What would possess someone to gather up every single take and remix of U2's "Two Hearts Beat As One" and have it pressed to CD risking the repercussions a bootleg such as this might entail? Not sure, but despite it's inherent redundancy I'm happy Two Hearts and Other Strange Things exists. It's certainly not the most iconic song off of War, and for that matter it strikes me as a tad underwritten on certain listens. Nonetheless, it's a perfect snapshot of Bono & Co's development since Boy and October, if not lyrically, sonically. "Two Hearts..." delights with an alluring, bittersweet chorus hook and the chiming, jagged fretwork is quintessential Edge. There's a semblance of restraint here that would expand exponentially on future U2 records, yet it doesn't cut the line completely with the band's earlier aesthetic. In short, a downright respectable balance.
The thirteen variations of "Two Hearts" is followed up by a thirty minute extraction from a late '87 acoustic jam session with Bono and the Edge, fleshing out two new songs we never saw the finished versions of, plus previews of "Heartland" and "Van Diemen's Land" songs that would soon crop up on Rattle and Hum.
Two Hearts Beat as One - thirteen versions
01. vocal session take
02. vocal rough take 1
03. instrumental alt take
04. alternate vocal take 1
05. alternate vocal take
06. vocal mix take
07. vocal rough take 2
08. vocal classic mix take 1
09. vocal classic mix take 2
10. instrumental classic take
11. vocal dance take
12. instrumental dance take
13. avantgarde mix take
I've been meaning to post this for awhile as a follow-up to the X-TeensLP I shared a good four years ago. This co-ed NC five piece come armed with a Wurlitzer (or some stripe of organ) and boy, did they know how to wield that sucker! The preceding Big Boy's Dreams ep is cut from even brighter cloth than the full length, kicking off with "Johnny's Having Fun," sounding like the love child of early Go Go's and Pointed Sticks. "Fragile Beings" is another inviting slice of DIY wave, but by far and away the real prize here is "Venus," a primo power-poppy nugget with nods to X-Teens overseas contemporaries Elvis Costello and the Freshies. What I wouldn't do to have a band of this caliber around today.
01. Johnny's Having Fun
02. Fragile beings
03. In a Grey Circus
05. Big Boy's Dreams
I'm down with the band, the frontman, not so much. Tomy Brennan passes himself off as a goofy caricature of David Byrne, drooling all over everything with sardonic, amusingly unhinged vocals, that were so in vogue circa the era this record found it's way into the marketplace. At the very least, the L.A.-based Newsbreak manged to redeem themselves with competent players like Richard Lo Guercio who peels off a bevy of dandy guitar leads alongside bassist brother Randy. More 'modern rock' than 'wave,' exuding the faintest modicum of reggae, so slight it may not make it onto your radar. This four songer closes out on a relative high note with "Hidden Eyes."
01. In Your Eyes
02. Why You Do Me
04. Hidden Eyes
Here's a rundown of some new releases recently sent my way.
Throw a dart an any given project or musical entity Jason Falkner is associated with and if you’re don’t land precisely on the bulls-eye, anywhere in the near-vicinity is at the very least satisfactory. John Brauder, an as-yet-to-be heralded singer/songwriter from New York was conscious of this as anyone. Upon reaching out to Falkner (former mastermind of such vaunted outfits as Jellyfish and The Grays, not to mention Beck’s current road guitarist) with a fresh batch of songs in mind, the two settled on a new collaboration, ergo Bird Streets. Neither party set out to reinvent the wheel here, and luckily they didn’t necessitate such an endeavor given Falkner’s penchant for rich, contrarian pop smarts and Brauder’s contemplative, albeit narrative prose. At its most intoxicating, Bird Streets peels off resonant pearls in the guise of “Direction” and “Same Dream,” not only recalling channeling its two architects but just as rewardingly Nada Surf. Likely a coincidence, but I’ll take it.
Guadalcanal Diary were one of the more neglected "should've made it" propositions of the '80s, and furthermore were a huge credit to the Georgia's already vibrant alt-rock milieu of the Reagan-era. Murray Attaway and Co. were responsible for four full length albums, the last one, 1989's Flip Flop saw them depart on something of a flat note with a record that just didn't have the oomph a lot of fans were accustom to. The band reconvened in the winter of 1998 for a two night stand in Atlanta, and were pleased enough with the results to commemorate the occasion, and perhaps Guadalcanal in general, with a privately released live record in '99, At Your Birthday Party. It became a minor collector's item over the years, and is now enjoying a bona fide widespread release on Omnivore. Say what you (or more, acurately I will) about their aforementioned lukewarm swan song, because I'll be damned if the fellas didn't cook live, even when running through some of the Flip-Flop's paces like "Pretty is As Pretty Does" and "The Likes of You." The brunt of the record concentrates on earlier material, dipping all the way back to the independently released Watusi Rodeo ep. Assertive and affirming Guadal classics "Litany (Life Goes On)," "Lips of Steel," and "Trail of Tears," among an assortment of others, are all present, accounted for, and brought back to shimmering life again. ...Birthday Party is a primo bookend to GD's career, and truthfully, not a bad way to sample their legacy if you're a newbie. Both this and Bird Streets are available now from Omnivore.
