========= reviews ============
Love the '66 Beatles? Pet Sounds? Smile? Big Star? Kinks? Fountains of Wayne? Badfinger? Jason Falkner? Mathew Sweet? Jon Brion? Aimee Mann? Elvis Costello? Jam? Shoes? Byrds? Hollies? Turtles? Monkees? Blur? Oasis? Myracle Brah? Sugarplastic? Brendan Benson? Posies? Continental Drifters? Chris Cacavas? Bob Mould?
Then please read on:
"MODERN DATING TIPS" by Jensen Bell will delight!
Here is the growing list of reviews to explain why:
**Longtime L.A. scenester Jensen Bell has released a gem of a power-pop record called Modern Dating Tips. Aided and abetted by some of Los Angeles' finest pop musicians (Robbie Rist, Drummer Jim Laspesa, keyboardist Morley Bartnoff and Muffs leader Kim Shattuck among them) Jensen offers up a concept album about a guy's (ultimately unsuccessful) quest for happiness with the opposite sex.
From the sweet opening salvo of "Askin You Out" to the lyrically resigned (yet musically cheerful) "Happening (Parting Advice)," Modern Dating Tips is a disk that gets better and better on repeated spins. The rollicking "Her City's Got A Train," the punchy duet with Shattuck on "Happy Chocolate" and the hilarious "The Swear-Off Song" are the personal picks to click, and the whole deal closes with a beautiful orchestrated ballad worthy of Brian Wilson, "Love Stained Eyes."**
--Rave On-John Borack-Amplifier Magazine-Issue 50-October'05
Jensen Bell's long-delayed debut 'Modern Dating Tips' finally reveals him to be a major pop talent that anyone who has previously given house room to the likes of Jason Falkner, Matthew Sweet or Brendan Benson should immediately make space in their collection for.
A sideman of repute and former member of several bands whose recorded output never saw the light of day is at last setting out his own stall with 'Modern Dating Tips', with a number of other projects, both current and retrospective also in the pipeline, he's definitely going to be a name to watch.
As with the very best of their craft, the most interesting pop musicians are capable of assimilating their influences rather than slavishly imitating them, discernibly imprinting their own stamp on their material. Too few are genuinely capable of that, Jensen Bell though assuredly makes the grade with 'Modern Dating Tips', an album that I suspect will be in strong contention in many end of year lists. Powerful, melodic, lyrically astute, cleverly arranged and well produced; the album pushes all the right buttons for pop aficionados.
Bell incorporates his influences with guile, invention and occasionally even a little mischievousness, from The Left Banke on "Askin' You Out" which references their "Pretty Ballerina" - once covered incidentally by the aforementioned Jason Falkner, who's also never quite got the breaks his talent deserved - to Badfinger, Bell's "Up & Out" uncannily reminiscent of Pete Ham's ill-fated pop classicists at their best.
Bell also has a little fun with his listeners, almost lifting Rainbow's "Since You've Been Gone" riff wholesale for the introduction to "Beauty Secrets". Elsewhere, further demonstrating his diversity and melodic talents, Bell reels off the life-affirmingly buoyant "Her City's Got A Train", so joyous even the most misanthropic couldn't fail to be moved to smile and leap around uncontrollably, duets with The Muffs' Kim Shattuck on the delicious bubblegum punk of "Happy Chocolate" before closing the album with the more complex orchestrated chamber pop of "Love Stained Eyes".
'Modern Dating Tips' is a splendid album that's been well worth the wait and I suspect that there's plenty more where this came from too. Here's a modern purchasing tip for you - buy this record!
(reviewer: Geraint Jones / Comes With A Smile Magazine)
"Jensen Bell takes the dissonant pop of Elvis Costello, the addictive sound of the Beatles, and his numerous other musical influences to make a sound truly unique. Fun, deep, ironic, sharp and intelligent, Jensen Bell is the quintessential truth in music. So honest it's awkward, JB makes you remember your first boyfriend and think his kisses were better than the brace-entangled farce it really was, yet at the same time recalling the sweet, innocent power of a love song and the emotions embroiled within it.
Please, listen. And enjoy Jensen Bell like you would a new wine. Let it slip onto your tongue, then seep to the corners of your taste buds, dropping hints of something previously un-experienced and yet somewhat familiar.
