What little I've been able to glean about this jangly Fullerton, CA trio are a number of references indicating that Blue Trapeze were lumped into the Christian rock realm, though you'd be hard pressed to make that case upon listening to the vast majority of this 1986 ep. Mask & Marquee reveals itself as a rather secular record, wherein the group seems way more intent on churning out vaguely noir alt-rock, summoning inspiration not from the heavens, but instead the likes of Peter Buck, and arguably some of the darker Paisley Underground champions of the era (e.g. Rain Parade). The sum total of Mask & Marquee falls slightly short of a revelation (no pun intended), but nonetheless it's evocative of the melancholic, yet fertile left-of-the-dial environment of its day.
01. Mask & Marquee
02. Afraid of Real
03. A Reason
04. See Them Turn
05. The Old Home
06. Midnight Sun
As ponderous as I find the lofty, orchestral-lite formula wunderkinds du jour The Arcade Fire have taken to the bank (also qualifying, but to a lesser extent Broken Social Scene) their artsy angle isn’t entirely unappealing in itself, rather I’ve never been one for style over substance. Columbus, Ohio’s Ghost Shirt (who like the Arcade Fire also happen to be a co-ed proposition) miraculously meet my criteria, as it were, for equivalent quotients of both of those ever so tricky but all too crucial facets - much in the way a mid-size sedan (say a Camry or a Malibu) comfortably accommodates a family of four. Um, sure. If only a truly substantive indie rock could be likened to sedan, but for those of you who have made it this far into my synopsis, I think you get my drift. In a nutshell, had the Arcades taken a more modest tact, they just might be on the same wavelength as Ghost Shirt.
Robust, but unencumbered, opulent, yet economical, Ghost Shirt’s Domestique doesn’t merely strike the proper “balance,” it downright charms, woos, and dazzles anyone within earshot who possesses an affection for bright, lucid guitar pop tethered to briskly pulsating tempos. Operating as a quartet without extraneous accompaniment, pretentious overtones and baroque eccentricities aren’t even a consideration here. Samantha Kim’s sweeping violin fills, featured prominently on several tracks, embellish the arrangements without overpowering them. In fact, the strings are merely a winsome backdrop, as are the swarming synths that occupy “Sleep,” a number which rings reminiscent of Julian Casablanca’s recent solo dabbling. Ghost Shirt’s most intoxicating and buoyant selections play out during the first half of Domestique, with the overall tenor of the album easing into a comparatively serene home stretch. Though not consistently fervent, Domestique is consistently palatable. There’s plenty more where this came from, with G/S releasing a “single” per week online for an entire year. At last count they were up to 26.
Personally, I don't think this Chapel Hill trio quite came into their own until their sophomore effort, Dead Men, which I featured on here many moons ago, but their premiere, Send in the Clowns is nonetheless a shitload of fun. The gussied up hairdos Snatches of Pink sport on the album jacket belie some raucous dust-ups and punk-tinged hoe downs ensconced within the album itself. There's oodles o' southern-fryed drawl etched into the grooves as well, fortunately for us not the cantankerous, old fogey variety. Unlike the vaguely likeminded Georgia Satellites, the Snatches kick any potential "boogie" indescretions clear to the curb, and good on them for that. I'll take the twangy rockers ("Lazy Suzan" and "Weathervain") over the lazy bar-stool ballad "Time Done Gone," any day, but by and large Send in...is all good.
After the aforementioned Dead Men LP, the Snatches would carry on as Clarissa throughout the '90s, but would return to their former namesake by the next decade, and cut a bevy of new albums.
