Here's a rather substantial upgrade to a record I posted almost seven years ago. Fronted by proto power-pop maven Van Drunen, who was lauded for his now classic 1977 LP Are You Serious?, Good Question lasted but one record, Thin Disguise. Drunen formally inhabited the same stomping ground as Big Star and Chris Bell in the heady, early '70s Memphis pop scene, though you'd barely know it from the sound of this record, which was largely steeped in a Todd Rundgren and Utopia aesthetic - not to mention a healthy dollop of 1980s production finesse. This is the CD incarnation of Disguise, re-released in Japan in 2001 with five bonus morsels, including a 1987 recording session.
A denizen of the '70s Memphis music scene, who was not only in cahoots
with Big Star's Chris Bell and Jody Stephens, Van Duren went so far as
to audition as a guitarist for Big Star, but ultimately that wasn't in
the cards. By the mid-80s, Van Duren's McCartney-cum-Emitt Rhodes
aplomb had taken a back seat, and his new vehicle of choice was Good
Question. Thin Disguise boasts the plush, airwaves-groomed sound
of it's era, gunning just shy of Casey Kasem’s weekly honor roll, while
managing to keep much of it's fragile credibility on the same page as
it's rather obvious commercial aspirations. There's some faint
new-romantic gestures cropping up on "Girls In Uniform" and "The Couple
Most Unlikely," but Thin Disguise is at heart a hook-savvy, but
meticulously polished '80s pop/rock record that didn't have the
corporate backing to accord it with the en masse push that would have
made all the effort worth it.
02. The Naked Eye of Love
03. Fool for the Face
04. What're You Gonna Do About It
05. Thin Disguise
06. The Couple Most Likely
07. Above and Beyond the Call
08. Catcher in the Rain
09. Girls in Uniform
10. Never Too Late (K.T.)
11. Do Nothing 'til You Hear it From Me
12. I Jumped in
13. In Dallas as Japan
14. Never in a Million Years
This is just one of many albums in the "S" section of my CD rack that I fail to acknowledge 99.99% of the time when I'm browsing. And then there are rare occasions like today when I purge it from it's roost on the shelf and actually put it to good use. Always a wise decision when it comes to Sonny Sixkiller, a Philly combo offering something of a revolving door lineup, with focal point Kara Lafty leading the charge on vox and gits. Kara and intermittent drummer Bret Tobias were part and parcel of '90s indie-pop noiseniks Moped. Much as I cheered-on Moped and their primo album, It Won't Sound Any Better Tomorrow, Sonny entailed a more lucid and advanced aptitude, hinging on a bittersweet undercurrent that should have made them a hell of a lot more endearing to a bigger audience. Sonically, This is Your Heaven comes from a locale situated somewhere between the Blake Babies and Pollyanna, and wields some seriously crackling and melodic salvos including "Halo" and "Drive Away."
01. Water it Down
03. Blue Eye Shadow
04. Big house
05. Drive Away
06. Song in Three
07. Calculated Guess
08. One Less in the Way
09. Nothing's Too Complicated
10. Not So Fast
11. I'm Not Courageous
12. Out of Sight
From 2003. Saturday I presented you with something that's about as close to avant garde as I get. Today I'm playing it a little less adventurous, and am aiming
for instant gratification (I hope) instead.
We gave a party for the gods...and the gods all came. - John Giorno.
I'll admit it. Hüsker Dü were the draw for me here, or more specifically their contribution, a devastating Metal Circus outtake, "Won't Change," equaling or outpacing anything on that classic 1983 ep. This entire album is worth downloading for that song along, but if you're anything like me this compendium of songs having previously appeared on a myriad of Giorno Poetry Systems releases (a synopsis of what GPS entails follows in italics after my essay) will reward you otherwise as well. In essence, Cash Cow corrals an inadvertent "who's who" of the post-beatnik syndicate, with most of the participants hailing from ground zero itself, New York City. First and foremost, it introduced me to John Giorno himself, a somewhat confrontational poet who rubbed elbows with Andy Warhol in the early '60s and generally speaking his reputation and inspiration snowballed from there.
William Burroughs factors in significantly to Giorno's life, and he contributes text from Naked Lunch and then some. Laurie Anderson's spoken word soliloquies are particularly jarring thanks to some eerie vocal manipulations, Patti Smith gets deep, and Frank Zappa reads a portion of Burroughs, you guessed it, Naked Lunch. Giorno himself makes a brief appearance, of course. His startling "Hi Risque" is a lascivious AIDS-era lament that's almost certain to implore your attention. This gentleman's dialect and pentameter fascinates me to no end.
And there's more music as well. Cabaret Voltaire and Philip Glass were never my style, but their inclusion amidst the proceedings is fitting. Buster Poindexter's "Totalitarian State," is relevant today as it ever was, and Glenn Branca's clangy, sixteen minute piece "Bad Smells" is surprisingly approachable.