“You asked me what I like to do for fun in East Columbus, and I told you I wrote poetry to music in my mind” intones St. Lenox’s Andy Choi on “First Date.” However, my friends, Choi is not your run of the mill poet cutting third rate material, rather a singular force of nature who’s back with his third spellbinding collection. Possessed with a bellowing vocal range and a knack for stitching together verbose, cathartic diatribes that eschews mundane metrical composing (i.e. “rhyming”) entirely, the bard in question goes straight for the jugular. Adopting a discernibly more stream-of-consciousness tact on this go-around, Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love isn’t always as soaringly melodic as St Lenox 2015 debut, ...Memory and Hope. Yet despite the fact that the hooks aren’t consistently frontloaded, you won’t mind chilling a few seconds longer as Choi waxes on a bouquet of romantic quandaries, and throws down a fever dreams's worth of cathartic, rapid-fire truisms throughout. And pay close attention to the presumably semi-autobiographical “Gold Star,” which loosely analyzes why he isn’t keen on relinquishing his day job for the full time music career that St. Lenox fans (to our tortured chagrin) wish he would just finally embrace. Ten Fables is available September 28 from Anyway Records or Amazon.
But what, there's more. Dot Dash have just dropped LP #6. The D.C. area denizens whose antecedents lie in such esteemed indie rock conglomerations as Swervedriver, Tree Fort Angst, and Strange Boutique among others have been pumping out a deluge of strident, clangy power pop, with lite post-punk affectations (not to mention a solid dollop of wit) for almost a decade now, and Proto Retro is another sturdy link in the chain. Dot Dash aren't ones to alter their recipe, as what they started with was downright effective. One borderline anomaly on Proto I'd be remiss if I failed to mention is "TV/Radio," a fun, briskly paced cut with Anglo-punk leanings, briefly name-checking some rather recognizable public figures. A video for "Unfair Weather" recently dropped here, and the album is available as we speak from The Beautiful Music and Amazon among other sources.
Last but not least, Portage, MI's finest son Jeremy Morris is back with a new collection of plaintively, pleasant guitar pop, in the guise of Joy Comes in the Morning. Credited to his most recent ensemble, The Jeremy Band, the album is a continuation of his jangle-inflected, chin-up aesthetic that's as reliable as a rooster's morning croon. Call it twelve, middle-aged symphonies to God (and otherwise) if you will. And being it's a Jeremy record, the ageless hippie in him doles out his usual allotment of psych guitar treatments as well. Joy Comes... is available now straight from Jam Records.
Debut from 1981. Falls a few notches short of landmark status, but still a hell of a way to kick off a career that's still in progress. Two bonus tracks on this one, the latter of which is an extremely scarce b-side.
When doing what research I could on this one, I discovered that Minneapolis' long defunct Swing Set ironically had something of recent posthumous profile boost, courtesy of the inclusion of this album's "Blackout" on an episode of Stranger Things. The TV show in question, of course, is based in the '80s. Otherwise, Swing Set hasn't exactly been on many lips. Life Speeds Up is above average modern rock that's not particularly exotic, accented with keys that thankfully don't dominate in the way the band's era was renown for. I could certainly imagine these guys digging on the likes of SVT or some of the more pedestrian acts who roosted on 415 Records. Pretty straightforward stuff but a solid listen.
02. Laying Low
05. Walking in the Night
06. Lost Track
07. The Dance
08. I'm On Fire
09. Rain on Our Parade
10. So Long
I was in for a bit of a shock when I first heard this one, expecting the same Absolute Grey who dazzled me (albeit posthumously) with their '84 debut, Green House. The Rochester, NY co-eds' initial proposition was that of a neo-psych band, with ample nods to their west coast contemporaries the Dream Syndicate. For the predominantly acoustic Painted Post, the quartet was paired down to Mitch Rasor on guitar and bass, and Beth Brown on the mic. It's such a departure that I'm inclined to regard PP as less of an Absolute Grey record, and more of a solo vehicle for Brown. Those observations aside, the record by and large succeeds on it's own premise of contemplative, unencumbered ballads that are virtually impossible not to appreciate...just don't expect much in the way of mystique or guitar feedback.
I can't believe I've neglected Zipgun this whole time, considering I've been listening to them waaaaay longer than I've been doing this site. Anyway, even if they've evaded you're proverbial radar altogether you can be forgiven. Every sweepstakes garners only a handful of winners, and this Seattle foursome finished well behind in the Emerald City's grunge/punk contest. Not that they were deliberately pursuing the grunge angle (so far as I could tell) but they were plenty vigorous for the punk circuit. And damn competent at it too, falling squarely in league with such contemporaries as Swallow, the Supersuckers, The Derelicts (of which Zip guitarist Neil Rogers was a member of) and even beloved Denver cousins the Fluid. Zipgun's lifespan was accordingly brief as their catalog, which consisted of two full lengths and a clutch of singles.
8 Track Player hit the racks in 1992. It's subterranean scumfuck quality was evident, but not overpowering. Z'gun were undeniably groomed on Motorhead and Raw Power and not the latest NOFX offering. Like the aforementioned acts they were akin to, Zipgun were upping the ante to something meatier and more potent than what proto-Warped Tour skate punks were getting off on. Suggested (first) listening: "Together Dumb," "The End," and "Cool in the Cell."
Arriving just one year later, Baltimore is doubly more assertive, tighter and balls-out rockin' than the already blistering debut I just got telling you about. I'm tempted to dole out some recommended selections, but this sucker is an all meat, no gristle affair. Relentless in it's breakneck pace and muscular aptitude, you could argue that Baltimore served as a precursor to just around the bend speed punks like Zeke and REO Speedealer. As for the album sleeve, I'm really not sure what the hell Zipgun had in mind, but it sorta works. More info available on Wikipedia.
