Sunday, April 22, 2018

All the time in the world, and you never changed a thing.

Personally, I wish they had retired after this album.  Instead, they sullied their good name for decades to come.  This one, however, is a peach.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Green River - 1984 Demos (2016, Jackpot)

I feel it would be jumping the gun to throw one of today's new Record Store Day releases out there for public consumption, so how about one from a couple years back instead?  The title of this all too limited edition platter is either going to lure you in or not I suppose.  Seattle's late and stupendously great Green River were a hot mess even when they got around to recording proper albums including such wrenchingly angsty missives as the Dry As a Bone ep and Rehab Doll, but a messy ending almost always entails an even sloppier genesis.

This LP of nine nascent recordings was essentially tracked in prep for the band's debut, Come On Down, though few songs from this session actually carried over to it.  If you're familiar with that one you know it's a bit of a winded slog of a record, that hit the market before Green River truly perfected that "groove" thing.  Sort of the same premise on these nine cuts, but, wherein future Mudhoney-mates Mark Arm & Steve Turner alongside a pre-Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam Jeff Ament (no Stone Gossard yet, kids) clad bluesy metal to bratty punk bravado, a formula that would eventually yield, you guessed it, the "G" word.  The building blocks lie in waiting at their feet, but weren't quite cemented on the howling "Leeech," and the mildly doomy "10,000 Things," the later being re-cut to better effect for a contribution to the Deep Six compilation in '86.  At this stage in the game, Arm and friends strike me as more convincing on viciously punkier salvos "Means to An End" and "Take Me."  Best of all, this compendium features an early incarnation of a tune that would be worked to utmost perfection as an early Mudhoney b-side, "Baby Help Me Forget."  I won't give any more away than I have thus far.  Have at it.

01. 33 Revolutions
02. Leeech
03. 10,000 Things
04. Means to an End
05. New God
06. Baby Help Me Forget
07. Take Me
08. Against the Grain
09. Tunnel of Love

Friday, April 20, 2018

It's seems a trivial pursuit now, but it's the only game in town...

I think this one will have special relevance to my Buffalo and Toronto peeps.  It's not often when a band garners a stronger following in a city/country other than one they're indigenous to, but so be it the case of TO's Lowest of the Low.  Circa 1991 in Buffalo, NY, the city just 50 miles south as the crow flies, there were hoards of early and enthusiastic adopters of the Low and their auspicious debut, Shakespeare My Butt.  With the now-renown Ron Hawkins at the helm, spewing diatribes, anecdotes and clever truisms galore, western New Yorkers caught the Low's indelible bug from the get go, as word of mouth spread rapidly - all pre-web mind you.  Pair Hawkin's timeless tact for writing with a melodic indie rock penchant and you have a formula that should have infiltrated the entire continent, but Canada and a sweet chunk of the Empire State would have to suffice.

This 2004 show technically took place in Williamsville, NY, an affluent suburb, not the city proper.  It was supposed to be an outdoor gig, but the weather failed to cooperate, so it was moved to a venue that unfortunately isn't identified on the sleeve.  Hawkins mistakenly refers to Williamsville as Williamsburg, stating mid-set to a packed crowd that "the entire burg must be here!"  Of course, he's almost immediately corrected.  Spanning two hours, the show naturally draws robustly from Shakespeare, but listeners receive nearly as much fresh tunes that would be released one month later on the Low's third and belated LP, Sordid Fiction.  Despite omitting much of the best material from their sophomore record, Hallucigenia, the setlist cranks, and their performance does in kind.  The band's characteristic charm is doled out for miles and miles, and multiple encores ensue.  One thousand copies of the show were pressed on CD and sold through Maple Music, never to be seen again...but once in awhile you'll luck out browsing in a used bin.  All of the evidence is yours for the taking below, in either MP3 of lossless FLAC.

