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Lullabies for Modern Times

Goldenboy - Underneath the Radio
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 16, 2007

Review by Brad Walseth

With contributions on their new album from guest artists Lisa Germano, Matt Sharp (Weezer) and Neil Finn, and having toured with people like The Eels, Johnny Marr and Elliott Smith, the soft pop duo "Goldenboy" sport an admirable pedigree. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Shon Sullivan and drummer Bryan Bos hail from the outlying L.A. suburb of Diamond Bar and create a surprisingly quiet and pleasant form of pop that almost seems anachronous in this intensely violent modern world of skanky pop tarts and gangster rappers dropping the F-bomb at will.

However, on first listen, I was rather unimpressed. Sullivan's voice, although pleasant seemingly lacks range and energy, and the songwriting seemed no great shakes. Only the dreamy "Motorbike" with its' 80's Smiths/Pet Shop Boys feel, "Second Day of the Year"' with its' 60's style trumpet refrain, and the rollicking "Goodbye Erica" claimed any hold on me. However, there was something there that seemed to linger in the subconscious and call for repeated listening, and I'm glad I did. I discovered that Goldenboy have invented a world of their own where a gentle sort of melodic pop exists - complete with hooky melodies, lush harmonies, and Sullivan's intelligent guitar and piano work on such songs as "End of Forever," "I'm Still Down" and "Perfect One" - which weave beautiful aural visions and call to mind groups like Crowded House, and yes The Beatles (especially the delightful "Blackbird at Heart").

Although at times the music does ascend a bit too far into the ether and nearly render the listener unconscious, Underneath the Radio mostly drifts along in a stream running patiently beneath the travails of the everyday tumult, and for the most part it is an enjoyable, albeit weightless journey. Lyrically as substantial as the dandelion seeds Sullivan is shown blowing into the wind on the enclosed booklet, the recording is nonetheless a pleasant diversion from the turmoil of our daily life - a gentle breeze in place of the usual hurricane. In following their own musical path that meanders through calm meadows under cloudless skies, Goldenboy has given us lullabies for modern times, which may act as a much needed tonic for the nerves of those of us who need a calming dose of tranquility occasionally.

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