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Mean Streets Navigating Power Pop.

April 25, 2013

MeanStreets01smallText by Brittany Thomas. Images by G.W. Miller III.

11851_10151432435423953_652083701_nWalking into the cluttered basement practice space where Mean Streets magic happens is not unlike the band’s sound — a bit perplexing at first but nothing short of endearing. There’s the ’70s-era green and orange carpet and paint, a dusty piñata, random football memorabilia, broken lamps and a baby doll locked in a cage.

During practices, full-fury punk rock bass and drums kick in with the power to pin anyone to the back of their chair and it’s not just from the noise. The band is not that kind of obnoxiously amplified punk. They are more sanguine, and steady — even as a three piece.

Mean Streets is inspired by everything from early ’80s British power pop groups like The Records and The Incredible Kidda Band to ’70s glam rock from The Sweet to Slade, all the way back to the vocal harmonies of the ’50s. They rock what they call “garagey, mod, glam pop.”

The composition is never quite simple but never pretentious, and always respectably complicated for power pop, the most official genre to stick these guys in.

Power pop is not something you hear often in Philly, where most of our punk is hardcore.

Leaning more toward traditional punk makes Mean Streets somewhat the black sheep of the scene here. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a crew of cutie pies, badass babes, greasers and bikers following them around though. The catchy songs are ridiculously easy to sing-a-long, dance and have a good time to.

Mean Streets is the kind of band your mainstreamer parents might say sounds like Green Day. That would be like telling a modern teen that Nickelback sounds like Motorhead.

“I’m not going to say we sound nothing like Green Day,” says guitarist Andy Mehos. “We sound a little bit like them, I guess, but just because people don’t know where else to cubbyhole us.”

MeanStreets03smallMean Streets blends instrumentals that are tight as hell, pitch-perfect harmonies that are creative and energetic, and killer bass lines. Despite the old-school influence, they have a modern, even timeless feel to them.

“We’d be stupid if we literally sat down and said, ‘Let’s play power pop!’” Mehos jokes, noting that the genre may have the least number of fans. “It’s kind of half like a natural evolution. We can’t help but have some of our influences creep into what we play.”

“Over the years we’ve gotten a little more efficient and focused,” adds singer and bassist Bill Coburn. “We had to aim toward a general style of music. It was pretty organic though.”

The band went through various transitions over their six year history, eventually leading  to the current group. They originated with just Mehos and Nick Kulp of Far Out Fangtooth playing guitars.

The band’s most recent album, Rarities  Volume 1, was self-released in February on limited edition tri-colored vinyl. It’s the first album they’ve released since Re-Wired in 2010, with a slightly different lineup. They now feature Coburn, Mehos and Mick Coburn, Bill’s brother, on drums.

“The songs are a little more stripped down, a little tighter-sounding,” says Mehos. “We tried to strike a balance between trying to sound really punchy and energetic and also be melodic, and try to write stuff people remember.”

Mean Streets will celebrate the release of their new 10-inch record with a performance during the GUITAR ARMY night at The Barbary on Friday. See here for details.

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