Cash Cow isn't for everyone, particularly those with a strictly 'pop" palette, but I got more out of this than I expected, and maybe you'll come away a little more enlightened too. I've included a bonus John Giorno spoken word monologue, which happens to be a sheer favorite of mine. An explanation of Giorno Poetry Systems (penned by the man himself) and full tracklist follows:
Giorno Poetry Systems (was) a non-profit foundation under
which many projects were born. The record label called Giorno Poetry Systems
eventually built up a catalog of 40 titles, ushering poetry onto the radio
alongside rock, jazz, etc. for the first time. The Dial-A-Poem service, begun,
in 1968, was a huge success. Not only did we ourselves get millions of calls,
we inspired the creation of dial-for-stock market info and dial for sports-info
services, etc. We also foreshadowed by a generation the explosion of 1-900
telephone promotions, not to mention the delivery of the Internet over phone
lines. we produced poetry videos, videopaks and films. We formed bands and
toured like the rock'n' rollers. We displayed poetry on the surface of ordinary
objects, producing silk-screen and lithograph Poem Prints. We established the
AIDS Treatment Project in 1984.
But in 1965, even before founding Giorno Poetry Systems,
I began recording my friend William Burroughs, starting with tape experiments
at his Centre Street loft and with Brion Gysin at the Hotel Chelsea. Before the
year was out, with my earlier inspirations turning into tangible performances,
electronic events and sound pieces at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in
Paris, I began Giorno Poetry Systems.
01-Cabaret Voltaire - Ride Baby Ride
02-William S. Burroughs - The Do Rights and Naked Lunch
03-Debbie Harry - Moroccan Rock (Pipe Of Pain)
04-Buster Poindexter - Totalitarian State
05-John Giorno - Berlin & Chernobyl, Hi Risque
06-Husker Du - Won't Change
07-Laurie Anderson - Song From America On The Move
08-Philip Glass - A Secret Solo
09-Patti Smith - The Histories Of The Universe
10-Coil - Neither His Nor Yours
11-Diamanda Galas - Eyes Without Blood
12-Glenn Branca - Bad Smells
13-Frank Zappa - The Talking Asshole
plus: John Giorno - We Got Here Yesterday
Request fulfilled to the individual who asked for this, and while I'm not in possession of the original artifact, another blogger made this available several years ago. I featured one of the Wild Giraffes later releases, their 1981 platter Right Now. Regarding this 45, "Love Me" is a delightful way to spend 150 seconds (or so). Quintessential DIY power pop from it's halcyon era, brimming with harmonies, a ringing guitar fill, and warm reverb that charms like no ones business. The Giraffes approach the flipside, "When I Find Out" with a grittier, serrated edge not dissimilar to the garagey tendencies of The Troggs.
Not long after I made Minneapolis' Love Under Pressure's first album (The Elvis Years) available for public consumption I was contacted by an alum of the trio who informed me there were a couple of subsequent releases I might be interested in hearing. The cassette ep I'm sharing today was one of them, generously provided by said alum (who for now shall remain nameless). Perhaps with the exception of the gutsy "Promises," Island finds LUP gravitating to a milder tact. Music-heads of left-of-the-dial staples like Agitpop, Dumptruck and the Pedaljets will find something to relish here, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say these Mpls lads could have roped in listeners of say, Crowded House as well, provided the right exposure of course.
01. Your Life Story
03. Dear Johnny
04. To Olive From Catherine
05. No One's Watched Before
Here's an approporiate album title for Valentine's Day if there ever was one. Sadly, word went out two weeks ago that Majesty Crush frontman David Stroughter passed away, without much of a causation of death provided. Never knew him personally, but I was gonzo for Majesty's one and only full length, '93sLove 15, a nuanced Yankee response to heady, Brit shoegazer/dream pop. I've been sharing two independently released M/C eps, Fan and Sans Muscles for virtually the entirety of this blog's lifespan, but news of David's passing had me scurrying to Discogs to see if there had been anything I missed within the realm of his bygone band. As it turns out there was a missing piece of the puzzle after all, the record I'm sharing today.
P.S. I Love You, was released in 1996 in a startlingly low quantity of 200 vinyl copies, predominantly distributed in Majesty's stomping grounds of Detroit, MI. Someone had recently uploaded some vintage M/C clips on YouTube, and in the comments for one of them I put the call out for a digital version of this exceedingly scarce and long sold-out piece of wax. Within a matter of days someone came through, with a nice clean rip of the album, all seven songs, that were exclusive to the disk at the time of it's release. Love 15 had major label backing, but by 1995 the band retreated to their own Vulva Records. Sonically, P.S... is considerably rawer, albeit not as clingy to the ethereal ethos of Love 15. Oddly enough, the opening "Unless I See You Again" opens with the stanza "the sun's going down on my life," a line that would become soberingly prophetic in a couple of decades. Writ large, the record isn't a downer, just deliciously bittersweet with noisome, effects-laden guitars that will ring delightfully in the ears of any distorto-pop aficionado.