01. Lazy Suzan
02. Cry Wolf
05. Time Done Gone
06. Up on the Mountain
07. Rodeo Clown
08. Thing of the Past
09. Cowboys & Indians
11. Ones With the Black
By request, here is Wool's entry to the '90s Your Choice Live album series. This is a blatant and pandering follow-up to my Wool singles collection from last month. If you will recall, Wool were an L.A. based grunge/alt-metal/punk delicacy that had their origins in the D.C. hardcore band Scream. After the band dissolved, largely in poor response to their Box Set album (1994), guitarist Franz Stahl would soon transform himself into a Foo Fighter, but like Wool, his tenure with Dave Grohl and Co. was relatively fleeting. As for this live disk, derived from two live European shows from the spring of 1995, it contains virtually every song you could hope to hear from the rather voracious quartet at the very apex of their game. A downright blistering way to go out if you ask me. A far more thorough history of Wool can be read on their Myspace site linked above.
02. Kill the Crow
03. Soundcheck Song
04. Car Crash
05. Clear My Head
08. Eat Some Ziti
11. Superman is Dead
15. Sister Song
If you're a longtime Didjits fan, you're likely acquainted with this punishing live bootleg of their performance at London's Kilburn National from September 1990. As one of Champaign, IL's most valuable exports, the Rick Sims-helmed, four-on-the-floor power punkers, produced some truly bitchin' barnburners in their time, including such scorching platters as Hey Judester,Hornet Pinata, and Full Nelson Reilly. I'd argue that Backstage Passout is as crucial as their studio output, being the utterly potent, white-hot live document that it is. This particular gig was in support of their then recently released Hornet Pinata LP, so naturally much of the setlist draws from it (and yes, it includes "Killboy Powerhead," the track the Offspring covered for a certain multi-million selling album in the mid-90s, earning Sims more than a few martinis and a chaise lounge on the beach). Aside from the absence of "Sweet Sweet Satan," there's nothing to complain about here, and in fact, Passout ain't a bad place for newbies to get their first taste. Plenty of hotwired "car songs" here as well, so with that in mind, eat their dust!
To know anything about Kustomized is to know a thing or two about ringleader Peter Prescott, a bloke who was one of the driving forces behind seminal Boston post-punkers Mission of Burma, and later a figurehead for the Volcano Suns. For a band on Matador Records, Kustomized (who also feature Bullet LaVolta alum Yukki Gipe, appearing here under the name Kurt Davis) revel in the noisenik tantrums of many a Homestead Records or Touch & Go conglomerate. Released as a precursor to the first proper Kustomized album, The Battle For Space, the A-side of this single, "The Day I Had Some Fun" raises an unholy racket, with frankly unappealing persuasion...at least on the initial spin. The real reason I came here was for two key B-sides, both covers. First up is Wire's Pink Flag-era morsel, "Surgeon's Girl," immediately followed up by "Stranded," a sheer punk classic originating from Australia's pioneering Saints. As one might suspect, Kustomized don't outdo the real McCoy, but nonetheless do some seriously wailing and ragged justice to them.
A. The Day I Had Some Fun
B1. Surgeon's Girl
In the early '90s Minnesota's Walt Mink were adopted by a lot of ear-to-the-ground, indie pop geeks, though the band were hardly ones to be hemmed into three simple chords and bright choruses. My personal familiarity with the band extends only to their 1996 El Producto platter, an admirable disk but a colossal major label debut flop. Before Producto came Miss Happiness in 1992, and Bareback Ride a year thereafter, both issued on one of the choicest indie imprints of the day, Caroline Records. But even prior to those albums a few early adopters of Walt Mink were enlightened enough to procure two nascent cassette releases, Listen, Little Man in 1990, and The Poll Riders Win Again! Last year I purchased what appeared to be a band sanctioned CD-R reissue of the those two cassette demos...at a thrift store for a mere $1.00. I shit you not.
For those of you that happen to fly the Walt Mink flag, you'll notice that a bevy of the songs enshrined on this disk also appeared on Miss Happiness, albeit in are re-corded incarnations. Even though Listen... and Poll Riders were unleashed within a year of each other, the two albums chart some measurable musical development. Starting with the first of those two titles, the lovingly lo-fi Listen, Little Man! is chockablock with classic rock homage, and sometimes embarrassingly wanky, fretboard squalls that reveal the boys have been adeptly schooled by Hendrix, and a then burgeoning Billy Coragan. Pure riffola doesn't come much chunkier than it does here, and if anything else, Listen... is air-guitar cotton candy wrapped on a drum stick.
