Sunday, February 28, 2010

Helmet Boy - s/t (1980, Asylum)

This is going to be a slim write-up, but I think you'll want to take a couple of minutes to download this. Helmet Boy. Knew nothing of them until a few weeks ago, but saw a listing for this album on Ebay and went for it. For a power pop band on a major label, I'm stunned to find nary a mention of these guys save for catalog listings of online retailers. Heck, even the always-on-the-ball archivists at Power Pop Criminals and PVAc to 44.1 kHz overlooked this one. Granted, Helmet Boy don't approach the deftly crafted skill of 20/20 or Shoes, I'm hearing a bit of a Rubinoos influence permeating this album, along with some of Cheap Trick's gentler, early album moments. Maybe a little Rundgren in here too, but just a smidgen. In other words, nothing too heavy. Enjoy, and feel free to share your thoughts.

01. Don't Tease Me
02. Hurts Like Love
03. Red Eyes
04. I Know What You Did Last Night
05. This Could Be the Night
06. Rebel (She's a)
07. Poster Girl
08. I'm Not So Sure
09. So Sophisticated
10. Here Comes That Girl Again

http://netkups.com/?d=509ef3961931d

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chemistry Set - s/t ep (1988, Rood) & Fabulous Stinking 7" (1989, Fatbald)

These two records just go to show how much difference a year and the prevailing music trend of the day can make. Chemistry Set were a Seattle quartet who's only claim to fame was their inclusion on the rather well-known Sub Pop 200 compilation album. If you have that record, you might be familiar with their contribution, "Underground," but if you were anything like me back in 1991 when it got reissued on CD, I was just stoked to have more Nirvana and Green River to jam out to, but I digress. The only biographical data I was able to unearth on Chemistry Set was this Google translation of a German Wiki-ish article that goes into their background and these records. Not terribly in depth mind you, but what it does cover is interesting.

On their self-titled six-song debut ep, it would seem that Chemistry Set were cutting their teeth on a myriad of respectable American '80s bands like Translator, Red Rockers, Rain Parade, and to a lesser extent the venerable REM. Chemistry Set made for a dandy first impression. Just a year later (1989) take a guess at what stylish, pacific northwest bandwagon the band were more than willing to hitch a ride on? Yep, that one. Though not quite as down and dirty as Mudhoney, Tad and the like, the transformation was profoundly evident on the succeeding 7" single, dubbed Fabulous Stinking. Part of this "progression" was also likely due in part to a new guitarist I might add. Apparently all was not well in Grunge-opolis, and shortly after the 45 hit shelves the band folded. Singer Scott Sutherland would go on to work with Rusty Willoughby of Pure Joy/Flop renown.
 
s/t ep
01. Fields
02. Beneath the Plow
03. Blind Caroline
04. Hall of Mirrors
05. Kill the Sleepers
06. April Fools
 
Fabulous Stinking 7"
A. Look Over Your Shoulder
B. Failure
 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Helen Earth Band - Our Own Ghost City (2009) - a brief evaluation

As far as current music goes, a lot of you might guess that I'm not exactly in the tank with junior high pop-punk bands, screamy nu-metal schlock, or for that matter, the Kool-Aid that online 'tastemakers' are so willing to gush out like a raging kegger on a daily basis. Fortunately there are still a plethora of bands of significant merit that manage to fly under the radar. San Diego's Helen Earth Band just so happen to fall under that life-affirming realm.

For the uninitiated, if you had to sweat down Helen Earth Band’s single most prominent facet, it would clearly be brothers Marc and Adam Allen’s, choppy, metronome precise guitar licks that sweetly deflect off one other to utterly gratifying effect. Very much in league with hometown post-hardcore predecessors like No Knife and aMINIATURE, Helen Earth band sport an agile sense of dynamics and mildly dissonant rhythms that can, and often do, stop and start on a dime. Speaking of dimes, Helen Earth Band fully funded their thirteen song debut, Our Own Ghost City on their own coin, however their studio acumen might lead you to believe they had some rock star engineer tweaking the knobs. Not a chance - Ghost City is an entirely inside job.
There’s an inherent technical slant coursing it’s way through this album, though it’s dexterous and savvy exterior belies some seriously tuneful maneuvers and sonic wanderlust. In a nutshell what you have here is a solid dose of smart, textured rock, sans the self-importance and ennui. You can stream the full album on their bandcamp page, and even lay down a few bills for your own CD.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Singles Going Single #111 - New Radiant Storm King - 2 Salvaged Songs 7" (1992, Trixie)

Massachusetts' long running indie pioneers New Radiant Storm King are no strangers to this blog (click on the hyperlink to bring up some of their previous entries). The two 1991 tracked songs that comprise the 2 Salvaged Songs single feature some serious six-string wrangling by one Peyton Pinkerton, the focal point of NRSK. "Smear" is as melodic as it is raucous, while the flip "Indiana Jones" makes a strong case as to why every household should posses at minimum one copy each of Daydream Nation and You're Living All Over Me. "Smear" would eventually wind up on an NRSK single and rarities compilation, Leftover Blues 1991-2003, which I believe is available from iTunes, Emusic and the like, while the b-side remains exclusive to this wax. If you like what you hear, do yourself a favor and check out New Radiant Storm King's website for more info than you can shake a mouse at.

A. Smear
B. Indiana Jones

http://netkups.com/?d=3f514995a31ac

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Church - live at Studio 54, Barcelona, Spain 5/23/86

Also referred to as Midnight Fires, this is an audience recording of The Church in support of their excellent Heyday album. Steven Kilbey's vocals are a bit mired in the mix, but still discernible. Certainly can't argue with the setlist. Too bad so few soundboard recordings of early Church shows exist. Enjoy.

01. Tristesse
02. Already Yesterday
03. Columbus
04. Life Speeds Up
05. Almost With You
06. Fly
07. One Day
08. Shadow Cabinet
09. Constant In Opal
10. Secret Corners
11. Tantalized
12. Is This Where You Live?
13. The Unguarded Moment
14. You Took

http://netkups.com/?d=7a539165ee415

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Singles Going Single #110 - Friction Wheel 7" (1989, SOS)

Friction Wheel were a quartet of collegiate, New Jersey popmeisters who had the good fortune of having their 45 issued on Bob Mould's short lived Singles Only Label. Served up here are two tasty slices of polished guitar pop, leaning in the direction of REM and Material Issue. Constant Listener fanzine had this to say about the record.

Speaking of Big Bob Mould, one of the smartest thing s
he did (second only to ditching the Flying-V and that dumpy
drummer of his) was sign up FRICTION WHEEL, a college-age
combo that hangs out at Maxwells a lot (even though none of
them lives in Hoboken, I guarantee you'll see them called a
"Hoboken Band" all over the place) . Their vinyl debut is
a SOL single, "Something Tells Me" b/w "Won't Fall Down."
Hard to believe that a year ago, everybody said these boys
would never get anywhere 'cos they sounded too much like
R .E .M. Today, you'd get a quick kick in the butt from
anyone with any brains who heard that remark; sure, they've
still got Rickenbacker guitars, but the twang has been
replaced by a good beefy drone and post-Husker guitar
wallop (thanks agin', Bob) and Willie Lopez' from-the-heart
vocals really put this one over the top . Nice to know I can still pick 'em . 

 
I believe the same Friction Wheel later released an ep called Happy, which I have yet to hear. Just FYI, for those of you who opt to download this, that unsightly stain depicted on the scan of the back sleeve was not my doing, as this record was obtained used.
A. Something Tells Me
B. Won't Fall Down

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Unholy Wives - When Sanity Sleeps (1989, Blue Wave)

Yet another virtual unknown quantity from my vast CD trove. The Unholy Wives (all male by the way) were from upstate New York, and When Sanity Sleeps was their second album. That's pretty much the tale I have to tell about them. When Sanity Sleeps suggests that Irish rockers like U2, the Alarm, and a far more unlikely influence, Cactus World News informed the Wives. The guitars have 'that' sort of ring to them, if that makes any sense. A slight AOR bent a la The Call permeates the mix as well. The only relevant link I found on the search engines for this four piece was broken. I believe some inexpensive copies of Sanity are still available from Amazon.