Disk 1
01. Dogs of February
02. Just About "The Only" Blues
03. And Then the Riot
04. For the Hand of Magdelena
05. Everywhere and Nowhere
06. The Sharpest Pain
07. City Full of Cowards
08. Last Lost Generation
09. New Westminster Taxi Squad
10. Darkhorse
11. Eternal Fatalist/Letter From Bilbnoa
12. Your Birthday Party
13. Turpentine
14. Giulietta the Just

Disk 2
01. Bleed a Little While Tonight
02. The AM Taxi Ride
03. Save Me, Alice Neel!
04. Salesman, Cheats and Liars
05. The Last Recidivist
06. Winter Sleepers
07. Sincero
08. 4 O'Clock Stop
09. Small Victories
10. Concave
11. Come Pick Me Up

MP3 (320 kbps)  or  FLAC

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rockphonics - Get the Picture? (1990, Incas)

One glance at the front (and especially the back) cover and you'd reasonably have Rockphonics pegged as feisty, rockabilly ball-busters.  Instead, this duo had something a little less rambunctious in mind.  Ostensibly hailing from that congested, but little spoken of New York berg, Yonkers, the 'phonics no frills aptitude geared more towards traditional; un-twangy rock that was often just a riff or two shy of full blown power pop.  When playing to their janglier strengths they would have slotted in nicely with colleagues like the Windbreakers, Dreams So Real and Fire Town.  Get the Picture?, the combo's second and final record, is a thoroughly listenable affair, if not consistently rousing.  Rockphonics catch fire on the hooky "Lock and Key," churn up a gutsy. barroom barnstormer in the form of  Picture's title track, and they even get fairly sublime on the harmony soaked "Lost Time."

01. Wild Sun
02. Alright By Me
03. Turning Us Around
04. Lock and Key
05. Lost Time (remix)
06. Get the Picture
07. It's No Crime
08. Different Flavor
09. The Right Hand
10. More Than Me

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Forty. Million. Daggers.

This week it's the bonus material (and only the bonus material) from an expanded reissue of a 1992 indie classic that has earned it's 'seminal' distinction.


Diesel Park West - Shakespeare Alabama demos (1988)

Diesel Park West aren't one of my most powerful hankerings, and maybe not many others as well, but I thought a few of you might enjoy this. My own appreciation of them revolves more around certain songs, not so much entire albums.  These tunes were cut in anticipation of the band's 1989 debut, Shakespeare Alabama.  It's "modern rock" in perhaps the most commercial sense, but there are some real stunners here in the guise of the jangly "All The Myths on Sunday," and the more anthemic "When the Hoodoo Comes."  If you're looking for a few lazy comparisons, DPW run/ran the same gamut as contemporaries Mission UK, latter-80s Alarm, and occasionally Simple Minds.  Like the aforementioned, these Leicester, UK chaps emanated something resembling a social conscience, without ever getting too pious.  This set is well worth checking out, even though the finished versions were minimally revised from these prototypes.

PS: I neglected to mention, this was bundled as a bonus disk with Diesel's 1998 cd, HIPReplacement.

01. Like Princes Do
02. All the Myths on Sunday
03. Bell of Hope
04. Out of Nowhere
05. The Waking  Hour
06. When the Hoodoo Comes
07. Opportunity Crazy
08. Here I Stand
09. Jackie's Still Sad
10. A House Divided
11. Don't Be Scared of the Night
12. What About Us

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Beat Rodeo 7" (1983, Coyote)

I've run into Beat Rodeo's '86 LP Home in the Heart of the Beat, more times than I can possibly recall, but never felt compelled to investigate.  However, when a bargain priced copy of their Coyote Records single was staring me in the face a few years ago, I couldn't pass it up, if only for sleeve...and the pedigree of the label.  The band's moniker is pretty much a dead giveaway to their inevitable Americana leanings, but the bouncy a-side, "What's the Matter" bears their faint (at the very least) absorption of another Coyote staple, The Feelies.  The tunes' flirtation with bluegrass arpeggios and oldies aptitude (think Buddy Holly) really drives this sucker home.  The equally swift and stirring "Mimi" shoehorns in Flying Burrito Bros and Flamin' Groovies inspirations. My only complaint is that the magic doesn't exceed the two-minute mark.

A. What's the Matter
B. Mimi 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Well Wishers - A View From Above (2018) - A brief review.

When you've a proven singer/songwriter and you've situated yourself on a solid, power-pop bedrock, worthy of icons ranging from the Posies to Shoes, and even Sloan, the only logical place to go is down...right?  At the very least consider The Well Wishers fifth full length salvo, A View From Above, a lateral move with intermittent imaginative spurts.  For all intents and purposes, the WW is a one-man show, namely Jeff Shelton, whose been at this game for the better part of three decades, beginning in the mid-90s helming the Spinning Jennies, and this isn't the first time I've covered his music.