It doesn't hurt that Jensen is easy on the eyes, making the entire listening experience three dimensional, sexual, and pure." - Mandilou, retail music sales - Dearborn, Michigan
"WOW! An instant classic! A stunning debut that combines all of the best elements of classic 70's to present American and British guitar pop with elements of Badfinger, Brendan Benson, Big Star and Marshall Crenshaw (to name but a few) interspersed throughout this guitar-dominated jangle-fest! The hookiest songs are punctuated with some cool harmonies!"- Ray G. -KoolKatMusik.com
What great pop! "Beauty Secrets" is a hit single waiting to happen! Catchy as hell, with a great, hooky verse and an equally incredible chorus and a terrific vocal. "Love Stained Eyes" is a beautiful song, meticulous construction with an inventive chord progression, and those double-tracked vocals and expressive strings; this one sent chills up my spine. I love the background vocals at the beginning of "Up & Out"; this song shows Jensen's wide vocal range to great effect, and again, the song is catchy to the max. I'm most enamored with "Askin' You Out," a warm and wonderful tune that recreates that weird feeling of wanting to go out with someone and being afraid to pop the question; some really nice background vocals here, too. A thoroughly charming song. - - ("Pure Pop Radio" - Fairfax VA)
A great way to sample complete songs (4 of them) is on this "4 Song Player" (Capture this link and paste it in your browser):
"The debut album by long-time Los Angeles musician/songwriter Jensen Bell -- called "Modern Dating Tips", incidentally - will be, in all likelihood, an instant classic in the oft-uninspired power-pop genre. Fans of the Three B's - Beatles, Beach Boys and Big Star - will certainly find the music comprising "Modern Dating Tips" to be thoroughly entertaining - if not downright comforting -- for all of the hallmarks of classic power-pop are present and accounted for: jangling 12-string guitars, effervescent vocal melodies, and lots of lovely, layered background vocal harmonies, all driven by a pulsing backbeat. To call it "catchy" would be an understatement; to call it "inspired" would be much closer to the truth.
Jensen Bell has had a long history of hands-on involvement in the Los Angeles power-pop scene, having formed the buzz-band The Bell Starlings
(featuring the everywhere-at-once Robbie Rist on bass and former Muff Jim Laspesa on drums) during the heyday of the Bubblegum Crisis/Poptopia madness of the mid-1990's, and before that writing, recording, touring, and performing with several notable bands (including previous buzz band The Rails, Chris Cacavas, Chuck E. Weiss, and Maria McKee, among others), with varying degrees of success and recognition. Tours in Europe, miscellaneous recording projects -- even a stint as a music instructor -- kept Jensen Bell busy in the ensuing years, yet he remained artistically unfulfilled, nurturing an unrelenting desire to write The Great Power Pop Album he knew was lurking somewhere deep inside.
That album, waiters and gentlemen, is finally here.
Over much of the past two years, Bell conceived and recorded "Modern Dating Tips" at the now-legendary Lincoln Lounge in Venice, California, engineered and co-produced with behind-the-scenes maestro Steve Refling (Cockeyed Ghost, Davie Allen, Receiver, Stew, The Andersons!). The album is a triumph of melodicimagination, confidently staying well within the established guidelines of post-Beatles power-pop, yet embellishing these admittedly simplistic art-form limitations with interesting, unexpected chord progressions and great leaps of melody, performed with passion, inspiration, and total finesse.
The album is a song-cycle of sorts (some might call it a "concept" album) detailing the finer aspects of the trials and tribulations of dating. Lyrically, Bell really reaches out and takes chances, as some of the scenarios detailed on "Modern Dating Tips" are quite personal and revealingly intimate. Most people will easily relate to the feelings - which can range from crippling confusion to sky-spiraling exhilaration - that often go hand-in-hand when attempting a connection with the object of one's desire. It makes for quite an interesting listening experience, with Bell never taking a heavy-handed approach, instead letting his well-crafted lyrics speak for themselves.
Some of the musical highlights in this collection of stand-out tracks include the Tom Petty-esque opener "Asking You Out", the humorously upbeat duet with main Muff Kim Shattuck ("Happy Chocolate"), and the pistol-whipping "Possible Jane Situation", with its' clever lyrics and relentlessly jangling guitar hooks. Mention must be made of the gorgeous album closer, the magnificent McCartney-esque "Love Stained Eyes". Sounding like a long-lost George Martin "Revolver"-era production, "Love Stained Eyes" details the sad reality of a relationship doomed to failure. A gorgeous string arrangement paints a musical picture of regret and melancholy, mirroring the sadness and regret of the lyrics; underneath, a plaintive piano melody provides a foundation for Bell's evocative, yearning vocals. Truly a spine-chilling moment, one of many to be found within this album.
All in all, "Modern Dating Tips" is an amazingly cohesive musical and lyrical debut, one that proves this emerging artist not only has a comprehensive grasp of the modern melodic rock idiom, but also one able to imprint his own original, unique spin on the genre. Four out of five
dentists surveyed agree.
