Holy cow. I witnessed a live performance by this Brit power duo not more than a year ago, and as spry and inspired as their half-hour set went down, I'm convinced that seeing them every night for the entirety of that tour wouldn't have adequately prepared me for lacerating and near-spellbinding beast that is Hairball. Composed of frontman/axe-wrangler Ben Thompson and drummer Lew Currie, Nai Harvest are a product of Sheffield, England, bearing a wailing sonic aesthetic that's squarely in the neighborhood of Male Bonding and Cheatahs, both noisome country-mates situated due-south in London. Ok, so maybe you haven't heard of those two, but how about Sugar, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., or even My Vitriol? Now you have a better idea of where this is going.
Yes, Thompson's searing guitar leads and echoey vocals spark that much of a visceral charge, aided and abetted of course by Currie's propulsive pounding. Hairball's ten selections are spewed in a plethora of frayed and frantic tangents, somehow staying ensconced in the melodious framework Nai Harvest manage to keep them corralled in. "Sick on My Heart," "Dive In," and the heaving title cut are breathless, punky barn-burners to die for. This frenzied ante is tamped down a notch on tuneful, mid-tempo benders "Drinking Bleach" and "Buttercups" both of which jibe into more streamlined indie-rock environs. As for the quality ratio, this disk runs the gamut from at minimum good to thoroughly grand, while never encroaching into the grandiose. This Hairball is sure to be hurled into my top-ten albums tally for 2015. Utterly glorious stuff.
I remember being utterly stoked when this dropped in '93. After all, it contained no less than three bands I had a huge vested interested in, and one (Dirt Fishermen) who I would learn to appreciate a little later. Unfortunately for the Treepeople, they were hobbling around on their last leg by this time 4 on the Floor came around, with the recent departure of Doug Martsch who was already full steam ahead with Built to Spill. That being said, "Boiled Bird," isn't far off the mark from the material on the band's then most recent LP, Just Kidding. Another big draw was Seattle's distorto-pop virtuosos Gnome. Their "Crush" held me over 'til their second album Fiberglass dropped later in the year. And the shiniest jewel in this four-gem crown is none other than Alcohol Funnycar, who contribute an exclusive, riff-happy nugget of gold, "Push," a track that found it's way onto many a mix tape I churned out back in the day. Like the Treepeople, the Dirt Fishermen had roots in Boise, ID, but were culling fish from completely different waters. If you like their selection here, check out their Vena Cava full length from 1993.
Lead-Meice Joe Reineke would probably tell you that The Meices third and final outing, Dirty Bird, was their premiere effort. I'm partial to the preceding, Tastes Like Chicken, if only because nothing they put their name on before or since matched the thrashy exuberance of that record. For the uninitiated, it's hard to deny San Fran's Meices didn't occupy a slot on the punk-pop continuum, yet you would have never mistaken this trio for Green Day, Blink 182, or for that matter the Descendents.
Instead, their indigenous formula hinged on Reineke's throaty howl (teetering ever so precariously on the border of a whine), a Jerry-rigged delivery system, and as far as TLC is concerned, some near-startling dynamics. The proof is in a bevy of feral, ragin' slammers, including but not limited to "Lettuce is Far Out," "The Big Shitburger" (aka "Sister"), "Until the Weekend." The key to ...Chicken's charm is producer Kurt Bloch's (yes, from the Fastbacks) acumen for the capturing the Meices raw, ferocious live sound in the studio, especially Reineke's guitar and Marc Turner's kinetic percussion. Sonically, the warm analog hue that envelopes the proceedings is just as vital. And if the uptempo numbers are at all grating on your eardrums, by album's end there are a pair of mellower, not to mention thoughtful respites in the form of "Hopin' For a Ride" and "Now." I've dedicated entries to several other morsels in the Meices catalog, all of which you're welcome to check out here. Finally, I'd be remiss if I failed to point out this record's bizarre album sleeve, that only a decade like the '90s could have induced.
