By the time this record was released in 1991, Marshall Crenshaw wasn’t quite the hit-making machine that he was on pop radio in years prior, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this record is any less potent than his earlier releases. Crenshaw is arguably the most polished, magical craftsman of pure pop music throughout rock’s storied history of artists falling into this category. In fact, noting that this record was released in 1991 is an aspect of the record that has no real bearing on the sound or quality of it. This music is simply timeless. There is something about the melodies of Crenshaw that feel natural, part of the energy of the world.
This record opens with the feel-good track “Better Back Off”, which is essentially Crenshaw’s call for us all to not be so hard on ourselves (A personal anthem, but I digress). This is without a doubt one of Crenshaw’s best tracks and it starts this record off on a unshakable vibe. The following tracks, “Don’t Disappear Now”, “Fantastic Planet of Love”, Delilah”, so on and so forth, continue this wonderfully charming vibe that has its way of getting into your soul. This is an extremely hard record to dislike. One thing that does stand out a bit, especially on side one of the record, is that this record rocks quite a bit harder than much of Crenshaw’s earlier material. With that said, much of the subject matter stays the track that he has maintained over the years. It’s difficult to discuss individual elements of many of these tracks due to their acknowledged conventionality, but that’s simply not the point or the main focus of Crenshaw or his stellar discography. The thing that has long set him apart from many of his contemporaries is the fact that he is, simply put, so much better than them. There are very few artists who are able to take such a basic, conventional pop format and turn it into a purely artistic pursuit. His knack for cranking out instantly unforgettable tracks is unmatched. In fact, with the exception of the placement on the record of “Starting Tomorrow”, the flow of this record is absolutely impeccable. Mind you, this is far from a poor track, it just struggles a bit to fit into where it was located on the record.
So to be quite frank, you need to have this record in your collection (as well as many other Crenshaw records). He is so good and his songwriting is so keen and precise that you will have no choice but to overlook any of the pop conventions that you may typically not find to your liking. It’s the blatant honesty, the lack of pretension, and the gleeful worship of rock n’ roll at its roots that makes this record and much of Crenshaw’s catalog absolutely essential for anyone who is able to walk the walk on being a music nerd. With the exception of a couple of tracks, this is yet another flawless record from him. Writing this man off as just another 80s pop star might be the worst criminal offense that any listener could ever make. Don’t be that person.