Sunday, February 16, 2020

What would life be without burgundy?

From 1989.  Rock that pops...but not necessarily power pop.

Hear

Friday, February 14, 2020

11th Hour - Shapes and Things to Come + Alder St. ep (1990/87, Substitute)

Sorry I haven't set you up with much in the way of fresh sounds this week, but hopefully this compensate. In fact, I was thinking about saving this for one of my Chanukah presentations, but why not pull the trigger early?  11th Hour were a Pittsburgh combo who may have disbanded as long as three decades ago (though I uncovered evidence of a 2018 reunion gig).  The band's straight-up power pop modus operandi possessed a strong jangly bent, but the Shawn Harrison-fronted quartet were flexible enough to spill over into ballsier garage punk on "I'm Comin' Down," gravitating in the vicinity of locals The Cynics, and less obviously the Lime Spiders.  They even dabble briefly on the psych side of the fence on the fleeting "Garden of Sleep," but 11th Hour's penchant for lingering in more conventional guitar pop environs yields at least half a dozen startlingly great tunes on Shapes and Things to Come including "There's No Danger," "Can't Get Through to You," "Go to the Edge" and "Pictures In My Room."  Shapes and Things to Come concludes on a fitting note with a wailin' reading of the Eddie and the Hotrods classic, "Do Anything You Wanna Do."  BTW, Huw Gower of The Records has a co-production role on several tracks!

In addition to Shapes... proper, the CD incarnation appends the just as valuable Alder St EP, initially released as a double 45 in 1987.  Bearing an even rawer aplomb, it hones in on 11th Hour when they were fully ensconced in sweet, ringing guitars, wielding even more delirious and devastating hooks. This is stuff of immensely grand proportions, and you need to make your belated acquaintance with these guys NOW.

01. Release You
02. Can't Get Through To You
03. The Changing Of The Guard
04. Confusion
05. I'm Comin' Down
06. Live Your Life Again
07. Go to the Edge
08. Garden of Sleep
09. Don't Sell Me
10. Under the Fire
11. There's No Danger
12. Pictures In My Room
13. Do Anything You Wanna Do

Alder St. ep (1987)
14. The Seasons
15. She Goes Away
16. There's No Danger
17. Can't Wait Another Day
18. The Bells of St. Mary
19. Find Some Meaning

https://www77.zippyshare.com/v/XrOuxeNs/file.html

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Honey, you ought to leave your phone on when you leave Fredonia.

From 2017.  Call it what you will.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Hear

Timco - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection (1991-94)

Way back in 2011 when I addressed Timco's Friction Tape LP, I mentioned a collection of their singles would be forthcoming.  Well, a full nine years later the forth has belatedly come.  Since this is a band that hasn't been active in roughly a quarter century I can't enlighten you much more than I already have.  Nonetheless here are the basics.  The fulcrum of Timco were two alumni from one of a really choice, not to mention noisome indie rock troupe from the '80s I've oft featured on these pages, Nice Strong ArmKevin Thompson parlayed his frontman role in NSA to Timco, and also brought along Ethel M. Deathel from his old group.  Timco eschew much of NSA's wailing maelstroms, instead reveling in emotive, and sometimes highly dynamic downer rock bristling with texture and sobering resignations.  If that description strikes you as a bit of an oversimplification, maybe it is, and while it may apply to their albums, the aforementioned Friction Tape and 1996's Gentleman Jim, Timco's first blush of short-for
m releases reveal a more varied story.

Birds, Bees & Cherries, a double 7" ep delivers a quartet of four-track demos cut by Thompson in '91.  The commencing "Dragg Dabb" is the most engaging, anchored by a low roar of melancholy vocals and a gradually escalating crescendo of layered post-punk fretwork.  Sheer magic.  "Water Sucks Bugs" is even rawer and more amped-out and just about the closest Timco ever came to stretching back to Nice Strong Arm's sonic posture.  The two songs occupying the second 45 are more subdued - not to mention a bit sardonic, proving Thompson possesses something resembling a sense of humor, idiosyncratic as it may be.

Another single, The Hotel Radio surfaced about three years with two songs culled from a radio session on KPFK in Los Angeles.  The A-side, "Gone" is relatively spare but effective thanks to a devastatingly powerful vocal hook.  This song would reside comfortably next to work of Timco contemporaries Seam and Versus.  The flip, "Louisiana" is a ballad of dark proportions, although Thompson's dialogue leading into sounds a tad disingenuous.

The final single, also from 1994, features two live tracks from the Friction Tape-era. Ironically, Friction... itself was cut live in studio, and it's almost impossible to tell these singler versions apart from the album.  The angsty "Walking Papers" is the epitome of what Timco were all about, while"Screw You" is an insular kiss-off if there ever was such a thing.  Enjoy (or not)

01. Dragg Dabb
02. Water Sucks Bugs
03. Alegria
04. Lovelie
05. Gone
06. Louisiana
07. Screw You
08. Walking Papers

1-4 from Birds, Bees & Cherries 2x7" ep (1991, Communion)
5 & 6 from 7" (1994, Insignificant)
7 & 8 from 7" (1994, Basura)

https://www80.zippyshare.com/v/wpts2e8E/file.html

Friday, February 7, 2020

Ring Theatre ep (1985, Out)

I keep finding great unsung Austin, TX bands from a good 30+ years ago and though I don't know much about Ring Theatre's collective bona fides, I'm happy to report they're well above average.  Not resembling or mimicking anyone in particular, the quartet's serrated guitar pop dabbles in lightweight punk chords on the feisty opener "Mrs. Ann" and "Second's Romance."  Elsewhere the going never gets too middle-of-the-road thanks to RT's organic power pop angles and humble garage tendencies.  In fact, this platter isn't far removed from such other cold cases I've dispensed to you over the years by Public Bulletin and Signal Thirty, arcane as those references may be.  This appeared to be Ring Theatre's one and only vinyl offering. If anyone in the audience has more details don't be a stranger.

01. Mrs. Ann
02. Julia
03. Second's Romance
04. Kill Yourself
05. Remember May

https://www118.zippyshare.com/v/rcYNMesZ/file.html

Sunday, February 2, 2020

I can't make out what has gone wrong. I was good at what I did.

The 1981 and 1983 records from a post-punk colossus that as of last week appears to be no more.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Hear

Minor Alps - Köln, Luxor 4-3-14 (file under: Nada Surf/Juliana Hatfield)

If Minor Alps haven't made it onto your radar by now, it's safe to say it's going to remain that way, as the duo of Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies) haven't been particularly active since their debut 2013 LP, Get There.  The collaboration seemed to be a one-off, as there was never a follow-up, but it's two participants did some touring behind the album, including a handful of dates in Europe.  The April 2014 gig in Köln, Germany that I'm sharing today is an acoustic performance, and while not necessarily exciting or even climactic, it's a treat if you're an established fan of either Hatfield or Caws (in my case both).  If not an out-and-out revelation, I thought Get There really played gracefully to the more austere, melancholic strengths of both of them without delving into anything heady or dramatic.  This show, largely derived from songs from that album, follows suit with some poignant examples of this ethos like "I Don't Know What to Do With My Hands" and "Far From the Roses."  As you might expect, given Hatfield and Caws' deep song catalogs outside of Minor Alps these are dipped into as well, albeit some of their more obvious signature titles are passed over in favor of less familiar ones.  No complaints from my end there.  Just a hint, track 21 is a cover...as if I had to tell you.  Anyway, I'm making this whole shebang available in MP3 and FLAC below.  Major thanks to whomever tracked this show and supplied pics/artwork. 

01. I Wanna Take You Home
02. If I Wanted Trouble
03. Far From The Roses
04. Buried Plans
05. Candy Wrappers
06. 'taking three steps forward'/Bob Dylan banter
07. Wish You Were Upstairs
08. Live On Tomorrow
09. Maxon
10. Such A Beautiful Girl
11. Inside Of Love
12. Waiting For You
13. Out There
14. Beautiful Beat
15. Lonely Low
16. The Moon Is Calling
17. Airscape
18. I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands
19. Away Again
20. The Way You Wear Your Head
21. Bette Davis Eyes
22. Fruit Fly

MP3  or  FLAC

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Alternative Radio - First Night (1986)

This Liverpoolite brother act (Rob and Alan Fennah) had only negligible chart success in the mid-80s, despite bearing a smart yet accessible wave-pop sound that put them roughly in league with contemporaries The Korgis, Split Enz (and perhaps more coincidentally The Three O'clock).  First Night is a cobbled-together compendium focusing on Alternative Radio's initial blush of (mostly) synthy singles, and offers delightful confections aplenty like the the title track and the yacht-rocky "Strangers in Love," alongside strummier forays "No Indispensable Man" and "Emotional Disaster."  A couple of proper full lengths arrived belatedly in the mid-90s (and another in 2008), but these days the brothers are said to be scoring show tunes.  Do check this one out. 

01. First Night
02. Valley Of Evergreen (long version)
03. No Indispensable Man
04. Everybody Wants To Be Loved
05. Strangers in Love
06. Concertina Ballerina
07. Harmony
08. Emotional Disaster
09. What a Dream
10. Summer 85
11. First Night (Long Version)
12. Strangers In Love (Long Version)

https://www70.zippyshare.com/v/GH4rLYIg/file.html

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Marshal Crenshaw - Miracle of Science (1996/2020, Shiny-Tone) - A brief review

For an artist who arguably peaked on his first two albums, Marshall Crenshaw has remarkably not pumped out a subsequent steady stream of diminishing returns.  That's no easy feat given the caliber of 1982's Marshall Crenshaw and the following year's Field Day which are revered by both guitar pop purists and early adopters of the gentleman in question.  In fact, from a creative standpoint things never really went "south" so to speak for Crenshaw, rather just on divergent tangents.  Nonetheless, some of his albums (roughly a dozen of 'em) fared better than the rest, and there are even ones I've modestly taken exception with (Life's Too Short anyone?).

If anything else, a good chunk of the man's catalog has been neglected, specifically a slew of albums he cut in the mid-90s through the 2000s that didn't bear a major label imprint.  His seventh studio LP, Miracle of Science, circa 1996, was his maiden indie foray, and is now being released on vinyl for the first time, with a rejiggered song sequence and significantly refurbished sleeve art.  And it's not a bad album to revisit at that, as it proved to be one of his loosest and varied affairs.  Thing is, virtually every album Marshall Crenshaw brings to market feels like casual day at the office, with Miracle... being especially representative of this modus operandi.  The commencing "What Do You Dream Of," with it's serendipitous flow of acoustics and electrics, is the kind of pop tune that would seem a miracle of musical science in the hands of any other singer/songwriter, but for M/C it emanates as naturally as putting on a pair of slippers.  Another absolute stunner, "Starless Summer Sky," harkens back to the aesthetic of his breathtaking early records, brandishing a structure that smacks of the finest Field Day had to offer.  "Laughter" and "A Wondrous Place" amble along on a considerably lackadaisical path, particularly the latter which features strings, marimba and some faint flamenco affectations.

Amidst the inspired originals on Miracle reside a pair of covers.  A reading of Dobie Gray's 1964 oldie "The 'In" Crowd" isn't much of a revelation, but how about a Grant Hart solo cut?  And not just any old Hart song, but one of the finest the sadly departed Husker gave rise to, "Twenty-Five Forty-One." Truth be told, it wasn't the original incarnation that Crenshaw became acquainted with, rather Robert Forster's version on the I Had a New York Girlfriend covers collection, but no matter. It's great. 

"Seven Miles an Hour" winds Miracle... out, but not before M/C messes with us by prefacing it with a backwards take of the song in it's entirety, included as a bonus cut.  Furthermore the vinyl variant of the album is coupled with a bonus single of two more recently recorded songs (both remakes including Michael Pagliaro's "What The Hell I Got").  Elusive Disc will take care of you if opt to spin the black circles, while Amazon is holding down the CD and digital fort.  Available as we speak.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

January Re-ups, Part 3

Another mondo set of reruns based on your requests and my better judgement.  Hopefully this catches us up for a bit.  Dig in.

The Pursuit of Happiness - Live 1989, Love Junk demos, The Wonderful World of..., I'm An Adult Now ep
The Raspberries - From the Vault - MP3 or FLAC
Blake Babies - Sunburn demos & Nicely Nicely ep
Guided By Voices - Learning to Hunt
Superchunk - On Paper it Made Perfeect Sense ep & Precision Auto 7"
Close Lobsters - demos, Janice Long Session ep, Nature Thing CDS
Element (101) - Future Plans Undecided 
In One - Ascension & Fade
Killjoys - Onenight and a Morningafter
Sometimes Sweet Susan - Fuse & Point ep
Wolfie - Necessary Sailing tape 
The Opossums - (marsupial eruptus)
The Oysters - Green Eggs and Ham
27 Various - Hi
Lucy Brown - s/t LP
Wooden Igloo - s/t LP
Toyboat - s/t LP
Ripe - Filterfeed
Barkmarket - Easy Listening
John's Black Dirt - Perpetual Optimism...
Indian Bingo - Scatological & Overwrought
Candy - Whatever Happened to Fun demos & live Houston 1985
Screaming Broccoli - s/t LP
The Bounce - Things That Go Bounce in the Night ep
Wobble Test - trixinickybambibo tape 
UV Prom - Field of Vision ep
Jim Basnight & the Moberlys - s/t ep
Nuns of the Great West - The World Ain't Safe ep
The Movement - s/t ep 
Nixon's Head - Traps, Buckshot & Pelt ep
V/A - Shreds, Vol. 1
Afraid of Stairs - s/t ep
New Sweet Breath - singles & album sampler 
Zumpano - singles
Wynona Riders - singles
Latter Day Saints - Plaster City 7"
Springhouse - Menagerie Keeper 7" 
No Such Thing - 7"
Spiffy - two singles
Dangtrippers - Incantation 7" 
How Happy - 7"
The Slurps - HrrSheeCom 7"
Rubber Sole - Appetite for Mayhem 7"
Mysteries of Life - Going Through the Motions 7"

Sunday, January 26, 2020

All the love's been taken away.

A chilly, murky and thoroughly immersive sonic tempest from 1993.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Hear

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Elton Motello - Pop Art (1980, Passport)

Just four short months ago I posted an Elton Motello single, and was enthused enough about it to spend some quality time with his second long-player, this one.  You can refer back to that original entry for some pertinent biographical specifications.  Pop Art is a minor new wave masterpiece, exuding just about everything that was creative and incisive about that genre's nascent era, while gracefully sidestepping any of it's patently negative shortcomings that would become ubiquitous over the next couple of years.  A fantastically nervy strain courses trough virtually every morsel of this album, that sonically points to the acerbic modus operandi of some of Elton's (actual name Alan Ward) contemporaries likes Devo, Donnie Iris and to a lesser extent Gary Numan.  Some surprisingly rollicking and punky outbursts crop up here in the guise of "Pocket Calculator," "In the Heart of the City" (not the Rockpile tune but just as ripping) and "Panic in the Classroom," and if you're looking for par excellence power pop the title piece is both flashy and a hell of a lotta fun.  Enjoy.

01. Pop Art
02. Can't Explain
03. Night Sister
04. Falling Like a Domino
05. Out of Limit
06. 20th Century Fox
07. In the Heart of the City
08. Pocket Calculator
09. When All the Boys Are English
10. Queen
11. Pay the Radio
12. Panic in the Classroom

https://www24.zippyshare.com/v/azXolSN5/file.html

Sunday, January 19, 2020

You been swearing to god, now maybe if you'd ask...

The expanded edition of this legendary band's somewhat maligned final record from 1990.  Despite what many have opined it ranks as my fourth favorite by them.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Hear

January Re-ups, Part 2

My apologies for the absence of new posts this past week. I was (and still am sick).  In the meantime here's the latest tranche of re-ups, with more to come.  

The Figgs - Rejects 
TSAR - King of School & SBN session
Popealopes - An Adder's Tale and Kerosene 
Geek - Herasure tape
Seething Grey - Big Table demo
Diamond Fist Werny - tape
Confuse a Cat - Ankles tape
Joey Sweeney - Barely and By Default tape 
Popular Front - This is the Rubicon tape
V/A - Neapolitan Metropolitan 
V/A - Groin Thunder: Troggs tribute
Nashville Ramblers - The Trains 7" - MP3 or FLAC
The Waking Hours - 7"
Trotsky Icepick/Vena Cava - split 7"
Teeny Records - 7"
Potential Frenzy - 7"
Naked Soul - tape
Lusting After Mary - 7"
Frontier Salesman - 7"
Band of Susans - Blessing and Curse ep
Bitter Sons - 7"
Drive - SST tribute 7"
Pods - It's a Bummer About Bourbie 7" ep
Polvo/Erectus Monotone split 7" 
The Drones - Red 7"
Jigsaw Seen - Shortcut Through Clown Alley
Pitchfork - Needle in a Haystack tape
V/A - Echos From the Nation's Capital
Sometimes Sweet Susan - The Coming Lights
Black-eyed Susans - s/t
Lifeboys - The Living Class ep
Bevil Web/3 Dream Bag - split 7"
Stems - sampler
Curtain Society - tape
Holiday Slides - Ornate Coalmine
Timco - Friction Tape 
 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Is it better to be up in the air or flat on the ground?

Hey.  You've got power pop in my indie rock!  You've got indie rock in my power pop!  From 2015.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Hear

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Nice Strong Arm - Reality Bath (1987, Homestead)

And so I present you with the final piece of the Nice Strong Arm puzzle, their debut, Reality Bath.  I've featured their subsequent platters Mind Furnace and Stress City eons ago, and a convenient thing that since both were extractable from CDs.  Reality Bath, on the other hand, was a vinyl/tape-only proposition.  Those in the know about these angsty New Yorkers, fronted by one Kevin Thomson, will no doubt boast their noisenik credentials, and rightfully so I suppose, but these folks were emanating from points of catharsis and artful sensibility, not so much full bore aggression. 

On second thought, it's damn near impossible to deny that Reality Bath isn't chockablock with raging, dissonant notions and eardrum-frying sprawl.  Even relatively likeminded contemporaries Live Skull and Red Temple Spirits couldn't quite compete with NSA's near-disorienting sonic alchemy that often fell just shy of surreal.  No, taking this proverbial Bath won't be of Calgon proportions in the least, and dare I say there's not much here that's "fun," but despite it's miles-deep layers of sinewy latticework, the going rarely gets difficult.  Furthermore there’s more guttural, emo pathos at play here than Rites of Spring ever thought to fling in our direction.  If you're looking for some comparatively melodic respites, you may want to dive in at "When Truth Comes Around," "Minds Lie," and "Free At Last."  This one's an acquired taste that's well worth acquiring, and check out NSA's second and third records linked above

01. Life of the Party
02. Date of Birth
03. Copperhead
04. Disenchanted
05. When Truth Comes Around
06. Life is So Cool
07. Minds Lie
08. Free at Last
09. Notes From a Gut
10. Dying Skin

https://www19.zippyshare.com/v/3Pz2GmIz/file.html

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Rescue me or here I'll stay, a traffic island castaway.

A handy 17-cut roundup of virtually every song that mattered by these Clash-y Brit post-punks.

**Please do not reveal artist in comments!**

Here

Smashing Orange/The Sunflowers - split 7" (1992, Clawfist)

In the early '90s British-based Clawfist Records was responsible for a spate of split singles featuring (mostly) indie band covering one another on the same piece of wax.  Way back, I featured one of their 1991 specimens, Poster Children/Thin White Rope, and some ten years later I'm sharing another in the Clawfist series.  Smashing Orange (not to be confused with you-know-who) were one of my small-of-famers back in the day.  A fantastically noisome blur of manicured noise and dream pop ethos who responsible for handfuo of eps and two albums, The Glass Bead Game being the foremost of the pair.  On this split 45 they cover The Sunflowers, a combo I'd never really investigated before.  Per Discogs the band only released a few singles, and ironically the tune Smashing Orange take to task here, "Something You Said" didn't materialize on any of them.  Nonetheless, it's glorious noise-pop overdrive if I've ever such a thing.  The Sunflowers return the favor by doing a rendition of one of my go-to Smashing Orange songs, "Collide" nailing it quite capably at that.

A. Smashing Orange - Something You Said
B. The Sunflowers - Collide

https://www17.zippyshare.com/v/cXowiKJp/file.html

Saturday, January 4, 2020

A slight case of underblogging - Best of the blog mix 2019.

It's cherry picking season again.  Here's my annual postmortem assemblage of the creme de la creme of what I just offered you a year prior.  A taster, or sampler if you will.  I'm really not sure if these yearly distillations are really hitting their desired audience (neophytes, stragglers, etc) or if I'm merely preaching to the choir.  At any rate, I've plucked 23 of the most succulent feathers from the wild array that was 2019.  As was the case in 2018, I've grown increasingly slack in the amount of shared content, and as such offered even less in the past year.  Turns out though that a decent chunk of what I managed to get up '19 was of particularly high caliber.

Thing was, I presented such a haphazard pastiche of styles and genres that it made sequencing this mix a bit of a bitch, but I think I pulled it off, beginning with a cluster of acts that loosely skewed to the power pop end of the spectrum.  Midway, I sort of hit a downcast stride with the emphasis on post-punk, but managed to conclude this playlist on a surprising note of levity.  I don't have an adequate amount of time to elaborate on individual cuts, though I plan on attaching links to the original artist entries later this weekend.  Included are three additional, previously unshared kernels that are noted with an asterisk.  One item not to be overlooked is that of a virtually unknown and unsearchable quantity, La Voix Celeste (circa 1983) who deliver the melancholic, minimalist wave piece "Phases," which doesn't just strive for mood, but a sublime hook as well.  This whole package concludes with one of my most listened to songs of the past couple years, a sleeper if there ever was one that you can read more about here.  Enjoy.

01. White Flag & Kim Shattuck - Dont Give It Away
02. NoNames - 1 2 3 Go!
03. X-Teens - All Day Long
04. Giddy'Up Einstein - Wasteland
05. Beat Feet - She's on Time
06. Start - Where I Want to Be
07. Signal Thirty - Wild With Me
08. The Big Picture - Poison Town
09. Honour Society - Ambition
10. Matt Finish - Fade Away
11. Monkey 101 - French Feelings
12. Popdefect - Can't Catch Up
13. The Necessaries - Back to You
14. Tirez Tirez - Razorblade
15. B Team - Right
16. DUSTdevils - Life Guarder
17. Actuel - Just Imagine
18. The Howl - Red is Red
19. La Voix Celeste - Phases*
20. Unity Station - History
21. Rarefaction - All the Broken Seams
22. The Expression - With Closed Eyes
23. Episode 1 - Maggie
24. The Dugites - Mama Didn't Warn Me
25. Koo De Tah - Body Talk*
26. Maria Takeuchi - Plastic Love*

https://www117.zippyshare.com/v/FWJpH3Wg/file.html

Sunday, December 29, 2019

I made a wishbone in your back seat.

A Chanukah-worthy return to Mystery Mondays.  This one might as well count as night nine.  It's a two-fer from a should've-been-huge Motor City alt-rock act that would have fit in like a glove on 120 Minutes back in the day.

Hear

XTC - Mummer - Demos, rough takes and unreleased. (1982)

And so we bring Chanukah to a close with a veritable doozy.  If you're at all surprised I went with XTC to close things outs, that's understandable, because in the past twelve years I think I've mentioned them by comparison at best.  So why did I finally take a full scale plunge into the realm of Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, et al?  Essentially this bundle of relatively uncirculated booty was too good to keep to myself, and I had a hunch it would have a lot of welcome ears in this humble cyberspace outpost. 

I've been an XTC fan since Oranges and Lemons, though wouldn't consider myself  a hardcore adherent, and by no means a completist.  I'm not sure if I have a favorite XTC album, but I indeed have a preferred era, namely Mummer, The Big Express and Skylarking.  To one extent or another, the band were considered eccentrics from the outset, and while always on the more creative end of the post-punk continuum, this perception would multiply by the mid-80s, in large part to Partridge's 1982 announcement that XTC would cease to exist as a live performing entity, due in large part to a growing intolerance towards touring and almost paralyzing bouts of stage-freight.    

And with this development Mummer was eventually born, XTC's sixth album.  Feeling more unshackled than anytime before, Partridge was at ease in exercising his idiosyncratic muse.  As he put in a 2006 interview, "Quitting touring allowed us to go Technicolor," - not unlike the Beatles when they made the decision to becoming a studio-only entity towards the middle of their career.  XTC's creative development on Mummer was a stepping stone to what some regard as the band's visionary apex, 1986's Skylarking.  In an increasingly elaborate move, key album cuts like "Great Fire" and "Deliver Us From the Elements" exuded pocket-orchestral sweeps.  While not as elaborate, "Beating of Hearts" and "Human Alchemy" were vividly textured, and elsewhere Mummer emanated pop grandeur as only Partridge and Co. could on "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" and "In Loving Memory of a Name."  In fact, Mummer was an out-and-out fantastic XTC album, that is in it's original 1983 incarnation.  The 1987 expanded CD edition included six extra cuts, many of which sounded like mere afterthoughts.  This wasn't frustrating in itself, so much as the decision to insert them smack dab in the middle of the record's original running order, thus breaking the continuity of an otherwise consistent album.  Always been a gripe of mine, but I digress.

With that brief critique/history out of the way, I present you with two sets of demos.  One consisting primarily of Andy Partidge's home demos, and another entirely different set of "rough drafts" providing an alternate working version of Mummer.  In fact it even had a working-title, Fallen From the Garden.  Between these sessions are no less than 34 tracks, with some significant title overlap mind you.  Represented are all ten songs from the original vinyl variation of the record in question, and a healthy amount of outtakes. Some of these would be hammered out to perfection and utilized as b-sides and the aforementioned CD bonus tracks, while a few like the excellent "Young Cleopatra" would find their way onto XTC fan club cassette releases.  Although they're amusing to listing to in prototype versions, it's understandable why pieces like "Monkeys In Humanskin Suits" and "Do the Dwarf" were left on the cutting room floor.  In the grand scheme of things these demos and early takes reveal quite a bit - not only the genesis of several future XTC classics, but where Andy's head was at in the wake of unshackling himself from the rigors of being a live performing artist.   Enjoy (or not).  A big round of applause to whomever went to the trouble of digitizing these tracks.

Mummer home demos
01. Great Fire
02. Gold (studio rehearsal)
03. Jump
04. Beating of Hearts
05. Wonderland
06. Love on a Farmboy's Wages
07. Human Alchemy
08. Ladybird
09. Me and the Wind
10. Desert Island
11. The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men
12. Happy Families
13. Young Cleopatra
14. Monkeys In Humanskin Suits
15. Motorcycle Landscape
16. Disque Bleu
17. Dripping Basin
18. Do the Dwarf (Semi Instrumental Outtake)
19. Jacob's Ladder (Instrumental Studio Demo)

MP3  or  FLAC

Fallen from the Garden (Mummer rough takes)
01. Jump
02. Gold
03. In Loving Memory of a Name
04. Happy Families
05. Funk Pop a Roll
06. Young Cleopatra
07. The World Is Full Of Angry Young Men
08. Motorcycle Landscape
09. Me and the Wind
10. Spend a Penny
11. Human Alchemy
12. Deliver Us From the Elements
13. Ladybird
14. Love on a Farmboy's Wages
15. Desert Island

MP3  or  FLAC

Saturday, December 28, 2019

V/A - Powerpearls Vols. 4 & 5

This isn't a rerun, rather a continuation of the Powerpearls series of compilations I shared three years ago.  In 2016 I made volumes 1 & 2 available, and this year I'm giving you the fourth and fifth installments.  Why no Vol. 3?  Well, I haven't come across the third one, not in the wild anyways.  To get a better gist of what the Powerpearls m.o. is please refer to the link above, which lays things out nicely.  For the uninitiated, the Powerpearls serial were glorified, not to mention fairly well assembled DIY compilations of rare(ish) vinyl singles that hit in the late 70s/early 80s of long departed obscure power-pop and melodic punk acts that most of us wouldn't have encountered otherwise.  An unfortunate thing that would be, because the majority of what's presented is of par excellence quality.  In short, they're perfectly curated for the aesthetics of the very site you're visiting right now.  Also, the emphasis is predominantly on European artists, contrary to the like-minded Teenline series which was  exclusively America-centric

Each of these two platters consist of 18 songs apiece.  And while I went to the effort of providing a track list below, I'm not going to have time to profile everyone on board.  Nonetheless, if you're looking for a shortcut or two I'd be happy to disclose a few of the highlights.  Vol 4. breathes life into under-examined 45" wonders from English power-chord bashers 23 Jewels, The Elevators, Resistors and GenevaThe Innocents, a female fronted UK export, deliver the exceptional "One Way Love" sounding a hell of a lot more visceral than Blondie of the Go Gos ever did.  Holland's Princes of Piece turn up with a hook-laden slammer that I'd desperately like to hear more of, and there's even a Canadian entry by way of an early Blue Peter cut, before they went snyth-pop and eschewed their bratty sensibilities.  And I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention The Keys "I Don't Want to Cry," a primo, Beatles-indebted slice of power pop that arguably beat the Fab Four at their own game.  

