Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Boo Radleys - Giant Steps demos (1992-93?)

As some of you may have surmised, I'm big on demos, if only for the fact that songs in their raw gestation period bear a certain spontaneity that doesn't often translate in the often over-labored finished version.  This collection of prototypes for the third Boo Radleys' platter Giant Steps does indeed convey said spontaneity and unpolished facets galore - but that doesn't necessarily mean they supersede the more well known prime-time iterations.  In fact, I favor the official recordings over the working versions I'm presenting here.  You see, these are true blue demos - merely unfinished silhouettes and outlines that were designed to be used as a reference point for Sice and Co.'s professional studio endeavors in 1993.  There's a lack of preciseness and finality to these recordings - more like, "let's lay 'em down quick on tape before we forget the gist of the tune(s), boys."

The Rad's never had anything approaching a hit Stateside but in their native England, Giant Steps was their breakthrough and a veritable creative triumph which found the quartet making great strides in terms of inducing a solid dose of empathy into their handiwork, while simultaneously shying away from the dream-pop inclinations that was formally one of their most renown calling cards.  This is one of those situations where it really does benefit the listener to be acquainted with the finished album to appreciate these nascent and often unrepresentative early takes, so if you're fresh to Giant Steps, check it on Spotify or otherwise before delving too deep into this.  My only legit complaint with the demos is that we're deprived of the genesis of one of the record's pinnacle moments, "Best Lose the Fear."

01. I Hang Suspended
02. Upon 9th and Fairchild
03. Wish I Was Skinny
04. Leave and Sand
05. Butterfly McQueen
06. Rodney king
07. Thinking of Ways
087. Barney (...and Me)
09. Spun Around
10. If You Want It, Take It
11. Take the Time Around
12. Lazarus
13. One is For
14. Run My Way Runway
15. I've Lost the Reason
16. You're Not to Blame
17. Peachy Keen

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Too many jeckles feeling like Mr. hyde.

In a perfect world, all reunion albums would be on the level of this one.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alternate Learning (aka ALRN) - ALRN ep (1979) and Painted Windows (1981)

I had a request for these two records that was simply too good to refuse, even if I don't possess physical copies of either.  If you have any awareness whatsoever as to what Alternate Learning (ALRN for short) were about, you likely know they were the predecessor to the late Scott Miller's more renown mid-80s combo, Game Theory.  I'm not privy to the impetus of the band's moniker, but it's safe to say that if you wish to have "alternate facts" it's only logical that "alternate learning" has to come first, no?  And speaking of all things logical, their 1981 full length Painted Windows was a fittingly stylistic precursor to the first GT wax, Blaze of Glory.  Stunning, inspired slices of vaguely skewed collegiate juvenilia entailing the likes of "The New You" and "Beach State Rocking" make Painted... almost as rewarding an any given Theory offering.  You'll no doubt suss out a more pronounced emphasis on synthesizers cropping up on ALRN tunes stacked up to GT, but in terms of song arrangements, Miller's formula was baked into the cake when this dandy little LP was gestated way back when.  

The four song ALRN ep was dropped two years prior to Painted Windows, wielding a considerably more nascent, not to mention lo-fi approach.  An adolescent surge of punky guitars propels "What's the Matter" in a manner that Miller never pursued in Game Theory, but even this early in the game (pun partially intended) "When She's Alone" foreshadows his burgeoning pop acumen, and is in all ways a keeper.  Certain copies of this 7" ep were accompanied with a spate of colorful inserts.

Special thanks to whomever ripped these scarce slabs of wax and provided the artwork. The 2014 reissue of the aforementioned debut Game Theory LP, Blaze of Glory includes a total of four songs from both ALRN records as bonus material in sterling CD quality.  Don't cheat yourself, treat yourself here.

01. Green Card
02. What's the Matter
03. Gumby's in a Coma
04. When She's Alone 

Painted Windows
01. Another Wasted Afternoon
02. Sex War
03. The New You
04. Dark Days
05. Occupation Unknown
06. Dresden
07. Beach State Rocking
08. Ulysses
09. Painted Windows
10. Let's Not Wait 

ALRN ep:
Painted Windows:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Aunt Helen - Nephews Were Never Like This ep (1980, Razor)

Noooo!   Skinny ties and facial hair should never mix!  Granted, you'll have to download the record to see what I'm referring to on the back cover of Nephews...  I'm not sure what their point of origination is/was (Boston?) but the four-man Aunt Helen were about as scattershot as they come.  Something of a one-song-wonder, this record starts out with a genuine bang in the guise of "Psychology Today" and deescalates rapidly from there.   The keeper in question, "Psychology," boasts the sass and savvy of AH's Midwest contemporaries Fools Face and Secrets, not to mention a dash of The A's.  As you might have gleaned from the cover art, this was not a band that took themselves particularly seriously.  A sardonic, calypso reading of "Wild Thing" doesn't impress, nor does much of Helen's willfully cheeky approach on the remainder of Nephews.  Such goofball tactics are either charming and endearing or a fatal flaw.  I'll let you be the judge.