8 Track Player
02. Down in the Hole
03. Together Dumb
04. The End
06. Ego a Go-Go
07. Put Me Away
08. Cool in the Cell
09. Third Prize
10. Feel it Wearin'
11. Can't Think Straight
13. Chase the Ace
01. Long Hot Kiss
02. Home at Last
03. Just the Way it Sounds
05. Through the Roof
07. 4th Prize
08. I Can't Wait
09. Missionary Miracle
10. In the Wire
For a good swath of the '90s Hagfish were the gift that kept on giving. Four monkey-suited Dallas denizens dropped three, rock 'em sock 'em albums all bearing a modus operandi that registered somewhere between the Dickies and Descendents (with plenty more caffeine than the latter) and a buzzbomb guitar frenzy that would have run circles around Johnny Ramone. The band's unremittingly vigorous cavalcade of power chords and melody made an utterly visceral impression on me, and their titillating, in-your-face themes of sexuality ensured their was nary a dull moment to be had.
In between the full lengths came a pair of independently released 7" eps, which I'm making available right at this very spot. The first (to your slightly above right) pre-dated their major label stint on London Records, and contained early takes of soon-to-be signature tunes "Minit Made" and "Stamp (Eat it While I Work). I believe all four songs overlapped with debut LP Buick Men, and may in fact be identical versions. I never compared them back to back.
The second 45 (bearing a strikingly like-minded cover motif) showcased some exclusive songs to the record. And some pretty exciting ones at that including the uber vindictive "Shiner." Hagfish had something immensely special on their hands...but success was not in the cards, and they parted ways around 2001. Of the four members from the final lineup, guitarist Zach Blair made the most of his post-Hag tenure, hooking up with Rise Against a little later in the '00s. A full bio can be accessed on Wikipedia.
Remember when I took to task Sorry's '86 platter The Way it Is and blabbed something about their earlier "rough and tumble" hardcore years? Well, you're about to hear what Sorry's nascent era was all about it, by way of Imaginary Friend. In the form of eighteen cuts to be exact, many of which clock in at under ninety seconds, but if you're expecting fearsome, symmetrical slammers all cut from the same cloth think again. Boston born and bred, this quartet weren't really along the lines of their hometown's more renown SS Decontrol or Gang Green. Even back in '84, Sorry were picking up on the vibes of relative newcomers Mission of Burma, Volcano Suns, and early Husker Du - albeit not as effective, and definitely not as consistent. They had a penchant for sloppiness and spouted an array of dissonant affectations that were a hell of lot more chaotic than calculated. Most of IF's more notable moments reside on side one, entailing "Misanthrope," "One More Step," and "Doomed From the Start," the latter of which features none other than Burma's very own Roger Miller on keyboards, of all things.
01. My Word
03. Doomed From the Start
04. Where Were You?
05. Why Do I Have to Look at You?
06. One More Step
07. Don't Assume
09. Imaginary Friend
11. No Concern
13. On My Own
16. Dirty Old Man
The little spoken of Adrian's Childhood were from said to hail from Seattle, but amazingly don't emanate a shred o' grunge. More like turn of the decade alt-rock with nods to the likes of the Connells, Ocean Blue, and for better or worse Live (the band). There's some tastefully executed jangle sprouting now and again, really benefiting some of AC's most potent offerings like "Ellensberg" and the deliciously sprite and spry "POP."
I'm not in possession of a physical copy of this one, but whomever converted it to digital, I thank them for going to the effort, and furthermore for attaching four extra cuts that were independent of the Sometimes LP itself. Given their rawer (and sometimes untitled) nature I have to assume these are demos, which just so happen to rival the album's finest moments.
02. Tang a Tang
03. Joe's Ice Cream
05. Til the Morning Comes
13. New Moon
This Rochester, NY quartet spent the second half of their lifespan as Jet Black Berries, but they wasted nary a second of their arguably more rewarding nascent years as New Math. I dedicated an entry to JBB's Sundown on Venus a good five years ago, wherein I went into their background in slightly more detail. Under the New Math incarnation, frontman Kevin Patrick and his cohorts were responsible for a couple of memorable punk singles, but they achieved full on righteousness on the subsequent They Walk Among You ep (1981, courtesy of 415 Records) and in three years time on Gardens. Wake the Dead is a gently tweaked consolidation of those recordings.
The arguably cheesy sleeve art to your right is a bit of a disservice to the caliber of the tunes housed within. Yes, there was a discernible b-movie undercurrent to New Math, but luckily for anyone within earshot the emphasis was squarely on the songs, not so much the shtick. Their sonic aplomb was largely defined by synth maestro Mark Schwartz, whose driving keyboard fills colored NM's relatively diverse palette that ranged from punk to garage to even something approaching conventional pop. And despite hailing from such a wintry locale, the band seemed content to tip their collective hat to west coast contemporaries, running the gamut from the Gun Club to T.S.O.L. NM's "mystique" may strike some ears as a bit dubious or even occasionally feigned, but with cuts like "Invocation," "Love Under Will," and "Ominous Presence" packing such robust melodic content, the inherent lyrical sentiments pass by as almost secondary. Amidst New Math's typical indigenous sound, as it were, there are a couple of striking anomalies in this collection that I'd be remiss if I failed to highlight. "American Survival" oozes an uptempo punk pedigree that Bad Religion only wish they could have conjured up for their synthy sidestep, Into the Unknown, while the bangin' "Johnny on Top" was liberally modeled after the Jim Carroll Band staple, "People Who Died." Not to be missed.
