1 Girl Nation - 1 Girl Nation 90 x 90For those about to power pop: we salute you!

Label: Reunion Records
Length: 10 tracks (33:55) 

Ask most adults about teen-friendly artists like Selena Gomez, R5 and One Direction, and you'll probably get one of two responses. Those in the first group will launch into an extended tirade about how that sort of music isn't really music at all and those who make their living singing teen-pop songs are simply faceless, interchangeable puppets controlled by the behind-the-scenes grown-ups who pull the actual strings. The members of the second cadre, by comparison, are more likely to simply greet you with a blank stare and ask, “Justin who?" Of course, this sort of thing goes both ways, given that the majority of those who have yet to celebrate their 16th birthday are apt to compare the music their parents love and cherish to a recitation of the nearest phone book set to the tune of a funeral dirge.

The five gals of 1 Girl Nation (1GN to the initiated), it seems, may well have found a way to bridge this seemingly bottomless generationally-based chasm. Tweens and early teens are sure to latch onto “Count Your Rainbows” and the equally effervescent “Love Like Crazy,” neither of which would sound all that out of place on, say, the Disney Channel’s Austin & Ally show. Their older siblings, on the other hand, are equally likely to take a shine to “Vertical,” which might just figure prominently into the soundtrack to their next rave.  And the stuttering “Invade,” which matches like-minded singles like Mandisa’s superb “Overcomer”  in terms of sheer quality, is sure to be favored by just about everyone in the under-twenty contingent.

On the slightly older side of the coin, Mom and Dad will love cuts such as “Live for You,” which harks back, ever so slightly, to the hot-buttered early ‘70s soul and R&B of artists who made their homes on the Stax and Atlantic Records labels.  The terse rhythm and bouncy, minimalistic guitar work of the eponymous “1 Girl Nation,” by comparison, owe at least a marginal debt to Carter- and Reagan-era B-52’s chestnuts like “Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho” and “Party Out of Bounds.” And the anthemic vocals and thundering drums of “While We’re Young” are sure to transport parents – and maybe even a few younger grandparents – back to the fall of 1987, when Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” all but ruled radio playlists and the Billboard Hot 100.

Of course, as is the case with any new group, particularly one whose members are this young, one or two cracks in the pavement are bound to appear. The comparison of an earthly dad to one’s heavenly Father (“Daddy’s Girl”), although certainly noble and appropriate, has arguably been hammered home one too many times already. In the same way, lyrics like “Can’t think when I feel your grace/ ‘Cause you love me up to outer space” and “You blow my mind/ Like dynamite,” both from “Live for You,” probably won't send scores of established artists like, say, Andrew Peterson or Nicole Nordeman, over to the 1GN camp begging to collaborate.

That said, with the bulk of the album co-written by the band members, the record, to its credit, rises or falls on the shoulders of its youthful singer/songwriters. And, more importantly, for every track like the ones just mentioned, there are at least as many, such as “Turn Around” and the supremely poignant “In the Eyes” (Among the faces/ You hear their voices say/ You are broken/ So you hide away), whose heartfelt lyrics and sparkling melodies combine to create works of absolute transcendence.

In fairness, even with all of its copious assets, metal heads, emo lovers and pop purists will still probably take one look at the airbrushed, pink-and-purple-laden cover art work and take a pass. For everyone else, though, the superb 1GN debut is sure to reward those with wider-ranging tastes and the willingness to approach the album with open minds - and ears.

– Bert Gangl, the Phantom Tollbooth (10-18-2013)


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