01. Psychology Today
02. Wild Thing
03. It Just Isn't Fair
04. Razor
05. Do the Nip
06. (If I Had An) Electric Guitar

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Ticket Ride - demo (1995)

Folks, this proverbial ticket to ride is an utter cold case.  Got this through the college station I used to DJ at, and in all likelihood it arrived in the mail with an accompanying bio sheet of some sort, not that I would have saved it even if I originally had access to it.  Anyway, three promising songs from an earnest bunch o' San Fran up-and-comers, residing on the crunchier side of period indie rock, a la Small 23, Figgs or perhaps a rawer Material Issue.  The only potential link I was able to cross reference on Five Ticket Ride was a handful of YouTube clips that could be a different band of the same moniker, but the sonic similarities give me the impression they're one and the same.  Anyone have a clue on these folks, comment away.  Am enthused to hear more.   

01. Wasting Away
02. Hold On
03. Lift Me Up

Cowbell - Haunted Heart (2017, Damaged Goods) - A brief overview.

There's rockabilly, there's why not chill-obilly?   Truth be told, London's Cowbell ain't peddling no gimmicky shtick, rather that pearl of said nomenclature is frequently applicable on Haunted Heart.  This boy (Jack Sandham) and girl (Wednesday Lyle) duo curtail the "dirty" aesthetic considerably stacked up against say, The Kills, but there's some discernible bite to the jacked-up bop of the vivacious title track, as well as the souped-up Americana kick of "Downlow."  In the grand scheme of things, Haunted Heart is hardly a record of extremes, rather Cowbell's pedigree heretofore has placed the emphasis on their garage credentials.  With an undercurrent of organ and a spicy guitar solo percolating through "Nothing But Trouble," I'm inclined to play along, but the tunes I've name-dropped thus far strike me as the exception, not the rule.  "Neon Blue" and "New Kinda Love," play up the duo's more refined angles, meshed with a telltale appreciation of the blues and '60 psych pop, respectively.  Elsewhere they cut the tension off at the knees entirely on the decidedly tamer "Something's Gotta Give" and the sax-laden closer, "No Wrong."  Make no mistake though, Cowbell aren't the second coming of the Carpenters...nor the White Stripes (albeit they're angling significantly closer to the latter).   Boasting nuanced aptitude and consistency, Haunted Hearts just might have you shouting, "more cowb--" Sorry, I couldn't resist!.  Pick up the album May 26 from Damaged Goods Records, Amazon and iTunes.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

He thought an Albertson's stir fry dinner would make his apartment a home.

A lot of you might regard this as a basic...and I suppose it is, but for the uninitiated, better late than never. 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Clamheads - Summer's Coming ep (1989, Jericho)

Here's a slice of post-C86 handiwork for you from a UK indie enterprise who happened to make an appearance on one of the Sound of Leamington Spa twee compilations way back when.  Summer's Coming appeared to be The Clamheads sole release.  "Everybody Loves Me Cept You" brandishes a describable power pop bent,and IMHO is the breadwinner here by a longshot.  Some keen Housemartins inclinations frequently color in the remainder of the record with "Summer's Coming Down" striking my fancy in addition to the aforementioned.  Cloudberry Cake blog had a few things to say about this one, providing some background details on the Clamheads to boot.

01. Summer's Coming Down
02. Everybody Loves Me Cept You
03. Never Crack On
04. Reprobate's Blessing

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Sneetches - Lights Out! With the Sneetches (1988/91, Kaleidoscope /Creation)

Last week when I talked up the new Sneetches anthology, Form of Play, I praised it for presenting a cross section of their entire career.  Well, almost anyway.  It didn't hit me at the time, but that compilation largely overlooked (if not flat out ignored) the band's first proper album, Lights Out! With...  As if it wasn't already obvious, here's that entire platter in question.  The only song that crosses over with Form of Play, is the lilting "Only For a Moment," appearing on Lights Out! in a slightly different incarnation.  How any Sneetches career spanning disk could omit a sublime ballad like "54 Hours" or the Brit Invasion marinated "I Need Someone" is...a mystery.  Any Sneetches record is an embarrassment of riches, and this one's no exception.

