Marshall Crenshaw (Warner Bros. ’82) Rating: A-
With The Beatles and Buddy Holly as influences (he was in an incarnation of Beatlemania and he even played Holly in the movie La Bamba), Marshall Crenshaw was a simple, engaging pop album that had a rootsy rock 'n' roll feel and a melodic pop flair. “There She Goes Again,” “Cynical Girl,” “Mary Anne” (which has the album's best riff), a cover of Arthur Alexander’s “Soldier Of Love” (on which Crenshaw's love of doo wop is apparent), and “Someday Someway” (Crenshaw’s only hit single) are perfect examples of Crenshaw’s upbeat pop, which the critics fell in love with. Alas, even today Crenshaw remains a critic’s favorite and cult artist stuck in relative obscurity, which is a shame since his music would seem to have a universal appeal, and none of his subsequent albums are quite as instantly inviting as this one (not among the ones I've heard, anyway). Crenshaw’s songs generally feature rumbling bass, straightforward and sometimes jangly guitars, and airy harmonies that anchor sunny girl-crazed lyrics. There are times when Crenshaw’s singing can come across as a tad too wimpy for my taste, but overall this was an excellent debut album whose strengths were in its simple hooks and consistently stellar songwriting. Indeed, Crenshaw is an accomplished melodist on a par with Neil Finn (who he reminds me of), and if I could quibble I'd say that maybe a couple of songs here are merely decent and that few of these songs are really great and/or exciting, but Crenshaw's level of craftsmanship is extremely high throughout. Despite a solid subsequent career, this is the Crenshaw album that I keep coming back to.