Powerpearls Vol. 5 couldn't commence with a stronger contender than one of Stiff Records finest stablemates, Any Trouble, only to be matched a little further in by my faves The Freshies with one of their signature numbers, "Oh Girl."  And there's scads more gold to be plundered in these hills - The Snips, Time Wasters, Boyfriends, and Young Lords among others.  A couple of American entries on this one, and pretty fantastic ones in my opinion, specifically the Windbreakers and The Jetboys.  I'm under the impression that each of these comps included one token Netherlands act, and the contestant on Vol. 5 is the Undertones-inflected Rotjoch.  And not to overlook the land down under, Australia's in the house with a strummy tune by Division 4.  By the way, don't be scared off by the non-English singing entrants either.

One quick disclaimer.  These are vinyl comps, that were presumably, in most cases, sourced from the original singles.  There are a handful of glitches amidst these grooves that I couldn't do squat about, not to mention intermittent surface noise.  Nothing too egregious, and naturally, as compensation the music is pretty superb.

Powerpearls Vol. 4
01. Tunnelrunners - Words
02. 23 Jewels - Playing Boghart
03. Elevators - Your Eyes Are Too Close Together
04. Cuban Heels - Downtown
05. Fingers - Isolation
06. Singles - That's Just Someone That I Knew
07. Blue Peter - Living in the 80s
08. Diestinct - Ett Gevär I Min Hand
09. Innocents - One Way Love
10. The Keys - I Don't Wanna Cry
11. X-Conz - Do Dead People Tan
12. Geneva - Geneva Street
13. Babij Jar - Ice Age
14. Cigarette - Gimme Cigarettes
15. Vice Creems - Won't You Be My Girl
16. Princes of Piece - X-Ray Proofed
17. Resistors - Takeaway Love
18. Strate Jacket - You're a Hit

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Powerpearls Vol. 5
01. Any Trouble - Yesterday's Love
02. Dagen D - Fel
03. The Windbreakers - Black & White
04. Snips - 9 o'Clock
05. The Zips - Over & Over
06. Time Wasters - On the Street
07. Division 4 - Stop Dreaming
08. Odds - Spare Rib
09. Y Trwynau Coch - Wastod Ar Y Tu Fas
10. The Freshies - Oh Girl
11. Rotjoch - Bad Boy
12. The Vandells - Ruby Toot
13. Boyfriends - Boyfriend
14. Young Lords - Big Burden
15. Jetboys - Get the Kids Jumpin'
16. Bikini - Tu Ne Paries Pas
17. Heartbreak - Jag Ar Inte Kar
18. Regents - Ride Cowboy Ride

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Friday, December 27, 2019

The Big Picture - The Homeless House (1986, Terminal)

Fifteen seconds is all it took to sell me on The Big Picture.  I found The Homeless House while browsing a shop in Akron, OH last year.  The sleeve intrigued me.  I inquired if there was an in-store listening station where I could preview it.  Nope...but the clerk kindly offered to throw it on the store's turntable.  And within fifteen seconds of absorbing the opening of "Poison Town" I knew this was going home with me.

In case you're wondering BP were not local to Akron, or for that any matter any locale in the Buckeye state, rather Mississippi.  In fact, once I took a closer look at the back cover it was obvious that these gents were in cahoots with an even more established MS band of the same ilk, the Windbreakers, whom BP also shared a producer with, Randy Everett.

By the mid-80s, the Windbreakers, featuring the songwriting duo of Tim Lee and Bobby Sutliff, had staked out a reputation for themselves as part of the vanguard of southern "new music" that had made national inroads at college radio outlets. While generally cut from similar cloth as the 'breakers, the Big Picture opted for a slightly less rambunctious tact, slotting in a little more closely with contemporaries the Grapes of Wrath, Fire Town and Dreams So Real.  Per the album itself, the aforementioned "Poison Town" is an anthemic, indie rock clarion call of a song most bands would trade a collective limb to possess in their repertoire, even surpassing the Windbreakers strongest material.  It's a near perfect mesh of crunch and jangle with chiming arpeggios and a gripping melody. While I can't say there's much else on side one that can compete with it, the second half of The Homeless House is markedly more consistent, where you're bound to hear something fetching virtually wherever the stylus drops.  Best of all, this trio thoroughly circumvents the gaudy superficiality the '80s gave us in such abundance. My much belated discovery of BP may not qualify as an outright revelation, but the band's most intoxicating songs often project such an illusion...if that make any sense.  Enjoy, and feel free to shed any light on these guys, as I can't find anything relevant on (or off) line.