01. I Need Someone
02. In My Car
03. Loreli
04. 54 HOurs
05. I Don't Expect Her for You (Look at That Girl)
06. Home Again
07. No One Knows
08. Only for a Moment

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lannie Flowers - Kiss a Memory 7" (2017, Spyderpop) - A brief review.

Arlington, TX's finest son, Lannie Flowers can reliably be counted on for a perennial treat, be it a new full length, a tricked-out reissue of vintage Pengwins material, or in this case a new single.  2017's offering is on the brief side but I'll gladly take out.  Greg Kihn famously sang "They don't write 'em like that anymore," but I'll be damned if Lannie isn't a grand exception to said lyric.  Case in point, the A-side to this whirl o' pleasure, "Kiss a Memory," which doesn't resemble Kihn so much as late '70s Tom Petty, and Yellow Pills Records power pop mavens like Barely Pink (remember them, anyone?). The flip, "Everything A Man Could Want" is doubly fervent and punchy, a song that was admittedly crafted in the mold of The Faces.  Since there's just a couple cuts here I don't want to give any more away than I already have, so head on over to CD Baby or Spyderpop Records Facebook page for any and all pertinent details!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Half the math, double the myth...

It was recently announced that the vocalist for this band's former band will be reuniting for a show late this summer.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Chris Stamey - Instant Excitement ep (1984, Coyote)

To our credit, we got to this one before The dB's Repercussions blog did!  Yes, I'll be patting myself on this one for some time to come, but per usual, I digress.  I had no idea this was out there until I stumbled upon this copy a few years ago.  Right out of the starting gate, "Excitement" announces itself as one of the finest things Decibel Chris Stamey has offered outside of his renown band (dBs, duh) rocking out in a forward thinking, Let's Active and Game Theory vein, furthermore sounding every bit like the Don Dixon production that it is.  Easily the highlight on Instant Excitement, you'll still want to stay seated for the remainder, including a straight up but effective reading of "Instant Karma," and the lengthy but alluring acousti-ballad, "Something Came Over Me."  The meandering instrumental "Ghost Story" strikes me as album filler, but evidently not to Stamey, who went to the trouble of subtitling it nearly ten times (way too much for me to type out - go here to view).  The end of side two yields an unlisted track, a country tune, "The Wild Side of Life," that was apparently written/recorded by Willie Nelson (per a lyric search).  Moreover, the tune is definitely not sung by Stamey nor credited to anyone.  Anybody have a clue?

01. Excitement
02. Instant Karma
03. When We're Alone
04. Ghost Story
05. Something Came Over Me
06. The Wild Side of Life

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Pony - Thorns and Cutlery (1987, Cleopatra)

Here's a buncha haircut dudes from Australia with a thing for heartland, Americana-ish rock, sporting their fair share of Rickenbacker guitars to boot.  I suppose The Pony aren't far off from say, their Oz brethren Died Pretty, but this quartet gratifies considerably faster.  I dig the janglier tunes the most - "Broken Kites," "Ambition's Day Off," and "A Calling," all of which are satisfying enough to offset some of their tranquilizing ballad forays.  The overall effect is reminiscent of Athens, GA's Dreams So Real, not that the Pony were likely to catch wind of them at the time.  Before diving into this, be prepared for some surface noise.  Also, there is a slight skip around the six second mark of the opener "I Lied" that I was unable to rectify.  Perhaps more from these guys to come.

01. I Lied
02. Ambition's Day Off
03. A Calling
04. Blindman
05. The Answer
06. In the Background
07. Still Blue
08. Broken Kites
09. The Young Boys
10. Close-up
11. Hey Daddy
12. Reminds Me of Me

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Sneetches - Form of Play: A Retrospective (2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview

Where do you start with a band that had one foot in the '80s, and the other in the succeeding decade that gracefully managed to deflect the superficial trappings of either period?  Well, as bassist Alec Palao eloquently describes in From of Play's liner notes, you start by not selling truckloads of records, and ditto for packing droves into nightclubs to see your act.  Meet The Sneetches, a bygone San Francisco treat that never indulged in the flavor-of-the-moment whims of their mid-80s to nineties tenure, be it new wave, neo-psychodelic, grunge or otherwise.  In fact, no amount of peer pressure (if any existed at all) swayed the Sneetches to be anything other than ...themselves.  

Settling on a four-person roster by 1988 (one that was coincidentally half Yank/half Brit) the band's modus operandi was never quite spelled out, rather revealed slowly and intermitently over the course of four full lengths and easily thrice as many short form singles and EPs.  Highly prolific, the Sneetches discography is somewhat intimidating, and although an attempt at distilling the highlights of their career was attempted via 1991's 1985-1991 compilation on Alias Records, Omnivore's summation of their trajectory encompasses the tail end of their run as well on Form of Play, albeit not chronologically.  Still, a "trail mix" cross-section of their work isn't a bad way to present the Sneetches, as they fell shy of releasing a universally hailed album, or for that matter much in the way of signature songs.  And what of those songs you might ask? 