01. They Walk Among You
02. Garden of Delight
05. American Survival
06. The Flesh Element
07. Meets the Eye
08. Dead of Night
09. Pipes of Pan
10. Two Tongues
11. Take to the Night
13. Love Under Will
14. Johnny on Top
15. The Restless Kind
16. Break Up the Dance
17. Power of the Air (live)
18. Ominous Presence (live)
Here's one of the more straight-up rock and roll records I've offered in awhile. The Leonards were a riff-pop powerhouse from L.A. who issued a spate of typically overlooked gems in the late '80s right up through the mid-90s. You might detect shades of the Plimsouls and perhaps less so Dramarama, but I took these guys to be a bit more minimal than that. Furthermore, if you're an aficionado of the Junk Monkeys and early Figgs the Leonards are about to roll right into your wheelhouse. Enjoy.
01. She Said Goodbye
02. Questioning Days
03. Only the Skies are Blue
04. Out of My Mind
05. Don't Give Up
06. Consider It
07. Two Pillows
I opined on Manifesto a few years ago, or more specifically one of it's members, Michael Hampton who had been in a number of Washington D.C. era punk and hardcore bands, including SOA with Henry Rollins, and one-album emo wonders Embrace alongside Ian MacKaye. By the end of the '80s he parlayed his guitar slinging abilities in an outfit (this one) that might as well have been a full 180 from the straight-edge circuit. Manifesto sounded quite ordinary by comparison, almost generic in fact. Generic in the "modern rock" strata anyway. Mid tempo with a mild commercial bent yet wielding something of a thinking-man undercurrent. Problem is, they sounded too damn ordinary for their own good, and by the time they unleashed an album in 1992, the twin headed hydra of grunge and Britpop rendered Manifesto's shtick all but invisible. There are at least a few keepers here, especially the downright catchy "It's a Long Time," which in a different set of hands could have been reconfigured into a power pop classic.
This cassette originates from 1990 and is packaged informally as if it were a demo or advance tape, however Manifest's album didn't surface for another two years. Many songs overlap, but since I don't have the full length handy I cannot confirm if the versions presented here are unique. Will try to verify at some point, but comparing track lists, some songs are exclusive to this tape.
01. See Them Move
02. Different Day
03. Meaning of You
04. Worlds Fall Apart
05. Just a Matter of Time
06. It's a Long Time
07. Down the Line
08. Feel it Coming
10. Walking Backwads
11. instrumental https://www14.zippyshare.com/v/ctK9hjbI/file.html
And where will you be in 1993?
- "Never Really Been"
The above lyric swiped from an acoustic ballad on Soul Asylum'sMade to be Broken LP, incorporated "1993" as a simple rhyming device, yet it proved to be ironically prophetic as that happened to be the year Dave Pirner, Karl Mueller, and Dan Murphy (the band's core triumvirate) broke bad and nationwide with "Runaway Train." Situated in this era were two of their contemporaries that hurtled on a parallel trajectory as well, Urge Overkill and the Meat Puppets. All three boasted fairly prestigious indie rock pedigrees, and relatively rich back catalogs...that their newfound mainstream converts were sadly content to ignore. Indeed, there was life before Grave Dancers Union, and a spirited and often uneven one at that, but Soul Asylum's finer mid '80s volleys sometimes bordered on astonishing. Omnivore has reissued their first two Twin/Tone Records platters, Say What You Will...Everything Can Happen and 1986's aforementioned ...Broken with a bevy of bonus material and a crisp remastering job worth the price of admission alone.
Any "Asylum seeker" (yep, I couldn't help myself) who caught wind of the band's initial gale force rush prior to signing to A&M and later Sony, was likely aware of two key things - they were punk rockers at heart, and they initially christened themselves as Loud Fast Rules. That rip roaring moniker would probably strike most eyes and ears as a veritable mission statement, yet while the band did create fearsome hardcore blasts (revel in the gloriously thrashy attack of "Draggin' Me Down") the famed Minneapolis quartet had a penchant for juxtaposing those youthful outbursts with elements of jazz, rock, and in one instance even doo-wop. From the get go, Pirner and crew were wildly diverse, even though they came up in a time when it was perfectly ok to stick to the aesthetic of their initial namesake. Produced by already-known-quantity Bob Mould, Say What You Will commenced with a rather angular, Husker Du indebted track "Long Day, " accented by Murphy's distorted, ringing leads, that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Zen Arcade or for that matter any given Mission of Burma record. It remains one of their most impressive feats to this day, and there's even more gold to be mined on SWYW, including the sax-laden spiel, "Stranger" and "Black and Blue" loosely challenging early Replacements. Six additional rambunctious and mostly rewarding tracks were added to first CD incarnation of the album in the late '80s, all of which are reprised here. The Omnivore edition tacks on about an EP's worth of unreleased Lost Fast Rules demos (bear in mind, not necessarily punk) and a rather sardonic cover of "Bad Moon Rising" credited to Proud Crass Fools. Consider yourselves warned.
Fast forward to the Iran-Contra era for the band's tremendo leap forward,Made to be Broken. Despite it's status as Soul Asylum's second full length, Broken has a tendency to sound even more organic than Say What..., albeit logically more advanced to boot. It's yet another astute Bob Mould production, and it launches with the sublime visceral rush of "Tied to the Tracks," which might as well have graced Flip Your Wig. Indeed, the very fact that one can attach the term 'visceral' to the band at this phase in their tenure shows how remarkably they progressed from just a couple years earlier. The melodies alone are admirably discernible on "Can't Go Back" and "Long Way Home," with both selections being indicative of Soul Asylum's almost fully settled signature sound. "Whoa," "Lone Rider," and "New Feelings" were ample evidence they still had plenty of high strung slammers to coax out of their systems, plus they operated just fine, thanks within the confines of relatively mellower tempos on "Ain't That Tough" and the previously quoted "Never Really Been." Roughly half of Broken's fifteen bonus cuts are culled from the band's cassette-only outtakes curio, Time's Incinerator. The remainder are entirely heretofore unreleased numbers, usually amounting to fleeting afterthoughts and/or abandoned ideas that only the most ardent of Asylum obsessives will develop a sincere craving for.
