Needle Drop: The Beat, “Don’t Wait Up For Me”

To reiterate what has been firmly established on this here site, Paul Collins, as befits the King of Power Pop, should be rightfully enthroned by the public at large once and for all, meaning that a person shouldn’t be able to so much as glance at a record store window without seeing either the Beat’s riotously great eponymous debut LP or some latest concoction of compiled Nerves gems (that original EP is only getting pricier). In the meantime, however, cult deification remains a decent enough standing, considering we power pop linguists are a particularly devoted lot.

Although power pop is usually hailed for the magic it achieves in simplicity, the genre itself isn’t an altogether simple one to pin down. Of course, Townshend did coin the term to describe the Who’s music, which certainly accounts for the hard-edged guitar and drum flexing that are in no shortage on the bulk of power pop records.

At its finest, power pop appears as an extension of the great progenitor acts of the ’50s and ’60s, merging the rock & roll spirit and riffs of Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran with the pop sensibilities and melodicism of the early Beatles and Beach Boys. And that 12-string jangle whose absence would leave most any power pop tune hollow? The Byrds. In short, power pop is and was borne of the past, but with all the verve and brio of wild youth on its side.

Which brings us to the paladin himself, Paul Collins.

Shortly after the demise of the aforementioned, foundational power poppers the Nerves, his new group, the Paul Collins’ Beat, pressed onward with the LA rock-plus-pop scene. With a little help from one Eddie Money, the group made their way onto CBS and dished out their first grail of a record, The Beat. Cherished among power pop enthusiasts and self-respecting rock & roll fiends, the album is a compendium of all that is good about the trade, perhaps most apparent on “Don’t Wait Up for Me,” the song that should’ve (see the theme?) upended the Knack’s hold on FM radio in ’79.

Like the great pop songsmiths of years past, Collins possesses that inbuilt tendency to get right down to the fact of the matter, maintaining a certain lyrical economy that allows for the brisk dynamics at work in his songs to magnify twofold. On the hook-loaded “Don’t Wait Up for Me,” Collins and the Beat keep with the precision while kicking up the pace for an absolutely rollicking, once-you-hear-it-you-never-forget-it chorus, replete with terse harmonies and tireless guitars. The fact that this is a breakup song may not even register upon first listen, considering these three crisp minutes are some of the purest energy jolts in the book. In other words, this is the song to whip out whenever someone questions the power in power pop. It makes for a short dispute.

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