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Live in the sun

Jim Basnight and the Moberlys return with their classic

Jim Basnight and the Moberlys from way back when. Photo credit: rockwired.com

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In the incubator that was my childhood, the types of music I was exposed to were fairly limited. Thanks to my local oldies station, KBSG, I was bathed in pop music from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Years later, through pop cultural obsessions and exposure to more varied people, my tastes would grow. Still, I find myself continuing to return to those oldies that, on their surface, are too clean and innocent for some. Pay closer attention, though, and you'll find subversive lyrics and ground-breaking sounds in that music. These days, it would be nearly impossible for children to organically grow up hearing the Vogues or Herman's Hermits or Del Shannon, thanks to the splintering of ways to consume music and the vanishing of oldies radio stations.

As I grew older, and my tastes skewed towards pretentious hipsterism, I was comforted in discovering ‘70s power pop, which neatly juggled artistic individuality and a deference for the clean sounds of 15 years previous. It was in this potting soil that weirdos like Big Star, the Raspberries, and Jonathan Richman were allowed to bloom. These were artists who valued the power of a pop melody and a strong harmony above the need to look cool. With punk fast approaching - itself a reflexive response to the homogeneity and bloat of the then-current slog of mainstream rock - power pop announced itself as its own way of resetting the clock, with added flourishes to reflect the strides that had been made in music.

Seattle carved a groove for itself as a nascent hotbed of power pop bands, seeing as the Pacific Northwest has a handy way of allowing new styles and bands room to develop in private. One of the bands that emerged out of that moment was the Moberlys, a group that started in the late ‘70s with Jim Basnight as the founder and frontman. While some of the Moberlys' songs share that snarl that colored the work of Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, Basnight and company erred much more pointedly toward the sunny, crystal-clear harmonies and laser-precise melodies that made up the foundation of ‘60s pop. Brill Building efficiency mingled with the defiant underground of the ‘70s, adding up to a melange of crowd-pleasing work and radio-eschewing specificity.

Jim Basnight and the Moberlys have gone through breakups, reinventions, side-projects, re-releases, and reincarnations in the almost 40 years since they first hit the scene. Friday finds them performing in Tacoma. There's a purity to their early recordings, which might lose some of its sheen, not only in the process of performing these songs live, but in the fundamental cracks and crags that form in a band having stood the test of time. A song like "Live in the Sun," which once thrived on its innate brightness, could now show the signs of weathering. If anything, this effect might show off the unimpeachably sturdy craft that went into assembling songs that could survive leaving the sunshine and getting cast in shadow. These are tunes that retain a surge of vitality.

The Moberlys got somewhat lost in the shuffle of influential power pop bands, but their influence permeated the ground that other bands strode on. REM were notably inspired by them, and brought Basnight and company out to open for them in the late ‘80s. At a time when jangly bands were once again rising up to combat the preceding decade, the Moberlys were non-coincidentally called forth to join the fight. Now, when all of history's music is simultaneously available for study and vigorous intermixing, there's not so much of a battle to be waged or won. What there is to be done, is to see the Moberlys in intimate concert this Friday at the Valley.

Jim Basnight and the Moberlys, w/ China Davis, Danny Cash, Friday, Feb. 3, 9 p.m., donations accepted, The Valley, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.248.4265

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