Reportedly recorded in a living room, The Poll Riders Win Again! is a trifle more subdued and significantly more melodic, lending a more apt canvas for the deftly crafted "Twinkle and Shine," and the buzzing "Everything Worthwhile." An unconventionally electrified reading of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" is surprisingly right on the money. It along with "Twinkle and Shine" would later be recut for Miss Happiness. Walt Mink were on the cusp of something greatly encouraging here, and luckily they would soon break to a modest national audience.
The moniker of this Oakland, CA four-piece is ostensibly derived from the surnames of drummer Martin Lucas and fret-manipulator Betsy Lucas. Both are credited as singers here, (as well as bassist David Ziegner) but on many selections it’s hard to tell who’s on the mic, lending an occasionally androgynous, but inoffensive mystique to the music.
If the bright title track doesn’t lure you in with it’s, soothing Steely Dan-stride, it’s safe to say that nothing on this ep will. Lucas are what the dBs might have sounded like had they really milked the blue-eyed soul angle they tended to exhibit on occasion. With perhaps the exception of "Wasn't Expecting Much" (which is largely what it's title lives up to), The Last Taboo is aglow with smart, lucid guitar pop, that tacks slightly left of center without careening off the deep end.
Betsy Lucas has since struck out on her as a solo act, and you can sample some of her fine post-Last Taboo music here.
01. Last Taboo
02. I'll Change That
03. Wasn't Expecting Much
04. Build It Up
05. Love Taught Me
06. Leather Book
Here's a delightful single from a little spoken of Allston, MA trio featuring the vocal stylings of one Cheryl E. Wanner, who tilts more in the vicinity of Chrissie Hynde than Debbie Harry (though the premise of "Shopping" is thoroughly frivolous in the manner of say, the Go-Gos). Bright, ringing guitar lines from axe-wielder Frank Gerace sweeten the pot. You can safely file the catty Nine Lives under wave/power pop, though the group doesn't particularly strive to be either. Both Wanner and Gerace are still making music, which you can investigate here.
Damn, I'm not sure how this killer and amazingly consistent compilation eluded Wilfully Obscure for so long, particularly considering I've had it in my possession for well over ten years now. Originally minted on Can-indie Squirtgun Records in 1996, More Of Our Stupid Noise was reissued two years later on the much higher profile Nettwerk label, with a revamped track list as More of Our Stupid Noise '98. Boasting a 25-act lineup that read like a who's who of subrosa talent from the era, ...Stupid Noise wasn't a "sampler," so much as a thoughtfully assembled time capsule that's held up remarkably well over the years. Comprised predominantly of tuneful, albeit frequently noisy indie rock and punk-pop bands (with plenty of cross-pollination of those two varieties I might add), the compilation clearly has a Canadian emphasis with over 90% of it's participants hailing from my neighbors to the north.
Appearing here are a slim batch of outfits already featured on these pages including Shortfall, The New Grand and Versus, the last of whom are one of the only American entries, who are kind enough to contribute a live version of an early gem, "Forest Fire." Lo(wer)-fi excursions from Poledo, Moon Socket, Orange Glass, and Eric's Trip are a delectable treat, and speaking of Eric's Trip, two offshoots from those Moncton luminaries also make a showing here, namely Elevator to Hell and Julie Doiron. The more sonically sophisticated Mystery Machine, Bionic, By Divine Right, Radioblaster, and Scratching Post are no slouches either, and in fact I've long been acquainted with the back catalogs of many of them. As for the other Yankee entry besides Versus, Lou Barlow appears with what was at the time an exclusive track, the strident and vaguely anthemic "Blown Pony." This terrific little ditty later came to light on a Sentridoh tour CD, from this year in fact.
