By Eleni P. Austin
Like John, Paul and George hooking up at a church social, or Mick and Keith trading American Blues records on a London train, the Postelles met as school boys at Columbia Grammar & Prep in New York City.
A mutual love of primal Rock & Roll united Daniel Balk (lead vocals/guitar), David Dargahi (lead guitar), John Speyer (bass) and Billy Cadden (drums).
By the time the guys were ready for college, they had settled on the name Postelles (an unlikely nod to Motown acts and girl groups like the Shirelles). They had also gigged relentlessly all over NYC, bringing them to the attention of Strokes’ guitarist, Albert Hammond, Jr.
The Postelles’ sound combined the gritty swagger of Garage Rock, the clean, concise economy of Power Pop and the sparkling shine of Bubblegum.
Almost immediately the band was signed and dropped by Capitol Records, it was a blessing in disguise. The Postelles were scooped up by an ambitious indie label, +1 Records. (The Heavy and the Morning Benders). This allowed the boys the freedom to craft their first record without Corporate America breathing down their necks.
Their self-titled debut was released in late 2011. Albert Hammond, Jr. produced four of the tracks, and the band produced the remaining eight. Now the Postelles have returned with their sophomore effort, …And It Shook Me.
The album kicks into gear with the title track. Jangly acoustic guitars collide with electric riffs that swoop and glide like seagulls. The lyrics sketch out an urgent plea for love… “Just open the door, cause I won’t bang it down no more/ Bloody knuckles down to the floor, yes I’m beggin’ you.”
The Postelles expand their horizons on a few tracks. “Heavy Eyes” adds pliant piano chords to a sweet and sour ballad that offers some emotional rescue.
“Running Red Lights” blends piquant harmonies and muscular guitar licks with a soulful Stax/Volt melody. The tune recalls the Pop/Soul excursions of the late great Plimsouls.
On “Oh My Luck,” despondent lyrics are camouflaged in ringing acoustic riffs, a four-on-the-floor tom tom beat and electric fills that pivot like a tilt-a-whirl. The band ups the ante with an infectious hook-filled chorus.
The best tracks here, “Sweet Water,” “You Got Me Beat” and “Caught By Surprise,” all take a page from the Power Pop playbook.
On “Sweet Water,” angular arpeggios boomerang, echoing those wiry shape shifters, the Cars. The lyrics offer a watery metaphor for unconditional love… “I don’t ebb if you don’t flow.”
“You Got Me Beat” weds a catchy handclap rhythm to jagged, slashing guitar riffs. A propulsive charmer, the song shares musical DNA with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ seminal “American Girl.”
Finally, “Caught By Surprise,” recalls the irresistible fun of unsung Oklahoma Power-poppers 20/20 and the Dwight Twilley Band. Crunchy on the outside with a sugary surprise inside, the tune matches ricochet riffs with tinkling piano fills and elastic bass lines.
Other standout tracks include the shimmery “Tidal Wave” and “Waiting By Your Windows,” which unspools like a stalker’s delight! Piloted by plangent guitars and quavery vocals, “Parallel Love” offers up this hard won wisdom… “Love ain’t a hard-on.”
The only misstep here is “Pretend It’s Love,” a winsome duet with Alex Winston that would seem more at home on an “adorkable” She & Him record.
The album closes with “You Know I Won’t.” An anguished plea for undying love, the tune has everything: a triple time beat, jangly power chords, and chiming harmonies that cascade over the melody. It’s a confident tour-de-force.
Echoing the agile songcraft of 60s heroes like the Kinks and the Zombies, as well as the guilty pleasure of sticky Bubblegum acts like the Archies and the Bay City Rollers, The Postelles tie it all together in a neat little package.
Deftly sidestepping the dreaded sophomore slump, it looks like this band is here to stay.