Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Bible! "Graceland" 7" (1986, Backs)

This one's three decades old, but nonetheless I failed to investigate The Bible! until far more recently.  From what I've been able to glean the exclamation mark on their moniker was only applied on early releases.  This Cambridge, UK combo actually had two full lengths that were apparently well circulated - Walking the Ghost Back Home (1986) and Eureka, on a major label no less, a couple years later.  Behold their first single (depicted to your left).  "Graceland" is an exemplary slice of Anglophile pop, rife with lilting folky textures a la Aztec Camera and Justin Hayward's post-Haircut One Hundred solo forays.  The single would be released several times over in multiple formats in the years to follow.  The flip, "Sweetness" is considerably more chilled-out, gravitating toward the AOR realm.

A. Graceland
B. Sweetness

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ten Inch Men - Hours n Pain ep (1986)

Ten Inch Men?  Either they're extremely short or immensely well endowed...but let's not ponder that, eh?  For reals though, this was a Long Beach, CA quartet whom I only know of through this 12."  My impression of TIM is at minimum somewhat favorable.  Some very synth-y goings-on here, but too muscular for the new romantic set.  Sometimes it's difficult to discern if the Men were striving for the coliseum or the cellar.  Their scope is ambitious, a la contemporaries Then Jerico, but at moments on Hours n Pain they could've made a dash for considerably more interesting environs.  More Ten Inch Men records were to follow, though I've yet to encounter them.

01. Flower Power
02. Bars of Time
03. Brick Wall
04. New Eyes

Sunday, June 18, 2017

We'll throw glass in your face, call it new propaganda...

A compact best-of spanning 1978-82 from an artist yet to be featured on this site. 


Saturday, June 17, 2017

It's a one time thing, it just happens a lot...

Thirty years ago if you had predicted that at some point in my life I'd be actively hunting down Suzanne Vega bootlegs I would have laughed you out of the room.  Needless to a say a lot can happen in three whole decades, and indeed a lot did, including some much belated appreciation for the songstress in question.  Back in '87 it didn't take long for my cynical ears to get burned out on "Luka," and ditto for her acapella chestnut, "Tom's Diner."  So what prompted me to pick up a pre-owned cassette of her first album (self titled, 1985) somewhere in the late '00s?  Curiosity, and a sincere hope that pre-breakthrough Vega might hold a little something for me.

I wasn't scared off by the "folk" tag that was so ubiquitously doled out by the music press, and even if it were apropos I didn't take issue with it.  Turns out she was no heir to Joan Baez or the like, rather a humble singer-songwriter with integrity for miles and a solid grasp on human emotion.  Vega's delivery may have exuded surface-level quiet, but thematically, people and events in her realm were ostensibly disquieting.  Again, the tangible conveyance of her songs were subtle to a fault, yet under the surface a geyser lay in waiting.  I recall her commenting in an interview once that she was a fan of minor chords in songs.  That's relatively easy to concur with her early recordings, though I haven't heard enough about Vega's melody factor, which makes itself evident on "Cracking" and "Marlene on the Wall."  And her nimble guitar finagling?  Merely the icing on the cake.  In a nutshell, it only took twenty and some-odd years, but, I became a pretty big aficionado of that first Suzanne Vega record.

Presented here are five demos that were gently spruced up for Suzanne Vega.  They hold more charm to me than the album versions, even if the differences aren't particularly stark.  I've got a fantastic FM radio broadcast for you as well of her performance at the Speakeasy in New York, circa the spring of 1985.  She pulls off the "storyteller" thing quite well, no?  Whether you're new to Suzanne Vega or an an established customer comment as you see fit.

