Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Critics - Braintree (1995, Black Vinyl)

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
04. L-O-V-E
05. You Can't Lie
06. Got No Heart
07. Surprise Surprise
08. I Feel Sorry For You
09. Meltdown
10. We're All Lonely
11. Lucky Thing

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Poster Children - Grand Bargain (2018, Lotuspool) - A brief review

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.

Grand Bargain! is available direct from Lotuspool Records, The P Kids webstore, Amazon and iTunes.  Lotuspool were also recently responsible for a spiffy vinyl reissue of the aforementioned, Daisychain Reaction, and if that weren't enough, Rick and Rose do a splendid podcast, Radio Zero, that I can't recommend highly enough.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

You're racing with the wind, you're flirting with death - so have a cup of coffee and catch your breath.

It's summer.  A little guilty pleasure never hurt

**Comments are permitted, EXCEPT for revealing the name of the artist**


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Rank Strangers - Target 7" (1997, Veto)

Damn, where has this band been all my life?  Minneapolis, MN from what I understand, but it wasn't 'til last year that I caught wind of them via this used single.  Looked the Rank Strangers up for the first time this week, and was pleasantly surprised to learn they have a fairly deep catalog featuring no less than eight LPs, and almost as many shorter releases.  This wax is the extent I've experienced the Strangers so far, and while I hesitate to make any broad stroke generalities, the A side, "Target" is awash in proto-punk aesthetics brimming with raw, nervy production a la the Velvets and significantly more so the snider panache of Iggy and the Stooges.  "Planetarium" packs almost as much attitude, and while a tad less frenetic, these gents accent the proceedings with spicy guitar fills reminiscent of ABKCO-era Stones.  Simply put, the Rank Strangers don't bear a smidgen of '90s sonic trappings - an astonishing feat given their era.

If you dig, check out their webstore.  Most of the CDs are a reasonable $10, with vinyl full-lengths priced not much higher.

A. Target
B. Planetarium

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Woodies - Five Years From Now (1987, Pop)

My recent post of The Woodies '89 ep Train Wreck went over big with a lot of you, so I thought I'd share one of their prior convictions.  More of that tasty collegiate indie rock manna with a homespun angle, that for the record was several notches above lo-fi.  By and large these guys (and girl) churned out some quality tunes, not terribly far removed from say, the Windbreakers, early Trotsky Icepick and such.  The first half of Five Years From Now is well above average, and the flip side, while exhibiting some occasional dabs of lyrical clumsiness is still refreshingly genuine.  I really wish more bands had followed in the Woodies humble albeit gratifying footsteps.

01. Fate to Be Late
02. You and He
03. Five Years
04. Potential Drop
05. Mirror
06. Soldier
07. She's the One
08. Kicks
09. A Little Night Music
10. Let You Up
11. Rave Up (unlisted track)

Sunday, July 8, 2018

What's best for everyone is killing me.

Thoughtful modern rock from 2002 with a graceful singer/songwriter acumen.

**As a friendly reminder, please do NOT reveal the artist(s) in the comments.**  Been a real problem as of late. There's a reason why I refer to these as "mysteries!"


Re-ups galore.

Have fun.

The Posies - Broadcasts - Vols. 1,2,3,4,5,6 & 7
Wondermints - covers/demos
The Purdins - Greatest Hits & 7" ep
Nubs - Job 7"
Reivers - End of the Day demos & Saturday demos
Revelons - Anthology
Phantom Tollbooth - 1985 demo
Ten Inch Men - Hours n Pain ep
Buzz Hungry - At the Hands of Our Intercessors
Viola Peacock - The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter
The Stockings - Red Tango
Wishniaks - Nauseous and Cranky ep
Screaming Believers - Communist Mutants From Space
Rail - two eps
V/A - I'm In Love With That Song - Australian tribute to the Replacements
V/A - Blatant Doom Trip - Guided By Voices tribute
V/A - Dirt
fig. 4 (Tobin Sprout) - s/t cd
Porcelain Boys - Away Awhile, Away Awhile demos, singles, Fetish for Female tape, Live 1989
Jettison - Search for the Gun Girl
Sister Ray - No Way to Express
Honest Injun - Rosenthal Effect
Everready - Fairplay
Doc Hopper/Bollweevils - split single 
Jet Black Berries - Sundown on Venus
Chris Sievey (Freshies) - Big Record
Downsiders - All My Friends Are Fish 
Right as Rain - Undertown & s/t ep
Buford - 7" ep
Airlines - tape
Ozma - Songs of (In)Audible Trucks and Cars
Ridel High - Recycle Bin
Radio Bandits - s/t ep
Classic Ruins - Ruins Cafe
The Crime - Crash City USA ep
Brave Tears - Silver in the Darkness ep & 7"
Cartoons - Toys of Destruction ep
Full Moon Tan - s/t ep
Blue TV - Back in Time 7"
Trusty - Kathy's Keen 7"
The Trans Megetti - Rent a Rocket 7"
Autumn Clock - Ready Set Apple Pies ep
Chune - Burnt 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

fuflej - the microwave ep (1995, Scratchie)

