HOP ON POP - Chicken on a Bicycle

Nowadays most albums stick rigidly to one particular format or style, never deviating from the musical genre that the band inhabits. So its rather refreshing to hear something that unashamedly meanders down many pathways. Track follows track in quick succession, but each bears little resemblance to the one that preceded it and, in so doing, gives the recording a myriad of different surprises.

HOP ON POP is in fact Chicago songwriter Todd Leiter-Weintraub, who has sporadically being releasing his efforts since debuting in 2004 with "As Drawn As Ethan, Age 2". Whilst band members have come and gone, he has remained the constant driving force behind the band that has culminated in his latest release "Chicken on a Bicycle".

Whilst I have used many musical reference points to highlight the diversity of the record, it should not be taken to mean that there is any level of plagiarism at work here. Todd writes original material and certainly the album is wholly his own work.

Opening number "Here" starts with an intro that instantly takes me back to childhood memories of Hot Butter's hit of the early 70s "Popcorn". However, rather than remaining a saccharine-sweet pop song, the number veers off in quasi Devo territory, complete with crashing guitars and falsetto vocals. At a time when all fans of that vastly underrated band are still mourning the passing of Bob Casale, the song brought a smile to my face. RIP Bob.


Rather than this setting the style for the remainder of the album, next track "Sheila of the Worms" sends it off in a completely different direction. Recorded live, this largely acoustic number has a folk core, but with an addictive chorus that has the assembled masses happily singing along.

I wondered if next number "Tortured Artist" was in any way auto biographical. But its Blur style intro leads into an almost psychedelic song reminiscent of XTC in their Dukes of Stratosphear days. So 3 songs, 3 styles.

A slight return to folk for "C'Mon Angel", a song apparently seen through the eyes of an abusive husband who has tracked down his runaway wife. This is the kind of dark, brooding cry-into-your-beer song that was the bedrock of early country. Think Johnny Cash or Springsteen in "Nebraska" times. As an antidote, next up is the more uplifting "I'm Pathetic", more in the tradition of a traditional pop/rock song.

An so the album continues swapping styles and feelings with just about every song. "Come On, Lets Go" is a piano/viola based, Rolling Stones "Angie" type ballad, that Todd wishes to one day re-record with a full band. Followed quickly by the Housemartins guitar based romp of "Happy Days" and the Dylanesque "Say You Will (A Reluctant Soldiers Plea)" a song that articulates a soldiers emotions about the horror, and absurdity, of war.

A return of the synth ushers in penultimate track "Leo Goldbergs 2 step", which is turn morphs into a county hoedown mid song. Whilst last up is "Hey", a track that is based upon a well know song, but not one usually heard in rock circles (although I remember punk band the Yobs had a take on it in the late 70s). I leave the surprise of exactly which song serves as its influence up to anyone willing to take the chance and give this well deserting album a listen. If you appetite has been wetted you can check out Todd at the following websites: