By request. Mark Freeland didn't put Buffalo, NY on the map, but within the city and it's environs in the 1980s (and beyond) he ruled, and was the closest thing Western New York had to Frank Zappa or Prince. Truth be told, Freeland rarely sounded specifically like either of those visionaries at any given moment, rather his dextrous, DIY pastiche of trendy-ish '80s pop, funk and rap was intricate enough to entice more sophisticated ears, but also bore real accessibility as well. In addition to his musical endeavors, Freeland was a renown local painter with colorful multimedia skills that spilled over into the two Electroman records I'm sharing today, not to mention the music he would produce thereafter until his untimely death from cancer in 2007.
1982's American Googaloo (perhaps a nod to American Graffiti) packs not only punch but ample groove, with party-down, R&B inflections colliding with less emphasized forays into synth pop. "I Am Everybody," boldly sets the tone for the entire affair with a funk underbelly, pitch-shifting vocals and Sugarhill Gang-esque throwdowns. "Beer Makes You Smart" is as jovial and anthemic as you might imagine, "Payday" is a horn-enhanced ode of sorts to being perpetually broke, while the disco-paced "All I Want to Do is Bang," makes for a fittingly frenzied basher to close things out.
Come followed four years later offering longer songs, and intermittently, the incorporation of muscular guitar tones. A greater reliance of samples is evident, as well as an apparent affection for the likes of early Run-DMC. In fact, there's a number of hip hop-centric pieces here - "Family Feud," "I Dig New York," and the altogether amusing "Macaroni and Cheese," a playful riff on the simple pleasures that inadvertently arose from the era of Reaganomics. "The Cathy Song" is a gaudy, but fun power ballad in the vein of Meat Loaf, and "True Love" boasted Freeland's increasing melodic chops with near-grandiose aplomb.
01. Cowboy's of Scotland
02. I Am Everybody
03. The Vegetarian Song
04. Beer Makes You Smart
07. All the Things I Would Do For You
08. My Baby Got a Thing For Me
09. All I Want to Do is Bang
01. Girl Power
02. The Cathy Song
03. Family Feud
04. The Day You Came Into My Life
05. Macaroni & Cheese
06. True Love
07. I Dig New York
25th anniversary of this one. A lot of you might find this to be a bit on the simplistic side, but it was and still one of my go-to albums of the '90s. I also tacked on a gem from later in this band's career. Enjoy.
Rock from Chapel Hill, NC that doesn't necessarily sound like it could have come from the realm of Merge Records? The now long-gone Starpoint Electric weren't entirely oblivious to the more strident forces in the indie realm of their era, yet they bore their own brand of pent-up crankiness, albeit with plentiful degrees of separation from say, Superchunk and Archers of Loaf. This quartet had an angularity to 'em that landed somewhere between the first couple of Spoon albums, and Tommy Stinson's post Replacements endeavors Bash & Pop and Perfect. Bad Directions is guitarsy as-all-get-out, with tinctures of chiming minor chords and self-described "dark pop beauty." Earth shattering? Not quite, but "December," "Reconnected" and pretty much anywhere else the laser lands make the case Starpoint should have stayed at the party a little longer.
01. Bad Directions
03. Let My Brother Lie
04. Bitter Happiness
06. Radio Wasterland
07. Write You Off
I intend to get to transferring some more wax soon, but until then I thought I'd follow-up one of my more well received live entries from last year, a 1981 Aztec Camera show from Manchester. Fast forward a couple years and Roddy Frame and Co. find themselves opening up for Elvis Costello on an amphitheater tour of the United States in support of their not-long-to-be classic debut High Land Hard Rain. Submitted for your approval is a well recorded audience tape of a 1983 Aztec show at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, CA featuring the bulk of the songs from that very record. As mentioned I realize I just fed you one of their vintage shows a year ago, so forgive me if this is overkill. Cheers.
02. Lost Outside The Tunnel
03. Walk Out To Winter
04. Orchid Girl
05. Back On Board
06. The Bugle Sounds Again
07. The Boy Wonders
10. We Could Send Letters
11. Queen's Tattoos
12. Down The Dip
The title of this 30+ year old compilation record reads something like an answer to the hypothetical question, "What exactly is Buffalo known for anyway?" It's of course referencing the assassination of President William McKinely in 1901 at the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo. A macabre and daring immortilization to say the least, but We Killed McKinley would become an endearing scene artifact, and a representative time capsule of Western New York's subrosa talent circa the late '80s. Most local compilation discs (from this era and otherwise) seemed to place the emphasis on the "locality" quotient, seemingly tossing together a hodgepodge of bands from a few adjacent zip codes, with little regard to their merit as artists. McKinley struck me as an exception, given it's relative quality and breadth. The affair fittingly commences with the shoulda-been-huge Splatcats cutting a blitzkrieg punk rock rampage through the Temptation's "Get Ready," exemplifying their hometown's reputation for merging the traditional with the markedly unorthodox. Nullstadt and the late, creative Svengali Mark Freeland attach a sardonic edge to the era's fading synth-rock frivolities. The Ramrods, who I've brought up on these pages in years past, boogie down with "Heavy Shakin' Mamas," The Rain pours down with freewheeling abandon on the driving, riff-searing," and The Pinheads' (once championed by none other than Howard Stern) proto-grunge nugget "Get You Alone" imagines how Van Halen would've carried on had David Lee Roth not been put to pasture. There's deftly crafted acousti-pop from The Moment, and 1969's modest psych flirtations make "All I Wanted" all the more desirable. And perhaps the most significant act to ever emanate from the Queen City makes a pre-stardom appearance here too, though just to keep you guessing I'm not revealing them in the track list below. Enjoy.
01. The Splatcats - Get Ready
02. The Rain - Rumble Down
03. The Ramrods - Heavy Shakin' Mamas
04. Nullstadt - Jimmy
05. The Pinheads - Get You Alone
06. 1969 - All I Wanted
07. Mark Freeland - Girl Lessons
08. David Kane's Decay Of Western Civilization - Tommy 78
09. The Moment - In the Sun
10. Bob Dye - Dirty Blonde Blues
11. Peachy L'amour - Lucille
I really, really tried to get into To Damascus' 1987 platter Come to Your Senses ages ago, but it just wasn't meant to happen. Thankfully, their preceding 45 was a different story. This coed L.A. contingent was helmed by one Sylvia Juncosa, and per Wiki, her tenure with the band went something like this:
experienced numerous personnel changes over the next three years. They recorded a single at Radio Tokyo studio with producer Ethan James,
where the majority of Juncosa's releases would later be recorded. For a
very brief period in 1985, she was the guitar player in The Healing
Dream, which soon afterward became The Nymphs.When David Winogrond and Tyra von Pagenhardt joined in 1985, To Damascus finally had a more stable line-up and began a busy, productive period that would exemplify Juncosa's high-activity work style during those years. The band completed and released its first album, Succumb,
which Juncosa had started earlier with former Leaving Trains members
Jason Kahn and Tom Hofer filling in on drums and bass, respectively. Shortly afterward, they recorded a second album, Come to Your Senses, distributed by Restless Records, and embarked on a shoestring-budget US tour.
To Damascus broke up on friendly terms in 1988 when Winogrond and
von Pagenhardt were unable to commit to the touring musician life that
Juncosa intended to embark upon. In 1986, Juncosa also joined the SST Records band SWA, which featured bassist Chuck Dukowski, former Black Flag member and co-founder of the SST record label.
An interesting SST connection BTW, Winogrond and Pagenhardt weren't in the lineup yet for this single. Instead we're treated to Bill Lee on bass and Troy Anthony on skins. "Another Place, Another Time" is an edgy, urgent ass-kicker if there ever was one with smart, post-punk tendencies for miles, leading me to wonder if T/D had any other tunes in their arsenal of this caliber. The flip, "On a Pier," isn't one of them I'm afraid, wielding a rhythm that's more in line with a Bavarian oompah band.
If only music like this was still being made. Heck, it likely is and I'm probably just unaware of it, but I digress. Actuel were a Nashville combo who if anything else boasted a mild Anglophile bent. If they sounded like anything from the American south, a certain foursome who called Athens, GA home might be a vague comparison, but while Actuel's chimey instincts slotted them into the collegiate rock realm, it sounds like these chaps had more fun getting their post-punk jones on, as it were. Even on Monument's livelier, more melodic traipses (the bookends "You and I" and "Until Another Time," not to mention the thoroughly visceral "Just Imagine") Actuel's agile prowess and textured nuances (including but not limited to subtle fretless bass lines) lend a certain mystique to their music that just about 99.99% of their contemporaries couldn't hold a candle to. A slightly inconsistent platter, Monuments nonetheless bequeaths some invaluable moments of sheer charm and magic. There's more available on the band's Soundcloud corner of the web. Special thanks go to the now-defunct Feelin' Kinda Froggy blog for making these files available way back when.