Sure, you can quibble that Sloan isn't represented here, but then again they didn't need to be given their top-billing profile at the time. Even a quick run through of More Of Our Stupid Noise is bound to pique your curiosity regarding some of the unknown quantities on this bountiful roster, so if there's anyone in particular you're interested in hearing more of, request to your hearts content because, I just might be able to accomodate you. Dig in. BTW, cheap used/new copies are available from Amazon. Comes in a spiffy orange jewel case.
01. Bionic, "C'mon C'Mon"
02. Shortfall, "Drive"
03. Scratching Post, "Full Throttle"
04. Radioblaster, "Perfect Burn"
05. The Ids, "Pain and Beauty"
06. Lou Barlow, "Blown Pony"
07. Mystery Machine, "What I Want"
08. Elevator to Hell, "Veins/Green"
09. Poledo, "Herskin"
10. hHead, "Want"
11. Speedbuggy, "Bionica"
12. By Divine Right, "Bigfoot"
13. Squirrel, "superforgettor"
14. Versus, "Forest Fire"
15. Julie Doiron, "So Fast"
16. Hayden, "A Fortune I'd Kept"
17. Moon Socket, "Almost Spring"
18. Hip Club Groove, "Guaranteed"
19. The Suddens, "A Rhyme That No One Understands"
20. Orange Glass, "Feel 500"
21. Eric's Trip, "So Easier Last Time"
22. Len, "Trillion Daze"
23. The Bonaduces, "You're So Lame When You're Drunk"
24. The New Grand, "Yours Truly"
25. Noah's Arkweld, "Xfriend"
Remember the '90s? Yep, you sure do. Remember the unremitting hotbed of musical exports that came roaring out of Seattle, Olympia, and Aberdeen? Yep, you sure do. Yet buried beneath all the Emerald City headlines was yet another thriving clutch of musical talent being born and bred roughly four hours due south. Heatmiser, Crackerbash, Pond, Sprinkler, and the band in question, Hazel, were all denizens of Portland, Oregon during the grunge epoch. In retrospect, most of the aforementioned were a bit more docile than their neighbors to the north, but moreover they crafted music that was equally as substantive. Hazel were a co-ed quartet who prior to this ep were taken under the wing of Sub Pop for two albums, 1993's bitchin' Toreador of Love, and the decent but pales-by-comparison follow-up Are You Going to Eat That? in '95. By the time of that second album, my understanding is that Hazel were phoning it in, but for a band who's heart wasn't in it, the Airiana ep, released two years later, finds the crunchy, indie-guitar troupe firing on all cylinders, cranking away with oodles of punky bravado. The band's ever comely percussionist/mouthpiece Jody Bleyle, had an increased vocal presence on Airiana than on the preceding albums, and helped to chart Hazel on a revitalized course - one that was unfortunately and apparently no longer pursued after this ep. Bleyle went onto the post-riot grrrl outfit Team Dresch, while frontman Pete Krebs pursued solo activities.
02. Title Track
03. Ohio Player
04. Mr. Magazine Man
05. My 2nd Chance
I didn't know much about this record going into it, but for some reason I had the notion that Civil Rice was going to have some serious full-tilt hardcore punk in store. Turns out I was only 9% on the mark, with merely the whirlwind, minute-plus "Black Fag" matching the loud and fast ideal I had assumed was going to be the prevailing modus operandi here. Hailing from Milwaukee, Einstein's Riceboys were in actuality a synth-reared post-punk cabal, and not a very catchy one at that. Fusing together elements from their side of the pond (Devo, Pere Ubu) and the other (Gang of Four), the Riceboys sport their homegrown, DIY tomfoolery to an iidiosyncratic fault. Civil Rice is an often incohesive, art-punk mess, though not quite the full-on disaster that some of it's sketchier moments lead you to believe is beckoning just around the corner.
