If you’re a fan of the Boss like I am, it’s hard to keep it a secret. When you’re not wildly spilling beer while blasting Born in the U.S.A., you’re belting out a sultry karaoke version of “I’m on Fire.” (Really, there should be no guilt to this simple pleasure.) That kind of dedication makes it easy to dig the neo-Springsteenian PAPA, a rollicking duo from Los Angeles. On the band’s 2013 debut, Tender Madness, “If You’re My Girl Then I’m Your Man” wins for its simple story and hook-filled structure, reminiscent of Bruce’s most popular songs. It’s one of the last songs you’ll hear on the record, but the songs that come before it, with their folksy lyrics, subtle ballads and driving beats, make it worth the wait.
Tender Madness begins with a brief instrumental opening that feels like the buzz and clatter of a barroom, except with the order only a studio can provide, then it dives right into piano- and guitar-led rock. Carefully selected synths fill the backdrop in songs like “Forgotten Days,” leaving the unmistakable feeling of New Order in your ears. On “I Am The Lion King,” singer Darren Weiss croons in his shaky way, “It’s not a means to an end, no, baby baby hold.” Though the best songs on the album have the Boss as a background, Tender Madness draws funky influences on “Cotton Candy” and even goes a little country on the last track, “Replacements.” Despite lacking a singular stylistic direction, PAPA’s just getting started, and this Springsteen-loving guy likes what he hears.
PAPA plays the Top Hat Mon., May 26, at 9 PM. $10/$8 advance.