Over the course of their decade lifespan, the Sneetches frequently inhabited a power pop place, with their intuition being equally persuaded by both sides of the pond.  Frontman Mike Levy and six string-wielder Matt Carges piloted their airship through primo, hooky terrain on "...And I'm Thinking," the Merseybeat inflected "Julianna Why," and a devastatingly bittersweet single from 1987, "Only For a Moment."  A more streamlined muse is at play on "Empty Sea" and "What's In Your Mind," loosely slotting into a mode at home with latter era Let's Active, and even Game Theory.  Some appealing anomalies materialize as well, namely the punky Buzzcocks-cum-Replacements thrust of "Looking for Something," and the strummy, pastoral folk of "Let Us Go." 

Form of Play may not be my dream roster of Sneetches songs, but first-person perspective aside it's a representative assemblage of what made these Bay-era popmeisters tick.  The few previously unreleased sections are predominantly culled from live performances, but a concluding acoustic demo of "How Does It Feel" channeling Big Star says volumes about where the Sneetches were emanating from.

Form of Play can be derived on CD or digitally direct from Omnivore, and the usual digital peddlers iTunes and Amazon.  Feel free to check out some archived Sneetches entries on these very pages.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pleasure Leftists - tape (2011-13)

I typically steer clear of sharing music that's commercially available, but I'm making a semi-objection to that rule here.  More about the mechanics of that in a moment, and why you should consider supporting some of this band's proper releases in a moment.  Let me formally introduce you to the Pleasure Leftists, a now potentially defunct Cleveland, OH aggregation that should settle the notion once and for all that there is indeed current music that's still substantive and moving.  Helmed by Haley Morris, she commandeers her three male compatriots through a churning, whirling maelstrom of post-punk-cum-darkwave rock, bristling with tension and density, bearing an unmistakable reverence for melody.  Given Morris' ceaseless, banshee-like wail comparisons to (you guessed it) Siouxsie and the Banshees might be inevitable, but in fairness, that class of '77 never quite served their shtick up this relentlessly heavy and pounding.  Over the course of two eps and 2015's Woods of Heaven, the Leftists quality control is/was strenuous, making damn sure every ounce of energy seeping from the pores of this co-ed quartet counted in a colossal way.  Visceral, baby.

So, what exactly is that blueish blob in the upper-right corner?  It's the cover of a limited and very lo-fi Pleasure Leftists cassette, featuring music from the group's 2011 & 2013 eps, both of which are conveniently self-titled.  The only unreleased goodie here is a cover of the Cure's "One Hundred Years," which commences side two. Presumably printed up to sell at live gigs (I bought mine at a record show), the fidelity of this tape is meager at best, with the vinyl and officially released digital versions far outstripping it.  But to give you a taste of what this band has to offer I'm sharing this in a mere 56 kbps, a paltry rip compared to the typical 320 kbps I tend to offer.  Also, I didn't separate the tracks.  Why?  To encourage you to purchase the considerably better sounding iterations of these recordings physically on wax or legally sanctioned MP3s.  Give both sides of this cartridge a whirl, feast on the ample goth-y mystique, and support the Leftists on the platform of your choice - iTunes, Amazon, emusic, and if you want to locate actual vinyl specimens, may I suggest you try here.

Side one: Animal Heart/Future Fights/Passage on a Ghost Ship/Nature of Feelings/Morning in a Room/Suits
Side two: 100 yrs/Hunger Split/Not Over/Elephant Men

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V/A - I´m In Love....with That Song! - Austraslian Replacements tribute (1999, Antfarm)

Closer to when I started this thing of ours called Wilfully Obscure, I shared two regional Replacements tribute compilations.  Sorry Ma Forgot to Let Out the Cat, featuring Athens, GA artists, and So What, concentrating on Austin, TX talent.  While the sentiment and premise behind these albums were fine, the music was considerably inconsistent.  In 1999 came a third Mats tribute, I´m In Love....with That Song!, this time not merely siphoning the talent of one particular city scene, rather an entire continent, yielding much more satisfactory results.

