Illustration titled "Les Suites d'une Desobeissance" by G. Ripart, from Mme Doudet's La Poupee de Bebe, 1900
So it's no secret that I love me some power-pop, from the early '70s stuff up to today's ghettoized purveyors of black-market Beatlesisms. I am kinda wary of late-90s guitar pop records, though - I think it has to do with the mainstream "post-grunge" production style of the time. Everything I hear from that period reminds me (and not in a good way) of the era's two biggest power-pop hits of the late '90s, Semisonic's "Closing Time" and Fastball's "The Way". But I heard enough good things about Lust and Found, a two-disc collection from defunct Philadelphia power-poppers Wanderlust, that I decided to give it a try, despite the fact that Wanderlust's one hit, "I Walked", is a great song truly marred by that '90s production aesthetic that seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Lust and Found combines a long-lost Wanderlust album with an odds-and-ends collection of songs from the band's time together. The notes (and the Internet) are little help in piecing together what was recorded when, but the story behind the music is probably not essential. For better or worse, Wanderlust is definitely a band of its time - the songs, mostly written by the band's front man Scot Sax, are solid guitar pop, but the production is very VERY '90s. This means that when it's good it sounds like the Posies, Sloan, or Sound of Lies-era Jayhawks; when it's bad, it sounds like Third Eye Blind, Maroon 5, or Vertical Horizon. The second disc, the compilation, is particularly uneven, with amazing songs like the soft-jangle of "Train of Thought" being followed immediately by the bludgeoning Bush power chords of the ham-fisted anti-drug song "Bright Blue Sky".
The "lost" Wanderlust album is a better set of tunes, although the unsubtle chugging intro to the opening track "Vacant Lot" may cause heavy flashbacks to a post-Nirvana radio wasteland. Sweet harmonies and vocal hooks dominate most of the songs, like "Where Has Your Lover Gone" and the album's best track "Mission Bell" - these songs are better than whatever Matthew Sweet was putting out at the time this album got shelved anyway. A low-fi singalong ("See the Sun") breaks up the album's first and second halves nicely, and the album ends strongly with some of the band's best songs, including the beautiful "Never Belong". It's got a standard acoustic alterna-pop arrangement, but Sax's soaring vocal on the chorus (much better than an actual soaring sax) demonstrates that something good came out of the late '90s, other than the teen pop explosion we all remember so fondly.
"Never Belong" by Wanderlust