01. Time and Insomnia
03. Massacre of Love
04. Living Screen
05. Morbid Orbit
06. Stranger in My Room
08. Black Fag
09. Electric Chair
10. Bloated Life
11. Out of It
Better known in some circles as Arthur Lee's backing band for the final touring version of Love, Baby Lemonade have been even more vital to these ears as an entity unto themselves. The "entity" in question released just two LPs (68% Pure Imagination in 1996, and Exploring Music two years later) and a couple eps before going on indefinite hiatus at the turn of the millennium. All of these were independent releases that didn't make much of a dent outside their home turf of L.A. Live Baby Lemonade bootlegs are a rarity, but on a sultry August '96 night in Reseda, CA at a dive dubbed The Aftershock this concert was committed to tape, and roughly ten years later disseminated on the internet to a selective few, myself included. The setlist is drawn almost entirely from that first album 68% Pure Imagination, which means plenty of crunchy, post-paisley rock, and yes, the boys indulge in a Love cover, fittingly enough (ok, it was also on the album too but who's counting)?
The curator of this recording created some none-too-spectacular artwork, including a tray card bearing a track list that's slightly disorienting...so don't blame me. Enjoy (or not).
01. Our Lips Are Sealed/Santanaclaus
03. Tailor in the Making
05. The Medicine
06. Pop Tarte
07. Heads or Tails
08. You Set the Scene
09. Brooke and the Sandman
I'm not sure if Cleveland's Revelers were the toast of their hometown of Cleveland during their 1990s run, but if not, I'd be happy to raise a toast to them any day, because their update on Merseybeat pop 'n roll was nothing short of impeccable. Their career spanned 1989-99 and produced four albums and roughly half a dozen singles, "This Little Light of Mine" included, and is as suitable an intro as any I might add. Featured here are two flawless, retrofitted originals, as well as their spin on a Beatles classic. Crucial stuff in the same league as early Apples and Stereo and Failure-era Posies. The a-side can also be found on The Revelers On Top cd. I'm not sure how easy it is to track down their back catalog these days, save for their lasttwo albums which were released via SpinArt Records and available cheap on Amazon, but this online discography is helpful. Check out the bio linked on their Myspace page linked above for the full dirt on this talented bunch.
A. This Little Light of Mine
B1. Bonded to You
B2. And Your Bird Can Sing
Beautiful was (and for that matter still is) the rambunctious and raucous debut platter from Pleasanton, CA's long disregarded Field Trip. It was the first of three F/T albums to enjoy distribution through Warner Brothers, but despite having the backing of such a powerful and ubiquitous entertainment conglomerate, I never once encountered the quartet on radio or MTV. Trouser Press opines that "in a character-filled voice, guitarist/songwriter Jim Galbraith orients the rocking pop band towards Minneapolis..." In fact, the closest any Twin Cities luminaries come to informing Beautiful might be Soul Asylum, particularly that band's Twin/Tone-era output. A more accurate comparison would be the ever snarky Too Much Joy, who Field Trip were actually labelmates with for a spell. Perhaps the Meat Puppets as well, but not so much. Though the Trip's follow-up albums Headgear and Ripe were more finessed (and in the case of the latter, um, ripe), Beautiful offers plenty of frivolous and fun romps, with some occasional soul-searching musings.
02. Coming of Age
03. Cool Buzz
04. Can't Say No
05. Need a Break
06. No Friends
09. Bleach My Soul
10. Where Did I Go Wrong?
11. Where's the Fire?
Don't have an abundance of time for a write-up on this one, but conveniently there isn't much background info to be had on this Aussie quartet. Two slices of buoyant, indie jangle pop exhibiting faint shades of the Chills, and to a lesser degree XTC, not far removed from another Rampant Records band from the same era, The Odolites, who I've already dedicated a fewentries to. This 45 may or may not have been all As Clear As Day had to offer the world during their presumably brief run. A not-so-smoothly edited live clip of "Some Excited Feeling" is available at your leisure on YouTube.