Sorry I didn't get much in the way of new music to you last week. Hope this makes up for it. The DUSTdevils were a stunning bygone act I don't think I've covered here before. Formulated in the UK by a duo of Michael Duane and Jaqi Dulany, but later immigrating to New York, the 'devils were responsible for this austere slice of post-punk, three more albums and just as many eps. From what I've absorbed so far by them Rhenyards Grin is what I appreciate the most. It's a no-stumble, ten song concoction of noir, minor key aesthetics, droney albeit tuneful guitar runs, and Dulany's quasi-melodic parlance that's a perfect match for her noisome compatriots. Think early Siouxsie meets Band of Susans. Looking forward to excavating the remainder of their back catalog.
02. Life Guarder
03. The Lost Divide
04. Hardraugh Forces
05. Mouthful of Stars
06. Dirt of Days
07. In It's Own Light
09. Another Hit
10. Real Hate Work
Two weeks and some change ago the world at large learned of the unexpected passing of Muffs front-woman, and latter-era Pandoras fixture Kim Shattuck, who succumbed to a private battle with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - aka Lou Gehrig's disease). Like a lot of performers I followed, I never bothered to keep tabs on her, and quite frankly took her for granted. Still, the news was profoundly troubling to me, and in that first week of absorbing the full gravity of events there were more than a few occasions when I found myself blinking back tears. How could such a firecracker of a vocalist/guitar slinger, and oft described "force of nature" be taken down by such a cruel, debilitating affliction? Hereditary for starters, as the same disease claimed the life of her father previously. Her diagnosis came in the spring of 2017 when she started having issues with her wrist, per a recent piece published in the LA Times penned by Kim's longtime bandmate, Muffs drummer Roy McDonald. To date, no cure for ALS exists, and treatment is modest at best. Upon learning her fate, I'm certain Kim had myriad goals in mind, but there's only two I can say for certain. First and foremost to keep the news of her diagnosis within her inner-most circle, and secondly, to bring to fruition a seventh Muffs LP that had already been in the preliminary stages.
The LA Times article I linked loosely delves into the mechanics of how No Holiday was recorded/produced. Clocking in at eighteen songs and about 43 minutes (a record on both fronts for the band) much of Kim's basic vocal and guitar tracks were fortunately cut prior to her diagnosis. This was crucial for several reasons, not the least of which her singing/speaking capabilities that were soon to diminish in light of her rapidly progressing ALS.
While not a thing of the past, the Muffs raucous and bratty punk-pop fervor was gradually giving way to a subtler sonic palette and in fact, a good half of the songs here were notably based around Kim's original acoustic takes. The title cut, "A Lovely Day Boo Hoo," and "Insane" take root from this spartan, unplugged framework, but she's soon joined by McDonald and bassist Ronnie Barnett who appropriately fill in the quiet space. Add-on guitarist Adam Schary helps flesh Holiday out on no less than ten songs, and even Kim's sister Kristen contributes backing vocals to "Earth Below," a fuzzy pop nugget not far removed from the Breeders. There are a handful of more traditional Muffs power-chord gut punches in the guise of "Pollyanna" and the Nirvana-y "Down Down Down," not to mention rich, hook-laden salvos like "Sick of This Old World" and "On My Own." The record's unusual genesis and relatively diverse composite results in a mildly crooked patchwork of tunes. And with a dozen and a half of them to be exact, there's plenty to chew on. I'm apt to think of No Holiday as The Muffs New Adventures in Hi-Fi, yet you'll find a uniquely Muffs-ian thread emanating through every sweet and tarty morsel.
If all of this hardly sounds like business as usual for The Muffs, you're right on the money. Yet even though the finished version of No Holiday may not have exactly been what they intended when circumstances were normal in early '17, the personal tumult Kim was enduring barely spilled into the record. The very closest I can speculate where there's any overshadowing is within a line in "Late and Sorry" - I don't know what to do, I'm clearly ill. Ironically the lyric (as well as the song outright) is not delivered with an iota of self-pity or despondency leading me to wonder if she's referring to her condition at all. Holiday concludes with Kim's strikingly lo-fi acoustic soliloquy, "Sky," that perhaps wasn't intended to be a tearjerker, but could understandably be interpreted as such given recent events. As a friend once reminded me when I was grieving a family member, sentiments that make you cry when you're mourning someone will eventually make you smile.