(reviewer - Kerry Chicoine | Fufkin.com)
"Let's say this up front: Jensen Bell's album "Modern Dating Tips" is about as classic a 'power pop' record as we come across and, therefore, is cause for celebration in these quarters. Fans of Matthew Sweet, Big Star, the first Myracle Brah album, some Raspberries, Owsley's first album, Fountains Of Wayne, Teenage Fanclub, will find that it's all here in spades - and aces." - Bruce Brodeen (Pres. NOT LAME Record Label, Colorado)
Very few CD's warrent a listen from start to finish. "Modern Dating Tips" does time and time again! This is more a total work than a collection of songs. I hear the left-slanted pop beatings of Elvis Costello with that same quirky sensibility. If you have been muddling through your romantic life forgetting to take notes... Jensen Bell has been sitting at a table in the back of the room jotting everything down... and this is an audio journal just for you. One of THE best CD's I have purchased in the last 5 years! No kidding! ~~ Jen Shade
9). French review and translation of
JENSEN BELL "Modern Dating Tips"
si l'album ci dessus concerne le haut du panier de ces derniers mois, que dire de cette météorite ? dans mon top 10 de ces six premiers mois de 2005. Tout d'abord très surpris car pour être honnête je n'avais jamais entendu parler de ce résident de L.A. (et vous ?) et quand on apprend dans sa bio qu'il a postulé pour être guitariste des R*********s, on n'entend plus on écoute!!!! La pochette très comics ne m'avait pas non plus mis en appétit mais dès "askin' you out"' le premier titre, j'ai été subjugué par tant de talent : compositions brillantes, mélodies gracieuses et hits en puissance (her city's got a train, kitsch lorraine, happy chocolate) en fait la totalité des 35 minutes que durent cet album sont indspensables à tout amateur de Pop qui se respecte. A must!!!
This album is without a doubt one of the highlights for me for the first half of 2005. I don't know a lot about this LA resident other than the fact that he was possibly a guitarist in (well-known-band-name-omitted) but never mind, just listen to this album! While the cover art is quite humorous it was only after listening to the first track "Askin You Out" that I was sucked in to this man's talent. Brilliant writing, amazing melodies and hits a-plenty (Her City's Got a Train, Kitsch Lorraine, Happy Chocolate), the 35 minutes spent listening to this album is essential for all true fans of pop. A must!
By Gérard Girard
10). ...seal of approval for an original artist.
Be warned! ..you'll need to spend a little time getting to grips with Modern Dating Tips. It definitely takes a little effort on the listener's part to fully appreciate its many, and musically diverse, charms. Trying to get under the skin of the Bitter Suite alone could take longer than the time it takes most albums to come and go. The initial impression is that all its best bits have been borrowed from somewhere. The helter skelter guitars of City's Got A Train, the sweet harmonies of Possible Jane Situation and the naïve sweetness of Askin You Out are all very nice but you can easily attach names ranging from Weezer to the Beach Boys to them, great names but someone else's clothes are always someone else's clothes.
However, slowly but surely the penny drops and you realize that at the heart of the album is Jensen Bell, the rest is mere decoration and the flitting between styles is just the work of an active and original artist. The common thread is an unshakable streak of optimism that runs through each song, Bell most certainly has his eyes fixed on better times ahead. Once you get into the rhythm of it all, the fact that it moves easily from a classic pop song like Smoke & Perfume to the rockier Happy Chocolate becomes perfectly natural. ...The highlight of the album is undoubtedly the towering Kitsch Lorraine, it alone is enough to absolve Jensen Bell of any real or imaginary sins. On balance if you give Modern Dating Tips a fair hearing you'll come around as the best things in life require a little work... and this is no different. - by Michael Mee for Americana-UK (UK)
Modern Dating Tips is essentially as the title alludes, or as the artist himself puts it, “an evolving view of the arc of a modern person’s dating life”. Irony is the major theme within and to add one more, though Bell is an Angelino, his songwriting style is very “east coast,” as it will remind the listener of New York heavyweights like Fountains Of Wayne, Richard X. Heyman, and George Usher. Most of the songs on Modern Dating Tips clock in at under three minutes and have hooks in all the right places, with sardonic lyrics that always bring home the point. His line of “I’d swear off girls if I wasn’t straight” pretty much sums up the dating frustrations many men go through, but in the end never really live by. The album features several luminaries of the L.A. music scene, including Kim Shattuck (with whom Bell duets on the appropriately Muffs-like “Happy Chocolate) and the guardian angel of L.A. power-pop: Robbie Rist.
This is one helluva pop album, and you won’t want to be without it.
David Bash - Amplifier Magazine
*Song By Song Descriptions* can be found here:
^ (just capture that and paste it in your browser!)
***** and some blurbs from local (L.A.) reviewers:*****
"Highly innovative originals in the style of Big Star, Mid 60's Kinks and Marshall Crenshaw...Majestic pop bliss" - Night Fever ~ Jim Freek
"Catchy melodic songs sporting beautiful soaring harmonies" - Scott Morrow
"A barrage of hooks not heard since the early days of the Jam or the Shoes" - Johnny Angel
"Engaging music that is quite pop, frequently complex, laden with familiar references and hooks that run from punk to glam to Beatles." - Natalie Nichols
"A high energy treat (with) some of the most insightful lyrics I have ever heard" - Entertainment Weekly
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