The modicum of buzz fulflej were accorded seemed to dissipate not longer after this ep and a subsequent album, Wack-Ass Tube Riff, hit the market in 1995 and '96, respectively.  Then again, these Richmond, VA rawkers had a lot of competition in the mid-90s from considerably more sizable entities that were exuding a similar vibe...say like the Smashing Pumpkins.  Ironically, Scratchie Records was a boutique label helmed by the Pumpkins own James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky.  Much to their credit, fulflej differentiated themselves from those Corgan crunch-addled titans by embracing a woozier dream-pop bent, exemplified marvelously on microwave's most effective salvos, "Merely" and "Parallel to Gravity."  Whether they were conscious of it or not, fulfej had some excellent like-minded contemporaries in their midst to boot - Monsterland, Majesty Crush, and even their hometown's primo Fudge.  This record's title piece is probably the band's most relatively renown song, a long-winded, Luddite anthem of sorts wherein the protagonist extols on the virtues of being sans a VCR, and yes (you guessed it) a microwave.  A nice article on the band and a link to supplemental fulflej listening can be visited at your leisure here.

01. work in this universe
02. microwave
03. shells
04. merely
05. parallel to gravity

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Alerta - In the Land of a Thousand Pretty Dreams (1983, Welfare Factory)

It wasn't my initial observation regarding this Dutch combo, but their moniker conjures up the name of an over-the-counter antihistamine or something.  With that out of the way, what led to my investigation of Alerta was a connection to one of my fave '90s dream-pop wunderkinds The Nightblooms.  Specifically, it was Alerta guitar slinger Harry Otten who made said migration, but these lads didn't emanate anything approaching the shoegazer realm themselves.  No, Alerta were doggedly post-punk, mid-tempo in pace at that, purloining a trick or two from early (and I mean early) Siouxsie and Killing Joke, while loosely touching on Joy Division U2, and even Crass label alums Rudimentary Peni.  Plenty of noir and existential-lite mystique abounds, with no shortage of echo-y guitars.

...Land of a Thousand Pretty Dreams' initial volley of tunes are Alerta's most convincing, but further in, while many a song threatens to escalate to a fiery and billowy crescendo things level off in limbo without truly reaching an assumed zenith.  Problematic, as so much of this record's potential is blunted due to that frustrating scenario.  I wouldn't let that chase you away however, because if anything else this trio had enough forward thinking ideas to keep me engaged.  The two added tracks at the end were from a split ep Alerta did with the far more prolific The Ex.  You can read a fairly informative article about this album over at Son of Eet U Smakelijk blog.  Just make sure to scroll down a spell.

Finally, since I don't actually own this record, I'd like to tip a shot of whiskey to whomever was thoughtful enough to rip it.  Thanks to Discogs for the sleeve art. 

01. Jill, Jack & John
02. Jester
03. Suddenly Last Summer
04. An Accidental Man
05. Between Four Walls
06. Rascal Jack
07. Cristobel
08. Possession
09. Atlanta 24
10. Latin Fever
11. Mask
12. Princess Daisy
13. Living Circus

From Red Dance Package ep, split w/ The Ex
14. Violet Days
15. Park Avenue

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The driver said, "Hey man, we go all the way."

EP time again.  Four of them to be exact, from four disparate artists spanning just as many decades.  Some absolute gems.  Perhaps the best of these piecemeal collections I've shared to date.

**As a friendly reminder, please do NOT reveal the artist(s) in the comments.**  Been a real problem as of late. There's a reason why I refer to these as "mysteries!"


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sunbirds - No Sun No Shadow (1986 & 1997)

Chico, CA has never been much of a musical epicenter, but for the lucky few that made their acquaintance with a local mid-80s trio dubbed Sunbirds, that northern Cali locale must have been all the more sacred.  During their initial run, circa '86, (The) Sunbirds had made little in the way of music for public consumption and wouldn't reconvene until eleven years later.  Six songs apiece from each of these eras were compiled onto the archival, No Sun No Shadow in 2003.  With connections to other area left-of-the-dial outfits like Barbara Manning's 28th Day, The Downsiders, and even local yokels Vomit Launch, the Sunbirds naturally exuded an indie rock disposition.  On the nascent recordings that comprise the second half of No Sun... the band's penchant for clangy, jangle-laced guitar maneuvers and achingly endowed vocals, courtesy of one Cole Marquis, could have easily begged comparisons to early REM.  I can also draw parallels to Sunbirds contemporaries the Pedaljets and Libertines (Ohio) in large part to the lo-fidelity, rough hewn angularities of "Three Easy Steps" and "Old Black Crow," the latter bearing an opening salvo that mimics Bauhaus' "Bela Legosi's Dead," before settling into something more indigenous.

The 1997 reunion songs (represented on the first half of the CD) speak volumes about Sunbird's development as players.  Despite a samey-ness factor, the material throughout No Sun... is succulent ear candy to a fault.  Yes, much of what's here could have benefited from better recording facilities, but all of that tape hiss and analog ambiance are part of this compilation's charm.

01. Rocket
02. Only in Their Dreams
03. No Sun No Shadow
04. Breathtaking
05. Three Easy Steps
06. Don't Rewind

07. Mudslide
08. Old Black Crow
09. She's Alright
10. Only in their Dreams
11. No Sun No Shadow
12. Three Easy Steps

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cuban Heels - Work Our Way to Heaven (1981, Virgin)

For a band whose lone marketplace offering was just one measly punk 45 in 1977, Scotland's Johnny and the Self Abusers nevertheless contained members that would spin off into the eventual world renown Simple Minds (Jim Kerr to be specific)...and this band.  The Cuban Heels, which entailed the involvement of ex-Abusers Michael McNeil, John Milarky and Tony Donald, had something a bit less lofty and pious in mind than Kerr and his long running offshoots, and all the better for it as evidenced by Work Our Way to Heaven

The near-spotless first half of the album in question often rocks out like a sturdier XTC - tuneful, smart and dare I say a good couple of years before it's time.  "Liberty Park" and "A Matter of Time" are but a couple of inspired standouts. Side two finds the Heels milling about in a couple of different orbits.  The hepped up dance rock of "Walk on Water" and "Hard Times" sound downright frivolous by comparison, and "Coming Up for Air" is a strikingly subdued chamber music piece.  The title track is loosely similar to some of Public Image Ltd's more structured 'pop' dabblings, and the finale "My Colours Fly" is assertive and lively as anything found on Heaven's better half.  It would prove to the Heels sole full length, but roughly half a dozen singles surrounded it.  All of these songs collected in one tidy spot would make for a splendid reissue (hint, hint).

01. Liberty Hall
02. Move Up a Grade
03. Where the Days Go
04. A Matter of Time
05. Homes for Heroes
06. The Old School Song
07. Walk on Water
08. Hard Times
09. Coming Up for Air
10. Work Our Way to Heaven
11. My Colours Fly

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Reivers (Zeitgeist) - KUT Radio, Austin 11/11/85

A lot of you have gotten a charge out of my Reivers postings over the years, specifically their debut Translate Slowly, and demos for subsequent albums Saturday and End of the Day, so I thought I'd share this companion piece of sorts.  Tracked in late 1985 at Austin's publicly funded left-of-the-dial outlet KUT FM, this in-studio session isn't some mere four or five song pittance, rather a bona fide full length concert.  It followed on the heels of Translate Slowly, when the band was still going by their original moniker of Zeitgeist (which is how they're referred to by the DJ during this taping.  Part of Austin's so-called "new sincerity" movement, the co-ed Reivers hinted at the-then burgeoning indie-rock aplomb of combos like REM and Let's Active while incorporating a rootsy tenor that never went unnoticed. 

Given the era of the performance, the better part of the aforementioned debut makes the setlist, including many a crucial selection like "Sound and the Fury," "Freight Train Rain" and "Araby" a;; wonderfully present and accounted for.  But Reivers aficionados were in for an even sweeter treat with the preview of tunes that would populate the quartet's second album, Saturday, by way of that record's title track, "Ragamuffin Man," and "Secretariat."  And what would an in-studio gig by a hipster contingent like these folks be without a tasteful cover or two (or three)?  Bruce Springsteen's "Fire" makes the cut, alongside the band's penultimate number for the evening, a fairly reverent traipse through "The Cowboy Song."  Not unsurprisingly there's abundance of friendly and even cheeky banter throughout.  Enjoy in your choice of MP3 or FLAC (though the FLAC bitrate isn't particularly high.  I didn't rip it, I swear!).

01. intro
02. Without my Sight
03. What Am I Doing
04. Saturday
05. Peanuts theme
06. Ragamuffin Man
07. Once in a While
08. In Your Eyes
09. Sound and the Fury
10. band intros
11. Freight Train Rain
12. Hill Country theme
13. Cowboys
14. She Digs Ornate
15. Fire
16. Secretariat
17. chat/Things Don't Change
18. Cowboy Song
19. Araby

MP3  or   FLAC

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twilight Idols - Beyond Good and Evil (1986, Twilight/Yet You)

Never evil but only inconsistently good, I took a chance on this Twilight Idols platter based largely on the intriguing album jacket.  Ostensibly hailing from the L.A. area circa the mid-80s I reckoned I might have something paisley in store, but once again, my expectations were nowhere near the dartboard.  No, Beyond Good... was more akin to surly indie rock accented with traces of post-punk.  Leading 'light' Gary Robert who loosely bears a timbre to David Byrne, strikes a compromise between speaking/singing, but this record's deficit of bona fide hooks presents a problem with such a vocal model.  To their credit, the Idols actually come quite close to nailing it on "Time is Fashion," and if anything else, I appreciate the sprite, aggro pulse of "I Live For Today" and "Gonna Tell on You."  I don't believe this trio's lifespan extended past the record in question, which is unfortunate, as I'm curious to what their progression might have yielded.

01. Let's Go
02. I Live For Today
03. In Demand
04. You Don't Know Me
05. Time is Fashion
06. Gonna Tell on You
07. Rising Above It
08. What's Wrong
09. Next Day Was Ok

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This one is on the house...

Actually, everything in this join is on the who am I kidding?  I'll try to get a full length of some sort up for you tomorrow, but today there's this.  A Guided By Voices single that was an exclusive bonus with issue #37 of Fear and Loathing zine...that just so happens to be worth quite a bit more than I would've guessed.  The Brighton Rocks single supplies us with a mere two songs, tracked live from a September 1995 GBV performance in Brighton, UK.  Both "Hot Freaks" and "Game of Pricks appear on one side of the record with about a minutes worth of typical Bob Pollard banter preceding the tunes.  Pretty much a no brainer that they went with the most popular tunes from their catalog, though "Freaks" kinda wore out it's welcome with me by the time this 45 hit the racks.  Enjoy in either MP3 or FLAC.