I really had fun with the two Trilobites offerings I've thrown your way previously, namely the live document Turn it Around and an even more enticing follow-up ep, I Can't Wait For Summer to End. These thoroughly unsung melodic punkers may have never made it onto my radar were it not for late '80s college radio, and I'm forever grateful for that. American TV isn't a proper album, but could pass for one. Instead it gathers four crucial and indelibly effective singles that play to every strength the Trilobites could muster. When I commented on them previously I no doubt raised comparisons to the Godfathers, which I really thought were warranted, especially on the heels of the ...Summer to End ep. American TV, on the other hand broadcasts transmissions from an earlier phase of the group when they were brandishing a more straightforward ethos, one that yielded swift and steady slammers like "Venus in Leather," "Amphetamine Dream," and "Jenny's Wake." Like Aussie brethren Hoodoo Gurus, the 'bites bore an uncanny sardonic edge, albeit with a beefier sonic wallop. They never made inroads in the States, and I just hope they made a dent on their own home turf, because in their prime these lads absolutely smoked.
01. Night of the Many Deaths
02. Venus in Leather
03. I Can See
04. Legacy of Morons
05. Dress in Black (live)
06. American TV
07. Jenny's Wake
08. Amphetamine Dream
09. Living by a Different Yardstick
10. Piece of Shit (live)
I was shocked and saddened as anyone last week to learn about the passing of Kim Shattuck, the embodiment of The Muffs, the band she fronted for roughly thirty years, not to mention her stint in The Pandoras. She kept her diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a secret to the public at large for the past two years, even releasing a record with a new band, The Coolies just three months ago, and even had a hand in a recent Pandoras reunion ep. In short, most fans, including myself just didn't see this coming. Then again, I hardly kept tabs on her, even as big of a Muffs devotee as I was. I plan on doing a feature on the Muffs proper in a couple of weeks, and will postpone most of my eulogizing until then. The truth is though, I've had a non-stop loop of Shattuck's musical body of work in my head for the past half a week, including her work with White Flag.
I've posted on White Flag before, for the benefit of you who could use a crash course, here's a quick backgrounder I provided in tandem with the band's Thru the Trash Darkly compilation I shared several years back:
Formed in 1982 as a
parody, just as much as an afterthought of the Los Angeles punk scene
that had recently burned itself out, White Flag were to a certain extent
the punk equivalent of the Ruttles. And like the Ruttles, White Flag
were actually quite adept at what they did. Their early singles and
albums, like Third Strike and WFO play like quintessential
artifacts of their era, providing the perfect soundtrack for the
nascent So-Cali skateboard scene at the time. I don't think White Flag
were necessarily trying to appeal to "the kids," and from my
vantage point they didn't. It took more seasoned ears (and eyes) to
appreciate White Flag's parodied album sleeves, aliases such as Pat Fear and Jello B. Afro,
choice cover tunes, and of course the band's patented tongue-in-cheek
sensibilities, that were if not outright funny, at least attention
One thing I left out above, White Flag's frontman Bill Bartell was the band's only constant member. According to the bio that accompanied Thru the Trash... Shattuck didn't enter Flag's orbit until the late '80s, but realistically, it could be later than that as she didn't appear on any of their records until the "Don't Give It Away" 7" in 1991. White Flag carried on in some guise up until Bartell's 2013 death, but by and large, people stopped paying attention to the band after Kim pursued the Muffs full time in 1993 when they dropped their rather monumental debut for Warner Bros.
What I'm sharing below is a collection of WF songs Kim Shattuck appeared on, some of which feature her as the primary mouthpiece. I wouldn't say any of them represent the pinnacle of her career or even her abilities, and in fact, many are covers. By the time she entered the fray, WF diverged from hardcore punk considerably, and whether her inclusion in the lineup was part and parcel of the band's (slightly) more conventional shift is something of an unknown. "Don't Give it Away," one of the only songs co-written by Shattuck during her tenure is an up-tempo power pop number decked out with a jangly Rickenbacker enhanced lead. It's comparatively modest stacked up against anything in the Muff oeuvre, not to mention White Flag's blistering throwdowns. And then there's the covers including a straightforward reading of "White Rabbit" and some not-so-obvious Bangles tunes - "Call On Me" (actually written/recorded when the Bangles were still operating as The Bangs) and a brisk take of "In a Different Light." And while not front and center on the Kinks "I Need You" and Jam's incendiary "In the City." Kim's presence on backup vocals still lends a lot to the proceedings. Ditto for several other songs I didn't have time to critique, but you'll figure that out. Enjoy. BTW, most of these tracks weren't my own rips, so a profound thank you is in order to whomever went to all of the effort to prep this collection. 01. Don't Give it Away 02. Out in the Streets 03. White Rabbit 04. In the City 05. Call On Me 06. I Need You 07. In a Different Light 08. Grace Me 09. I Fell Fine 10. Over Now 1 & 2 - Sympathy for the Record Industry 7" (1992) 3 - Sympathy From the Record Industry 7" (1993) 4 - Thru the Trash Darkly LP (1993, Munster) 5 & 6 - 3rd Sun Mower ep (1993, Munster) 7 - White Flag & Dave Nazworthy 7" (1991, Sycophant) 8 - Ruff Stuff 7" comp, (Demolition, 1993) 9 & 10 - Thirteen Years of Losing Money comp (Gasatanka, 1994) https://www26.zippyshare.com/v/TzYgYb8H/file.html
Well, the internet didn't have much to tell me about Giddy'Up Einstein, and I have a hunch I won't be able to do much better, but here goes. The band consisted of just two full-time members, Mark Cult and Anthony Scott, and after gleaning all the credits on the back cover, it's safe to assume they called San Francisco home. Speaking of the album jacket (not to mention their cheeky moniker) this wasn't a duo that always took themselves too seriously - though they do seem to address concerns over firearms and violence on "This One's a Gun." E=MC2 + Guitar's finest moment is a no-brainer, the second cut in, "Wasteland," a savvy, extra melodious stab at power-pop that sounds like something Translator or the Red Rockers might have envisioned had they loosened their collars a tad. The record's less engaging moments are worth sticking around too, though "Eurotrash's" abundant 80s-isms grate on me. The final piece, "This Gun's For You" is a remix of "This One's a Gun."
