Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi The Apples' Core

By Brendan Doherty

MARCH 23, 1998:  With some bands, any evolution is met with derision among fans. Arguments--followed swiftly by mutually filed assault and battery charges--often spring from whether or not the Replacements were better with or without Tommy Stinson, Pink Floyd without Syd Barrett. ... The list is endless. Music, like the lives that make it, is hardly without the the tug of personality conflict and the tosses and turns of fashion.

The Denver-based quartet Apples in Stereo have comfortably emerged from a lo-fidelity muck box into the high-fidelity world, only to be embraced. If anything, their enthusiasm and song craft is clearer. Their record was bought up by a major label to achieve wider distribution in a re-release, just last month. They have been touring almost nonstop since November. The wellspring of their inspiration--Big Star, early R.E.M., the Beach Boys and the Raspberries--shimmers through them anew. And it would seem that the public's desire for Apples in Stereo's infectious music is endless.

"We're so childish and immature," says Hillary Sidney, drummer for the band. "We just love what we are doing, playing music and touring. It's real work. We have to work more than 40 hours a week doing this, but it is fun. And we do so many things that it feels like it isn't work. We are having so much fun dodging the real world. I don't know what that is, really, it just sounds scary. Robert and I, we never want to grow up."

But if anything, their sound has grown up from the hidden, inexpensive sound of the Fun Trick Noisemaker and Science Faire CDs. Both have the feel of a compelling musical diary that reads with some difficulty. Their latest, Tone Soul Evolution, spares no expense and makes no pretense to hide the staggering pop gems. The bright 12-string opening of "Seems So" dispatches the clouds right out of anyone's coffee with a cheerful aplomb and handclaps on the downbeat. Not content to be merely a live group, the band rewarded the faithful believers in their song craft, by recording at the band's Pet Sounds Studio. The release features the lush instrument sounds of woodwinds, horns and sound collage worthy of the Beach Boy's pinnacle achievement Pet Sounds.

"I actually think of us as a rock band," Sidney says. "We're not a pop band; we're a band. We play old rock music. It's just rock. I hate the distinctions, because I don't think that it serves the audience very well. Musically, though, I think that sometimes there aren't many artists that try to sculpt a good song. Production, arrangement, song--something can be perfect. We always think of each song in terms of a song that would be a single."

Underneath each successful song, each workable single, there are a dozen that have been thrown away. "I made up a new little song/If I had a nickel for every one/then I'd be making a living/I'd come up with 10 tunes a day, keep them ever-coming," sings the band in the sincere-but-saccharine harmony on "Tin Pan Alley." Even if the sentiment is melancholy, the music bounces it right on past any sadness. It is difficult to pin an age on this timeless and tirelessly energetic and optimistic music that has sprung from the quartet. Their aesthetic seemingly looks backward in time to the late '60s and early '70s in pop music where there was a sharper focus on arrangement, instrumentation and song craft. Guitarist and singer Robert Schneider, the band's principal songwriter, also sounds like his voice has yet to break. Apples in Stereo are far more adept at singing winsome songs of love pushed on a simple drumbeat and decorated with layer after layer of guitar. It's a formula that works, and Apples are among the best currently putting it to work. The Apples in Stereo aren't steeped in ennui or covered up in the angry screams of punk rock.

"I couldn't be bothered to be angry," Sidney says. "Our music is optimistic and happy-go-lucky, hope-things-work-out-for-the-best. I've never been that pissed off. I've liked a good pop song, and I love the Beatles. Even in their sad songs it sounds like they don't hate life. There will always be the angry guy attitude and the music that goes with it, but more people are hearing and making music that sounds like the Kinks. They make you feel something, and I love that. I feel sad, and I'll put on a record that's sad, and I'll play it over and over again."

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