A1. Hot Freaks
A2. Game of Pricks

MP3  or  FLAC

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Open up your eyes just to check that you're asleep again.

From 1982. 


The Wishniaks - Catch 33 (1990, Bloodmoney)

I was a profound Johnny come lately when it came to this bunch of Philly wunderkinds, whose 1988 Nauseous and Cranky ep I posted a couple years ago.  And voila, here's The Wishniak's follow-up Catch 33, a continuation of this quartet's melange of Stonesy grit and the more progressive elements of their era of powerpop (think, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon productions).  Honing memorable, deftly crafted tunes were at the apex of their priorities, and even though the Wishniaks weren't ones to delve into any particular extreme, their earnestness, just-right hooks and an innate mastery of succinct and forward thinking songs like "Marcy's Gone," "New Zealand" and "Day to End All Days" exuded a warmth and charisma most current acts would trade a collective left nut for.  And believe it or not, their rendition of the Scientists "Frantic Romantic" here is one of the comparative low-lights in this gratifying baker's dozen.

01. Day to End All Days
02. One Eye Open
03. Monterey
04. Chestnut Hill
05. Marcy's Gone
06. By the Lights
07. She's the One
08. Summertime
09. Catch 33
10. Tumbling Diwn
11. Terry's Next
12. New Zealand
13. Frantic Romantic

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Senses Bureau ‎- Love And Industry ep (1986, Euroamerican) & Edge of the Wedge - Chime ep (1984, EW)

Ok, decided to fulfill a couple of requests...for records I don't actually own.  Was able to track down digital files of them however, and pretty clean and discernible ones at that.  While I can't offer much in the way of a history of either the Senses Bureau or Edge of the Wedge, I'll be happy to reveal a few precious shreds of personal insight.

The Senses Bureau seemed intent on bifurcating their Love and Industry ep, ostensibly as a means to illustrate their conflicting sonic motifs.  The first two songs, "Dress for Success" and the title track are firmly cut from pedestrian post-punk cloth (think, The Fixx, maybe C.S. Angels).  Fairly convincing at that I might add, but the remainder of this record mines a less encumbered, singer/songwriter bent, one that's rote and sometimes too nondescript for the Bureau's own good.   Quite frankly, Love and Industry often resembles the work of two distinct artists - but I can think of far worse ways to kill twenty minutes.

Edge of the Wedge however had something more consistent going for them, at least on what appears to be their lone EP.   Five decent, if not halfway to that point, slices of low-key wave-pop is what these Louisiana residents bequeathed to listeners almost 35 years ago in the guise of Chime.  There were some cheeky undertones for sure baked into a couple of their tunes (see "Animated Lover"), but never overpowering enough to mar an otherwise benign listening experience.  A create reinterpretation of the Kink's "You Really Got Me" caps off this nifty five-songer.  Enjoy (or not).

The Senses Bureau - Love and Industry ep
01. Dress for Sex
02. Love and Industry
03. Big Brother
04. Push & Pull
05. Bellie du Jour
06. Lost for Words

Edge of the Wedge - Chime ep
01. She Loves by #s
02. You're the One
03. Tu Dois
04. Animated Lover
05  You Really Got Me

Senses Bureau:
Edge of the Wedge:

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Eurogliders - Pink Suit Blue Day (1982)

So...these folks down under never had much of a Stateside following.  My intro to the Eurogliders?  None other than a cameo appearance in an Aussie b-movie called Fast Talking.  Sort of an Oz variation on the classic Matt Dillon flick, Over the Edge, albeit with a significantly lower budget.  As Fast Talking grew on me, so did the tune the Eurogliders were performing, specifically "Another Big Day in the Big World."  However when I got around to hearing the album version of that song (on the band's 1984 This Island LP) I was dismayed by it's far glossier and brighter arrangement.  Still, I was game to investigate any of the band's earlier offerings, which perhaps promised to be a bit less slick. 

I was in luck upon learning of the existence of a previous album, Pink Suit Blue Day, which I'm offering up for public consumption.  Helmed by Grace Knight, the 'gliders vibe was on the new wave tip for certain, but as far as this platter goes decidedly non-formulaic at that.  Occasionally lacking in focus, and sometimes regrettably in song quality, Pink Suit... would have been better pared down to a more consistent ep -  yet it's the most intriguing feather in the band's collective cap by a long shot.  Amidst some of the misfires (the bulk of which are at least listenable) there are a gaggle of promising melodic pieces in the guise of "Touching Me," "No Laughing Matter" and "Magneto."  I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the opening track, "Jeepney Talk" is a primo merger of guitars and snyths, though I could do without some of the robotic affectations on Knight's vocals.  The band achieved a significantly more lucrative payout with the aforementioned This Island and '85s Absolutely! 

Incidentally, I previously featured a record by a combo dubbed The Stockings, who contained future Eurogliders guitarist Bernie Lynch.

01. Jeepney Talk
02. Without You
03. Through Your Window
04. Laughing Matter
05. Darkest Hours
06. Get Me Out of Here
07. Touching Me
08. On the Nightline
09. Time
10. Magneto
11. Americans

Sunday, June 10, 2018

You'll get hurt if you play with crooks.

One of the finest career summations ever.


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Cripples - What's in a Name ep (1985, Tabb)

Maybe you can't judge a book by it's cover...but records are an entirely different matter.  I'm not sure if the fellow on the album sleeve is Cripples mouthpiece Shawn O'Brien, but whomever is striking that rather pointed pose would probably suggest to the potential listener they might be in for a cheeky listen, to say the least. O'Brien, as they say, is a character, more specifically one that possesses a timbre that sounds like a sardonic amalgam of Buster Poindexter and Huey Lewis.  His bandmates however aren't quite on the same page, conjuring up the feel of the Plimsouls and to a lesser degree the Flamin' Groovies on the winsome and melodic title piece.  Elsewhere, these players are patently '80s.  Without a doubt, O'Brien is the heart, soul and crutches of the Cripples, so if you ain't down with his none-too-serious m.o. What's in a Name might grate on your nerves a tad.  I'd still give this a whirl, if only because I appreciate where these chaps are coming from musically.

By the way, the Cripples made an appearance on the soundtrack to the 1980 flick, Cruising.

01. What's in a Name
02. Easy Access
03. Heart Like a Boxer (For Lisa)
04. Real to Real

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Woodies - Train Wreck ep (1989, Pop)

Here's another dose of "lost" '80s pop, this time hailing from Tampa, FL.  Train Wreck was the co-ed Woodies second record and if anything else, it's pretty much impossible not to tout the album's duo of driving, propulsive rockers that bookend this six song affair, "Part of My Act" and "Penelope Says."  Two primo numbers that would've sounded perfectly at home on any left-of-the-dial outlet of the era, not to mention the kind of splendid tuneage Wilfully Obscure has staked it's reputation on.  The four remaining songs plucked from the Woodie's Wreckage vary, with pleasing flourishes like some well-placed mandolin in "My Muslim Wife," while the bouncy, simpleton tact of "Pretty Brown Eyes" flirts with, you guessed it, power pop.

01. Part of My Act
02. My Muslim Wife
03. The Doctor
04. Stuck in Purgatory
05. Pretty Brown Eyes
06. Penelope Says
07. untitled instrumental

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Life full of chemicals...

This week it's 24 blasts of Weezer-esque punk pop goodness.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Chris Richards and the Subtractions - Peaks and Valleys (2018, Furtureman) - A brief review.

It ain't exactly all river deep, mountain high on the latest from Detroit-area denizens, Chris Richard and the Subtractions on Peaks and ValleysAs you might expect, their latest pitches a few variables, including a serene ballad or two, but writ large Peaks finds the quartet elevating themselves to a different plateau than where they were stationed on 2012's Get Yer La La's Out.

Specializing in power pop with a refined and classicist touch, Richard's and Co. don't exactly exude an aptitude in the manner of Shoes and Smithereens, so much as the more nuanced mannerisms of the Gin Blossoms, Dillon Fence and Velvet Crush.  In fact, Peaks and Valleys showcases the band at a similar vantage point to where Teenage Fanclub were situated around the era of Songs From Northern Britain.  With this kind of maturity and seasoning comes attendant savvy and sophistication, which you'll find in spades on "Just Another Season" and "The Coast is Clear." Even with a more lucid vision and tact than ever, these guys manage to sidestep anything approaching stodgy or ostentatious.  Aggression, however, is in much more minimal supply on Peaks.  But despite the lack of power chord melees, there are some heightened tempos infiltrating the likes of "Half Asleep," and a little further in the tense and relatively angsty "Call Me Out."  "In a Sense" piles on some serious harmonies, while the album's penultimate track is none other than a faithful remake of Big Star's "Thirteen," decked out in piano just as much guitars.

Listening to Peaks, even at a cursory level, you can't escape the notion that you've been here before, if only for the fact this quartet aren't attempting to invent, recreate or even outdo much of...anything.  The Subtractions premise is pretty elementary - expertly structured and carefully measured pop that's succulent and ripe for the picking, which is precisely what you'll get on this tight but gracefully lived-in outing.

Peaks and Valleys is available physically and otherwise straight from the band, their Bandcamp site, Amazon and digitally on iTunes.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Röövel Ööbik ‎- History Of The U.S.S.R. ep (1989, Stupido)

And we have our first Estonian entry.  For reals yo.  Röövel Ööbik wafted their way onto my radar a couple years ago, most likely through a genre search on Ebay, but I can't recall for certain.  Their moniker translates to "Robber Nightingale."  Going by the sleeve art and brief liner notes, it appears Röövel fancied their ethos as punk, yet from the sound of it they seemed to take a shine to American indie rock, angling towards the lo-fi and to a lesser extent, emo variations thereof.  Delivering their lines in an apparent merger of Estonian and English automatically lends some mystique to this quartet, however this chip off the 'ol Soviet bloc has a unique sonic aesthetic to boot, often rich in sweet ringing guitar lines and fuzzy distortion.

To get an idea of where Röövel Ööbik's heads were at in terms of a social conscience at the time of this recording, check out this blurb from the record insert:

Estonia has been for over 50 years a part of the Sovjet Union, thanks to Hitler-Stalin pact.  It is only now that they have started to claim their lost independence back.  And one good weapon is always music.

