The Darling Buds: Pop Said (1989)

An early entry of sorts in the long list of great Britpop/shoegaze-styled bands to emerge in the late 80s and early 90s, the Darling Buds' debut album was more than anything (as the album title accurately suggests) pure power pop.  Energetic, 3-chord guitar songs, set apart by the unusually high ratio of impossibly catchy tracks and the buoyant vocals of Andrea Lewis.  They shared common ground musically and stylistically with the Primitives from the same era, with perhaps some crunchier guitar riffs.

When I (and in my view the music biz) hit something of a rut in the late 80s, after I graduated college and found a diminishing number of life-changing albums, the Darling Buds were one of the bright lights that gave me hope.  While this was hardly groundbreaking stuff, it was wonderfully joyful and impossible not to bring on a smile.  Think the Go-Go's a decade earlier, no less polished, with a (slightly) harder edge and a British sensibility.  (Or perhaps more aptly, a female-led version of the Undertones.)

Opener "Hit The Ground" establishes the band within seconds as having a gift for infectious bubblegum hooks, only to be surpassed by the tracks that follow, the perky "Burst" and riff-crazy "Uptight."  The band settles down a bit after that, with a couple mid-tempo tracks to catch your breath, but easily half  or two-thirds of the album's dozen tracks would make perfect high-energy radio-friendly singles.  There are no pretenses of great complexity here, just a non-stop barrage of unabashed power pop focused on the usual affairs of the heart.

The band released two additional albums which were nearly as strong, moving into more adventurous dream-pop territory with less reliance on stripped-down three-chord power pop; 1990's Crawdaddy in particular sees them stretching out their sound without sacrificing the buoyant pop qualities of the debut.  After a few decades of silence, they recently reunited for a surprisingly solid EP.

Here's the video for "Burst":
And here's "Hit The Ground":
And "You've Got To Choose" (damn, I forgot how much I love this song...):