Shelton is a stickler for the line-drive approach to performing - a defiant straight shooter armed with a cascade of fuzzy power chords and linear but earnest sentiments.  It's not the most innovative formula, yet "I Like You Better" and "Never Let You Down" are pulled off with an airtight acumen a lot of his peers would be envious of, if only for the fact that he makes it look/sound So. Damn. Easy.  By and large, A View... is cut from the same cloth of earlier WW records like Comes and Goes and Dreaming of the West Coast - so much so these albums sound indistinguishable.  But just when you think he's content to stay on the straight and narrow, we're graced with a few tangents, the bulk of which crop up on the album's second half.  The rumbling "Is it Me, Is it You" plugs into the ballsy swagger of early Cheap Trick, "Ways and Means" is a subdued slice of lilting jangle, and "New Fade Out" eschews the power pop penchant almost altogether in favor of a something distinctly more contemplative than what we're accustom to hearing from Shelton.  All and all, not a bad place for WW neophytes to jump in, and there's plenty here to keep his loyal listeners piqued. 

A View From Above is available as we speak via Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Movie - Milking the Masters Vol. 7 (1987, Good Foot)

Seems a good bunch of you really appreciated a 1986 album I shared a few years back, Hearts in Clubs, by a San Fran outfit dubbed Blue Movie.   Pretty much ever since that original 2014 entry I've been sitting on the band's follow up, Milking The Masters Vol. 7, so I shan't sit on it one day more. With the Hearts record, I drew analogies between Blue Movie and REM.  That's still applicable to bits and pieces of Milking... but overall this one's a little more diverse, not to mention a tad freewheeling.  At the very least the album jacket is demonstrably representative of that.  Blue Movie do the trick for me when they operate in traditional indie-rock environs, on hearty nuggets like "Almost, Almost Never Works" and "Window With a Bullet Hole."  Elsewhere, the leadoff "Our Cultural Mission" faintly flirts with cowpunk, a la '80s Meat Puppets, and the horn-laden "Revolution Dream" angles in the vicinity of the Minutemen's latter day, non-punk experiments.  Indeed there's wildly divergent vibes popoulating Milking... and even some selections that should have stayed on the Scotch reel, namely the especially egregious "Tammy's on the Telephone."  But fear not, don't let that dissuade you from delving into this otherwise decent LP, which by the way was produced by the Dead Kennedy's very own Klaus Flouride

01. Our Cultural Mission
02. Almost, Almost Never Works
03. Family Album
04. Amazing Disappearing Boy
05. Devil's in the Wishing Well
06. Revolution Dream
07. Tammy's on the Telephone
08. Geoffery Lyall's Unconstructed Gumby
09. Freestyle Tattoo
10. untitled
11. Window With a Bullet Hole
12. Boyfriend
13. Jerusalem
14. Dog Song

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I'm all alone whenever we're together...

That "difficult second album" from 1987.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Altered Images - The Peel Sessions 1980-81.

I suppose this one is self explanatory.  I can't purport to be a longtime follower of Scotland's colorful Altered Images, as they never graced my sonar during their original inception.  In fact, it wasn't until a friend encouraged me a few years ago that they were worth investigating beyond their bubbly signature piece, "Happy Birthday."  Correct he was, and I really got hooked on their debut, Happy Birthday, in spite of it's ubiquitous title track.  I was delighted to discover some genuinely edgy, post-punk nuggets "Beckoning Strings" and the even more serrated "Midnight," which oddly enough I found reminiscent of early U2.  Those tunes and more made an appearance on a clutch of Altered Images Peel Sessions.  There are three sessions total here, the first two cut around the Happy Birthday era, and the third situated during the time they were prepping material for their sophomore LP, Pinky Blue.  The audio quality is indicative of a two or three generation old tape, as the Images Peel recordings never officially made their way into the marketplace.  On the other hand, expanded versions of the band's three studio albums have recently been boxed up by the good people over at Cherry Red Records on convenient five inch aluminum disks, and is a recommended purchase if you find yourself enamored with any/all of these dozen tunes. 

