Kelley Stoltz’s third Sub Pop LP, To Dreamers, isn’t likely to change the impression that his career is an extended homage to his favorite records from decades past. Its first song, “Do You Want To Rock & Roll With Me,” opens with some power chords so indebted to the young Pete Townsend that if you close your eyes, you’ll see windmills, then lurches into a sax-punctuated arrangement that is a pastiche of all that Mott The Hoople and Spiders From Mars-era David Bowie had in common.
Stoltz even takes the meta-geekery in his music to a new level on “Keeping The Flame,” which brings to mind Tom Petty produced by Jeff Lynne, but not one of Petty’s Lynne-produced records; rather, it sounds like Petty sitting in on demos for Out of the Blue. And “I Remember, You Were Wild’s” opening is probably more like a tune that Robert Forster might have written for The Go-Betweens c. Before Hollywood than anything Forster’s ever going to write for the rest of his life.
But copying his idols isn’t all that’s on Stoltz’s agenda, and it’s a good thing; if you only want to hear the old sounds, you could just pull out your old records. Stoltz’s recreations are means to an end; he wants to write songs about good-old fashioned topics like falling in and out of love that sound fresh enough to make you play them over and over. Sometimes his quotations work like a lure; you might spin “Love Let Me In” a second time just to be sure that that’s really the slide lick from Roxy Music’s “Prairie Rose.” But Stoltz knows that there’s more to fishing than baiting the hook, so he’s fashioned a hook out of a bright horn arrangement that’ll keep hold of you, and a pick-me-up lyric so full of genuine good vibes that you’ll be glad to swallow it.
And some of those sonic quotes work hand in hand with the lyrics to put across a song’s sentiment; the associations to pre-HIV polymorphous perversity sparked by “I Like, I Like’s” Ziggy-Bowie strut amplify the just-got-laid-and-it’s-happening-again-soon giddiness of Stoltz’s words. And who wouldn’t want to catch a bit of that feeling?