01. That Good One
02. Daddy's Gone to California
03. All Time High
04. Light 'em Up
06. Until the Weekend
07. Lettuce is Far Out
08. The Big Shitburger (aka Sister)
10. Hopin' for a Ride
12. That Other Good One
I recently had a very enthusiastic request for some tunes by The Conditionz, a Riverside, CA foursome I know almost nothing about, but I did happen to snag a used copy of this disk from a used bin at a price I simply couldn't refuse: $1.00. Yep, I'm a sucker, but in all sincerity Cream Soda Throw Rug (which appears to be the band's second long-player) is reasonably good, albeit not thoroughly recommendable. The Conditionz spike their ramshackle punk n' roll with intermittent surf, blues and twang seasoning. Leadman Bob Nye coincidentally recalls Michael Monroe on occasion, but there's little glammy decadence to be had on Cream Soda... Sorta in the same league as early Soul Asylum, or perhaps a hipper-than-average bar band, if any such animal even exists. Typically, it's the most serious moment on here, "Flt. 19" that rings my bell. BTW, the Conditionz reunited for a show in 2013.
If you're looking for instant gratification in the arena of power pop you need not stray much further than the first "communion" doled out by Buffalo's Girlpope in the guise of this ace 45, circa two decades past. Bearing canny prose, irresistible hooks and lite garage-rock finesse Girlpope played it clever and straight-up - or for that matter straight-up clever. The 'popes followed this offering up with two highly recommendable full lengths, Cheeses of Nazareth in '96, and the later and even greater Whole Scene Going right around the turn of the millennium. Both can be had from P22 Records, with the latter also obtainable thru iTunes. By the way, a limited allotment of 100 copies of this record were fastened to a plank with a nail, and sacrificed for a mere $10. In case you're wondering I never sprung for the "deluxe" packaging.
After Girlpope's self-imposed excommunication, frontman Mark Norris parlayed his talents via a new crew dubbed the Backpeddlers.
Gone are the days (as it would seem anyway) of paring down Australian acts to sheer triviality. Unkempt roughnecks AC/DC, and Vegemite-chomping MTV flavors-of-the-minute Men at Work may have colorfully typified Oz's musical contributions in the past, but the truth is even back in the '70s and '80s the land down under wasn't hinged solely on gimmicks. In fact, come the twenty-first century, most Australian acts are/were largely indistinguishable from their contemporaries inhabiting the west. So where does Melbourne's Dick Diver factor in?
Nowhere screamingly obvious to be honest. In fact it isn't easy to make generalizations about these fellows (and fell-ette Stephanie Hughes) though a good brunt of the text dedicated to them on other outlets make a big to-do about the quartet's jangly guitar tones (courtesy of McKay and Rupert Edwards). True that, but sonically, Dick Diver's sweet, clangy chords don't dominate so much as embellish, most effectively on Melbourne, Florida'smore extroverted numbers "Tearing the Posters Down" and "Waste the Alphabet." That facet carries over more subtly onto "Leftovers," where trumpets and sax likewise filter their way into the mix. Later in, D/D play it up casually and smooth on "Percentage Points," while the going gets more insular and intimate on the acoustic "Boomer Class." It's apparent that all four participants here contribute to lead vocals, but frustratingly the sleeve notes don't specify who's fronting the mic from song to song. What I can tell you is that whomever is getting face-time on "Beat Me Up" and "Competition" simply isn't in his natural element. When all is said done, Melbourne, Florida (D/D's third album, btw) functions as a loose patchwork of styles and pastiches, more seamlessly stitched together in portions than others. Dick Driver's modest and meager indie-pop tenor nonetheless manages to yield magnificence when all the right components congeal.
Today's artifact comes courtesy of four Yankie expatriates residing in Germany, at least at the time of this recording. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Fab Four perhaps? Nah. Instead, the Farewell Party exude artful shades of Felt, the Go Betweens and the Velvets tossing in some lightweight paisley sparkle when it suits them. Sounds like a fetching recipe (and it is) but this combo is undercut a tad by it's coed commandeers, David John and Lois B., or more specifically their vocals which perilously veer tone deaf more often than not. Despite the duo'sarguable deficiency on the mic, Here's opening shot, "Terez Batista" is brilliant - a mildly baroque, jangle pop piece that arouses as one of the finest left-off-the-dial propositions from this era I've encountered in ages. "Runaway Horses" is probably the next most convincing specimen in the Farewell Party arsenal, and a subtle but imaginative reworking of Nick Drake's "Things Behind the Sun" is another highlight.