Was this little 'ol record part of that collective "weapon" that helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989?  Probably not, but it's pretty inviting nonetheless, particularly the second cut in, "The Dead Ones."  Things unravel on History's caterwaul of a closer “Handguide to Happiness,” but I wouldn't let that dissuade you from passing this ep up.  Believe it or not, there's more to be had from Röövel on Amazon downloads.

My apologies for the fairly discernible skip in the midst of the title track.  I was unable to adequately remedy it.

01. History Of The U.S.S.R.
02. The Dead Ones
03. C'mon Cheri
04. God Morning
05. Handguide to Happiness

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Cry - s/t (1980, RCA)

I'm not sure if the then-ascendant Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson made a genuine impression on this Canuck five-some, or if these guys mined a little bit of their collective panache to hop onto the bandwagon.  In any event, The Cry certainly sound sincere, wielding a blue collar penchant with something resembling a poignant romantic aptitude.  The band these fellows most immediately remind me of are the tragically obscure A's, a Philly combo who were in existence simultaneously to The Cry.  The Elvis comparison is all the more obvious when Robo MacPherson gets the frequent urge to pound on some very organ-y sounding keys.  Another wrinkle is frontman Kimball Fox, whose timbre occasionally recalls Tom Petty, but that could well be a coincidence.   While not a front-to-back embarrassment of riches, The Cry by and large make their debut count, and it just might compel you to investigate the rest of their catalog, which from what I can tell entails two more LPs.

PS: Track three is a Kinks tune.

01. Crackdown
02. Something Like That
03. I'm Not Like Everybody Else
04. Last Laugh
05. Guitar
06. Can't Get Close
07. You
08. Razor's Edge
09. Little Sister
10. Who Cares

Sunday, May 27, 2018

We all got balls and brains, but some's got balls and chains.

The zaniest and perhaps greatest covers album ever. 


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tinted Windows - The Bat Bar, Austin 3/21/09, SXSW

Two members of the short lived and briefly hallowed Tinted Windows had legit power pop bona fides to their credit - Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick, and Adam Schlesinger, courtesy of Fountains of Wayne.  Yet the other half of this supergroup equation, James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins) and frontman Taylor Hanson (from you know where) came from backgrounds that weren't terribly off the mark, and they jumped into their respective rolls of guitarist and lead vocalist seamlessly.  Tinted Windows power pop premise was a simple but sturdy and effective one, and the quartet bashed out indelible three-chord salvos aplenty on what was to be their only album in 2009, which was something of a godsend coming on the heels of a decade of bad nu-metal and ostentatiously 'serious' indie rock.

This set was tracked from the band's March 2009 appearance at Austin's SXSW, just one month prior to the release of the Windows record.  The band resisted what must have been at least a moderate urge to backtrack and dole out material from their more renown endeavors, but instead, they stuck strictly to originals, and good on them for that.  All the hits are here - "Can't Get a Read on You," "Cha Cha," and of course "Kind of a Girl."  Boogie til you puke ya'll. 

01. Take Me back
02. Can't Get a Read on You
03. Without Love
04. Dead Serious
05. Messing With My Head
06. Back With You
07. Cha Cha
08. We Got Something
09. Nothing to Me
10. Kind of a Girl
11. The Dirt (aka Sensitive Information)
+ a bonus studio cut

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Basic English - Images of Love 7" (1988)

Dare I say this band's collective hairdos preceded them (not to mention the music)?  Truth be told, this bygone Canadian export weren't nearly as edgy or enthused as their appearance.  Looking like a glammed-up hybrid of U2 and the Replacements, Basic English's equation tallied out to be loosely akin to what the Rolling Stones were responsible for around the same era, albeit with less charm and an even greater deficiency of effectiveness.  The ballad-esque "Images of Love" could pass for a weak Tattoo You or Undercover outtake, while it's bluesier and snappier flip-side "Outside the Law" incorporates a reasonable amount of rhythm and sway, even going to the trouble of throwing in a little harmonica.  Two years after this single dropped, Basic English were scooped up by a major label, and an LP, Sweet Panic ensued.  I wouldn't mind hearing it, but paying for it is another matter. 

A. Images of Love
B. Outside the Law

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Ten Ten - Ordinary Thinking (1984)

I encountered Ten Ten's sophomore album, Walk On, very briefly several years back, and could have sworn they were on something of a power pop tip.  Maybe I had them confused with another band, because their debut, Ordinary Thinking found the combo on a slightly different wavelength, vaguely channeling U2.  There are some post-punk inklings at play on this one, but not nearly radical enough to dissuade or out-cool the more pedestrian audience Ten Ten seemed to be angling for.  Frontman Mark Lewis is a dead ringer for Cactus World News mouthpiece, Eoin McEvoy, but likely a coincidence as Cactus was barely in their infancy at the time.  Sonically, T/T weren't far removed from their Irish contemporaries, evidenced by the tingly guitar splay exuded on some of Ordinary's livelier numbers, like "Giving In" and "Four Pieces."  If you enjoyed the Epic Rumors record I put up a few years back, this is thoroughly along the same lines, and is sure to be a welcome addition on your hard drive. 

01. Tell the World
02. All You Want
03. Look In My Eyes
04. Your Word
05. Ordinary Thinking
06. Four Pieces
07. Giving In
08. Doesn't it Seem Strange
09. In the End

Sunday, May 20, 2018

No clue.

One of 2011's best debuts. 


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Antenna - Sleep ep (1992) & For Now ep (1993)

Antenna *sigh*.  Essentially the Blake Babies sans their most effective ingredient, ex-frontwoman Juliana Hatfield.  John Strohm and Freda (Boner) Love just weren't enough of a selling point.  Antenna lasted for two albums (Sway and Hideout), and a pair of eps, the latter of which you're getting here.  In an era of aggro, flanneled machismo and sheik/brash Brit exports, Antenna, with their relatively linear guitar pop m.o. hardly stood a chance.  Along the same lines as contemporaries Best Kissers in the World, the band placed integrity on the front burner - and sorta got burned themselves.  Antenna's tunes deserved a better fate, and to your good fortune you can hear eight of them here (actually, more like seven since "Wall Paper" appears on both eps in slightly altered incarnations...but who's counting.  The Sleep ep concludes with a fairly straightforward reading of Wire's "Outdoor Miner."  Enjoy (or not).

Sleep ep
01. Sleep
02. All I Need
03. Wall Paper
04. Outdoor Miner

For Now ep
01. For Now
02. Wall Paper
03. Swoon
04. Given Way

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Harvey Street - What About George? ep (1995, Spinning)

Yet another cold case, this one ostensibly originating from Massachusetts.  Harvey Street were a rough hewn riff-savvy quartet whose m.o. wasn't particularly innovative, yet they possessed an amateurish bent and an all-important quotient of potential.  If combos like the Figgs and Big Drill Car do the trick for you, H/S have that sorta angle going for them, but those vague likenesses are likely more coincidental than not.  Per Discogs, What About George? was their only wax. Unfortunate that, because subsequent and perhaps more developed albums might have been exponentially better than this already fine start.

01. Screwed
02. Tables Gonna Turn
03. Things Have Changed
04. Things Have Changed (version)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

I'm not a fruit machine, a nineteen sixties dream...

Here's one song you've heard...and about twenty you haven't.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians - 11/22/85 Atlanta, GA

I'm a little pressed for time, so this write-up is going to be on the short side.  Then again, one doesn't have to extrapolate much when selling a Robyn Hitchcock live set.  And this one really is a peach, featuring the man in question not long after his stint with the Soft Boys wrapped up.  There are a handful of SB tunes in the show, but the bulk of the set consists of material from Robyn's especially grand early solo outings like I Often Dream of Trains and Black Snake Diamond Role.  Some truly cult classics here as well, like "My Wife and My Dead Wife," "Uncorrected Personality Traits," and "Bells of Rhymney."  Sounds like this was culled from a board tape or a well above-average audience recording.  Enjoy.

01. Kingdom of Love
02. America
03. Cars She Used to Drive
04. My Wife and My Dead Wife
05. Only the Stones Remain/Queen of Eyes
06. Man With the Light bulb Head
07. Strawberry Mind
08. I'm Only You
09. Acid Bird
10. Where are the Prawns?
11. President
12. Brenda's Iron Sledge
13. Heaven
14. I Often Dream of Trains
15. Uncorrected Personality Traits
16. Listening to the Higsons
17. Bells of Rhymney

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Too Much Education - s/t (1988)

This synth-enhanced DIY effort would rank as pretty miscellaneous if it weren't for Abe Glazer's spoke/sung tact and dry sardonic wit.  Too Much Education's puts his premise front and center, one that is sure to illicit cheers or jeers...and not a whole lot in between.  Side one concludes with the winsome, "Nuclear Days," featuring guest vocalist, Laurie Stapinski.  This relatively satisfactory number makes me wish she had been on the mic for the entirety of the record, but Education's flip side fares better than the first, with Glazer embracing sweeter guitar tones on "You're Not Too Old" and the genteel post-punk finale "Knobs."  If you dig stuff along the lines of Agitpop, TME just might be your bag.

01. Not Ready
02. Don't Fall in Love
03. Honesty
04. Nuclear Days
05. You're Not Too Old
06. Bungee Girl
07. Modem Head
08. Knobs

Sunday, May 6, 2018

I was raised here and I'll die, underneath this Georgia sky.

The third and final album from this beloved deep south trio. 


Monday, April 30, 2018

Mollusk sabbatical.

Taking the rest of the week off.  Sue ya next Monday.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Urinals where bedrooms ought to be...

One man provided the lyrics while another developed them into eleven impeccably great songs. 

Yung Wu - Shore Leave (1987, Coyote & 2018 Bar/None) - A brief review.

First and foremost, Yung Wu is/was a band, not an individual.  With that sorted out, in my opinion this New Jersey five-piece may as well have dubbed themselves "That Feelies spinoff band." Not only does that denote there lineage, it invariably trails any mention of Yung Wu anywhere, be it online, The Trouser Press Record Guide, or even the occasional '80s fanzine that was thoughtful enough to offer them some press three decades back.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this.  After the very belated release of the Feelies not-so-difficult sophomore LP, 1986's The Good Earth, yet another hiatus was in order.  This sabbatical would entail the revival of Yung Wu, a band that had it's roots in The Trypes.  Dating back to 1982, the Trypes were local indie scenesters who included a guy named Glenn Mercer in their ranks, who just happened to be the Feelies prime mover.  In the ranks of this arcane indie curiosity sat Glenn on drums, a 180 from his role in the Feelies.  In fact, there was a lot of musical chairs at play in the Trypes fluid ranks, but eventually, the Feelies full-time percussionist, Dave Weckerman, found himself at the head of the class, and with his acquisition of the microphone a fresh modus operandi was set into motion - and the birth of a new entity altogether, Yung Wu.

