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The American New Wave moment had some weird and off-genre (power po, and indie-rock) bands in it - all great in their own ways - think Devo, The Cars, The B-52s, Talking Heads, Blondie, Cheap Trick, The Ramones, and even ZZ Top - curated by an eclectic and hungry MTV that could make Huey Lewis appear avant-garde at first.

Meanwhile, try and name a truly great American rock band to rival AC/DC, The Who, Led Zep, The Beatles, The Stones, T-Rex, ELO, - The Doors? Foreigner? The Stooges? The Eagles? Fleetwood Mac? Tom Petty's lads? The Beach Boys? Guns 'N Roses? Aerosmith? Glass Tiger? Rush? (the last two Canadian) - The Band (last three). The Doors, and The Beach Boys, and Stooges, for sure, but hardly in the same league, really, as The Beatles or The Stones.  Which is where Cheap Trick come in.

Improbably, these late 70s power pop oddballs (most famous for 'Dream Police' and 'The Flame' - quintessential high-school dance fixtures) have just recently been accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - improbably because it seems they should have been there sooner (if at all, depending on your tastes).

Their new LP - apparently their 17th (I know no one who owns the last 12 or more, do you?) - is a joy.  Written and performed by all members except the reviled ex-drummer, each man in his 60s save for the new drummer who is one of the member's sons, it is a triumph of energy and nervy reckless continuity.

Firstly, the sound is hard power pop - think The Who fused with ELO and AC/DC - with little New Wave flourishes (a bit of The Stranglers and some Echo and the Bunnymen, faintly). Mostly, it sounds like a more melodious, slightly less stupid and aggressive AC/DC - but with the same template of women, fun, and some vague social commentary.

The album is pure and classic in its style - it is so well-made, so well-performed, with beautiful vocals, and 11 songs of equal effectiveness - it is astonishing it is not from their late 70s heyday.  40 years ago this would have been one of the great rock LPs of the year.And, in its preposterous, fun and OTT way, it is one of the best of 2016, certainly.  A perfect BBQ playlist all of its own.  Welcome back guys! Your 'Blood Red Lips' is especially terrific.


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Wheeler Light for 'Life Jacket'.

The runner-up is: Daniel Duffy - 'President Returns To New York For Brief First Visit'

Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

summer camp shirtsI couldn’t fit in then
are half my size nowI wanted to wear
smaller and smallerarticles of clothing
I shrunk to the sizethat disappeared

of an afterthoughtin a sinking ship body
too buoyant to sinktoo waterlogged for land
I becamea dot of sand


With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.