Saturday, October 14, 2017

Notes on new music: The Pengwins and Trip Wire

Just about every year (or two) a rather unique musical package comes down that pike that few people in the world are aware of.  Luckily a decent chunk us are Pengwins fans, and we're fully down with the program.  As a means of archiving (and now disseminating) the recordings of his locally vaunted power pop act, Lannie Flowers has done something unique with his Pengwins catalog, by reissuing one vintage song from their original late '70s incarnation and placing it on a 7" disk, pairing it with a considerably more recent recording.  But merely releasing a "single" won't how about decking that 45 out in a full color box containing photos, a CD of the single with extra audio goodies, a download card, liner notes, and some appropriately associated paraphernalia?  They've done it again with Volume 4 of this incredibly rewarding series, and if the swag isn't enticing alone how 'bout the tunes?  The a-side, the 2007 recorded the Danny Wilkerson penned "Go Away" is as fine as anything they've committed to tape, sounding like something Cheap Trick would have been proud to put their stamp on back in their '70s/early '80s heyday.  And speaking of the '70s, the ballad-esque "oldie" on the flip, "Just a Dream" circulates back to 1977.  The CD also tacks on an alternate mix of "Go Away" and "Ladybug," an early iteration of "Just a Dream."  The whole enchilada is available from Spyderpop Records.  For more details on the Pengwins reissues series, check out one of our earlier entries here.

It’s not the core TripWire lineup of Marty Schneider and Bill Hunt that garnered my attention , so much as the new buck that’s been welcomed into the fold, none other than Jeff Shelton of Well Wishers and Spinning Jennies renown.   To my understanding, the San Fran-based Trip Wire had already carved out a power pop reputation for themselves, and with Shelton on deck that proposition has been further cemented on the band’s sophomore long-player, Cold Gas Giants.   In fact, the selections here the man in question belly’s up to the mic for, “I’m Not the Enemy” and “Growing Old” bear a discernibly crunchy, riff-rock penchant.  To a certain extent, Shelton’s contributions stand in contrast to much of the remainder of CGG, an album that finds this combo finagling with various accoutrements from horns to a string section.   Schneider is the one who predominantly wields the Trip Wire songwriting quill, and he’s wont to operate in a traditional singer/songwriter context.   The band gets by capably, and even exudes some diversity, but I have to wonder how much more of a treat Cold Gas Giants would have amounted to if they opted to color outside the lines every now and then.  You can hear and purchase it for yourself through Bandcamp, Kool Kat Music, and Amazon. 

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