No household names to speak of here, just minor, albeit credible Oz power pop luminaries including DM3, Jack and the Beanstalk, Ice Cream Hands, and the Pyramidiacs.  There are some excellent renditions of "IOU," "Alex Chilton," and "Left of the Dial."  Less obvious songs are broached as well - "Favorite Thing" and 'Rock n Roll Ghost."  Erbs and Pisces is Smudge's Nic Dalton and Tom Morgan.  They simultaneously take to task the Replacements first single, "I'm in the Trouble" b/w "If Only You Were Lonely" with intriguing results  Full tracklist in the photo to your right.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

In a dark room I can see you shining bright...

C86's twenty-first century second coming. 


Ghosts of Record Store Days past - Sloan & Metz/Mission of Burma

Another Record Store Day has just crept into the annals of retail history.  This year marked the tenth anniversary, and although attendance was full bore per-usual (not to mention the frustratingly scarce limited runs of day-specific releases) something seemed a tad anticlimactic about this one.  At any rate, I thought I'd revisit a couple of relatively recent bygone titles from 2015 and '16 respectively.

Technically it's not titled as such, but he four-song ep known as Alternates, was Sloan's contribution to the RSD fray two years back, featuring (yep, you guessed it) four alternate takes of songs that made the cut for their 2014 platter, Commonwealth.  Side A takes the cake for me, with a more fleshed out ensemble take of the Jay Ferguson penned "Neither Here Nor There," and an a slower, revealing arrangement of Chris Murphy's "Get Out."  Sloan's latest volley of albums haven't necessarily been their most rewarding meaning this companion piece to the aforementioned Commonwealth falls shy of essential for casual fans, and arguably not entirely crucial for diehards.  You be the judge.

The concept for the pairing of relative post-punk newbies Metz, and intermittently active vets Mission of Burma has an elementary theme - have each cover a song by the other.  Ironically, Metz don't take to task one of Burma's lauded signature songs (e.g. "Academy Fight Song) instead settling on an album cut from 2006's Obliterati, the group's second aughts era reunion album.  I'm not as acquainted with Metz oeuvre, as it were, but Mission of Burma's coarse take of "Get Off" leaves me with the impression that both combos are a match made in dissonance heaven.

Sloan - Alternates ep (2015, Yep Rock)
01. Neither Here Nor There
02. Get Out
03. 13 (Under A Bad Sign)
04. The Lesson (One Portrait) 

Metz/Mission of Burma 7" (2016, Sub Pop)
Metz - Good, Not Great
Mission of Burma - Get Off

Friday, April 21, 2017

Christmas - In Excelsior Dayglo (1986, IVR)

Couple weeks ago I got a pretty hep request for Christmas' (the band) idiosyncratic debut In Excelsior Dayglo...and here it is.  While I'm considerably partial to their much more developed sophomore disk, Ultraprophets..., (circa 1989) IED revels in it's own indigenous vibe - sometimes dissonant, occasionally challenging and always unscrupulously skewed.  This Beantown co-ed trio, splits up vocal duties between string wrangler Michael Cudahy and drummer Liz Cox, the latter bearing no small resemblance to the B-52's Kate Pierson.  Writ large, there isn't a pervasive pop angle to the record, and from a sonic standpoint Christmas remind me heavily of indie contemps Agitpop and Volcano Suns.  To a lesser extent, the Pixies too, but that's a loose comparison at best.  As mentioned, their next record proved to be more substantive, but there's no disputing that much like the holiday they nabbed their namesake from Christmas were indeed a singular and revealing entity.

01. Big Plans
02. Loved Ones
03. Boy's Town Work Song
04. True Solider of Love
05. Tommy the Truck
06. Girl Police
07. Dig We Must
08. Pee Wee
09. Everything You Know Is Wrong
10. Pumpkinhead
11. A Pig Amongst Men
12. The Hottest Sun
13. Fish Eye Sandwich
14. Junk

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Glass Eye - Christine ep (1988, Bar None)

Nine years ago I wasn't expecting such a fevered reaction to two records I shared by an old school Austin, TX outfit, Glass Eye.  Those releases, the Marlo ep from 1985, and 1986 full length follow-up, Huge saw gazillions of downloads and at least two or three rounds of refreshed links.  Amazingly, the band's official website is still intact, and evidently interest in Glass Eye is still palpable.  I didn't realize it at the time I procured it a couple years ago, but the 1988 Christine ep was an appetizer of sorts for the quartet's second LP, Bent By Nature.   The dynamic title piece is intermittently disciplined and wiry and one of the single most effective songs in their catalog.  A traipse through Paul Simon's "Cecila" absorbs a full two minutes of it's precious 150 seconds building up to it's frenzied crescendo, albeit still gratifying.  Christine winds things out with the sardonic country rendering, "The Ballad of Abraham Lincoln," a song bearing, shall I say, schizophrenic tendencies.