Peel Session - October 14, 1980
01. Dead Pop Stars
02. Insects
03. Beckoning Strings
04. Legionaire

Peel Session - March 10, 1981 
05. A Day's Wait
06. Idols
07. Midnight
08. Jeepster

Peel Session - September 22,  1981
09. Think That it Might
10. Pinky Blue
11. Little Brown Head
12. Song Sung Blue

Friday, April 6, 2018

Mind's I - A House Defiled ep (1988, BBTB)

Falling just shy of cold-case status, Mind's I were a D.C. area trio with an Anglophile tilt to them, almost immediately bringing to mind Cactus World News, Then Jerico and Diesel Park West.  Mildly anthemic, four-minute salvos like "Deadly Love" and "Dreams" do the trick, but these Minds weren't exactly attuned to innovation.  The longer pair of tracks occupying side two of A House Defiled operate on the noir side of fence.  Definitely more brooding, especially the title cut and wearier "Something's Wrong," but fortunately nothing too heavy handed.  Defiled is uniquely a record that only the '80s could have gestated, and the attendant pros and cons are written on the wall.

01. Deadly Love
02. Rank & File
03. Dreams
04. A House Defiled
05. Something's Wrong

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

New Order - Western Works Studio demos, 9/7/80

Like most Joy Division fans, especially Yankees like myself, my discovery of them came significantly after the passing of Ian Curtis.  My connection to this posthumous demigod was likely similar to a lot of yours, having absorbed his catalog during my tumultuous teenage years when I was hit with the triple whammy of romantic despair, existential awareness, and that yearning, burning desire for more independence.  Loved Unknown Pleasures and it's surrounding singles, but thoroughly hated JD's listless, barren second LP, Closer with a red hot passion.  New Order arrived on my radar first, as back then they were at the height of their viability, churning out smart synth-pop salvos like "Bizarre Love Triangle."  It was a little later on when I was exposed to their immediate post-Joy Division endeavors that really made me a believer.

This brief collection of songs constitutes New Order's first recording session, tracked about three months after Curtis' suicide, with a lineup consisting of the surviving three quarters of Joy Division - Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris.  This is New Order in their most sullen and undiluted form, at least two years before certain elements in the record industry "persuaded" them to adopt a cheerier and more commercial tenor.  My two favorite N/O songs materialized from this era - "Ceremony," and "Dreams Never End," and it's a treat to hear these clangy, soon-to-be post-punk songs in their initial stages of development.  "Homage" and "Are You Ready..." were never revisited again, at least not studio-wise apparently.  This is quite literally mourning through music.  Below are some observations from the individual who posted these on the torrent site I procured them from.  And yes, this particular batch of tunes has been bootlegged profusely over the years, but the audio quality here is pretty exceptional.

In these tracks you can still hear the band's emotions in text and music. Different band members took part on lead vocals: Peter Hook on "dreams never end", Bernard Summer on "hommage", Steve Morris on "ceremony" and "truth". Even Joy Division's and New Order manager Rob Gretton took place behind the microphone and sings at the last song of these recordings.

01 Dreams Never End (mix 1, quieter guitars)
02 Dreams Never End (mix 2, louder guitars)
03 Homage
04 Ceremony
05 Truth
06 Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?

MP3  or  FLAC

Friday, March 30, 2018

Go Four 3 - Six Friends (1987, Zulu)

I can't tell you much about this bygone Vancouver, BC troupe of four: one girl (Roxanne Heichert) and three gents, because info is pretty scant on them, web-wise.  All sorts of pop/rock angles abound here, but there's a pronounced left-of-the-dial bent to Go Four 3.  Maybe a hint of Let's Active or Bangles here and again, albeit with crunchier riffs that wouldn't be far removed from a Cult or early U2 record.  Very little of that patented '80s studio schlock is represented on Six Friends, which is precisely the way I like it.  They must have read my mind.  Their take on The Passions "Africa Mine" is a none-too obvious cover, and drops some serious hints as to where GF3's collective heads were at the time.   An ep from 1985 preceded this that I believe I'll have to get my mitts on.

01. This Time
02. Save Me
03. Kaleidoscopes
04. Colour of Money
05. Right From Wrong
06. Round at Number One
07. One Step Behind
08. Rope
09. Someone
10. Africa Mine
11. Seventh Dream
12. Another World

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fickle Friends - You Are Someone Else (2018, Polydor) - A (not so) brief overview.

Before yours truly was in hysterics over Husker Du, I hung my metaphorical hat on Hall & Oates.  And prior to dousing my senses in all things relating to the Descendents I was diggin' on the likes of Duran Duran.  My point?  Well before your humble and obedient servant got hip to the indie circuit, my budding tastes were situated on mainstream and Top 40 acts.  This was in the early-to-mid '80s just as the window was about to slam irrevocably shut on quality household-name fare.  Circa 1984 you could still routinely find genuinely smart songs on the "straight and narrow" on FM frequencies above 92.1.  Alas, It wouldn't be long before my tastes became more selective and radio playlists became more homogenized.  I moved on, and never quite looked back save for some nicely rebooted reissues from the likes of Tears For Fears and A Flock of Seagulls.