01. Terez Batista
03. Things Behind the Sun
04. Complete True Citizens of the World
05. Where Clouds Lie
06. Girl on the Ledge
07. Promise of Rain
08. Here (Letter to America)
09. Runaway Horses
10. Waterland http://www41.zippyshare.com/v/JT6sKOSQ/file.html
Apparently what I put up for my originally intended MM selection this morning was frowned upon by certain gatekeepers. In lieu of this I've provided something entirely different below. Hopefully this will be a bit more benign for said gatekeepers. The link will be gone in 24 hours, so don't sleep.
Also known as Billy Piranha and the Enemies, Buffalo, NY's Enemies were a talented and entertaining punk quartet who released this stimulating and scintillating ep some 35 years ago. Their only brush with fame came posthumously in the mid-90s with the Goo Goo Doll's adaptation of "Disconnected" appearing on the the bazillion selling A Boy Named Goo, which no doubt helped the then defunct members of the Enemies with the rent for a few years. Products of the Street wields something of a pedestrian bent, and even for the era must have been a bit derivative. "Test Tube Baby" pirates a saucy Ramones riff, and intermittently there are telltale glints of the New York Dolls and Heartbreakers apportioned on the remainder of this platter. Despite these rather apparent homages, the Enemies possessed some searing rock and roll chops, and the record speaks for itself. Guitarist Joe Bompczyk (aka Billy Piranha) passed away in 2011, but the surviving members have reunited as recently as last year.
01. Products of the Street
02. Test Tube Baby
04. X-Ray Spex
Once upon a time, say twenty years ago, I was mega-gonzo for a southern Cali punk crew called Face to Face, whom ingeniously infused a formidable modicum of melodicism into what would have otherwise pass for merely average hardcore/punk. I couldn't resist the pummeling power chords and Trevor Keith's often profound insight - almost to the point where I found myself asking, how in the hell did these guys pull off all these whiz-kid moves? As of a couple years ago, I was able to answer my own question upon discovering and becoming a Johnny-come-lately aficionado of American Standard, a New Jersey h/c four-piece that seemingly taught Mr. Keith and Co. at minimum 75% of what they knew. Either that or an utterly wild coincidence.
American Standard didn’t come close to ascending to the popularity of say, Bad Religion, Naked
Raygun or Gorilla Biscuits, but their sole album from the ‘80s, Wonderand,
parallels the substance and excitability of the aforementioned. As for A/S's own influences these guys tore a page or two from Dag Nasty and latter day Government Issue without resorting to sheer plagiarism, like maybe...Face to Face? Wonderland is an absolute scorcher and deserved a wider audience. In an attempt to give the record a bigger reach, Another Planet reissued it in 1996 with an alternate sleeve, which I thought was nothing short of pitiful. I'm offering it here with the original cover.
1995 saw the release of their second album, Piss and Vinegar, which was preceded by the Trial Size 7." At this stage in the game the band conceded a considerable amount to the prevailing trend du jour, virtually rendering
them American Standard in name only. Make of it what you will. Finally, Blogged and Quartered are sharing a collection of proto-Wonderland A/S rarities which is well worth your investigation.