Both reissues (CD only) are available straight through Omnivore or Amazon.
Though not as appealing as their more effective later albums (like 2000's Somehow You Just Don't Get It) I thought it wouldn't hurt to throw this one out there for historical perspective, especially since it's utterly impossible to find. This indie rock to-the-core foursome seemed to be skewing in the vicinity of some of their contemporaries including, but certainly not limited to, J Church, Small 23 and even the almighty Archers of Loaf. There's occasional glints of promise on "Call in Blue" and "Slowing Down," but Static... illustrated Sometimes Seven had miles to venture before really honing their craft.
02. Slowing Down
03. Brighter Clean 04. Drama Mean
05. Zero Royal
06. Sister Destiny
07. Watching an Air Raid
08. Call in Blue
10. Real Change
11. Breaking Strings
12. Ex-Hall of Famer
I haven't shown any love for Fig Dish on here since about 2010, so apologies if I'm overdue. What I'm sharing was relatively available a few years ago, but the original website hosting it appears to be defunct. For those in the dark regarding who I'm even referring to, Fig Dish were an often excellent aggro pop-rock outfit from Chicago who recorded two albums for A&M in the mid '90s - That's What Love Songs Often Do (1995) and When Shove Goes Back to Push (1997). Both disks were foisted onto a rather indifferent public, and commercially they went thud. In fact, I don't think I ever happened across a CD of Love Songs that didn't have a promo stamp on the cover. Pity all those uninformed kids who clung to their copies of Mellon Collie... and precious little else. I saved the notes from the site that hosted Onanism, and they're below. This is essentially an oversized batch of demos for material slated for Fig Dish's follow-up to Shove that never came to fruition. Some phenomenal cuts too - "Ragged Ones," "Science Goes Public," "Senior Circuit," etc..
After two albums, with a combined sales of 16,000 copies, Chicago rockers Fig Dish severed their relationship with A&M Records in 1998. The band, consisting of Blake Smith (vocals/guitar), Rick Ness (vocals/guitar), Mike Willison (bass), and Bill Swarz (drums), went back into the studio to record demos to shop to other labels. RollingStone.com wrote a feature about Fig Dish’s departure and their subsequent record in which Smith said Fig Dish had no intention of breaking up and had recorded a double album worth of new material. Less than a year later Smith and Willison had started a new project, Caviar, while Ness started his own solo band, bringing Swarz along with him. So whatever became of those 2 CDs worth of material Fig Dish recorded?
After being locked away in the Fig Dish vault for nearly 10 years, we’re happy to unleash the cracken and offer you the 19 track demo that Fig Dish recorded and used in an attempt to find a new label. For fun, we’ve tossed in 2 songs that were on the hard-to-find “Quiet Storm King” CD-single released in 1995, “Eyesore” and “Spit the Part." David Cobb, college roommate of Mike Willison, and longtime Fig Dish fan/friend/supporter dubbed this double CD, Onanism, so that’s the name we’ve given this collection of songs.
01. Burn Bright For Now
02. Cellophane & Sulphur
03. The Ragged Ones
04. Science Goes Public
05. If Not Now When
06. Trouble & Sway
07. Lake Five Blue
08. Take Me Whole
09. Tear The Atmosphere
10. All The Blues Are Pale
11. A.D. & D.
12. The Effects of Dehydration
13. The Bottom
14. Senior Circuit
15. Best Disguise
16. Carcharias Carcharodon
17. Extra Nanny
18. The Widow Cobain
19. When Shirts Get Tight (demo)
21. Spit the Part
My first exposure to ThePosies? On an unsuspicious morning in late 1990 I was backing my Plymouth (not so) Reliant "K" car out of my driveway to attend a full day of high school. I was tuned into the predominant local hard/classic rock station. DJ announced he was playing a song by a new band dubbed The Posies. Upon hearing the name I conjured up an approximate image of this band being the stylistic heirs to the Mamas and Papas or something. That assumption quickly dissipated upon hearing the tune, quite possibly "Golden Blunders." In short, said DJ successfully led this horse to water, but I wasn't quite ready to imbibe another sip until roughly three years later, upon release of the band's third record, Frosting on the Beater. 'Higher learning' would in fact have to wait a spell.
Essentially, I backtracked upon becoming enamored with Frosting in 1993, with the previous album, Dear 23 being something of a posthumous discovery for me. Both records (and '95s Amazing Disgrace to follow later) are the subjects of a vastly overhauled reissues on Omnivore Records, getting the full remaster and expansion treatments, featuring a bevy of unreleased demos, outtakes and alternate versions, a good half of which weren't already covered on the At Least At Last rarities box set on Not Lame in 2000.
