Playing exuberant power-pop with abundant talent and a solid grounding in ’60s AM radio — from Merseybeat to folk-rock to summery soul — this Miami trio made a wonderful debut with the winningly unpolished Where It’s At. The marvelous 14-song collection of beguiling originals not only re-creates the sound of a simpler time, but captures the giddy innocence of musical self-discovery, as if this were all new.
The Wind then relocated north to Queens, New York, stopping in North Carolina long enough to have Mitch Easter co-produce the six-song Guest of the Staphs at his studio. Although the charming rush of cluttered, busy arrangements and overstuffed lyrics occasionally resembles Let’s Active or the dB’s — especially when the rhythms turn off the main road and the guitars and vocals go on a harmonic rampage — “Delaware 89763” is a ’60s raveup in the style of early Manfred Mann.
Fronting a new four-piece lineup, songwriters Lane Steinberg (vocals/guitar) and Steven Katz (vocals/bass/keyboards) mix XTC, the Lovin’ Spoonful, British Invasion bands and numerous other classic antecedents on the self-produced Living in a New World, an ambitious but lighthearted pop gem of great songs, witty (occasionally funny) lyrics and pretty harmonies.
Burdened only by its perplexing nomenclature, Peyote Marching Songs, Vol. 1 is an amazing solo creation by Steinberg (f/k/a Lane Hollend). Blown in from a parallel pop universe, the album is endlessly inventive, intricately crafted and burnished with gorgeous harmonies. This homemade stunner variously sounds like XTC (“Excuses”), the Left Banke (“The Lovely Maiden Voygle”), the Beach Boys (“Timon of Athens,” “A Ghost in Wexford Terrace”), Sell Out-era Who (“Spanish Birthday Across the Miles”), Syd Barrett (“Benzaline”) and nobody in particular (“Sad Lions”). Most of the songs gaily mix stylistic metaphors as Steinberg realizes his fantasies, using countless skillfully played instruments. But as the oblique lyrics don’t provide much of a clue, Peyote Marching Songs, Vol. 1‘s intentions are as enigmatic as the choice of its title.
Under his own name a decade later, Steinberg combined a bunch of wonderful new songs (Todd Rundgren should be quaking in his boots at how well his ’70s salad days are evoked in wholly original ways here) with vintage movie bits about songwriting, the difficulty of making a living as a musician and the sanctity of art over commerce. That bit is a little heavyhanded, but the songs on The Return of Noel Coward’s Ghost are far too accomplished and enjoyable to worry about such things.
Tan Sleeve continues the work of the Wind as the duo of Steinberg and Katz (now calling himself Steve Barry). Steinberg has also played with the Cheepskates, John Dunbar and the Sharp Things.