No Time To Lose

Ransom And The Subset

Tune Stack Records, 2014

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


A well-crafted power-pop song is like a hot fudge sundae. The magic happens in the precise combination of a familiar, time-tested set of ingredients: ice cream (a driving rhythm section), hot fudge (an instantly memorable guitar riff), whipped cream (layered harmony vocals on the choruses), nuts (clever lyrics), and, of course, the cherry on top (handclaps… the best power-pop songs always have handclaps).

Combining all of these elements creates a treat that, for listeners like this one, is irresistible and almost guaranteed to satisfy time after time. It might not be the most nutritious option available, and you might occasionally feel guilty for enjoying it as much as you do, but it’s an undeniable melt-in-your-ears pleasure.

Ransom And The Subset’s debut album No Time To Lose is indeed a tasty power-pop confection, full of the sort of airy, energetic, acoustic-rhythm-guitar-driven tunes mastered by groups like Barenaked Ladies, with singer-songwriter-guitarist RanDair S. Porter’s slightly nasal, often rather deadpan lead vocals reminding me of Dave Pachence (Draw Tippy). There’s a bit of a Fountains of Wayne feel as well in the rhythm section’s punch and the way Porter unearths one appealingly catchy riff after another in support of his slightly off-kilter songs.

Kickoff cut “Anna” opens with a brief, dreamy interlude before getting right to it with a big, chunky riff, with the trusty acoustic rhythm guitar, bass, drums and vocals quickly following, the pieces all designed to fit together seamlessly, the background vocals coming in right on cue at the chorus. It’s classic power-pop construction; Porter and cohorts Brian E. King (guitar, bass, keys, background vocals) and Ducky Carlisle (drums, background vocals) have studied the masters and learned well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“When Will I See You” is where the Barenaked Ladies loom the largest in terms of points of reference; this could be an outtake from Stunt. The rhythm guitar propels the song along, building nicely into the comparatively stripped-down chorus. Batting third, “Leaving With You” has an edgier, more frenetic feel, a bit of a New Wave vibe, and features a stop-on-a-dime finish that you can sense coming.

“Make A Million Out Of Me” is the biggest and richest of this album’s hot fudge sundaes, though: sunny, driving, bubbly, hooky, slightly snarky, and—wait for it—handclaps. Up next, the title track offers all of these elements in a softer midtempo package, but there’s something slightly off about it. The melody is sweet and poignant, but the lyric is hard to decode. Is this tale about a lonely woman who “needs a husband / she needs a man” some kind of hyper-earnest anti-feminist manifesto, or is he just mocking her neediness? Either way, the end result is a bit of a head-scratcher. (On the other hand, it has bells, and bells in a power-pop song are pretty much always good.)

“One For Me” delivers contagious energy, though not much more in this slight 2:40 number. Fountains Of Wayne guitarist Jody Porter guests on both guitar and bass on “Sticking Onto You,” lending extra punch and cred to what’s already a very FoW-ish number about a rejected ex who just won’t give up (the end result also reminds more than a little of classic New Wave in the Elvis Costello/Nick Lowe mold). Closer “We’ll Get By” is in the same vein, with punchy call-and-answer vocals and an energetic arrangement… of a song about a guy going home to tell his wife he’s been laid off.

This mostly solid album is not without its misfires in the second half. “Questions” goes for a more serious vibe, but feels like it misses the mark. By contrast, the ironically titled “Girl I’m Not Afraid” plays for laughs, but the music works a lot better than the lyric. And “Baby Cry” is a bizarre little ballad sung by the narrator to his dog.

Overall, No Time To Lose delivers just what its opening notes promise: a tight, melodic set of classicist power-pop full of catchy riffs, soaring choruses, and snappy handclaps. It’s a familiar, welcome sound, and Ransom And The Subset know just what to do with it.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2015 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Tune Stack Records, and is used for informational purposes only.