Full Volume: The Best of Spinning Jennies Label: Cool Buzz
When you immerse yourself in the underground power pop community, it’s easy to lose your bearings on what people in the real world are listening to; as a result, one also sometimes find themselves uncertain as to whether a particular power pop band is truly worthy of mainstream success. Not that they’re not good, you understand…but when you say, “I just don’t understand why these guys are shifting mass units,” are you saying it because you like them or because you legitimately think that the mainstream could embrace them? Because, y’know, not everybody digs the power pop…or, at the very least, they don’t dig the stuff that comes across as painfully derivative of much better artists, which makes up way too much of the genre.
In the case of the Spinning Jennies, however, it’s a legitimate mystery as to why they didn’t cross over to the big time.
The Jennies, as they will henceforth be referred to within this review, consisted of Jeff Shelton on vocals and guitars (and, on occasion, keyboards), Doug Free on bass, and – depending on the album – either Nick Laquintano or David Friel behind the drum kit. Over the course of twelve years and five albums, the trio set the Bay Area of California alight with non-stop power pop, always with an emphasis on the power. The “recommended if you like” suggestions on the front of this collection accurately hit on musically-similar artists like Redd Kross, Matthew Sweet, and Sloan, but the most common point of reference to the Jennies’ sound is invariably the Posies, at least partially because Shelton’s voice is a dead ringer for that of Ken Stringfellow. Beyond just the voices, however, the two bands also share a common musical crunchiness and an ability to write some damned catchy hooks. In fact, I’m going on the record here and now with the bold suggestion that, pound for pound, Full Volume holds up almost as well as Dream All Day: The Best of the Posies.
Somewhere right now, fans of Stringfellow, Auer, and company are ready to throttle me, but, hey, man, I’ve got all their albums and the Not Lame box set, too, so I know where I’m coming from when I make this statement. The Spinning Jennies have just as many great songs, and the melodic guitar attack almost never lets up; songs like “Tea & Apathy,” “Peer Pressure,” and “Carry on Attack” will stick in your brain almost instantly.
Knowing the music industry, it’s not terribly surprising that no major label picked up the Jennies, but it is amazing that their profile didn’t get more significant than it did. Thankfully, Shelton hasn’t given up music altogether; he currently fronts the Well Wishers, and given that he retains the same vocal chords, you won’t be surprised to hear that they sound kind of like the Posies, too. Still, if you want to hear how Shelton first kicked serious pop ass, go buy Full Volume and crank it up. You won’t regret it.