01. Christine
02. Cecila
03. Perder La Guerra
04. Comeback
05. The Ballad of Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pale in the sun, parched in the rain.

This would have been more suitable yesterday, but around here we save the mysteries for Mondays.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Thumbs - No Price on Earth (1982, Ramona)

When the Thumbs were active in the late '70s/'80s there was a myriad of directions they could have ventured into - ska, new romantic, rockabilly, hardcore, AOR, etc...  The long and short of it all is that they wound up as an honest to goodness rock and roll band, sans any pretensions or gimmicks.  Granted, that m.o. is much more scarce these days, said option wasn't much more tempting in the Thumbs era.  About four years ago, I shared their previous, self-titled 1979 effort.  At that point I found these Kansas blokes to be a tad common, and by a matter of degrees they still were three years later, but with age comes progress, and if you're lucky, inspiration.  The Thumbs were indeed blessed with a spoonful of luck or two to tighten up their power pop cum bar band pastiche on No Price on Earth, hinting that they just might have listened to a Jonathan Richman or Velvets album or two. Kansas City to Lawrence Vinyl blog has provided some useful insight into this record as well, but isn't sharing the music contained within.  That's where we come in.

01. The Coast is Clear
02. Who Wants This Sadness
03. Jennie Says
04. Like You
05. I'm Jesus
06. Out of His Mind
07. It Won't Satisfy
08. No Twist
09. (I Almost Feel) Like Facin' the World
10. Anyday
11. Things You Gotta Know
12. The Payload
13. Last Word

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fancey - Schmancey (2007, What Are)

Sorry I've been slack of late.  I should have more needle-drops to post in the non-too-distant future. Here's one I wrote up for a publication about ten years ago.

As if it wasn’t enough to man the coveted guitarist position in what is arguably the world’s preeminent indie-rock combo, the Vancouver based New Pornographers, Todd Fancey stretches his schedule for a band in his own rite and namesake.  Although NP reign supreme in terms of the hipster quotient, Fancey are more overtly pop than his full-time outfit could ever hope to be. In fact, Todd has coined his concoction as “super pop,” and with immense, sublime wonders such as “Heaven’s Way,” Downtown II,” and “Lost in Twilight,“ Schmancey is a veritable saccharine avalanche.  Absorbing it’s 14 selections in one sitting might be tantamount to an overdose, but aficionados of The Pearlfishers, Heavy Blinkers, and Zumpano (a defunct Vancouver band with ties to New Pornographers) will be more than up to the challenge. 

01. Witches Night
02. Lost in Twilight
03. Call
04. Gulf Breeze
05. Bitter Life
06. Blue Star
07. Fader
08. Karma's Out to Get Me
09. Whoa
10. Feels Like Dawn 
11. Heaven's Way
12. Downtown II
13. Let the Breeze In
14. Cross 'o Gold

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Growing on you, but wearing on me...

Primo Can-inide rock from 1998.  Track seven is in my head more than I care to admit.  So much so, I've even supplied an alternate version of it.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rain Parade - Maxwells, Hoboken, NJ 12/2/83

The folks attending this early December gig at Hoboken's legendary Maxwells got an early Christmas present with a visit from one of L.A.'s rising stars.  From the notes of the original taper, the Rain Parade had some competition with an inordinately chatty audience that particular night.  Nonetheless, the paisley vibe was discernible, with a huge oriental rug occupying half of the standing room (or in this case, sitting room with a good bit of the audience seated on the tapestry).  Standards such as "What She's Done to Your Mind," 'Saturday's Asylum" and a run through Syd Barrett's "It's No Good trying" are all present and accounted for.   A fascinating memento for Rain Parade aficionados of what was apparently a very unique gig.  Special thanks to whomever digitized this set and supplied sleeve art.

Also, explore RP's compilation of demos, Demolition here.

01. Any Other Way
02. No Easy Way Down
03. No Good Trying
04. Kaleidoscope
05. I Look Around
06. What She’s Done To Your Mind
07. Look At Merri
08. Saturday’s Asylum
09. Talking In My Sleep
10. It’s Gonna Work Out
11. All My Friends
12. This Can’t Be Today
13. Carolyn’s Song
14. 1 Hr ½ Ago

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Scruffs 7" (1980, Sounds Interesting)

In 1977 this Memphis quartet "broke the ice" with Wanna Meet the Scruffs?, a colossally lauded proto-power pop album that unfortunately a relative few could partake in the invitation of.  Chalk that up to limited availability I suppose.  Furthermore, given it's esteemed reputation, it's been said that the fortunate few who owned the record dare not relinquish their copy under any circumstance.  When it was finally brought into the digital age in 1997, the band revealed a treasure trove of unreleased recordings pre/post-dating Wanna Meet...  Potentially, a lot of Scruffs fans back in the day may have missed the single I'm presenting here, as it seems nothing of theirs was nearly as publicized as that glorious debut.