01. Crying Fields
02. Rituals of Love
03. The Maze
04. Jump Back
05. Paper Dolls
06. When Sanity Sleeps
07. Don't You Ever Leave Me
08. Bleeding Loneliness
09. Strength in Numbers
10. Knockin' Em Down (In the City)
11. Not Much to Believe In
12. Tomorrow Never Knows

http://netkups.com/?d=16751e0359464

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Singles Going Single #109 - V. Card "Bright" 7" + Pool Shark ep (1994/95, Allied)


Thought this would be an appropriate follow-up to my Nub 7" from last night. V. Card had a short run of releases one of the more enlightening and prolific punk labels of the ‘90s, Allied Records. A nary spoken of trio from Allston, MA, V. Card rocked out like the orphan offspring of Husker Du and Pegboy (might as well throw in home-staters Moving Targets too). Eminently powerful, pile-driving riff rock with a colossal bite to it, and remarkably consistent at that. These guys really spat in the face of all the cookie-cutter schlock that was coming down the pike from Epitaph Records and the like. Completely ignored from what I can tell, which is unfortunate. My only complaint about V. Card was that they weren't ones for variety. In addition to their Allied 45, I'm also including a link to their following release, the Pool Shark cd ep. It closes out with an unlisted cover of INXS' "Don't Change." BTW, the tray card to Pool Shark lists a song called "Bag Lady" that doesn't actually materialize on the cd.

7" (1994)
A. Bright
B. Tracks
 
Pool Shark ep (1995)
01. Pool Shark
02. Hey Guy
03. New Moon
04. The Cause
05. Lost Myself
06. Tag.../Don't Change
 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Singles Going Single #108 - Nub 7" (1994, Iteration)

Not to be confused with the band The Nubs, who released the classic "Job" 7" (which you can partake in here), Nub were a mid-90s Bay Area punk trio who took some very recognizable cues from another local punk trio on the rise, specifically Jawbreaker. On their lone single (I'm assuming anyway) these guys did the power-punk thing quite convincingly. The real treat here is the b-side, "The Road Less Traveled" where mouthpiece/axe-handler Scott busts out a devastating vocal hook improving the dynamic of not only the song, but the single/ep as a whole. Cool.

A1. Captain Marvel
A2. Newts and Monkeys
B. The Road Less Traveled

http://netkups.com/?d=581ab23a381b3

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Modern Minds (pre-TPOH) "Theresa's World" 7" + more (1980/2006, Base)

I've been so dazzled over the years by Moe Berg's work with the The Pursuit of Happiness that I did some research awhile ago and learned that he had his roots in a couple other bands before he shuffled off to Toronto in the mid '80s to inform the world at large that he was an adult (now). One of these precursor groups was a punk-ish trio called The Modern Minds who got their start in the late '70s up in Edmonton, Alberta. During their lifespan, they released all but one three-song single, "Theresa's World." Believe it or not, some eight years before unleashing TPOH's classic Love Junk, Moe Berg was penning incessantly catchy songs on par with that album. In fact, the faint background harmonies on "Theresa's World" were merely a sign of the excellence that was to come later in the decade. There are some other moments here that are just as rewarding, including "It's Gone" (another single track) and "Go," although the source tape the material on this compilation CD comes from sounds a little reedy at times. Modern Minds, released on the Japanese Base Records label, contains all three cuts from the single, and I'm assuming the remaining eight are unreleased. My only beef is that Moe's liner notes are presented entirely in Japanese. Copies of the CD may still be available from Base's website, but unless you're fluent in the language, better hire yourself a translator. BTW, Little Hit's blog did a piece on the Modern Minds single a few years ago that's worth checking out (scroll all the way down).

As for another of Moe Bergs earlier endeavors, there was also Facecrime, who to my knowledge released an exceedingly scarce 12" ep, Sex and Revolution (anyone got this?) and also appeared on the It Came From Inner Space compilation. Don't forget, I'm also sharing TPOH's debut indie ep, I'm an Adult Now.
 
01. Theresa's World
02. Go
03. It's Gone
04. Bungalow Rock
05. Book of Life
06. Tonight in My Room
07. Where I Live
08. 20 Years Old
09. Girl Crazy
10. Dirty Movies
11. Someone Like You
 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Uncle Green - 15 Dryden (1988, New Dream/DB)

Since I have this record on loan from somebody, I thought now would be an apt time to share it. My familiarity with Uncle Green was, and largely is, fairly minimal. Formed in New Jersery in 1980, the band eventually hightailed it down to Atlanta, GA, where they would eventually hook up with DB Records for their second album, 15 Dryden. They signed with Atlantic in the early '90s for their most well known record, Book of Bad Thoughts. After a fruitless decade and a half of chasing success, Uncle Green rechristened themselves 3 Lb Thrill, and by 1995 released Vulture on Sony Records to a sizably larger and more attentive audience.

15 Dryden is chockablock with sweet, strummy guitar pop, leaning in the direction of Crowded House, as well as the "new south" sound that I've mentioned many times on these pages before. The online version of Trouser Press has a few things to say about Uncle Green, as does Allmusic. There's pops and snaps galore here, but I did my best to minimize the nasty little buggers (without much success unfortunately).
 
01. Make Someone Happy
02. Complicated
03. That Must be the Way
04. Bad Dream #4
05. Red Tape
06. Another Disappointment
07. It's All Coming Back
08. Looking for the Words to Say
09. Washday
10. Brute Force

V/A - Bad Timing - A Perth Pop Retrospective (1993, Rubber/Idaho)

Throughout the eighties and even much of the nineties, Perth, Australia was a fertile breeding ground for innovative post-punk and garage bands. As the liner notes to Bad Timing wisely observes: A balanced, comprehensive and definitive retrospective of the music on offer in Perth in the 1980s is the province of a ten-volume, introductory box set...So how was this compilation pared down to a mere eleven tracks? Bad Timing was designed to be a brief snapshot - concise and varied, but by no means the final word.

Many a garage or basement was hoppin' back in the day on the southwest coast of Oz, with purist purveyors like The Graverobbers, The Kryptonics and The Marigolds standing out as the most archetypal examples. Others like The Neptunes and the positively legendary Stems took that rootsy vibe and melded it to something a little more contemporary. The Stems are definitely worth further exploration if you're at all moved by "Under Your Mushroom." The Triffids were arguably the breakout band spawned from the Perth pop movement, and their "Convent Walls" is as fine an introduction as any. The little spoken of Palisades brought the C86 jangle in very sweet way (check out their A Month Too Soon album here). The like-minded Ricken-poppers The Never Never rule the roost on this disk, with the chiming "The Girl's in My System." Would love to hear more from them. Should you ever happen upon a copy of Bad Timing, I'll warn you that the track listing on the tray card is atrociously mixed up (so much so that I didn't scan it in).

Speaking of jangle, one Perth area outfit conspicuously missing from this album is The Spliffs. Their lone album, House of Seven, and a clutch of singles go for a sickening amount of money on Ebay, but you can experience them gratis here and here. Enjoy.

01-The Stems - Under Your Mushroom
02-The Graverobbers - My Baby's a Tramp
03-The Jackals - Sister in the Graveyard
04-The Neptunes - Heartbreak Beach
05-Chad's Tree - Crush Lily
06-The Triffids - Convent Walls
07-Diddywah Hoodaddys - Linkola
08-The Never Never - The Girls in my System
09-The Marigolds - Lying Again
10-The Palisades - Alternatively Wednesdays
11-The Kryptonics - The Land that Time Forgot 
 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fear and (not so much) loathing on Blogger...continued from below

I appreciate your comments to my little missive from Thursday night. In short, as long as things are under my control (i.e., if the powers that be at Google don't pull the plug) Wilfully Obscure won't be going anywhere. In the meantime, I've already backed up the text and links in all posts to date to a big fat MS Word doc. While I don't sense this blog is in immediate danger of being terminated, I'm not going to take any chances. This means if something is available on iTunes, Emusic, Amazon downloads, etc, don't expect to find it here. From what I understand, Wordpress is indeed more of a killjoy than Blogger. Ultimately, I would prefer to move everything over to my own domain, but being that I'm HTML illiterate makes that an impossibility, at least for the moment. Am already looking into text-to-HTML software programs. If any of you have any suggestions feel free to advise. Otherwise, onto more music

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bloggers and music fans take note - Google is on a purging rampage.

This morning on Pitchfork, I read an alarming story regarding the recent and heightened spate of "blogspot" music blog "take downs." Blogger, which is owned by Google, has the right to literally eviscerate any blog that hosts copyrighted material, or material that is perceived to be copyrighted. Is Google's decision to shut down any given music blog arbitrary? Not exactly. Before such drastic action is taken, Google/blogger is initially notified by a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint presented by a music artist or the record company (indie or major) representing them. From there, Blogger temporarily suspends the post(s) in question and informs the blogger of the DMCA complaint. The real sting comes when a number of DMCA complaints for any given blog accumulates and Google decides to remove the blog from the web in it's entirety without any warning, and with ZERO storage or retention of the data contained therein - all in an instant. The curator of a blog removed under these circumstances has no recourse whatsoever. As a recent article on the Daily Swarm illustrates, Google's policy is guilty until proven innocent.

I'm as vulnerable as anyone. I would like to reiterate the disclaimer in my Blogger profile. If you're an artist (or an official representative thereof) who's music appears on this site, and you would like something removed, please email me directly PRONTO, and I will address any concerns as soon as possible. For the record, since beginning Wilfully Obscure in the spring of 2007, I have only received two DMCA removal requests.

In the future, I will be especially cautious about what I share on these pages, particularly if it is commercially available from an online retailer (like Amazon), iTunes, or similar digital music vendors. More to follow.

The Popes - Hi, We're the Popes ep (1988)

I’m still blown away by how many great bands emanated from the unlikely musical hotbed of the Chapel Hill/Raleigh-Durham “Triangle” region of North Carolina in the latter part of the twentieth century, and guess what? I’m still excavating more outstanding bands from that utterly fertile locale and era. The locally revered Popes, are said to have recorded an ultimately unreleased LP for RCA Records, but first came this 1988 ep, Hi, We’re the... Not ones to "Merge" with the angular, indie-rock clique that was just about to sprout up in their hometown of Chapel Hill, The Popes played a more straight laced brand of left-of-the-dial power pop, exhibiting slight nods to Minneapolis and SST bands of the era. Well above the prevailing average of their day. Interesting and wordy lyrics too. To read up more on the Popes, and what became of some of the band members after they splintered, check out their slice of cyberspace on the NC Music History website. There you will also find an additional song not on this ep.

01. Charmless
02. Marilyn
03. The Day I Had to Explode
04. I Wish I Was a Train
05. Repression
06. Not Beautiful

Now available from Emusic and iTunes

Stag - Kickstart the Ramparts (2005)

You might not guess it from the graffiti motifed cover art of Kickstart the Ramparts, but this recently bygone Buffalo, NY area trio apparently had a real flair for '90s indie guitar rock. Whether by coincidence or not, Stag collectively hearken back to several groups I've championed on here, like Fig Dish, Small 23, Loomis, and to a lesser extent, the Figgs. Solid songs make Kickstart (especially it's first half) a repeat listen. BTW, there does not appear to be a shred of info on the web regarding Stag, so to anyone associated with the band, please post a comment.

01. Along for the Ride
02. Failsafe
03. Yeah Yeah Yeah
04. Coming Home
05. Swingers
06. The Aftermath
07. Oceanview
08. Suburbia
09. Always on My Mind
10. She Came Alone
11. Lights, the Shy, and You

http://netkups.com/?d=ae81717438c57

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Singles Going Single #107 - Dreams So Real "Bearing Witness" 7" (1989)

I've spilled many a word on Dreams So Real, perhaps the second best band to emanate from Athens, GA and hopefully these won't be my last. As some of you might recall, DSR issued a mailorder-only CD of b-sides and outtakes called Nocturnal Omissions in the very early '90s. In fact , it gathered up every stray track left on the cutting room floor...with the exception of one. I'm not sure if it was a licensing issue or what, but the Omissions compilation 'omitted' the b-side to "Bearing Witness" (I believe the second single off of the Rough Night in Jericho album). The song in question was a faithful, (if not a bit rigid) reading of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." So there you have it, the "lost" Dreams So Real b-side. BTW, the flip is pretty decent too. "Lay me down in the bulrushes..."

A. Bearing Witness (Lay Me Down)
B. Cinnamon Girl

http://netkups.com/?d=c9b4f515ba739

Singles Going Single #106 - Super Deluxe 7" (1995, Collective Fruit)

Super Deluxe were yet another sad case of major label neglect that transpired during the '90s. A pop band at their core, these Seattle denizens came equipped with a whopping arsenal of power (a la hometown-mates The Posies) and yielded two consistent and highly recommendable albums, Famous in 1996, and Via Satellite the year following, during their tenure on WB subsidiary Revolution Records. This preceding single featured on side-A, Famous' opening track, "Lizadrin." Clocking in at a mere two minutes and some change, this inexplicably named song doesn't waste a nanosecond, brimming with an overpowering surge of harmonies and a gale force charge of ringing power chords that could easily prop up a lesser band's entire album. Super Deluxe had a plethora of great songs to offer (many of which remain unreleased), but to these ears they never quite managed to top this 'perfect ten.' The b-side, "Wilted and Faded" never made it to any of their albums.

A. Lizardin
B. Wilted and Faded

http://netkups.com/?d=10200ba5b5e13

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 27 Various - Hi (1987, Susstones)

I had a request for The 27 Various a couple weeks ago. This isn't my first post on the band. I shared a 45 by them in 2008 in my Singles Going Single series. The brunt of their catalog (namely the albums: Approximately, Fine and Up) were released on Twin/Tone in the early '90s. Those records were a little too non-descript for my pallet, but subsequently I checked out their debut Hi and was pleasantly surprised. At this phase in their career, The 27 Various had a firm handle on contemporaries like Game Theory, and to a lesser extent the fabled "Paisley Underground" scene that was just starting to diminish upon the release of this album. My top two picks here are "Principal Percival" and "Colored World," the first tapping into the left of center stride the early dB's were so deftly skilled at, and the latter veering more toward crunchy, sublime power-pop bliss. There's some noticeable surface noise here, so should I come across a better copy of Hi, I will gladly repost it.

01. Principal Percival
02. Furry Creatures From the Forest
03. The Gormleys Will Miss Me
04. Tempermental Artist
05. Lamentations
06. Colored World
07. Venetian Blinds
08. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
09. I'm in It
10. The Fish (Knows Why)

http://netkups.com/?d=75d8c3a701315

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tribe - s/t ep (1987, Rutabaga)

When I saw this at a very inexpensive price in a used bin last year I snatched it up fairly quick, as I recalled seeing a high asking price for it on Ebay. I wasn't sure if Tribes's self titled ep ultimately fetched it's $99 price tag, but I thought I'd try my luck with it. I ended up keeping it off the market (at least for now). When I did some research on this ep today, I discovered that this female fronted Boston quintet would later release three full length records, the second and third of which, (Abort in 1991 and Sleeper in '93) boasted major label backing. On this ostensibly scarce indie release, Tribe are seeped in a decidedly noir-lite mode, with pulsing synths augmenting a crisp, post-punk sound. I hear rumblings of several other period bands on Tribes, ranging from The Passions to Pylon, with the ep culminating in the comparatively melodic "Lemmings." I did my best to clean it up, but alas, there's definitely some vinyl noise cropping up on this one.

