winning alternative pop

Sway (Mammoth)

By William Brents

Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter John Strohm has already left his mark on critics and college radio with his former band the Blake Babies, a band that was short-lived but demonstrated a strong sense of melody, musicianship and songwriting. So it's not surprising that his new band Antenna possesses the same tasty ingredients that made the Blake Babies such a delicious snack.

Antenna's lineup includes former Blake Babies drummer Freda Love — who most certainly carries on with her straightforward pounding — and two non-Blake Babies, bassist Jacob Smith and guitarist Vess Ruhtenberg. Ruhtenberg's contribution is clearly noticeable. Not only does his playing compliment Strohm's restrained style, but he also wrote one of the best songs on Sway. "Girl Who Fell to Earth" is one of those pop songs that you can't avoid singing and will linger for days. Then again, the same could be said for practically the entire album.

The songs on Sway deal with fading love ("Snakes"), drug-induced honesty ("23"), and the sometimes overwhelming pressure of existing ("Weight of the World"), all coming across sincerely and without self-pity. The opening song, "Delta 88," proves that Antenna is quite capable of raising the roof, although in all honesty it is not their strength. Antenna's bread and butter is without question Strohm's ability to spin those beautiful melodies and clever hooks.

The genre of music that Antenna displays has always been popular, but recently it's taken a higher profile with such acts as Matthew Sweet, The Lemonheads, Material Issue, Buffalo Tom and numerous other so-called alternative bands ascending to the top of the power-pop world. Antenna might not receive the same attention as the aforementioned groups, but they too are primed to satisfy the sweet tooth of the pop masses.