1984 demo
01. Straight Wells
02. Small Blue Thing
03. Marlene on the Wall
04. Cracking
05. Undertow

MP3  or  FLAC

4/17/85 @ The Speakeasy, NYC
01 intro
02 Tom's Diner
03 Small Blue Thing
04 Some Journey
05 Cracking
06 The Queen And The Soldier
07 song intro
08 Knight Moves
09 Freeze Tag
10 song intro
11 Marlene On The Wall
12 Undertow
13 Straight Lines
14 song intro
15 Neighborhood Girls
16 Gypsy (Encore)

MP3  or  FLAC

Friday, June 16, 2017

Folk Devils - Goodnight Irony (1987, Situation Two)

I think someone mentioned that they were looking for this a few years ago.  Didn't have it then, but for better or worse, voila.  The Folk Devils were a cantankerous lot, part ornery cowpunk, part dissonant and unwieldy distorto-rawk.  Mouthpiece Ian Lowery commandeers his quartet's collective mess coming off as a loose approximation of Stan Ridgeway and John Lydon, albeit at times not sounding like either in the least. To his credit, he pulls off the spoke/sung card adeptly, so long as the song is worth a damn.  That quotient is about half and half on Goodnight Irony, not so much a proper LP, rather a comp of the Devil's entire repertoire up to 1987... adorned with a pretty spiffy album jacket I might add.  Your best bets here are the tense, driving bookends, "Hank Turns Blue" and "Chewing the Flesh."  "Art Ghetto," and the spaghetti western sway of "Where the Buffalo Roam" are kinda of a hoot as well.  Furthermore, if you dug those first couple of Didjits albums, ...Irony is sure to pack plenty of appeal.

01. Hank Turns Blue
02. English Disease
03. Where the Buffalo Roam
04. Beautiful Monster
05. Wail
06. Nice People
07. Albino
08. Brian Jones' Bastard Son
09. It Drags On
10. Evil Eye
11. Art Ghetto
12. Chewing the Flesh

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Side Effects - s/t ep (1981, DB)

You might be inclined to deduce from the album jacket that The Side Effects were of garage/psych rock stock, but low and behold you'd be mistaken.  In fact, this long defunct Athens, GA trip had something more alluring and challenging to offer.  Post-punk was more their bag, albeit not of the brooding variety.  The commencing "Raining" massages a Gang of Four riff, retooled by
leadman Kit Swartz's chiming staccato aplomb.  "French Forest" is doubly more enticing sounding like a spot-on merger of Pylon and Mission of Burma, and "Through With You" delightfully finagles a descending arpeggio you can take to the bank.  Bassist Jimmy Ellison passed away from a brain tumor not long after this record hit the market.  This ep, so far as I can, tell was the only release to the band's credit, save for an appearance on the Squares Blot Out the Sun compilation.

01. Raining
02. French Forest
03. Pyramids
04. Through With You

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Barely Pink - Numberonefan (1997, Big Deal)

I wonder boy what the Wondermints are doing today?

Recently had a request for this one.  Numberonefan was the debut album from Barely Pink, and combo who were part and parcel of the '90s power pop resurgence.  In fact, they graciously tip their collective hat to several of their left-coast contemporaries in "City of Sound." Quite frankly, this whole album is a peach, boasting equal parts melody, kick and earnestness.  Here's a few words from Goldmine magazine plucked from the hype sticker on the jewel case. 

A Florida foursome that takes the best bits from classic forebearers such as early Cheap Trick, T. ReX and Big Star - especially Big Star - and churns out pop that's fat and sassy. - Goldmine magazine.

01. City of Stars
02. Dot to Dot Elvis
03. New Sweet Infection
04. I'm So Electric
05. Face Down
06. It's Okay
07. Baby A.M.
08. Big Mistake
09. Too Much Coffee
10. I Do What My TV Tells Me
11. What Goes Around
12. Let Me Drink in Peace

Friday, June 9, 2017

Game Theory - 2 Steps From the Middle Ages (1988/2017, Omnivore) - A brief overview

What is it about a long-running band's final record?  Sure, Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door was undoubtedly heaved upon thousands of shipping pallets in 1979, but posthumously it was hardly revered.  The Replacements swan song, All Shook Down is a phenomenal collection of thoughtful, inspired songs, yet even some die-hard Mats aficionados regard it merely as Paul Westerberg's first solo LP.  And Guided By Voices intended "last" album, 2004's Half Smiles of the Decomposed was the least talked about LP in their elephantine canon.  Believe it or not, this brings us to Game Theory's parting shot, 1988's 2 Steps From the Middle AgesIt was the the late Scott Miller helmed collective's fifth record. and is being commemorated with a bonus-ized reissue nearly three decades after the fact.  By no stretch did it meet a quiet reception upon it's arrival that year, enjoying myriad critical plaudits, success on gobs of left-of-the dial frequencies, and even some startlingly unlikely appreciation from C.C. DeVille of GT's Enigma label-mates Poison.  But in the grand scheme of things 2 Steps is just about the least discussed and seemingly least remembered item in the band's impressive arsenal - and for no conspicuous reason I might add. 