01. This Gun's For You
05. This Gun's For You (Swamp mix)
Here's another act that amazingly I haven't brought up before until now. I knew who China Crisis were as far back as the mid-80s, but never made a concerted effort to investigate them until I started finding their records in used bins. For Brit new wavers, they were the yin to the yang of most of what was happening during their 1982-89 peak. Bearing a markedly disciplined and mid-tempo tact, Crisis' smoother sonic palette was no doubt interpreted as high-brow by some, but it worked to their advantage, because their early run of albums (Difficult Shapes..., Flaunt the Imperfection, etc) stand up remarkably well three decades after the fact. In fact, C/C went so against the dayglo-techno pop grain they even hired Steely Dan's Walter Becker to produce their second LP, Flaunt the Imperfection. New romantic yacht rock? Well, not exactly, but pretty damn refreshing after hearing Depeche Mode and Duran Duran ad nauseam.
Fine and Also Rare China is a cobbled together collection of demos the band sold on their tour in 2008. Thought this might be fun to share since their official catalog is still available, and I'm not at liberty to host much or any of it. Spanning 1979-97, Fine and Also Rare China leaves out early prototypes of many of their more renown songs - "King in a Catholic Style," "Black Man Ray" and "Working With Fire and Steel," among others. What's here however is still pretty respectable, including nascent takes of early gems "African and White" and "Seven Sports for All," plus the Diary of a Hollow Horse-era "Northern Skies." Surprisingly much of this collection is contemporary to the band's hibernation period (relatively speaking), when they were keeping a low profile in the '90s. Established customers will find a lot to love here, and even if ...Rare China isn't a perfect introduction to the band it's an enjoyable listen.
01. African and white (demo 79-80)
02. Its Not Over Here (live demo 96-97)
03. Northern Skies (album demo 88)
04. Real Tears (home demo 93)
05. Seven Sports for All ((home demo 79-80)
06. Christian (home demo 79-80)
07. Song 4 Andre 3000 (home demo 92)
08. Thank You (home demo 93)
09. Wishful Thinking (live in Liverpool 85)
10. Slow Houses (home demo)
Had a request for this one years ago, but only spotted a copy of it recently. Not a bad $3 find in the wild, but hardly a revelation. The Expression were native to Sydney, Australia and sorta resembled another down under band, the considerably more popular Icehouse. This is rather polished synth pop with the most exotic attribute evidencing itself via some occasional fretless bass. We're treated to a few relatively memorable cuts - "With Closed Eyes," "Dawn, Day and Sleep," and "Right to a Slice." Nothing particularly offensive or embarrassing mind you, and to the Expression's credit I'll take this combo over ABC or Go West in a heartbeat. Enjoy (or not).
