Led by singer and guitarist Brian McClelland, the Maxtone 4 has been threatening to become the city's best power-pop band for the past few years. With its second album, Hey Hey Do It Anyway, the quartet is finally making good on its promise. The band plays straight-ahead, two-guitar rock with a penchant for handclaps, whip-smart hooks and layered harmonies. The musicianship is pitch-perfect throughout the record, and it leaves room for McClelland's breathy voice, which is sometimes endearingly fey but ballsy enough to navigate the sharp corners and quick rhymes of these songs.
For Hey Hey, the band enlisted the help of Joe Thebeau (of Finn's Motel) on production and songwriting, including on the disc's first track, "Just Say I Know." The song attacks the recycled sound of this city's rock bands, singing (sweetly) that "it's been done before and it's been done better." This is a bold statement from an act that owes no small debt to groups ranging from Cheap Trick to the Knack to Zumpano, but it hints at the vitriol that rests beneath the band's saccharine veneer. To wit: "I Fucking Hate This Place" sounds like "Take This Job and Shove It" as recorded by Squeeze. Like any good power-pop record, there are several songs about girls, like "Melody Girl" (about a lady who is "aggressive and mean" but "super-duper clean") and "Kickstand," a synth-inflected ode to an independent woman. Maxtone 4 adds a bit of dirt and grit to the bubble-gum formula, proving that sunshine-pop can address more than puppy love.