I had a couple ideas for blog posts knocking around in my head, and I was gonna write one … but a musician I’d never heard of at dinnertime knocked all that stuff clear out of my head.
I caught Van Duren’s name when it showed up as a footnote in the Onion A/V Club’s masterful, perhaps-a-little-rambling beginners’ guide to power pop.
Duren, for the uninitiated, is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who came up through the same Memphis pop scene of the Seventies that produced Big Star. (I have no knowledge of whether he is related to Ryne Duren.)
The article described his Are You Serious? album as “a remarkable fusion of Big Star, The Raspberries, and Todd Rundgren.”
It would be hard to devise a combination more guaranteed to intrigue me — at least, not until someone records an album that combines college baseball, rye whiskey and Macouns fresh from the tree.
So I went to check out some Van Duren songs on YouTube. ‘Cause of course they’re there.
Two hours later, I haven’t pulled the trigger on buying an MP3 copy of Are You Serious?, but only because I like the first song or two I heard so much that I haven’t brought myself to go check out any others. It takes a lot of talent to live up to a Big Star-Raspberries-Rundgren triple name-drop … but this guy might possibly be the real deal.
“Oh Babe,” in particular, is wonderful plangent Seventies pop, adult enough to be well-constructed, but youthful enough for nostalgic mentions of “whispers in the dark / and what a car can do.”
It’s also got a perfect, fluid, trebly guitar solo starting at about 1:15 that reminds me a lot of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd’s playing on Television’s “Marquee Moon,” only condensed for a pop setting.
If you’ve never heard it, check it out. You might enjoy it. I know I will, over and over again.
PS: Having outlasted some health problems, Duren is still performing, and has apparently recently released an album of new material, as this interview details. Good to hear he’s still at it.