01. Abort
02. Pinwheels
03. Vigil
04. Lemmings

http://netkups.com/?d=55bf12bca839c

Friday, February 5, 2010

Motion City Soundtrack - My Dinosaur Life - An overall assessment, three weeks in the making.

Thought I would spill some verbiage on a current release of note, My Dinosaur Life, the fourth long player from Minneapolis' Motion City Soundtrack. To those of you who took my Top albums of the '00s list to heart, you may have noticed that I tabulated all three of the band's previous albums (I Am the Movie (2003), Commit This to Memory (2005), and Even If It Kills Me (2007) in the top 50. No joke. They impressed me that damn much. Quite atypical for a slot on the Epitaph Records roster, MCS offered a dizzying conglomeration of slamming power-pop riffs, wonky Moog synthesizers, and Justin Pierre's endearingly neurotic, pseudo-autobiographical dissertations. But as early reviews of My Dinosaur Life began to enter the slipstream, I was introduced to the notion that some hardcore MCS fans deemed the quintet's last album, Even If It Kills Me, to be too "pop" for it's own good. Hmm. Granted, that album was a wee bit less frantic than it's 2005 predecessor, they had hardly gone softball. As for this album, I have a difficult time surmising what the reaction will be. My overall conclusion is that Dinosaur plays to the advantages MCS's entire Epitaph catalog, particularly Commit This to Memory and Even If It Kills Me.

The only obvious sonic gamble here is the diminishment of the band's telltale keyboards, that I imagine Andy Wallace, in all his infinite wisdom, buried deep into the mix to emphasize the more abrasive undercurrent that's been the foundation for most of their music, and nowhere is that more evident than on "Disappear." On their darkest album cut to date, the overarching theme of this rapid-fire salvo of oblique and disparate imagery will be somewhat lost on even the most dedicated of Pierre's minions. (The lack of booklet lyrics couldn't have been timed more poorly I might add). Thing is, "Disappear" is such a conniption to listen to, all the conjecture might just be worth it. The band charts a more linear course on the melody-friendly flow winding it's way through trademark Pierre confessionals like "Worker Bee" and "Her Words Destroyed My Planet." The fun really hits full-throttle mid-album on "Delirium," a tale of being tethered (or so it would seem) to a hospital bed in a mental health facility (or so it would also seem) where the patient is unable to differentiate if his meds or his surreal environment is responsible for said "delirium." In similar fashion, "Hysteria" also propels through the stratosphere like a searing firecracker, although the motif here is a little less psychotropic. It also happens to be the most keyboard-prominent cut on the disk. And yes, there's a ballad (of sorts) here, "Stand Too Close," but nowhere near as despondent as their last album's piano tearjerker, "The Conversation."

My Dinosaur Life is classic, utterly fun and off-the rails Motion City Soundtrack, and a more than logical successor to Even if it Kills Me. The latter part of that summation is bound to either delight or unnerve fans, that is, if Even if... was really viewed as that drastic of a departure (which in my opinion it wasn't). If twelve new MCS songs aren't enough to satiate your appetite, relax, because there's a very tricked out deluxe version of Dinosaur (pictured to your left) that you're about $60 in reach of, featuring the entire album laid out across six picture disk 7"s, all tucked away in an elaborate hard bound book. It also comes equipped with two CDs (one the album proper, the other an ep's worth of alternate takes and a bonus cut), and a signed lyric booklet.

Given the widespread availability of My Dinosaur Life, I am not at liberty to share any album content, per se, so I have assembled a brief three song selection of live versions of "Disappear," "A Lifeless Ordinary," and "Her Words Destroyed My Planet." These recordings are culled from a trio of December 2009 hometown concerts, where each gig was dedicated to one of their three previous Epitaph Records albums. If you need more convincing, Myspace is merely a click away. Finally, a word from our fine sponsor:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Singles Going Single #105 - The Libertines (US) "Voices From the Past" 7" (1986)