Despite their locale and numerous connections, The Scruffs didn't gravitate to Big Star so much as the Raspberries.  That influence isn't as pervasive on recordings subsequent to Wanna Meet, but by the time of this 1980 7" the band wasn't quite MTV caliber either...but they were oh so close.  "When Donna Romances" is a nugget of power pop bullion for the ages, still subscribing to the precious moxie of that first album.  The flip, "Rock n' Roll Heads" plays it faster and looser - literally, possessing a tell tale Ramones-y rhythm, curtailed just shy of the punk threshold.  You can check out some additional Scruffs recordings, including some that are relatively recent here.

A. When Donna Romances
B. Rock n' Roll Heads 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Plus Two - The Ivy Room ep (1985, LSR/Homestead)

If it seems unimaginative of me to follow up my One Plus Two post from last week with yet another ep by the same folks in less than a week, I'm guilty as charged.  In fact, on the heels of the Watercolor Haircut, I fielded a request for the band's follow-up The Ivy Room.  Am still picking up on that strummy, Athens, GA vibe, and this record just might be the finest out of the three of them.  Pretty much everything on Ivy jibes with me, however I found side two to be the spunkier side of the coin.  Shut your eyes, pretend it's left-of-the-dial time in 1985, and light a stick of patchouli for yourself.

01. Other Days
02. September Night
03. Mystery to Me
04. Secret Question
05. Promise
06. Windows

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The bread they make there tastes like thin air.

Circa 1990.  Not to be passed up.


One Plus Two - Watercolor Haircut ep (1984, New Math)

I first/last wrote about One Plus Two almost a decade ago, so I suppose that makes me overdue.  Information on this quartet was scant at best back then and ditto now.  The equation in question were a co-ed indie pop foursome, potentially hailing from North Carolina, and from the sounds of it, it wouldn't surprise me if Mitch Easter was occupying their orbit (though he isn't credited here).  The edgy record sleeve and oblique title lend themselves to a band with some mystique to enlighten us with, though in the case of One Plus Two their angle of attack was comparatively plaintive.  Strum.  Jangle.  Hooks.  Collegiate sensibilities.  Etc.  Chances are you've encountered a record of this stripe before, but for what it's worth it's done properly and satisfies in spades. .

01. Look Away
02. Much More
03. Over You
04. Pictures

Friday, March 31, 2017

Catching up with Saint Marie Records

By now, Saint Marie Records has etched it's name as the foremost purveyor of all things dream-pop and nu-gaze into the hearts, minds, and tremolo bars of those who can and will never get enough of those genres.  Pumping out one mesmerizing musical missive after another, the Fort Worth, TX imprint has performed yeoman's work in exploring and fostering up and comers like Whimsical and Seasurfer, to reissuing long-unheralded curios from decades past.  Here's a snapshot of where things stand today with their latest, and quite possibly greatest. 

As blown away as I was with Secret Shine's par excellence debut, Untouched from 1993, it did seem to get lost in the woozy, dream-pop ether of that genre's abundant era.  Their recent aughts reunion endeavors like 2008's All of the Stars heralded the return of a comforting musical presence, but I couldn't have envisioned the depth and scope of their newest salvo, There is Only Now.  Slotting in at a nexus between early Slowdive and Nowhere-era Ride, TION is chockablock with billowy, deep sonic caverns that allure and envelope in sublime fashion, with themes that negotiate a merger between the euphoric and sobering.  This record is above and beyond your proverbial "return to form," instead upping Secret Shine's ante into a new stratosphere.

With a name like Whimsical it has to be twee...right?  Not so fast.  The Indiana-based band in question are not as cutsey as their moniker applies, yet their melodically ravaged songs are eKrissy Vanderwoude, who steers her quintet to a less lofty, albeit no less intoxicating plateau. The driving and deliriously fetching "Surreal" and "Thought of You" demonstrate their modus operandi best.  The nutshell backstory of Sleep to Dream, the Whim's second album. is that most of it was tracked in 2004, but was shelved until 2016 when it was dusted off and finally completed.  Who ever thought a decade-plus of procrastination could yield such stunning results?
ntirely approachable.  If you ever wondered what the Cocteau Twins Elizabeth Fraser might have amounted top without all those fluttery vocal trills, you may have found your answer in Whimsical's

Seasurfer's Heasdlights ep from a couple of years back was no fluke.  This co-ed German conglomerate lay it on thick, pouring everything they have into the dense-as-all-get-out Under the Milkway...Who Cares.  At nearly every turn the band emits a galvanizing surge of tremolo, muscle, and near-disorienting noise, a la My Bloody Valentine and Curve circa Doppelganger.  From song to song there isn't much variance in Seasurfer's overarching modus operandi, but a strong semblance of amped-out haze and mystique nonetheless commands your undivided attention.  A phenomenal album for the car I might add.