The Posies glorified demo of a debut album, 1988's Failure, was an often infectious exercise in witty folk pop. Gloriously lucid if not so much ambitious, that nascent formula of the band's two prime movers Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer would be extrapolated, enhanced and exponentially magnified on Dear 23, which found the duo fleshing themselves out as a four piece, aided and abetted by bassist Rick Roberts and longtime drummer to-be Mike Musburger. With 23's austere hues, startlingly bold, and even ethereal sonic enhancements, you'd hardly guess this was the same entity that crafted Failure. The ironing table and laundry basket motifs of yore were usurped by sobering universal themes wherein the band exuded grand, post-teenage symphonies to the world at large, often by way of exhilarating harmonies. Almost thirty years on, "Golden Blunders" is still vividly poignant, outlining the consequences of romantic faux pas, with "Apology" mining a similar theme, more in line with a pleading ballad than the former's singalong rocker. Despite it's pristine facade, Dear 23 boasts it's own brand of musculature, amidst "Help Yourself," "Mrs. Green," and the fully blossomed second half of, "Flood of Sunshine," the album's epic closer that loosely unfolds a la Led Zeppelin's "Thank You," of all things. Song for song, Dear 23 may not be the Posies career defining moment but is the most impeccably manicured and graceful record they would ever attach their name to - not to mention one of their masterpieces. The two CD redux on Omnivore features a bountiful 27 bonus songs. Unnlike the extraneous filler on so many other deluxe releases, the twenty-plus demos (some full band, but many Ken and Jon solo tapes) are genuinely revelatory and will give you an even better appreciation of the finished versions. Also appended are the two sides of the Big Star/Chris Bell tribute single, initially released 1992 on Pop Llama.
Contemporary to 23 and Frosting, there was abundant ballyhooing in reference to the Posies newfound appreciation for Big Star - that and their supposed assumption to the throne of "power pop." Both were exaggerations. Virtually nothing on these two albums were as organic or straightforward as anything occupying #1 Record and Radio City, and even on Big Star's more idiosyncratic Sister Lovers, it can be a challenge to find direct parallels between the Posies and Alex Chilton (though both parties would later unite for a reconstituted Big Star). Secondly, the Posies weren't three chord simpletons. Catchy as-all-get-out, indeed, but far more sophisticated and brooding stacked up against a say, 20/20 or even a Matthew Sweet record. If anything, they inadvertently carved out a niche for themselves that by happy accident meshed well with more pedestrian power pop.
The Posies were about to make yet another quantum leap, one that would inextricably define them for the remainder of their tenure in the '90s. Enter Frosting on the Beater, their 1993 watershed that stripped off the ornate prettiness and ethereal gestures of Dear 23 in favor of a palate that was markedly rawer, denser and gleefully amped-out. It may have stopped well short of blaring and obnoxious, yet Frosting undeniably signaled an exciting departure for Jon, Ken, Mike, and newly recruited bassist Dave Fox. In fact, Fox's fuzz-laden bass played a discernible role in filling out the band's distortion addled aptitude on buzzy pop salvos like "Solar Sister," and "Flavor of the Month," and equally within the confines of the slow-boiling "Burn and Shine" and the brooding comedown finale, "Coming Right Along." The Posies hook-meter registered an all time high on Frosting, so much so that even if "Flavor" or "Definite Door" graced your ears just one day in any given year, those tunes would stay etched in your cranium for the remaining 364. And I can't depart any discussion of this album without observing that yet another of the band's watershed moments, the more bitter than sweet "Dream All Day," has personally served as a sister song of sorts to the Smithereens similarly vigorous but reflective "Behind the Wall of Sleep." In keeping with the penchant of the expanded Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater is bonus-ized with a solid thirty extras - demos for most LP tracks and about an album's worth of outtakes (in rough-hewn 4-track incarnations) with previews of songs to appear on subsequent Posies and Ken Stringfellow solo records. Hot damn.
Welcome to the soundtrack to my early college years (he emits a *sigh* in the most reluctant manner possible), for better or worse. My reticence towards this one is less exaggerated than I'm letting on. But before delving any further, as the title might
imply, this one is a consolidation of three shorter form Self Mutilation compilations, specifically 7" eps, issued by the Aussie Hippy Knight label between 1991-93. If it's "power pop" or anything on a remotely genteel tip you're seeking, best advised you move along.
The Mutilation series was bejeweled with a cabal of the era's most effective and grating noisenik punksters and grunge-amok hopefuls, with virtually none of it's participants breaching into the mainstream. But as an international scene snapshot, this disc exposes the gritty, subterranean muck that even labels like Amphetamine Reptile weren't wiling to approach, or at the very least make a monetary investment in. The likes of Atomic 61, Sandy Duncan's Eye and Meanies may ring a little raucous to some ears, but there's also thecomparatively less high strung Seaweed, You Am I and Superchunk, the latter of whom turn in a casual, 4-track acoustic version of "Cool," worth the price of admission alone. As a parting recommendation, check out Green Magnet School's deliciously raw, but slyly tuneful "Blind In My Mouth," sounding something like a long-lost Dramarama demo.
01. Coffin Break - Cry 02. You Am I - Snake Tide 03. God And Texas - 1066 04. Jonestown - El Segundo 05. Green Magnet School - Blind In My Mouth 06. Free Moving Curtis - Fire 07. Poppin' Mommas - Now I Love Her 08. Sandy Duncan's Eye - Polsen Petroleum 09. Mother's Day - Birdy 10. Superchunk - Cool 11. Erectus Monotones - Tweeter And Quibble 12. Screamfeeder - Snail Trail 13. Vertigo - Shallow Water 14. Nunbait - Shit For Brains 15. Alien Boys - Timothy 16. The Stump Wizards - Fire 17. Seaweed - Selfish 18. Atomic 61 - Pussy Juice 19. Seaweed Goorillas - Incest 20. The Meanies - People Like Me
I'm not exactly sure how the all male (in fact) the Grady Sisters made it onto my auditory field (quite recently in fact - a compilation perhaps?) but better late than never. A little disonance and just a smidge of dynamics seemed to go a long way for this Petaluma, CA-area collective. Occasionally Pavement-like, albeit not as cryptic. Sorta rattling about in the same tin can as the Poster Children too, but a little deficient in the warm and fuzzy department. Things peak on "s.w. log" which rips it's resplendent array of jumpy chords straight from the Wedding Present circa 1990 - right before diving into a jarring crush of blaring fuzz and static. A beaut.