01. Present Communication
02. With Closed Eyes
03. Total Eclipse
04. Keep Appointments
05. Right to a Slice
06. Dawn, Day and Sleep
08. You and Me
09. Nothing Changes
10. Satisfied Strangers
Sorry once again for waiting until the weekend to hook you up with something new. This whole past week felt a little abnormal, and it didn't help that it began with the rather jarring and unexpected news that Ric Ocasek, frontman for The Cars, record producer, and solo act in his own right died of heart failure Sunday, September 15th at the age of 75. I don't think I've brought him up before on this site, and save for the band itself only when using The Cars comparatively speaking. That being said 1983's Heartbeat City and it's associated singles were a big component of the entry drug that got me hooked on rock music, thus placing me on the most significant trajectory of my life. At one point or another I owned all of the band's albums, and had recently invested in a series of expanded reissues. Still, they were never a top-tier favorite of mine despite the fact I rarely objected to much of anything they did. I saw them on their 2011 reunion tour that summer in Toronto, and was mightily impressed. I knew it was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. In recent years I wasn't waiting around for another reunion album. Or tour. Or anything. Besides getting the occasional Cars or (less occasionally) Ocasek solo track stuck in my head, I never kept tabs on him or any of the other surviving members (co-frontman and bassist Benjamin Orr passed away from natural causes in 2000). Still, the news on Sunday made a dent with me. In addition to the Cars catalog, I got to know him through interviews and his production work with unrelated artists like Weezer, Motion City Soundtrack, and Guided by Voices. A life fantastically well lived, even if he had been a bit dormant for the last few years of it. I'd say a well earned retirement.
The general consensus is that the Cars self-titled debut was their high-watermark, and it's not hard to understand why given its sheer consistency and it's reputation as a crossover new wave/AOR record that appealed to the mainstream and those with an edgier appetite. Candy-O followed a year later, and despite not generating as many singles as it's predecessor it doubled-down on the band's mildly offbeat penchant and was responsible for such fan favorites as the punchy "Got a Lot On My Head" and the noir power pop of "Double Life." Prior to heading out to L.A. to recording the album, Ocasek and Co. tracked some demos at Northern Studios, in Maynard, MA near their native Boston. Four of these demos wound up on the expanded version of Candy-O that dropped in 2017...but these weren't part of the so-called Monitor Mixes.
Cars/Ben Orr-centric blog sweetpurplejune goes into a rather thorough extrapolation on what the mixes are all about and how the tapes went missing for decades, so I'll try to sum it up in a nutshell. The album proper was record at Cherokee Studios in L.A. As the aforementioned site explains, a "monitor mix" is a set of quickly recorded pre-production demos usually cut live in studio as a dry-run of sorts before the formal recording of an album commences, so the engineer/producer has a reference for setting levels in the recording studio and such. It's a common practice, especially for big budget studio sessions, which naturally, this was. In short, the monitor mix of Candy-O is a de-factor alternate version of the album in question. There are differences between these takes and the finished products, albeit not always dramatic. In fact that's largely the case with the brunt of what's here, with some of the most discernible deviations being rooted in Greg Hawkes keyboard parts. One particular anomaly among this set of recordings is a the one and a half minute take of "Sho Bee Doo," just a fraction in length of the final album version, highlighting the song's eerie "coldwave" synthesizers. We get variations of all eleven LP cuts, the b-side of "Let's Go" ("That's It") and "Slip Away," a track that literally slipped away for almost two decades before it found a home on the band's 1995 double disk anthology Just What I Needed. Again, if you decide to download this, you'll be shortchanging yourself if you don't take a peak at the informative backstory laid out over at sweetpurplejune, which goes into way more detail than I did here. While you're at it, please consider buying the remaster of Candy-Ohere. Rest in peace Ric!
01. Let's Go
02. Since Held You
03. It's All I Can Do
04. Double Life
05. Shoo Bee Doo
07. Night Spots
08. You Can't Hold On Too Long
09. Lust For Kix
10. Got a Lot On My Head
11. Dangerous Type
12. That's It
13.. Slip Away
If you remember the 1990s you weren't really there - oops...wrong decade. If however, you remember The Black Watch, a veteran, four decade-long indie rock endeavor from Los Angeles it's very likely you familiarized yourself with the band via some of their best known releases, including 1994's Amphetamines and a little further into the decade '99s The King of Good Intentions. In total, the John Andrew Fredrick-helmed contingent, with it's varying lineups, has produced no less than 17 albums, ten or so EPs and singles, seemingly released among a dozen different record labels. In fact, the Watch's discography has become so unwieldy and elephantine it was all recently corralled in MP3 form on a handy USB drive. So what the hell am I actually getting at here? Mr Frederick has been making music longer than some of you have been alive. Though the compact disc made it's way into the market place in 1982 (or thereabouts) the ubiquity of the format didn't quite extend to the majority of independent and lower-rung artists until as late as a decade afterward. The Black Watch were no exception, as their debut album, 1988's St. Valentine, and their Short Stories ep following a year later were vinyl and cassette only affairs. Save for blogs like mine, these titles have languished out of print an un-digitized for thirty years (wow!) The newly minted CD/digital collection, The Vinyl Years 1988-1993, remedies this travesty in one fell swoop.