Stroughter eventually relocated to Los Angeles, and minted a new indie pop posse, P.S. I Love You, obviously named after Majesty's elusive parting shot. A heartfelt remembrance of Stroughter can be found here. Special thanks to whomever took the time to digitize this record, and Discogs.com for the images.
01. Unless i See You Again
05. Everybody's Bored
06. Since the Prom
07. Teen Beatles
My turntable is out of commission, sad to say, but the archives are pretty well stocked. This Moss Poles ep is plucked from the fat of the land that is my hard drive (sadly I'm not in possession of an original copy). These Londoners assembled at the University of (London) in 1987, which is hard to believe because in that same year they also recorded a full length, Shorn, and some additional material that found it's way onto this EP. Hard to believe any band is that productive to form from scratch and mint records all within a few months of each other, but I digress.
For an '80s aggregation, Moss Poles didn't really possess the slick, patented sound of their generation, not dissimilar to Stateside contemporaries The Smithereens. The Poles exuded strong power pop bona fides, but also the taut muscularity of the Godfathers and the forward-thinking acuity of the Close Lobsters. Merely three songs here, but I don't anticipate any complaints. P.S. Cloudberry Records blog did a nice piece on these guys.
02. Were You Happy?
03. The Sweetest Girl
I recently had a request for the White Sisters. I shared a cassette by them about six years ago, and am presenting it here along with both sides of two singles. I have more material by them to share in the not-to-distant future, but at the very least this is a start. There's precious little more elaboration I can offer on these Madison, WI popsters that I didn't lay out in my original W/S post. Though denizens of the industrial midwest, the Sisters might as well have been sharing flexdiscs with overseas counterparts like the June Brides and the Bodines. This combo wielded a pronounced Anglophile tact, but they did so without sounding slavish to the originators they seemingly took their cues from. And did I mention that virtually any song they left their fingerprints on turned to gold? Enjoy.
Kind Words From... 7" (1985, Boat)
A. Nothing Out There
B. Misery, Me and you
Big Girl 7" (1989, Picturebook)
A. Big Girl
B. Love Like Lead
cassette (bonus to Kind Words 7")
01. All is More
03. Some Folk's Fear
04. The Tastes That Rule
Dang, where has this record been my whole life, or at the very least the better half of it? I was tipped off to Fluffy when an alum of another band I featured on here, Baby Tooth contacted me recently...and was kind enough to supply me with a copy of the record. There's all sorts of weird, flangy maneuvers infiltrating both sides of this pitch-shifty, distortion-y shoegaze single. The six minute "Alien" takes a decidedly lo-fi road, and lives up to it's title, a la early Swirlies. "Baby Tooth" (the title soon became the band's rechristened moniker) inserts some wry pop sensibilities into the mix, still approximating the offbeat allure of the Swirlies, and a dollop of Black Tambourine to boot. Love it.
2015 may not have been a banner year for music, but it was a definite improvement over the three or four that preceded it. This was due in part to the increasing visibility of emerging, guitarsy indie-rawk combos like Cheatahs, Beach Slang, Viet Cong (now renamed Preoccupations), Nai Harvest...and Montreal up-and-comers Heat. I talked up their Rooms ep two years ago, and remarked how that record didn't quite do them justice stacked up to their live gigs, one of which I was fortunate to witness in '15. Even at the time of that show there was talk about a follow-up to Rooms, and the freshly minted Overnight is the successor in question.
My hopes for Overnight were in a word, lofty - if for no other reason than Heat's juiced-up delivery on stage. The quartet deliver on the songs, considerably in fact, it's the conveyance of them that has me a tad hesitant about committing myself to the sleepover the record's title suggests. Susil Sharma's timbre is a variance of that of the Psych Fur's Richard Butler - one could do far worse, but my contention lies more with his monotonous and frequently droney drawl. Sharma's air of cool, as it were, wears quickly, and I wouldn't advise holding your breath waiting for a dynamic to kick in. This proclivity aside, Heat ultimately succeed with a competent and compelling album that virtually never falters. Overnight doles out one bristling tune after, often reaffirming my faith in contemporary rock music. "The Unknown," "Sometimes," and "Chains," (the latter of these originally revealed in demo form a few years ago) move the needle for me. Indeed, there's some catchy shit here, but don't limit yourself to the record, see these blokes in the flesh if at all possible. As this goes to press they're touring Canada, and playing SXSW next month. Pick up Overnight on Amazon, Bandcamp and iTunes, or straight from the source at Topshelf Records.