04. s.w. log
Got a decent Canadian export for ya'll here. Spectacular in spots, even but will get to that in a moment. Having a mouthpiece (John Shirreff) who often sounded like Peter Murphy must have gotten Breeding Ground bullied with darkwave/goth accusations aplenty. Things weren't quite that convenient however, as BG's sonic tapestry was more attuned to the likes of The Fixx, Cactus World News, and even country-mates Frozen Ghost. And like many of the aforementioned these guys had a propensity for depth and echoing guitars, without ever getting too heady or pious (perhaps with the exception of Tales' anomalous "Happy Now I Know," which centers on Shirreff's apparent Christian leanings). And regarding those rather spectacular songs I mention in my opening - "Turn to Dust," the title piece, and the unlisted "Reunion," all typify what was so rewarding in the often nebulous realm of 'modern rock' in the '80s. Enjoy.
01. This Time Tomorrow
02. Turn to Dust
05. Tales of Adventure
06. Happy Now I Know
07. Reflections (in a coffee cup)*
08. *in the sun
Had a request for this one. Personally, I was never very motivated to sling myself onto the caboose of the Leaving Trains, but I know how endearing they were to the droves who were more than content to depart the station with them. This was their first album, released a couple years prior to their stint with SST. I've heard bits and pieces of those subsequent records, but Well Down Blue Highway might be the first I've encountered wall-to-wall. And I'm definitely down for some of it, 'specially the more rompin,' rockin' forays like "She Knows the Rain" and "Virginia City." There's some sweet psych flourishes on "Always Between Wars" too. I've been informed that ...Highway's follow-up, Kill Tunes, was their utmost achievement. Here's what the boys at Trouser Press had to say.
That said, the Los Angeles band's debut, Well Down
Blue Highway (co-produced by Rain Parader David Roback
and featuring a guest drummer from Gun Club and a keyboard
player from Green on Red) is actually the picture of
restraint: James' quietly desperate delivery suits subtly
seething songs like "Creeping Coastline of Lights" and "I
Am in a World Crash With You" marvelously, and when the
clock registers rage-time, guitarist Manfred Hofer responds
with some totally wired riffing.
Kill Tunes sacrifices some of that reserve in favor
of an old-school pub-punk approach that will remind some of
the Saints (whose "Private Affair" gets a lusty run-through
here). On an album that continuously shifts gears, from
shit-kicking 4/4 like "She's Looking at You" and "Black" to
lighter ballads ("Light Rain" and "Kinette"), the frontman
displays his boozehound-next-door humor for the first time
on "A Drunker Version of You," and it provides a welcome
respite from the vitriol sprayed elsewhere.
What I'm presenting here isn't my rip, so a mighty thank you to whomever was responsible for it. There may be a couple of minor glitches, that to my ears anyway were barely discernible.
01. Bringing Down the House
02. Leaving Train
03. All My Friends
04. Always Between Wars
05. You Can't See
06. I Am In A World Crash With You
07. March 7th
08. Hometown Blues
09. She Knows Better
10. Creeping Coastline of Lights
11. Virginia City
12. Going Down to Town
13. Bringing Down the House (reprise)
So you say you're a Rude Buddha fan (all two of you)? I guess you can chalk that up to depriving yourself of sleep in the wee hours of the morning with your gaze fixed on MTV to witness their briefly-in-rotation clip for "No More Gravy." That was actually in 1988, so I bet ya didn't know they had a couple records to their credit earlier in the decade? Here's one of 'em, and this co-ed combo waste nary a second of it...on side one anyway. That's where you'll find more of the structured tunes, considerably crooked to begin with. Brian Daley and Jenny Wade trade off on vocals, the latter of whom has a particularly unique warble. I'm more partial to Daley whose dexterous digits tickle the fretboard in a nimble and clangy manner I'm such a sucker for. Depending where the stylus lands there's some sheer magic going on here. After the jump, you'll find the video I referenced above.
01. Blister My Paint
02. Economic War
03. So Long Darling
04. I'm Packing My Suitcase
05. Hagar and Ishmael
06. What You're Looking For
There's a certain reliability to a Willie Nile album. Not unlike spending an afternoon at the ballpark perhaps. Hot dog in hand, a nice 75 degree day, and a certain contentment in knowing how things are going to roll for the next couple of hours or so. Not that Children of Paradise, Willie's eleventh (or so) studio outing spans anywhere near the better part of the afternoon, but you get my drift. His original premise (and I say that loosely) always struck me as an empathetic fusion of Springsteen and Dylan. These days that synthesis manifests itself into something approaching solo Paul Westerberg, albeit without as much irony and wordplay.
Not one to operate in the abstract, Willie's plaintive aplomb is nonetheless conveyed via uplifting, populist sentiments on Children's... rallying opener, "Seeds of a Revolution." Call it a melting pot-anthem if you will, reminding us that our presently turmoil-ridden democratic experiment only exists due to it's international composition. "Getting Ugly Out There" and "Earth Blues" speak to issues of the day as well, spirited along in our protagonists cautionary but hopeful tenor. And what would a Willie Nile album be without a few raucous rave-ups? "Rock n' Roll Sister," "I Defy," and the particularly strident "Don't" fit the bill perfectly, and prove the man in question hasn't lost an iota of stamina. Naturally, on the flip-side of the coin, a good quarter of Children... is set aside for ballads with "Lookin' for Someone," being particularly effective. Finally, without giving too much away, the poignant title track is another ace feather in his cap. In a nutshell, things are tough and modern times are a bitch. It's hard to believe any single album could be a catalyst for change or uplift, but Willie is making a rock solid go of it.
