Recordings | Feb. 26, 2015

By Cait Brennan, Feb. 26, 2015.

Jellyfish | Bellybutton / Spilt Milk | Omnivore Recordings | 

For a brief, shining moment in the ‘90s, it seemed like power pop was making a comeback, with such bands as Material Issue, the La’s, Matthew Sweet, Michael Penn and Aimee Mann producing joyous, irresistible songs that captured the spirit of ‘60s pop. But no band captured the power pop revival better than Jellyfish. The San Francisco band released only two albums in their brief tenure, but both are highly sought-after classics, and now Grammy-winning label Omnivore Recordings has reissued Bellybutton (and its follow-up, Spilt Milk) in deluxe style, making these treasures available to a new audience.

Drawing on influences as diverse as XTC, the Raspberries, the Beach Boys and Queen, keyboard player Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer set out to capture the harmonies, catchy hooks and energy of ‘60s and ‘70s pop, with hints of psychedelia and Paisley Underground flair. MTV hit “The King Is Half Undressed” is a sugar-rush sonic delight, with an undeniable chorus and Beatlesque ambition; it’s their best-known song and the perfect distillation of what they’re about. “Baby’s Coming Back” echoes the Partridge Family theme in a song that could have been a hit for 10cc, and songs like “Now She Knows She’s Wrong” and the funky “That Is Why” carry on the theme. Omnivore has unearthed a king’s ransom of bonus tracks, including early demos, alternate takes and live covers of hits by Paul McCartney, Donovan and the Archies.

Spilt Milk, the lesser but still great follow-up album featuring a fractured version of the lineup, gets a similar deluxe treatment, and both albums get lively, well-researched liner notes from Ken Sharp, with rare photos and memorabilia that put the band’s history in perspective. Jellyfish has been an essential influence on modern pop music, and thanks to Omnivore, you can hear them for yourself.

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Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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