By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
BACK IN FEBRUARY 1994, when guitar rockers were living it up like first-class passengers on the Titanic, Possum Dixon were an oddity. There they were on 120 Minutes--four uncommonly handsome young men with natty haircuts and a pop sound as perfectly manicured as it was out of vogue--sandwiched between Candlebox and fellow Silver Laker Beck. Lacking both the pomo irony of the Spam T-shirt set and the overwrought angst of the Boys in Flannel, Possum Dixon seemed clueless and utterly inconsequential.
Either the cultural climate has changed or pop-lovers are in worse trouble than ever, because in these dry days Possum Dixon sounds less like a hopeless case and more like the latest Great White Pop Hope. On New Sheets, the band's hook-happy third album, they make a pretty convincing case for the vitality of power pop, or at least for keeping it around until melodies become obsolete.
Despite a collection of tunes as genetically perfect as frontman Rob Zabrecky's blue-eyed beauty, Star Maps--the band's 1996 love letter to their new-wave record collections--was a dismal commercial failure, leading some pop aficionados to believe that all hope was lost. Slimmed down to a power trio, tightened up with the help of New Wave high priest Ric Ocasek, and slightly dumbed down for easier consumption, New Sheets may yet win Possum Dixon their moment in the ever-dimming "Modern Rock" radio spotlight.
As always with amped-up hookery, it's the chorus that matters, and Zabrecky knows his way around a sublime moment as well as anybody since...I dunno, John Waite? "Only in the Summertime" and "Heavenly" are irresistible, infuriatingly hummable pop confections in the classic tense-and-release fashion. The ethereal new-wave country of "Faultlines" (co-penned with ex-Go-Go Jane Wiedlin) breaks open in the middle and melts all over the dashboard. And, as is always the case with amped-up hookery, the songs are all about that girl-you-can't-have/girl-you-don't-want.
Like the Plimsouls (L.A.'s Great White Pop Hope of 1983), Possum Dixon doesn't really build a better model so much as one that's about as good as the one you just wore out. Yet look where that same approach got the Plimsouls: one-hit-wonder status and an appearance in the cult-classic film Valley Girl. Possum Dixon should be so lucky.