The GoAllTheWays: “Silly Girl” & “Tourist”

Every once in a while, a project comes along that is so vibrant and heartfelt and magic that it restores your faith in the creative process. The new Big Stir Records single from The GoAllTheWays, “Silly Girl” b/w “Tourist,” is one of those projects.

The single is a companion piece to the new book Go All The Way: A Literary Appreciation of Power Pop (Rare Bird Books). According to band, “The idea was to flip the ‘punks covering pop songs’ trope to exploit the hidden harmonies and hooks in a couple of our favorite bashers.” The result was dramatic, classic power pop-flavored re-imaginings of “Silly Girl” (by The Descendents) and “Tourist” (by The Pink Lincolns).

The GoAllTheWays are Steve Coulter on drums, Jeff Whalen (Tsar & The Brothers Steve, lead vocals), Rex Broome (The Armoires, 12-string and backing vocals), Tyson Cornell (Rare Bird Lit, guitar), and Marko DeSantis (Sugarcult, bass) Steve is also a writer (on music as well as crime fiction) who’s the editor and a contributor to the “Go All The Way” book, and a contributor to Big Stir Magazine.

“Power Pop” often represents a big umbrella. The universally acknowledged Godfather of the genre is Eric Carmen, main songwriter and lead vocalist of the Raspberries, who unleashed a mammoth string of hit singles from 1972-1974. Eric’s singular gift was to blend melodic and bombastic echos of early Who with Sir Paul McCartney-inspired songwriting and vocals, wrapping it all around pristine backing vocals and instantly catchy sing-along choruses. The sound spread like wildfire, spawning a new school of bands like The Romantics. Some leaned more toward power, some more toward pop. They also incorporated the eternally sunny vibe of ringing Rickenbackers and the style of harmony vocals perfected by Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman in the original Byrds. Each new band added their own unique perspective, but the roots were indelible. There was a structure, but it was malleable.

“Silly Girl” opens with a bit of the aforementioned Byrds sound, and drummer Steve Coulter deserves special kudos by bringing another level of authenticity to the track. Many of his fills are straight out of the Hal Blaine / Wrecking Crew playbook, with a dash of Ringo for good measure. As you may know, Hal played…often uncredited…on scores of hits by The Beach Boys and others. Listen around the 20 second mark, right after the line “I was too scared to go,” and at 1:00, right after “Silly Girl, I’m in love with you.” These are the kind of drum fills that can only be played by a musician who has lived and breathed this music, and they blend with the other elements of the song, including its goofy and innocent lyrics, to deliver a fresh and invigorating homage to a truly beloved period in time.

“Tourist” is a pretty shocking re-invention of the original, which was pure punk anarchy. It’s a “mission accomplished” for the band’s attempt to “exploit the hidden harmonies and hooks.” It begins sounding like what could be a cover of The Byrds’ version of Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” before Jeff Whelan’s masterful vocals enter the picture. He stretches out the syllables, another secret weapon of classic Power Poppers, leaning into the words to emphasize his intent. “I’m a tooooooooooourist, and I feel the anguish…” As I said above, immediately catchy and sing-along, all punctuated with sparkly Fab Four guitar fills. Light and airy “OOOOOOHS” and “la la la la la’s” and a sweet guitar solo just elevate this one into the Heavens. This is standing ovation stuff, folks…simply magnificent.

Having said all of that, the single greatest element of this project is that the band did not choose immediately recognizable, mega-hit songs to cover, I have no doubt that they could have nailed the sound, but if your attention is immediately drawn to the song you knew and loved and heard endlessly on the radio, you can’t give the new version your full attention. And once you go on over to YouTube and listen to the originals, you’ll be impressed at what a remarkable job they did with both.

This isn’t a single, it’s a moment, a high-water mark for 2019. The single will be released on October 7, 2019, when it will be available for download. You can pre-order it now.