Sour Ops has today premiered their new single titled ‘Now You’re Gone’. More than a typical pop song, Sour Ops (aka Price Harrison), has a penchant for framing the hook and surrounding it with melody. Almost a throwback to the songwriters of old, ‘Now You’re Gone’ takes a modern spin with strings and a buildup of instrumentation to take the listener on a ride through a piece of the artist’s life. Short but sweet, now its gone. Good thing the play button is back.
When we last checked in with Nashville rock ‘n’ roll quartet Sour Ops–the prolific power-pop-meets-glam band led by singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer Price Harrison–they had released a series of six singles during the pandemic year of 2020. Harrison & Co. haven’t been idle in the months that followed. This month, Sour Ops releases their second full-length collection, X, a 10-track album that contains the singles and four new songs that build upon the stylistic and conceptual success of their previous work. X rocks out, taking the band’s sound into space that feels very of-the-moment in 2021.
Price Harrison is, above all, a true man of parts. He grew up in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, near Nashville, and graduated from that city’s Vanderbilt University in the 1980s, taking his architecture degree from Yale later in the decade. Settling in New York to practice his profession, Price started a band, The Botswanas, whose sound prefigured Sour Ops’. With his guitar-playing and songwriting brother Mark Harrison– Mark plays guitar on the X track “The Sexy Sadist” and leads his own Nashville power-pop band Snakehips, of which Price is a member–Price helped make Nashville rock history in the early-’80s group 69 Tribe. That band also featured future Sour Ops bassist Tony Frost.
These days, Price stays busy as an architect, graphic designer, videographer and photographer. In his spare time he makes records like X at his Music City studio, where he plays through P3 amplifiers he designed. A man of parts, indeed. His rigorous sensibilities inform Sour Ops’ music–his feel for slick, slinky form translates into music that is highly structured without being hobbled by the coldness of formalism. X rocks hard, and it also provides plenty of meaty, funny social commentary and sparklingly cynical humor. The guitars cut deep and the hooks cascade, while George Lilly’spost-Ringo drumming meshes with Tony Frost’s bass lines.
For example, take “My Baby Shut Down,” which was recorded, like most of X, by an additive process that found Price tracking guitar and drums first, followed by bass, keys and vocals. The song–a brilliant reworking of British Invasion verities that lasts 2:45 and doesn’t waste a second–lines out a modern social situation. “My baby shut down/She stopped working out/My baby shut down the other day/She just can’t work it out,” Price sings. With Farfisa organ added to the mix, the song is both incisive and, well, funny. That’s how Sour Ops roll. Another song, “Do You Wanna Be Like Them?”–one of the six 2020 singles–is an update of a tune Price and Mark Harrison wrote for the Botswanas decades ago.
They’re some of the pleasures you’ll find on X. It’s rock ‘n’ roll minimalism, with guitars that slither and insinuate, that feels warm to the touch: Bowie meets AC/DC in a bar, with Alex Chilton and Mick Ronson looking over their shoulders and laughing. “Our sound,” says Price, “is an austere combination of proto-punk minimalism and athoroughly modern, heavy take on power-pop.” Amen to that. X isn’t all austere, of course, not with veteran singer Shaun Murphy adding background vocals to “My Baby Shut Down” and the country-tinged “I Want You Around.” (Saxophonist Miqui Gutierrez plays on “Do You Wanna Be Like Them?” and “Inside the Mind,” and Nashville pedal-steel master Paul Niehaus lends his touch to “I Want You Around.”) The closing track, “Out of Place,” addresses American discrimination and misplaced nostalgia in the current, vexed political climate.
“Yeah, we’re running out of space/You’re part of the discarded race,” Price sings. It’s serious stuff, and it’s also great minimalist pop, with a synth line craftily sequenced to match the guitar part. It’s another example of how Sour Ops uses technology to create living music and, you might say, statements about our fractured, beautiful world that we can both dance to and think about.
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