Granted, this album fell on the heels of the sprawling, ambitious and occasionally obtuse Lolita Nation.  That double platter set was often mistook for a concept piece, but misconceptions aside Game Theory had poured virtually every bit of creative juice into that project - maybe so much so that anything else they would dispense in the future would be regarded as an afterthought.  But 2 Steps, while considerably more conventional (particularly in it's presentation) bore songs that were every bit as rich and affecting as those residing on Lolita and The Big Shot Chronicles.  Scott Miller and Co's trajectory began with 1982's slyly esoteric Blaze of Glory, a collegiate level pastiche of power pop-cum-art rock, and with every successive Game Theory release the band inched towards a more streamlined modus operandi while managing to refrain from encroaching into the soon to be constipated bowels of pandering alt-rock.  In essence, 2 Steps not only strikes me as advanced for it's era, but sounds fresh and bold even when gauged by a twenty-first century measuring stick.  Miller's cocktail of verbose text and brisk, melodic song structures ascends to a new apex on "Rolling With the City Girls," "You Drive" and "Throwing the Election."  Even when mining a less euphoric vein ("Leilani" and 'Wyoming") Game Theory bring A-grade material to the table, leaving me all the more bewildered as to why this record is so rarely mentioned in the same breath as Lolita... and Real Nighttime.

As with previous installments in Omnivore Records Game Theory reissue campaign, 2 Steps is nicely padded with a trove of supplemental material.  Rather than taking the typical approach of drawing from one contiguous concert or demo reel, the eleven bonus cuts here are culled from a multitude of sources.  One of the most revealing curios is a radio session take of Let's Active's "Bad Machinery."  Not a terribly coincidental pick, considering Game Theory's association with Let's Active's Mitch Easter.  Early stabs at "Wyoming" and "Room for One More, Honey" are a treat, as are live versions of GT staples "The Waist and the Knees" and "Sleeping Through Heaven."  You can find the expanded reissue of 2 Steps From the Middle Ages at or Amazon and iTunes.

PS: I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the passing of Game Theory drummer Gil Ray earlier this year.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wilco - A.M. demos (1994)

To this day I've never been able to pin down exactly why Wilco's first album was the only one to light a fire under my ass, as it were.  Most folks got on board circa Being There/Summerteeth/YHF, but Wilco largely began and ended with A.M. for this set of picky ears.  Maybe it's because it was the only needle in their proverbial haystack that struck me as even remotely feisty or fun.  Granted, the record did have it's share of Jeff Tweedy pedal steel ballads, something of a holdover from his previous endeavor Uncle Tupelo, if that rings a bell to you.  It didn't hurt that in this phase of their career Wilco bore an uncanny resemblance to Cracker.  At any rate, the first five cuts here were early prototypes of tracks that made the grade for A.M., specifically some of that album's most swingin' numbers including "Box Full of Letters" and "Passenger Side."  As for the remainder, "Promising" is a sensitive acoustic piece from Tweedy, later recut as a b-side.  The band give Moby Grape's "I'm Not Willing" a twangy, sounding not terribly removed from Gram Parsons.  The rousing "Let's Hear for Rock" was a live favorite, but from what I understand never appeared on a Wilco record proper.

01. I Must be High
02. Shouldn't Be Ashamed
03. Box Full of Letters
04. Pick Up the Change
05. Passenger Side
06. Promising
07. Let's Hear it for Rock
08. I'm Not Willing

Sunday, June 4, 2017

You’re worth every single penny and a few dollars more.

Three six-song EPs from three rather disparate artists.  Something for everyone.  I hope. 