This past week I've been all over the map...so why not end it with a Cure bootleg? I haven't featured Robert Smith et al on these pages, due to the wide availability of virtually every speck of their catalog. In a nutshell, What Happened Behind the Door is comprised of demos and possibly alternate mixes of tunes that touch on several of their key '80s records. By now, I think all of their albums up through Disintegration have been reissued and bonus-ized with generously expanded track listings, loaded predominantly with demos and songs-in-progress. The rub? The bulk of these prototypes were just instrumentals that hardly warranted repeat spins. In some instances, What Happened... features alternate demo versions with vocals ("In Between Days" being a prime example) that you are unavailable on said reissues. Some really rare tracks make an appearance here as well, specifically "Ariel" and "Cold Colours." This handy and thoughtfully assembled compendium winds down with spare, acoustic versions of "Jut Like Heaven," "The Caterpillar," and "The Blood." I've also tacked on an Easy Cure (an early incarnation of the band) take of the group's post-punk standard "A Forest." Enjoy.
01. One Hundred Years
04. Figure Head
05. Cold Colours
06. Siamese Twins
07. In Between Days
08. Close to Me
09. Kyoto Song
10. The Baby Screams
12. To the Sky
13. Just Like Heaven (acoustic)
14. The Caterpillar (acoustic)
15. The Blood (acoustic)
Plus: A Forest
What little there is to glean on The Critics makes the case that this suburban Illinois quartet fancied the Beatles. Even the most casual listen to their Braintree album solidly proves this point, especially on the first half, but this adept power pop combo were ultimately more attuned to their own era. Not quite as heavy or beefy as say, what the Posies were concocting at the time, the Critics took their cues from nearby mates Material Issue, and for that matter slotted in quite appropriately onto the first volume of the Yellow Pills compilation series. Released by the band Shoes on their in-house label Black Vinyl Records, Braintree's most remarkable moment arrives in the guise of "Got No Heart," a relatively raw nugget that extends a wink and a nod to their chosen genre's halcyon era of the late '70s.
01. Love Discreet
02. Change Your Mind
03. I Heard You Calling
05. You Can't Lie
06. Got No Heart
07. Surprise Surprise
08. I Feel Sorry For You
10. We're All Lonely
11. Lucky Thing
Welcome back! Though it is a shame that it took a grotesque and traitorous Republican administration to jostle The Poster Children's collective muse to write and record again. Or maybe I'm speaking too soon, considering the 'antics' of the Mar-a-Lago Mussolini haven't informed the entirety of Grand Bargain!...but at least a solid half of it. For the uninitiated, The Poster Children's tenure has spanned four decades, the most of active of which transpired in the twentieth century, with albums of dynamic, skittish guitar spree like 1991's Daisychain Reaction, and their '92 follow-up, Tool of the Man serving as the most crucial examples. A little further into the Clinton-era, the band embraced a wonkier, electro-pop modus operandi, and though this particular gambit yielded mixed results the Poster Children resolutely made music on their own terms, even when 'the man' was cutting their paychecks.
Grand Bargain! is the first full length P/C fans have been on the receiving end of since 2004's No More Songs About Sleep and Fire. Needless to say a lot has happened on this blue dot, not the least of which Kids headmasters Rick Valentin and Rose Marshack having become parents. Truth be told, this was probably the impetus for the hiatus, not so much a lack of inspiration from current events. And indeed, Bargain! doesn't quite pick up where the quartet parked their tour van. In fact, the record commences with a blistering, dissonant salvo of a rant by way of the title track, wherein Valentin begins to indignantly claw at the surface of our current dystopia. Shortly after this blast of righteous indignation "Hippie Hills" cuts the tension considerably, conceding to the more melodic motifs of their heyday, and to that end, even to the tendencies of one of their key contemporaries (presently and formerly), Superchunk. But these aren't the nineties folks, and a world-weary tone imbues rather self-explanatory missives "World's Insane," "Brand New Country" and "Devil and the Gun," the latter informed by now routine mass shootings and the hollow "thoughts and prayers" gestures that invariably accompany them. If you're leery of this album being one extended piss-take, the Kids occasionally reveal a light at the end of the tunnel, dim as it may be at this stage in the game.
Grand Bargain! distinguishes itself from earlier Poster Kids records by eschewing the more obvious pop angles of their '90s left-of-the-dial contributions "If You See Kay" and "Junior Citizen." So much so that the album concludes on a startlingly lucid acoustic note, "Safe Tonight" that I guarantee no one saw approaching in the rear view mirror. Perhaps such developments aren't that drastically surprising given the quartet's near-decade and a half layover. Nonetheless, they're still plenty high strung, and a plethora of trademark P/C tinctures continue to populate the canvas - the wiry and teasing guitar arpeggios, Rose's prominent bass, and naturally, Valentin's patented sung/spoke vocals. Yet something more nuanced and subtle is exuded on Bargain! that I'm still not accustom to. No, these adult young'ins aren't as jumpy and dynamic as established customers might recall them, but the v. 2018.0 incarnation of the quartet just may have tracked their most natural and reflective album to date. And despite the ever accumulating shitstorm of Trumpian induced horrors, at least the Poster Children themselves appear to be ensconced in a good place.