Does Pittsburgh's bar scene really need another solid, catchy, pop-rock band? Chad Sipes believes the city's gooey, creamy center is ready for a smart response to the hegemony of The Clarks and Bill Deasy, updated for the latest iteration of cubicle workers. His trio is joined in this pursuit by other local acts such as Donora, Triggers and Blindsider.
On his new album, The Soft Center of the City, Sipes makes some of the same references that older "college-rock" bands did. The kickoff tune, "Sound of the Suburbs," melds a John Cougar sentimentality for Americana with the acerbic wit of Ben Folds: "Come home, turn on the TV, watching it while my kids are watching me ... grocery store 10 miles away ... don't blame me, I'm just living my manifest destiny." Meanwhile, "Duplicate Triplicate" sports an intro lick quite similar to Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl."
All of which makes it clear that Sipes, who has a powerful voice, owes a debt to various factions of power pop. "The Crooked Strait" might be his entry into the MySpace sweepstakes -- it's an upbeat number where you can envision kids bouncing up and down to the callout hook, like they would for Fallout Boy or Weezer at Bigelow Bash. "Underground" unveils personal lyrics that might appeal to fans of anyone from Ted Leo to Fountains of Wayne.
The skills of the other two members of Sipes' trio are worth mentioning here. Guitarist Erik Cirelli (also of Lohio and Emily Rodgers' band) holds the melodic focus, whether it's single-note lines, the anthemic jangliness on Triple-A-leaning tracks like "Beautiful Divide," or the blistering, Karl Hendricks-style solo prefacing the otherwise mellow "Whoopsie Daisy." Drummer Paul Smith, primarily a jazz artist, also provides tasteful backup, propelling the content forward without obtrusive flash.
If you're looking for anything new, edgy or adventurous -- and let's face it, most people really aren't, no matter what they say -- this CD won't do it for you. But if you yearn to pop in an album that has its finger on the mainstream pulse of the city (and perhaps a lucrative potential for TV soundtracks), this could be the ticket to success.
The Chad Sipes Stereo CD release with Donora. 10 p.m. Fri., Aug. 31. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $5. 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net