01. It Comes Around
02. Building Blocks
03. Without Asking Why
06. Thank You
08. Should've Known
10. So Much
Way back in 2008 I introduced some of you to the band Fire in the Radio, much in the same manner I normally feature other esoteric or outright forgotten artists. In the case of this presumably defunct Pennsylvania bunch, I didn't have much to go on other than the contents of their 2000 Red Static Action CD, which struck me as an astute merger of mainstream-ish emo grazing at the heels of my much endeared Tar Heels, Superchunk. In that initial write-up, I lamented the fact that there was no follow-up to Red Static. Unbelievable as it may sound that all changes this very week when FitR submit their sophomore record, a decade and a half later I might add. Word has it that certain murmurs in the music blogosphere may have encouraged this quartet to reminisce about days of yore, leading to the reconstruction of Fire in the Radio as a band, and thus Telemetry itself. Toss in a little crowd-sourcing action and more notably, a current tour and you've got a full blown reunion on your hands...but we won't take any of the credit for that.
The reddish rubber band "planet" adorning Telemetry's album jacket isn't exactly a harbinger of what awaits the listener. Instead of the loose, pull-a-band-and-it-all-unravels premise it portends, that makeshift rubber ball actually runs contrary to Fire's eminently powerful solidity. Almost as if their Y2K-era debut never happened, Telemetry is exponentially more decisive and bolder, not to mention devastatingly tuneful as-all-get-out on "Best Shot" and "Ghost to Haunt You." Song for song Fire in the Radio harness the kind of lean, mean incisiveness to set transistors ablaze as their metaphorical namesake implies. Informed by Alkaline Trio, Jimmy Eat World, and too a lesser extent a bevy of crunchy indie rawkers like the Doughboys and Big Drill Car, FitR are too crafty for the Warped Tour midway, yet wouldn't sound a hair out of place straddling the stage at your local gin mill. To a handful of us hanger-oners, Telemetry is tantamount to a quantum-leap comeback, but to the world at large this disk serves as a galvanizing introduction.
One album from 1982, the other following about a decade later. The influence on the latter is even more amusing and effective than the groundbreaking former. Hint: does the word "duh" mean anything to you? Rip that treble knob clean off your receiver.
As some of you more astute W/O readers may have noticed, I've made several references to the Comsat Angels (aka C.S. Angels and Com-sat Angels) over the years on these pages but have failed to actually feature any of their music. This is part and parcel due to their catalog having been kept in print in one incarnation or another, and in fact, their first five albums are set for expanded reissues (some for the umpteenth time I might add) this spring on Edsel. Most CSA acolytes will extoll the virtues of their first three LPs the most: Waiting for a Miracle (1980), Sleep No More (1981), and Fiction (1982). I'm no different, and quite frankly who can blame me? That trifecta of melodic, textured and not infrequently melancholic albums possessed a slyly subterranean mystique that only post-punk rock from that era could seem to muster. So much so I was afraid of listening/purchasing anything the Comsat's related after Fiction, based on the sheer number of negative reviews I read, which invariably faulted the band's embrace of a noticeably more commercial modus operendi.
After 1986's Chasing Shadows, the band took the rest of the decade off, returning in 1992 with My Mind's Eye, and thankfully with much of their credibility restored. The low-key Unravelled followed two years later. Not a proper album in the least, Unravelled was a compilation of Mind's Eye-era radio sessions, marketed largely to Holland, where the Comsat's had a particularly strong foothold.
Though not quite "unplugged," the versions of the songs presented are markedly more lucid and stripped down, with an unsurprising emphasis being placed on the recent Mind's Eye material. While they're at it, the band stretch back to their halcyon days with early chestnuts like "After the Rain," "Our Secret," and their career defining "Eye of the Lens" all undergoing the refurbished treatment. In case you wish to be further enlightened, mondo Comast's fan and Big Takeover editor Jack Rabid has the final say on this release over at Allmusic. By the way, there are two different versions of Unravelled, this one being the Dutch edition. I will hopefully have more C.S. Angels goodies to share in the not-too-distant future.