Though the Black Watch's origins date back to the Reagan-epoch, Fredrick and Co. never sounded like they were a product of the era - not an obvious one anyway. No wonky keyboards or cheesy affectations for these guys. From the get go, the BW formula wasn't an equation that could be easily quantified. Without (re)inventing the wheel the band's forward-leaning indie rock had a faint Anglophile bent, but not overbearing. A pensive, thoughtful undercurrent was a vital calling card as well, yet not one to be couched in an elitist or erudite subtext. And reverberating through every nook and cranny was rich, full bodied musicianship - resplendent ringing guitars anchored to a crack rhythm section, with Fredrick's passionate (albeit not excessive) vocals gliding over the top of all of it. The Vinyl Years is twenty songs in length, with exactly the first half dedicated to the band's 1988 debut full length St. Valentine. It's almost unfathomable that songs as engaging and proficiently executed as "These Dreams," "Ghosts From the Past," and the commanding title piece were the product of a baby band. Certainly there was probably some serious woodshedding that preceded this album, and subsequent to this BW made some considerably more sophisticated records, but St. Valentine sounds uncannily like the work of a seasoned band with a good five years or so of preparation to show for it.
Next up is the Short Stories ep from '89, a record cut from the same accomplished fabric as it's predecessor. But check this out. The Black Watch adds violin to mix, and incorporate it so seamlessly that even when rubbing against serrated axe chords on "Dream in Blue" it doesn't sound a stitch out of place. Elsewhere, the chiming leads on "The Ginger Man" predict the charm of soon-to-be-contemporaries the Ocean Blue, and "All Over Again" is a gutsy, indie-rock keeper for the ages. The Vinyl Years is rounded out by a handful of track from subsequent singles that arrived shortly thereafter, including a driving, violin-laden stomp through "Eleanor Rigby," and "Just Last Night" is another ace original in the then nascent BW cannon. I'm not saying the Watch's early material marked their apex, but this band sounds more inspired in the few first years of their inception than U2 did by the time they got to War. Pretty damn remarkable, and as thoroughly essential as anything they would go on to do later. The Vinyl Years is available from Atom Records or Amazon.
On the opposite side of the coin we have brand new Black Watch in the form of a three-song 7" on Hypnotic Bridge. "Crying All the Time! (Psyche mix) - which by the way doesn't necessarily scream "psychedelic" nonetheless it has it's own share of headiness going for it, not unlike recent Swervedriver and Less of Memory. We're treated to two new b-sides as well, both indicative of how far this band has come since those astonishing-in-of-themselves early albums. The single is available direct from Hypnotic Bridge, and copies appear to be limited.
It's been awhile since I've tended to dead links, so here we go again, based on your requests. Check this post later again this coning week for some additional links, and feel free to make a request or two. Thanks!
For a change I decided not to make you wait until Friday for some new tunes. It didn't hurt that I had this one digitized and ready to go. My initial draw to these Buffalo suburbanites was the involvement of one Mark Freeland (R.I.P.), a unique and talented savant-garde multimedia artist who made several records under his own name in the '80s-'90s. It wasn't until I looked at Crumbs of Insanity's roster on the cassette inlay that I learned Freeland merely played percussion in this particular combo. Nonetheless, not a regrettable purchase, albeit not the essence of what the man was responsible for.
The Crumbs were actually spearheaded by Dave Rapp, whose parlance vaguely hovered in the vicinity of Boy George at times. No shortage of hedonism is implied on these five cuts, with the Crumbs stopping short of any frivolous maneuvers. Decked out in a white-boy, Caribbean melange of reggae-lite and new wave inklings (maybe a hint of Haircut 100 on "Keys"), I'm not sure what the band's ultimate objective was, or even if there were other releases surrounding this one. World domination wasn't in the cards I'm afraid. Some of the material here strikes me as a tad underwritten, but I'm generally not apt to complain about what I'm hearing, particularly on side one (selections 1-3). At some point I'll indulge you with some of Mark Freeland's proper studio delectation's.
01. Great Fire
02. Sentimental Drifter
04. Waves of Love
05. Lame Duck
The album jacket depicted to your left may strike you as either innocuous, or perhaps even slightly off-putting. Nothing about it screams "indie" or "post-punk, or in fact anything particularly visionary. In some respects these assumptions are right on the money as Stealer were not indie kids, punk, or on the cutting edge of much of anything. In fact, the foursome in question were marketed as hard rock and AOR. Probably not the most enticing of musical propositions, and hardly the stuff of this blog's aesthetics, as it were. "Hard rock," especially the pedestrian variety thereof, reeks of stock riffs, unimaginative FM playlists, antiseptic arenas, and all-too familiar themes of love, partying, and blue collar concerns. Yet once in awhile I'll stumble across a forgotten hopeful of this ilk that stands out from the pack just enough to perk my ears up, and in this case even get me a little stoked.