01. Poison Town
02. The Homeless House
03. Sunday
04. Two is a Crowd
05. Splintered
06. No One Dances
07. Say No More
08. Lines of Pretty Pink
09. Bricks
10. Giving Up the Ghost

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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Six scrumptious singles!

Alright ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to night five of Chanukah.  Since this entry concerns six singles it might have more sense to wait until tomorrow night, but my hectic schedule won't allow that.  I skipped the singles bundle last year, but not this one.  It is a little more time consuming to string this array of 45s together than you might think, so I hope you'll excuse me if the "essay" portion of this entry seems a little brief.  Maybe it will encourage more downloads if my brevity lends a sense of mystery to this whole endeavor.  Hmmm...  All audio files have been bundled into one folder, with links at the tail end of this write-up.

The End - 7 Day Servant/Dasvidanya  7" (1985, Pool)

I suppose I'll start with my choicest find of the year.  The End were composed of three Dallas denizens, who eventually renamed their unit End Over End.   Theirs wasn't very typical of the whole "Deep Ellum" sound, rather this trio were more content to wallow in post-punky entrails.  Not quite goth mind you, but boy did they nail that echo-y guitar tone on both of these numbers.  Kinda reminiscent of those early Comsat Angels albums like Sleep No More, albeit End's frontman Tench Coxe is a lot sweeter in the vocal department. 


The Terrible Parade - Ed McMahon Says/Telephone Man 7" (1992, Presto)

No strangers to this page, I featured the Terrible Parade's first and only album a good ten years ago.  I like virtually everything I've heard by these Cleveland, OH anglophiles and these two numbers cut the mustard as well.  The band evocatively ponders how life would change if they were to win a certain sweepstakes in "Ed McMahon Says, " while the acoustic flip, "Telephone Man," entails an unrequited romance.  Thematically it's not far removed from a similarly titled song from a charting R&B outfit had a few years prior, but trust me, I prefer Terrible Parade's take on this premise just about any day.

Snatch the Pebble - way/window 7" (1992, esync ocular interchange)

Up for a slice or two of sublime, distortion-laden dream pop?  Sure you are.  I'm pretty much turning up goose eggs on this woozy quartet, presumably from Florida.  Per Discogs Snatch the Pebble had a mere three records to their credit and this appears to be the middle one.  And they did their thing splendidly on this 7" circle of manicured noise, not unlike their equally arcane but excellent contemporaries Ultra Cindy and Smashing Orange.  True, StP may not have been originators of the form, but they're phenomenal practitioners, especially on the A-side "way."

Bok Bok - Come Back to Me/Misfit (1980/2014, Bok Bok/Captured Tracks)

You could say that these UK pop-punks were an offshoot of an offshoot.  A little known band called The Teardrops came into being circa the very end of the '70s featuring alumni from the Buzzcocks and Fall.  I don't own the Teardrops lone album, Final Vinyl, but I've heard it, and sad to say it's downright mediocre, embarrassingly so at times.  The 'drops were out of commission by 1980, and two of the members Steve Garvey (ex-Buzzcocks) and Fall-guy Karl Burns incorporated Bok Bok with a mouthpiece named Dave Price for what turned out to be a self-released, one off single (this one).  In a nutshell, both songs from this fleeting project fulfilled the promise that the Teardrops never capitalized on.  "Come Back to Me" and "Misfit" definitely owes a bigger sonic debt to the Buzzcocks than Mark E. Smith and Co., and given the caliber of these tunes I wouldn't have done things any differently.  The single was released with an alternate sleeve for Record Store Day 2014, and unsold copies may still be available here.

Another Pretty Face - All the Boys Love Carrie/That's Not Enough 7" (1979, New Pleasures)

The Scottish born and bred Another Pretty Face put out this thoroughly winsome wax forty years ago, and could have almost tricked me into thinking it was some long lost Stiff Records artifact.  We're treated to five and a half minutes of old school power pop bliss a la Any Trouble and Dirty Looks, perhaps even a smidge of the Undertones and Records.  "All the Boys Love Carrie" is a classy and perfectly executed banger and it's flip-side is no slouch either.  Four singles and a cassette album was APF's recorded legacy, this 45 being the first of all of them.  They certainly don't churn 'em out like this anymore, but luckily we can take a spin back in time anytime we want.

The Teardrop Explodes - Treason/Read It in Books 7" (1980, Zoo!)

And finally, I'm tossing in one a good lot of you should have some familiarity with.  This, as they say, is a gem.  A pearl.  A nugget of gold.  The Teardrop Explodes were one of the most successful and innovative bands to have emanated from Liverpool, England, post-Beatles.  "Treason" illustrates precisely why, and is the band's finest moment alongside the almost equally appealing "Reward."  In case you don't know the story, after the band's dissolution, prime mover Julian Cope ventured out off onto a successful solo career, yielding gold albums...and as you may know, the usage of all manner of hallucinogenics.  Here is the first of two incarnations of the "Treason" single, this one backed with an Echo & the Bunnymen cover, and released independently on the band's own Zoo! imprint.

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