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dream Syndicate - 50 in a 25 Zone ep (1987, Big Time)

Considering I wasn't paying much attention to the Dream Syndicate's run during much of the 1980s, i can't offer much in the way of personal insight.  My posthumous assessment of Steve Wynn and Co. has concluded that the band wasn't responsible for any inferior studio albums or otherwise.  Their celebrated and ballyhooed debut, The Days of Wine and Roses has undoubtedly garnered the lions share of critical approbation, and while I'm in tandem with that notion as well the remainder of D/S offerings were worthy of praise as well, including their 1986 long-player, Out of the Grey.  Arriving almost a half decade after Wine and Roses, Grey found the band titling in a considerably more pedestrian direction, albeit without a shred of commercial pandering.  One of the singles from the album, "50 in a 25 Zone," spun off into this EP

As songs go, "50 in a 25 Zone" with it's slow simmering bluesy stride and numerous fake endings wasn't remarkable but it was downright earnest in an era of spandex and poodle haircuts.  Granted, an unnecessarily gimmicky five minute remix of the tune is presented here as filler, but it hardly blemishes the original piece.  It's worth withstanding for a bevy of b-sides on the flip, my pick being the sturdy bar-room banger "Drinking Problem."  Much gratitude goes to the gent who supplied me with a gratis copy of this record.

01. 50 In a 25 Zone
02. 50 In a 25 Zone (Whodunnit Mix)
03. Drinking Problem
04. Shake Your Hips
05. Blood Money
06. Lonely Bull

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Casual T's - Longer Than Seemed Real (1987)

The crumbs from the bountiful indie rock cookies baked in '80s locales like Athens, GA, and the Twin Cities scattered in virtually all conceivable directions, both in the States and abroad.  Thankfully, Tallahassee, FL wasn't spared from this deluge, and the Casual T's proved to be capable ambassadors from the Sunshine state panhandle.  Evidently, Longer Than Seemed Real was the brunt of this quartet's slim discography, and sure enough they make it count on ringing and nervy salvos like "Rose Colored World," and "Walls Don't Talk Back," the latter emanating a bite not too far removed from Husker Du.  The Casual T's operate just as agilely when toning it down on a notch on "Intensive Care" and "Back to Normal."  Per a bio that accompanied my copy of the album, these folks at one point in their tenure opened for the likes of the Replacements and Alex Chilton.  Just sayin.  After the jump, check out a YouTube clip of ' "Adelay," a track culled from an earlier single that I can't get enough of, even if it's merely an instrumental.

01. Rose Colored World
02. Back From Normal
03. Made to Order
04. Intensive Care
05. Walls Don't Talk Back
06. Welcome to Poland
07. At the Ridge
08. Heracaine

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Plain and simple but hard to find.

Noise pop splendor from Connecticut wunderkinds circa 1993.  Hot damn.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

First Men on the Sun - s/t (1995, Southwest Audio Reproductions)

Established in the mid-80s, an L.A three piece dubbed the Abecedarians created a stir for ear-to-the-ground types who fancied mystique-laden post punk with temperate psychedelic inclinations, not unlike local contemporaries Red Temple Spirits and Psi-Com.  The band brewed a dreamy, disciplined alchemy on such arcane slabs of wax as Eureka and Resin.  While the Abecedarians handiwork was nothing less than satisfactory, the only drawback to their records was the potential of them to lull you to sleep if you were say, behind the wheel on a lengthy, straightaway road or highway.  By the Clinton-era two thirds of the group, Chris Manecke and John Blake reconfigured their trippy, atmospheric aplomb into a decidedly linear indie-rock slant for First Men on the Sun's one-off 1995 album.   "Alternative" bandwagon jumping was hardly an option however, rather Manecke and Blake's intent was considerably more substantive.  Sonically, there's not much that you could term as wildly innovative here, but I'm honing in on traces of Love Battery, Rein Sanction, and to a lesser extent Screaming Trees.  These comparisons are likely more coincidental than anything, but just wanted to offer a measuring stick.  A solid record, and best of all, firsthand familiarity with Abecedarians isn't a prerequisite (but doesn't hurt either).

01. Cary Grant's Hallucination
02. Sleeping on the Grill of the King
03. The Way Things Are
04. I Took a Bus
05. I Could Beg
06. Breathe In
07. Crawling Chaos
08. Chiddle

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