The Libertines (US) may have hailed from Cincinnati, but they conquered the...well, pretty much just Cincy to be honest. (Note, this is not the same Libertines that you heard about throughout the 90s-00s). In a more perfect universe, this quartet would be spoken of in the same breath as REM or the myriad of clangy left-of-the-dial acts that made modest mainstream inroads. "Jingle, jangle, crunch!" as the wise Jack Rabid once described them. Over the course of their original mid-to-late '80s lifespan the Libertines cranked out two albums and a couple of singles, the latter of which are where these two featured tracks are culled from. If the vinyl noise is a little too hard on your ears, you're in luck. Both numbers and nineteen other vintage cuts are available on the Libertines' Greatest Hits CD, which can be snatched up for a bargain over at CD Baby, and from what I understand iTunes as well. Well worth the investment. The Libertines played several reunion shows over the past four years, and are scheduled to make one more go of it in New York this July. Click the first link above for their Myspace page.

A. Voices From the Past
B. Something in the Water

http://netkups.com/?d=aba479914563b

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Verbow - Chronicles (1997)

Want a recipe for a killer album? Whip out your metaphorical mixing bowl and combine the following ingredients:

-Two cups of Sugar (as in the Bob Mould variety)
-Two eggs worth of melodic sensibility
-Three tablespoons of sizzling, 90s-era indie guitar rock like Monsterland, Pollyanna, and the like.
-A pinch of cello for taste

Crank the oven to "11," bake for 37 minutes. Let cool. Yields eleven irresistible slices!
So what in the hell am I talking about? None other than Chicago's neglected Verbow, who's debut album, Chronicles, happens to have Bob Mould's recording credits all over it. The Sugar comparisons are inevitable and fairly dead on, but Verbow don't exude quite the lead-foot on the distortion pedals, balancing out full-tilt rockers like "River Wish" and "The Chronicles of Agent Kidd," with the more subdued "Man in Mile High" and "The Distance Between Us." Verbow expired in the early '00s after their second album "White Out" failed to catch fire. You can read up a little more on the band at Bill's Music Forum.
 
01. Fan Club
02. The Chronicles of Agent Kidd
03. Man in the Mile High
04. Execution of a Jester
05. River Wish
06. Holiday
07. Lethergy's Crown
08. The Distance Between Us
09. Sugarcone
10. Slumbering Blue
11. Down the Gun
 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Singles Going Single #104 - Comet - This is Freedom 7" (1995, Last Beat)

For those of you familiar with the Mesquite, TX-based Comet, you likely caught wind of them via their underappreciated Chandelier Musings album, way back in 1996. They never really caught a break commercially speaking, while a lot of critics at the time were wont to cast them off as shoegazer-esque, Mercury Rev proteges. I suppose it didn't help that their one and only album was produced by ex-Rev alum David Baker. While their billowy and feedback-drenched soundscapes were ostensibly too lofty for an impatient mainstream audience, Comet built up a modest but appreciative local following. The two-song This is Freedom 7" was a dandy precursor to Musings, featuring the exclusive a-side, "Portrait," and an early incarnation of "Rocket Flare." A.V. Club had the following to opine on the band:

Considering how little time it's been in existence, the Texas band Comet has drawn 1) a lot of praise, and 2) a lot of comparisons to elegant, slow-moving pop bands like Low and Bedhead. The first response is the only one that's justified. Chandelier Musings, Comet's full-length debut, was produced by former Mercury Rev frontman (and current Shady mastermind) David Baker, and you can tell: Where Low uses clean and beautiful guitar tones to produce a spare, delicate sound—and where Bedhead uses layers of guitars to work soothing magic—Comet creates for itself a hazy, pretty, meandering, slightly psychedelic pop sound that most closely resembles a cross between the Velvet Underground and Baker's softest works. All comparisons aside, this is warm, pretty stuff that's slow-paced, but compelling. It rarely leaps out and grabs you, but it's got a subliminal, hypnotic, head-bobbing effect that lets it grow on you more and more with each excursion.

There's some pesky vinyl noise populating these grooves, so I may attempt to clean it up and repost in better fidelity at a later date. Nevertheless, you'll get the gist as is.
 
A. Portrait
B. Rocket Flare