But what if a band/artist came along, say in the mid 20-teens, that angled squarely in the direction of the mainstream but boasted material of such high caliber that they were anything but a guilty pleasure?  Enter Fickle Friends, an impeccably bright and buoyant co-ed, fivesome from Brighton, England.  Before delving much further, most, if not all of you are not accustom to me touting dance-pop records, let alone one this consistently upbeat.  Time to kick that tradition to the curb, because FF's debut, You Are Someone Else is a fantastic and flabbergasting anomaly of an album.  Spearheaded by Natassja "Natti" Shiner, the Friends function at an often breathless pace, but it isn't so much the euphoric tempos that propel them into a field of their own, rather an alluring sophistication.  Over the course of YASE's sixteen songs, Natti and crew cut a sleek, cosmopolitan swath brimming with plush, sumptuous bass, interspersed with spicy guitar fills and some occasional wonky keyboard affectations.  Fickle Friends are one of those rare entities that benefit from their liberally applied polish and sheen.  I can't recall a band that was this nimble and proficient, yet thoroughly approachable.

Not only does YASE pump, pique and lusciously provoke in every conceivable direction, it's an embarrassment of melodic riches.  Monster hooks to the hilt infuse and embed every pore of "Brooklyn," "Lovesick," "Say No More," "Glue," and then some - or more like all.  And even when the tension is ratcheted up on romantic quandaries like "Wake Me Up" and "Midnight," Fickle Friends manage to wind everything down their neon-tinted path as smooth as silk.  There are no legit ballads, per se to be had here, yet the album is strikingly diverse and nuanced in spite of their thankful sidestepping of such mundanities.

This crew deals in genuinely infectious dance grooves without catering to insipid teeny boppers.  How often does that sort of agile negotiation present itself?  It's the kind of record you can play in your bedroom when chilling with your bestie on your hamburger phone, yet would simultaneously sound every bit as relevant pouring out of the speakers in a dimly lit nightclub.  And above all else, the Friends have honest to goodness songs that indelibly sink in like so much India ink on a rented tux.  Practically, a double album's worth of singles unto itself, YASE offers little if any filler, just potential hit-after-hit - "Heartbroken," "Hello, Hello," and "Swim," some of which actually were singles dispensed online over the course of the last three years.

To some, You Are Someone Else may not be a revelation in the most creative sense of the phrase, but in the deluge of empty calories drowning radio stations and streaming venues, Fickle Friends stand in a markedly chic light of their own, and are likely the sweetest confection to emanate from the British isles in years.  They're currently tearing it up live in Europe, have three New York and Cali dates later this spring, and a more exhaustive tour of America is to come this fall.  For those of you Stateside, Amazon is your best route to buy a physical copy of the record, and there are a variety of digital options to choose from here.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

He recorded my friend's band for free. What a nice guy he turned out to be.

The 2001 & 2002 platters from a riff savvy, L.A. indie rock combo who just might remind you of Superdrag.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

J Church - Altamont '99 (1998, AuGoGo)

This is quite the 180 from my Shoes post from a couple nights ago.  J Church are no stranger to these pages, but this might be the last of what I can share given that so many of their records are back in circulation, if only digitally.  The basics: a pop-punk combo from San Francisco (later Austin), whose two-minute songs often had a socio-political bent, but nothing heavy handed.  Ex-Cringer guy Lance Hahn was the band's nucleus and only consistent member duyring J Church's 1991-2007 tenure.  They released an often unrelenting avalanche of singles and full lengths during that time, with a sizeable concentration of them arriving in the '90s.  Melodic, observant, intelligent and even cathartic, all of these attributes could be pinned to J Church - even simultaneously on occasions.  Altamont '99 is a plentiful collection of singles and (mostly) non album material, containing some of Lance's career best including "Undisputed King of Nothing," "Your Shirt" and "Contempt For Modesty," alongside covers by Radiohead, The Smiths and even Guided By Voices."  Lance passed away from natural causes in 2007, but not before leaving behind an immensely prolific legacy. 