The Sights were yet another L.A. power pop-leaning combo that never quite grasped their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame, though I hope the video for the winsome title track (see below) with all it's requisite, early '80s maneuvers made it into MTV's early morning rotation for at least a week or two. Ah yes, the decade that keeps on giving a full generation after the fact. In all sincerity, "So Much..." is a really commendable song, easily an 8 out of 10 or better. Ranking just a notch down, "Lead Me Down" resembles a looser Plimsouls with some tasteful sax thrown in. The remaining numbers aren't quite as indelible, but not the least beat embarrassing either. We Want to Please You blog has dedicated some laudatory and thoughtful text regarding this record, and I believe may still be hosting the most renown track from it, but here's the whole shebang ripped by yours truly.
01. So Much for Everlasting Love
02. Lead Me Down
03. Wax Museum
04. Dirty Bop
For whatever the reason, TheEdsel Auctioneer were a band I would regularly pass over, even in bargain bins. I finally relented when I happened upon their The Good Time Music of... album a few years ago, well over a decade after the fact, and was impressed enough to explore their earlier catalog. I soon discovered that their debut full length, Simmer, was doubly better than Good Time Music... This past May saw an E/A entry on Wilfully Obscure for their "Slouch" single (the A-side of which also makes an appearance on this album). Simmer is a percolating wellspring of downcast, indie guitar greatness that reveals an indebtedness to Buffalo Tom, Eleventh Dream Day and even Dinosaur Jr., that is had Mascis and Co. taken a more austere route. The Edsels pair a keen melodic prowess with urgent, six-string firepower, offset by a grounded ethos that's entirely befitting. Simmer is a little droney, but in a strangely cozy context that's hard to resist.
03. Pop Somg #2
04. Ballad of Richard Holt
09. Dragging My Hide
There's probably not much I can tell you about this long defunct Michigan trio that hasn't been extolled upon on their archival website. The Empty Set's left-of-the-dial pop/rock was competent and occasionally ironic, but with the exception of Lost in the Ryptide's most stimulatinmg offerings like "Ryptide Zone" and "Sing Song Babble On," they were a bit non-descript. Though their cover of the Comsat Angel's icy and enthralling 1980 single "Independence Day" hardly outdoes the original, it's inclusion here is a greatly appreciated gesture.
Even the briefest listen to my rip of this album will reveal a copious amount of vinyl noise, that at times is damn near interrupting. It appears that Empty Set frontman Lawrence Bond has a few remaining copies of Lost... he's hawking through the band's site (linked above), so if you enjoy what you hear, consider patronizing him for what might very well be an improved listening experience.
02. Ryptide Zone
03. All About Adam
04. Flying Fish
06. Reckless Infatuation
07. Wall Song
08. Independence Day
09. Pretty Please
10. Sing Song Babble On
Ever wonder what happened to the other members of the Treepeople when Doug Martsch made his departure for greener pastures in Built to Spill, circa '93? Didn't think so, but I'll fill you in anyway. His replacement in Treepeople was John Polle, who happened to possess some of Doug's lovingly whiny timbre, but not so much his off-the-cuff misanthropy that made him the endearing force in BTS. The last album under the Treepeople banner was Actual Re-Enactment, issued on C/Z Records in 1994, but it bore little of the charm and substance of Martsch-era essentials, Something Vicious For Tomorrow and Guilt, Regret, Embarrassment.
Enter 1995 and the era of Stuntman, who's nucleus was comprised of John Polle and original Treepeep's guitarist Scott Schmaljohn. A new rhythm section featuring Sean M. Lennon on bass and Mike Rundle on percussion fleshed out the quartet, but despite the revamped lineup, Stuntman retained much of Treepeople's dissonant and noisenik constructs, due in part to Schmaljohn's pronounced, noodly fretwork. Their debut found the group taking a page from Archers of Loaf sonic template, and ultimately Stuntman successfully incorporated some of those more tangential facets thereof into the busy framework that longtime Treepeople enthusiasts are likely to recognize here - albeit conveyed via a different mouthpiece.