01. After the Rain
02. Beautiful Monsters
03. The Cutting Edge
04. Field of Tall Flowers
06. Our Secret
07. Always Near
08. Eye of the Lens
09. Storm of Change
10. Audrey in Denim
This genial (and quite frankly juvenile) album jacket ironically belies a record
that’s more in league with goth rock old school than preschool. The co-ed Velveteens ain't on no gloom trip, but there's a palpable noir edge to Tall House, that once again stands in almost absurd contrast to the sleeve depicted to your right. The title track kicking this five-songer off is an icy and mightily effective slab of austere post-punk - so much so the remainder of the disk doesn't quite stand a chance. The proceedings get downright groovin' on "Tired of the Beat," which vaguely rejiggers '80s Bowie. The darker and potentially appealing "Flies" is undercut by slowing down the vocals in relationship to the rest of the ensemble, giving the effect that frontman Lawrence Clayton is in 33 rpm mode while the band is doing their thing at 45. Hmmm. BTW, my copy of this record was hand colored in crayon. Amazing.
01. Tall House
02. Love as a Rule
03. Tired of the Beat
Cosmetically there isn't much to distinguish The Bullets from the brunt of your '80s run-of-the-mill, runamucks - teased hair, sunglasses and even a little spaghetti western garb. Ditto for seemingly pedestrian and hackneyed song titles like "Walk On" and "Fact or Fiction," right? Surprise. This quartet from Glendale, CA boasted a sonically inviting post-punk aptitude to mesh with those MTV hairdos with most of the credit going to axe-wrangler Scott Grant, whose galloping arpeggios sting and stun in the best possible way. The Bullets distill elements from an array of seemingly divergent sources: Big Country, Cocteau Twins, The Rhythm Corps and even Vomit Launch (though the latter of those is likely a sheer coincidence). Microphone fiend Joe Rotger's high timbre is equally as notable as Grant's echoing fretboard runs, and collectively the Bullets are a profoundly enthusiastic lot, pounding out driving, frenetic missives like "That Certain Glow" and the aforementioned "Fact or Fiction." Power Chords... rapid-fire salvos sound a tad hasty, and at worst sloppy, but therein lies the record's charm. Truly a feast for the ears.
01. That Certain Glow
02. Just Another Crime
03. Independence Day Charm
04. Walk On
05. Today and Today
07. A Minute or Two
08. Fact or Fiction
10. Vale da Morte
11. Lost But Not Found
I might make this available for just 24 hours, so don't sleep. Four eps from four disparate artists/genres including a relatively current favorite, and an obscure 1985 discovery I encountered for the first time last week. Enjoy.
Like the Pooh Sticks whom I spoke of a couple days ago, John Peel must have had a field day with these folks as well. More "Brit" than "pop" Compulsion nonetheless possessed some poignant melodic structures amidst all their rigid musculature. Therapy? by way of Sugar? China Drum sailing their proverbial ship past Catherine Wheel in the night? Their debut, Comforter (and for that matter subsequent releases) wasn't particularly exotic, yet despite potential grunge marketability in the States, this punky nugget came, went, and landed in a seemingly infinite number of bargain bins. A real travesty considering the comparative depth of their tunes to pretty much anything occupying the UK charts during that era. Compulsion's overarching conscience was more societal than political, delving into such arenas as consumer culture, depression, and other untidy themes sans any preachy or pious slant. And big fat hooks propelling that ethos to boot - "Eating," "Why Do We Care?" and "Mall Monarchy," to name just three. The latter of these is a fictitious, postmortem ode to the man who designed the first shopping mall. Ironically the real individual who was responsible for the wide-scale propagation of indoor shopping malls, Alfred Taubman died just last month.
In addition to the already generous fifteen track Comforter, certain European versions were paired with a bonus disk of eleven songs composed of two early Compuslion eps, a self-titled 1992 effort, and Casserole which followed a year later. To my knowledge these were initially only available on vinyl. Perhaps some Compulsion b-sides to follow.
03. Mall Monarchy
05. Late Again
06. Air-raid for the Neighbors
07. Why Do we Care?
08. Yancy Dangerfield's delusions
10. I Am John's Brain
12. Dick, Dale, Rick and Ricky
14. Oh My Fool Life
15. Jean Could be Wrong
01. Final Time
05. Purring Not Laughing
06. Accident Ahead
07. Yabba Yabba Yes Yes Yes
09. How Do I Breathe?
10. Here Comes Ambrose Beasley