1. I Would For You
2. Transvestite Show
3. Your Shirt 
4. Switzerland
5. Without A Single Word
6. Church On Fire
7. Lines
8. Creep
9. Girlfriend In A Coma
10. Racked
11. Mary's Moving Out
12. You Fucking Trick
13. The Dramatic History Of A Boring town
14. 8:28
15. Waiting On The Ground
16. Ayn Rand Is Dead
17. College Station
18. The Undisputed King Of Nothing
19. Snot Rags
20. I Have To Admit...
21. If We Wait...
22. Contempt For Modesty
23. Faye Wong
24. What Should I Do?
25. Plastic
26. You Might Never
27. Crop Circles
28. Alone When She Dies

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shoes - 5/10/14, Bell House, Brooklyn, NY

As the band readily admits between songs, "We don't get out much."  Indeed, It’s not every day that Shoes play out, even in robust markets like New York.  Much to their credit, Zion, IL's power pop mavens did trek due east for the first annual Brooklyn Power Pop Festival in the spring of 2014.  In addition to the billing of the gig, they had a good enough excuse to spread their wings as just two years prior they dropped their tenth, and much belated studio album, Ignition.

For the uninitiated, Shoes were leading lights in the power pop vanguard during the late '70s/'80s, bringing definition and prominence to their chosen genre.  Any whiff of the brothers Murphy (Jeff & John), Gary Klebe, (and for this performance) Johnny Richardson on percussion, in the twenty-first century is nothing short of an event for Shoes obsessives.  Granted, their pipes aren't quite as pristine as they were three decades earlier, but their overarching approach at this 2014 concert was just as nimble and airtight as their halcyon days.  In addition to a devastating volley of classics like "Burned Out Love," "Too Late," "Tomorrow Night," and "Love is Like a Bullet," they excavate some particularly deep tracks from Stolen Wishes, and all the way back to Black Vinyl Shoes.  You'll hear plenty of newer cuts too, on this superb audience recording that can often boarder on a soundboard tape.  I've made this available in MP3 and FLAC below. 

01. Intro
02. Head vs Heart
03. Hangin' Around With You
04. When It Hits
05. Your Devotion
06. Say It Like You Mean It
07. Mayday
08. Too Late
09. Don't Do This To Me
10. Love Is Like A Bullet
11. Curiosity
12. Boys Don't Lie/Do You Wanna Get Lucky?
13. She'll Disappear
14. Your Very Eyes
15. In My Arms Again
16. Burned Out Love
17. Torn In Two
18. The Summer Rain
19. Heaven Help Me
20. Feel The Way That I Do
21. Tomorrow Night
22. Hot Mess
23. She Satisfies
24. Capital Gaina
25. encore break
26. I Don't Miss You
27. Hate To Run

MP3 (320)  or   FLAC

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I saw the light but I missed the heat.

Another batch of four eps, including two that are quite recent.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Means - Of Communication (1981, Spurious)

It appears The Means called Downey, CA home, but otherwise they were a bit all of over the map...yet never quite lost. "Talk it Over" has a sprite, staccato-y guitar line and wave-ish synths, "Russian Roulette" finagles with a catchy dollop of two-tone, blue eyed-ska, and "Fryin' Pan" excavates a fine vein of power pop, a la the Knack and early Joe Jackson. A good bit of the remainder of Of Communication isn't as memorable, but another keeper, "Love's Too Bad" has a skip towards the end that I couldn't remedy.  Take it or leave it.

01. Talk it Over
02. Russian Roulette
03. Love's Too Bad
04. Roomate
05. Fryin' Pan
06. In My Mind
07. In Your Eyes

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

45 Spiders - Mizu No Oto (1998, Deep Reverb)

I featured one of 45 Spiders other albums, Standard Forms of Communication, when this site was still in it's relative infancy. I think I appreciated that one more than Mizu No Oto, and having said that, I also have to concede that this co-ed D.C. trio weren't exactly the pinnacle of their forte, specifically indie rock.  Truth is though, there's really no one in their class around these days, playing the "thoughtful albeit challenging" card, a la bands of their ilk from yesteryear like Versus, Seam, and even Yo La Tengo circa Electr-o-Pura.

Skittish webs of guitar, spindly dissonance and a mildly downer undercurrent go a long way in defining Mizu No Oto.  The shorter tunes ("Derive" and "Everything Goes") tend to be the more memorable ones here, but the entire record is worth investigating.  Enjoy (you will).