Stealer were major label casualties (we can thank MCA for the hiring/firing) who issued this lone self-titled platter. While firmly in the AOR mold, the band (whose whereabouts remain unknown) had a stronger melodic prowess than the brunt of their competition. Bearing a loose resemblance to early Loverboy/Foreigner with occasional tinges of Cheap Trick, their flirtations with power-pop aren't as frequent as I'd prefer them to be, but I'll gladly take what I'm hearing on "Never Again," "If You Want Me" and "Your Heart Will Burn." If it's more meat and potatoes hard rock you're craving the opening "On My Own Again" is a screamingly obvious (should've-been) airwaves anthem," and the even hotter second song in, "E.S.P." is a punchy, melodic gut check that genuinely outdid anything along the aforementioned Loverboy/Foreigner continuum, tame as that may sound to many of you. The only bum item on Stealer is the concluding "Johnny," which regrettably could pass for a limp Bad Company ballad.
Compared to say, any of my Big Star, Husker Du, or Posies entries, Stealer may rank as a comparatively low priority, but I wouldn't be making it available for consumption if I couldn't vouch for it. Go into this one with an open mind and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Btw, pickings are woefully slim online for shedding any relevant light on this one. Best I could find were an album critique and a thread on a hard rock forum.
01. On My Own Again
03. If You Want Me
04. Ready or Not
05. Never Again
06. I've Got to Fight
07. Hold Tight
08. Your Heart Will Burn
09. Tell Me It's Love
Elton Motello was the stage name of Alain Ward, and somewhat confusingly it was also the name of his band in total. The UK-based Ward kicked off his career in a glam/punk combo, Bastard, before taking up the Motello mantle in 1978, a year which saw the release of their debut long player, Victim of Time. That album's follow-up Pop Art, came down the pike two years later and also spawned a single of the same name. The 45 in question served as my intro to E/M, and after surveying the deft chops and somewhat sardonic modus operandi of the A-side, I'd put Ward in the same league as B.A. Roberston, Donnie Iris and for that matter, Bram Tchaikovsky. In short, a frontman brimming with character and sass, the likes of which we're in dreadfully short supply of these. The flip, "20th Century Fox" isn't the Doors song, rather another cheeky original with a mildly grandiose sweep, a la something Motello's contemporaries The Motors might have turned in had they not been so straight-faced. There's a lot of music floating around the halls of Wilfully Obscure, and amidst my numerous stacks and racks I may have the Pop Art LP I spoke of a moment ago, so who knows, maybe that one will materialize on here later. Feel free to imbibe this two-songer for now.
With their origins dating back to the mid-80s, even then in the pre-search engine era, I'd think it a fools errand for any band to dub themselves with such an indistinguishable moniker as...The And. Really, do you mean to tell me all the good band names were claimed by 1983 when these Wisconsinites released their first 45? Needless to say, uncovering any pertinent knowledge regarding this band was close to an impossibility, save for their Discogs page linked above. Day's copyright date is 1997, and none other than Butch Vig is listed as producer for half of these songs. Several of the titles on Day overlap with their Reagan-era singles. The problem is I can't decipher if we're getting the 80s versions of "How Busy is He?," "Role Models" and "Marshmallow Through a Keyhole," or re-recordings of them. The latter (and more satisfactory) portion of the album skews towards the aforementioned songs with "How Busy.." sounding like something Off Broadway USA might have conjured up. Just the kind of skinny-tie power pop MTV might have aired at 3 AM, and ditto for "Who Do You Kiss." "Marshmallow..." is a synthy confection that's also worth the price of admission. Elsewhere, The And hop around from resembling a competent bar band to Big Country, with each of their tunes boasting something of a unique persona. As you might surmise, "I Fall to Pieces" is the Patsy Cline number, with the band doing a fairly robust read of it at that - a lot more fun than Screeching Weasel's rendering of it I might add. Finally, I track ten on this CD is mysteriously omitted from the track list on the tray card. Enjoy.
01. I Fall to Pieces
02. The World Ain't Round
03. Your Wish (Is My Desire)
04. Heart Fall Away
05. She's Not Alone
06. Marshmallow Through a Keyhole
07. Role Models
08. Hide Your Eyes
09. Who Do You Kiss
10. (title not provided)
11. How Busy is He?