I recall being enlightened to The Emerald Down's Scream the Sound album when it was originally unleashed in the early 'oos.  It was a time when "the scene that celebrates itself" wasn't exactly celebrated so wholeheartedly anymore.  Kinda like when hair metal went out of vogue in 1991 I suppose, but I digress.  But by sheer osmosis or otherwise, the Rebecca Bayse-helmed quartet had the benefit of over ten-plus years of bi-coastal dream pop/shoegazer rock to immerse themselves in - and ultimately the acumen to redeploy that wherewithal into something as special as the heroes that inspired them.  Prodigies of Slowdive, Cocteaus and Pale Saints, Emerald Down weren't out-and-out revisionists nor carbon copies, rather their ethereal atmospheric aplomb was the quintessence of what so many of their inspirational antecedents were hinting at before they prematurely dissolved.  Scream... is blissed out head music for the eons, and even much of the teaming new crop of hopefuls cant touch on what Emerald seized upon here. While I've merely broached the topic of the reissue of Scream the Sound, TED has a voluminous backstory to indulge you with, and a detailed biography can be located here.

Orange are another bygone act the bulk of us have yet to make our acquaintance with.  Better late than never given the impeccable ear candy this San Francisco treat had to offer by way of their lone LP from 1994.  Orange focal point Sonya Waters was a London transplant who possessed a delicate set of lungs that incorporated the best parts of the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler and The Cranes' Alison Shaw.  That approximation alone would have command of my ears even is she was singing the proverbial phone book, but far better, Shaw parlayed her talents against a Lush-ious backdrop, yielding results that struck me as uncannily similar to Emma, Miki and the boys.  Coincidence or not as the aforementioned goes, Orange's Complete Recordings is a convenient one-stop shopping excursion, featuring some jaw-droppingly gorgeous songs like "Feijoa," "Heather" and their unique spin on the Pixies "Gigantic."  My only complaint here is a thorough lack of liner notes (not even so much as a simple band roster or copyright date) in an otherwise visually captivating album sleeve. 

Like the other bands profiled in this feature, February may have purloined a thing or two from shoegaze visionaries of yore, but this defunct, co-ed Minneapolis crew weren't solely tethered to that premise.  February weren't burdened with any overarching Achilles's heel, so to speak, rather their lack of focus is pervasive on their locally released 1997 album, Tomorrow is Today.  Given a new lease on life two decades later, Tomorrow certainly strikes me as a product of it's time, swinging on the coattails of the fading Madchester movement on the danceable "Caught" and whatnot.  No, that one doesn't cut it for me, but I'll be damned if the heady, gazey strains of "Riproar" doesn't get the juices flowing, at least for a couple minutes anyway.

All records discussed herein can be obtained straight from Saint Marie and the usual digital outlets Amazon and iTunes. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Ceedee's - Hit the Ditch (1980, Carrot)

Hmmm.  Bought this one based on the oddball album jacket, the band's potential power pop pedigree.  Truthfully, I was anticipating something a little more avant-garde than that, say in the post-punk realm.  No go as far as that notion was concerned.  The Ceedee's were a southern Ontario enterprise (possibly hailing from Peterborough) who's take on pop music was relatively conventional, yet smarter and wryer than your typical pedestrian flunkies.  I appreciate their homegrown allure, even if they are a tad unfocused from song-to-song.  The first few tunes on Hit the Ditch are the most effective, vaguely reminiscent of the Tarney Spencer Band and even Todd Rundgren.  Bear in mind, the keyword in that sentence is vaguely.  The title track and the Canada-centric "Patriotic Song" are must listens, the latter bearing a pretty colossal chorus hook. "Let Me Share (in the Ordinaire)" is a bit of a goof, with some Devo-esque vocal tricks, and "Mama Raised a Misfit" inches ever so slightly in the vicinity of punky hard rock.  An ep followed Hit the Ditch in 1986.  You can access an interview with the Ceedees via the link above. 

01. Hit the Ditch
02. The Patriotic Song
03. Television City
04. Explain the Man
05. Let Me Share (in the Ordinaire)
06. Mama Raised a Misfit
07. Lemontown
08. He Plays Guitar
09. City Lights Hobo
10. Yarsole Yarsole