01. Go Plum Crazy
02. Crescendo Until Howling
03. Derive
04. Speed Fiends do Glover Park
05. The Unfolding of The Rest Of Her Life
06. Everything Goes
07. Mizu No Oto

Sunday, March 11, 2018

They make children...not like this one...

The bonus disk, and only the bonus disk from an expanded reissue of a seminal debut album, circa 1980.


Catching up with Saint Marie Records - Amusment Parks on Fire, Miniatures, and more.

There aren't many record labels I follow, much less one whose entire roster is at the very least acquaintance-worthy (if not always fanboy-worthy).  Saint Marie Records is one of those rare exceptions for me, much like Sub Pop and Matador were in the '90s, however S/M's focus is on dream-pop, both present and past.  Here's a roundup of some of their latest - and quite possibly greatest.

Amusement Parks on Fire have been one of my go-to bands since I caught wind of their debut in the mid '00s.  Based in Nottingham, England they just so happened to bear a resemblance to their London neighbors to the south, My Vitriol.  Both groups employed heaps of effects and amps, but APOF drew more from the shoegazer side of the noisome spectrum (think Swervedriver meets Loveless), and better yet released three glorious records and about a half dozen eps between their initial 2004-10 lifespan.  Fronted by Michael Feerick, it seemed the Parks never lived a moment when they're weren't excelling, even if it fell like they were literally the best kept secret in music.

Their third album, Road Eyes appeared in 2010 and was as incomprehensibly good as their previous
offerings.  Eyes was a near-concussive sprawl of amped-out riffs, wily dynamics and sweet penetrating hooks, packing just enough woozy shoegaze aplomb to distinguish themselves from...well, anybody, when you come right down to it. You could say APOF were equal parts cumulus clouds and freshly laid asphalt, sparking a visceral but grounded rush to whomever was in earshot.  "Flashlight Planetarium," "Echo Park" and the title piece were plenty blissful, but engulfingly cinematic in scope to boot.  Frankly, it all felt a little too good to be true - and in reality it sorta was, because in the wake of Road Eyes they disbanded.

In 2017, APOF reconvened and before the year was out, so was a new single, "Our Goal to Realize," virtually picking up right were they'd left things on Road Eyes, in a gauzy haze of feedback and melody.  In addition, to the new 45, Saint Marie just issued an expanded version of Road Eyes, exactly doubling it in length with a whole 'nother nine-song LP consisting of b-sides, demos and unreleased scree.  It's available in modest quantities on black and splatter colored vinyl directly from the label.  You can also get your digital fix there, or if you prefer Bandcamp or iTunes.

By Jove, it’s as if I’ve located Cocteau’s…Twin!  And it only took 35 years.  In all seriousness, New Zealand by way of Australia's  Miniatures are wholly unrelated to Elizabeth Fraser, et al, but they exude so much of the sonic dazzlement their forbearers made their calling card, it’s hard to underemphasize the comparison.   In spite of everything they cull from the not-too-distant past, Miniatures gracefully tuck in their own billowy endowments.  Their debut, Jessamines, is dream pop in the most epitomizing sense of the term, spilling out an engulfing glaze of chiming chords, and Annemarie Duff’s ethereal vocal prowess.  It’s reverie-inducing stuff for sure, and if you’re anything like me you’ll gladly forgive them for employing that relentless drum machine.  Jessamines is in fact not just one of the ten best nu-gaze albums of 2017, but perhaps the decade itself.  A must, must listen, and you can do so straight from Saint Marie, Bandcamp, and the usual digital vendors.

Last but not least we have the sixth installment in the Saint Marie's Static Waves compilation series, a double disk CD that serves not only as a label sampler, but a treat for dedicated supporters can hear a spate of previously unreleased goodies.  The aforementioned Parks and Miniatures make a showing, as well as primo stablemates Presents for Sally, Snow in Mexico, Bloody Knives, Secret Shine and Spotlight Kid, but the gravy for me was a really cool volley of remakes.  We Need Secrets take on the Lily's early nugget "Claire Hates Me," Crash City Saints do a splendid job with OMD's "Souvenir," and a subdued interpretation of New Order's "Regret" is handled by Lotte Kestner.  And if you want some icing atop said gravy, Jeff Runnings of For Against renown donates an exclusive demo, "Watch," dating back to 1988!  Another embarrassment of riches, and the price tag is attractive to match.  Get it right from the source here.  BTW, be on the lookout for reissues of For Against's 1990s catalog soon, or better yet, check out the Pledgemusic campaign to fund it.