Essentially a slightly modified configuration of The Feelies, Yung Wu's lineup consisted of Weckerman on vocals, Stan Demeski filling in Dave's stead on drums, Glenn was relegated to guitars (as was Bill Million per his usual role), Brenda Sauter handled bass and John Baumgartner played keys.  Intentionally or not, the Feelies settled on a highly effective formula of brisk, strummy chords, plaintive songwriting, and an indigenous angle of tension (loosely interpreted from the Velvets), all the way back to their 1980 debut, Crazy Rhythms.  With YW's reshuffled lineup, largely consisting of the same members, the proceedings were logically a bit more creative, while still fitting quite solidly in the mold of their main gig.  Shore Leave's opener (and title track) doesn't stray far from the Feelies ranch, at least not sonically, but Weckerman brings a welcome narrative touch to the table.  "Aspiration" exudes soft, rustic overtones with glints of everyone from Chris Knox to Television, and is mightily catchy to boot.  Shore Leave's master stroke arrives relatively early in the guise of "Spinning," bearing a juicy, opulent chorus hook that arguably ranks within the top-ten songs in the entire Feelies orbit, period.  And if you're desperately hankering for something in the Feelies vein proper, "Modern Farmer" could sit comfortably on their first two records.

Per Weckerman's liner notes. Yung Wu weren't offered the opportunity to cut an album until 1986 or so, but even with their moderately lengthy tenure they only had eight original songs to lay down.  To flesh out an entire LP, some supplemental covers were in order - and boy, did Yung Wu pick some splendidly suitable tunes.  We're treated to a fairly straight but effective reading of Neil Young's "Powderfinger," and ditto for an old Stone's b-side, "Child of the Moon."

Shore Leave isn't a start-to-finish classic, but try telling that to a die-hard Feelies acolyte and see how far that gets you.  It is however a cut well above most spinoff "projects," in the respect that Yung Wu treat the record in the same thoughtful, par excellence mold of Crazy Rhythms and Good Earth.  Equally striking is the fact that going into Shore Leave doesn't require any level of Feelies fandom for optimal appreciation...but it doesn't hurt to have a foot in the door.  Shore Leave is available physically and digitily straight from Bar/None, Amazon and iTunes, however the vinyl version was a strictly limited Record Store Day title.  I understand a few copies remain through, but otherwise your local mom and pop may have a stray copy in stock.  As a bonus, the LP version contains a bonus flexi-disc of an early Dave Weckerman single. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

V/A - Souvenirs - Little Gems of Pop (2009, Sound Asleep)

Damn, not sure how I didn't get to this one sooner, especially considering it's of Chanukah caliber.  Souvenirs... came out almost ten years ago on the Swedish Sound Asleep imprint, but the emphasis here is strictly on US and occasionally Canadian contingents.  The subtitle, Little Gems of Pop is right on the money, honing in on underexposed power pop acts from the '80s, with a few selections spilling over into the '90s.  There's a decent amount of talent that's been previously addressed on this site, inculding Carnival Season, Choo Choo Train, Leatherwoods, Wishniaks, etc, but the overwhelming majority are artists that Wilfully Obscure have never breached into. Oodles of gold here, including San Diego modsters Manual Scan, singer/songwriter troubadours Jimmy Silva and Eric Voeks, Zero's expat Hector Penalosa, Todd Newman and The Leatherwoods (and even their antecedent act Lions and Dogs).  We're also treated to not just one but TWO precursors to Velvet Crush (Choo Choo Train and The Reverbs), and oft overlooked Brit-invasion inspired wonders Flying Color and The Decoys.  Did I mention there's also an unreleased Pointed Sticks tune?  How about liner notes from Not Lame Records proprietor Bruce Brodeen?  There was a sequel to Souvenirs that I haven't been able to pin down, but will share should a copy ever falls into my lap.  At any rate, enjoy this one (like I even had to suggest)!

01. Three Hour Tour - Next Time
02. Jimmy Silva - May The Second
03. The Kicksouls - I Don't Know
04. Choo Choo Train - Catch Another Breath
05. Flying Color - Through Different Eyes
06. Todd Newman & The Leatherwoods - To Win You Back
07. Chaz & The Motorbikes - Jack Hammers
08. Beatosonics - No One To Cry To
09. Manual Scan - She Sad It's Late
10. Hector - Hurts So Bad
11. The Reverbs - Picture An Eye
12. Erik Voeks - When Will It All End?
13. Action Suits - Fun Flies
14. The Decoys - Not The Tremblin' Kind
15. The Explosives - A Girl Like You
16. 64 Funnycars - AMC Pacer
17. 2 Minutes 50 - Call Me Back
18. The Wishniaks - She's The One
19. Carnival Season - Misguided Promises
20. Lions & Dogs - Be My Something
21. Pointed Sticks - All My Clocks Stopped