not start a fire, but if you like this kind of music it will light up your music collection nicely.

~Mike Farley