Wondermints: S/T (1995)

To call the Wondermints one of the greatest power pop bands ever is really no exaggeration.  And the level of difficulty in tracking down their music these days -- their albums are out of print, and their music doesn't stream -- is downright criminal.  But trust me -- beg, borrow, steal, whatever it takes and track them down.  

Each of their four albums was pretty great.  I'm a little partial to this, their self-titled debut, which includes some of the finest earworms of the last quarter century; but their final album, 2002's Mind If We Make Love To You, is a stunning display of baroque, harmony-rich pop that gives Pet Sounds a run for its money.  (This isn't just hyperbole; Brian Wilson has been using the Wondermints as his touring band for decades.)  Alas, guitarist and co-founder Nick Walusko, who penned some of their best songs, sadly passed away last year, so we won't be getting the Wondermints revival we deserve.

Assuming you can't track down the proper album, you can hear a YouTube rip of the entire record here.  As you'll see, "power pop" may be a bit dismissive; it's really pure 60s-tinged pop, often quite mellow, but still full of hooks.  The best tracks bookend the LP -- opener "Proto Pretty" sounds like a great lost AM radio #1 hit from 1968, impossibly catchy; while closer "Carnivals of Souls," equally great, is a soaring pop anthem that's been stuck in my head since I first heard it 25 years ago.  In between is the chiming "Fleur-De-Lis," an intriguing hybrid between the Zombies and Elvis Costello; the lovely, Wilson-esque multi-layered harmonies of "Tracy Hide"; and the buzzing psychedelia of "Global Village Idiot."

Here's "Proto Pretty," the best late 60s pop song of 1995:
And here's the lovely "Tracy Hide."  (Note: This is a re-do of the song, found on their second album, Wonderful World of the Wondermints, which saw the band covering everyone from Pink Floyd to the Monkees to, in this case, themselves.)
Hey, as long as we're dipping into Wonderful World, here's their deliriously sweet take on Abba's "Knowing Me, Knowing You":
What, one more cover?  Ok, fine, here's their version of Floyd's "Arnold Layne":