The first CD, released in 1992 on Fang Records, includes guests John Linnell (They Might Be Giants); DJ Bonebrake(X); Oren Bloedow (Elysian Fields), Dan Levine, Frank London and Brian Dewan.
Woodbury revived the project to make the 2015 album “Pay Attention,” with Andy Sanesi (drums); Dan Lutz (bass); David Witham (piano); Marc Muller (guitars, bass, pedal steel, etc.); Jim Kimo West (guitars); Glen Berger (woodwinds); Chris Tedesco (trumpets); Dan Levine (trombone, euphonium, tuba); Ben Powell (violin); and special guests Tulasi Rain ; Johnny Unicorn; Michael Webster and Nick Ariondo.
Brian Woodbury and His Popular Music Group is what happens when impressionable minds are exposed to Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle at an early age. Woodbury, whose ’80s band the Some Philharmonic actually performed with Parks, has a similar desire to cram every bar of music and line of lyrics with witty references and ear-catching surprises. Unlike Parks, however, he is also a consummate writer of instantly memorable pop tunes, and so all 19 songs on this 55-minute album are suffused with the kind of pure pop hooks that fans of XTC or Guided by Voices will immediately love. (Fans attuned to the pop underground familiar with San Francisco’s K.C. Bowman or Toronto’s John Southworth will immediately recognize the New York-based Woodbury as a kindred spirit.) Woodbury’s goofy-brainy persona and fondness for surreal wordplay will appeal to They Might Be Giants fans, but those who find that duo too precious will respond to the solid power pop hooks of songs like the faux-patriotic “Your Roots Are Phony” and the Young Fresh Fellows -like “I’ve Still Got My Balls.”
Stewart Mason, All Music Guide
…[Woodbury] creates hook-laden pop tunes that simply won’t behave themselves. Woodbury and his musicians perform ditties like “Your Roots Are Phony” and “I’ve Still Got My Balls” with an innate avant-rock sensibility. The eclecticism of Sparks and Zappa is crossbred with the melodic sheen of NRBQ. The coolest thing is, I’ll bet Woodbury doesn’t like any of those guys. Only a man with a firm grip on his cojones could write a tune like “I Burn the Flag” (a brilliant ode to sexual passion) or the Donovan-meets-Gentle Giant “Dreamstate of California” (“…where you always let your subconscious be your guide.”)…18 demented gems.”
Dino Di Muro, Option
“Woodbury’s a charming melodist, more toward the Broadway tradition than top 40 radio. But he has clearly studied Brian Wilson’s notions of harmony and arrangement, and you’d swear Todd Rundgren was involved in some of his more guitar-crazed scores. (He does have a tendency to liven up standard changes by dropping beats.) Lyrically, he aspires to Cole Porter’s complex internal rhymes, homonyms and puns. He’s also witheringly sarcastic. Often he has a political axe to grind: “Food Fight” discusses the likelihood of armed uprising from a Third World tired of starving, and “Your Roots Are Phony” skewers patriotic icons; on the other hand, “I Burn the Flag”is a love song that improbably quotes “Some Enchanted Evening.” Sometimes he just grabs his metaphor and runs with it: one tune’s called “The Oranges,” as the inverse of the blues, and it’s an absurdly jolly patter song. And the chorus of his catchiest love song goes, “Flavor packet, you’re my flavor packet, you taste so good you make everything else taste worse!”
Michael Bloom, Boston Rock
“…a parcel of songs that from a distance sound like very infinitesimally demented pop-art pieces…. Beneath this patina of normal niceness lies a veritable tank trap of lyrical ambushes. Take “Your Roots Are Phony” for instance. Bright and ebullient, it takes just two minutes and nine seconds to completely demolish the American dream and its false historical mystique…. Nineteen wistful works, packed with twinkling tunes and more clever lyrics than you’ll find in a decade’s worth of other releases…. Brian Woodbury, on this showing alone, can definitely be trusted to make a great record, again and again and again.”
Andy Dunkley, Rockpool