It should come as no surprise that a band named the Golden Calgarians hailed from Calgary, Alberta. With that near-obvious fact out of the way, this appears to be one of the quartet's final releases, preceded by two full lengths I have yet to hear a note of. Said to have gigged with the likes of D.O.A. and the Diodes way back when, G/C weren't full throttle punk, albeit not terribly removed from it either. The gents bore a sardonic edge, that thankfully didn't supersede their overarching shtick. The lead-off title cut packs the same kind of wily edge and slicing guitarwork their contemporaries the Screaming Blue Messiahs had a penchant for, while the chiming "Summer of '87" is more attuned to my sensibilities. On the back sleeve the Calgarians give a shout out to the Sioux Indians "for keeping the spirit of rock alive." Not sure how they came to that realization, but who are we to argue? Four songs total, one's just right for you.
01. Guitar Curse
02. Summer of '87
03. Night of Miracles
04. I Feel Like...
Had a request for this one. Traditionally I'm not exactly agog over straight-up AOR rock from the '80s, or just about any decade. Then again, I've been known to contradict myself once in a blue moon, as was the case with last year's share of the surprisingly appealing Stealer. As for Nowherefast (that's right, all one word), I've give them credit for not pulling any outright embarrassing maneuvers. Granted, I can easily envision these guys on a bill with Loverboy or solo Sammy Hagar back in the day, but they don't strike me as the types that were sliding on their knees in spandex or gratuitously sticking their tongues out. "Feeling Better" and "Nowhere to Run" boast comparatively strong hooks, but otherwise this is par for the radio rock course. Love the album cover though. A hearty thanks to whomever went to the trouble of ripping this.
01. First Time
02. Sometimes I Wonder
03. Feeling Better
04. Strange Reason
05. Nowhere to Run
06. View Through a Tear
07. As I Am
08. No One With Nothing
09. Feeling Like Loving You
As Dan Vallor's liner notes in Across the Barrier...smartly advise, to regard this sprawling 24-song collection as a "lost" Game Theory album is deceptive and inaccurate at best. By 1989 and '90, which is when most of these recordings originate from, G/T as most fans had known them was a thing of the past, given the departure of guitarist Donnette Thayer, and other bandmates whose tenure was less established than hers. In terms of veteran members, G/T were slimmed down to a duo of frontman/prime mover Scott Miller, and Gil Ray, the group's erstwhile drummer who by this point ceded his kit in favor of guitar (both passed away in 2013 and 2017 respectively). This final incarnation of the group settled upon a quartet with Miller recruiting The Three O'Clock's (and interestingly enough, former Game Theory producer) Michael Quercio to handle bass and accompanying vocals. Also aboard was Thin White Rope/True West expat Jozef Becker on percussion, who incidentally played in Scott's pre-G/T combo Alternate Learning.
You might say the only hindrance of this lineup really pursuing a sixth proper Game Theory record was quite literally the tyranny of distance with Scott and Ray continuing to reside in their established stead of the Bay Area, and Michael and Jozef's reluctance to relocate from the L.A. area Ultimately, this version of G/T existed primarily as a live entity, with a touring regimen that skewed almost entirely to California circa 1990, but Scott was chockablock with song ideas for a prospective record...and to our good fortune demos of which were committed to tape, comprising a large portion of Across... Many of the songs, while not fully realized in the studio with the newly constituted Game Theory appeared in finished form on Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, the debut album from Scott's spinoff band The Loud Family in 1993.
The 25-song Across The Barrier Of Sound: PostScript is if anything else a bit scattershot, presentation-wise anyway, with a good ten songs relegated as "bonus tracks," which is a bit confusing for a mock-up of an album that was never conceived in any tangible form to begin with. You might say the Script quotient of the title is wholly appropriate since none of these songs made it to full fruition under the guise of Game Theory. While I'll get into the specifics of some of the tracks in a moment, the overarching tenor of the material here is more akin to G/Ts idiosyncratic double LP Lolita Nation than it's follow-up, the relatively linear, 2 Steps From the Middle Ages. But more discernibly, the bulk of what's here are Scott's lo-fi home recordings, stripped of of G/T's traditionally robust arrangements, often times just pared down to vocals and guitars. Listening tohis "solo" traipses is not unlike witnessing the intermediate construction phase of a home - a relatively sturdy foundation had been poured and the frame was undeniably taking shape - but Miller was nowhere close to breaking out the paint cans, or even driving the last nail into the roof.
That being said, there's a bundle of sheer jewels in the gestation phase to enjoy here - "Laurel Canyon," "Treat It Like My Own" and "the Come On," all possessed The earmarks of classic Game Theory and would have made pristine additions to the band's storied catalog. Furthermore, there's a bevy of prototypes that eventually made the migration to that aforementioned first Loud Family record - full band recorded versions (plus supplemental acoustic demos) of "Inverness" and "Idiot Son," alongside homegrown takes of "The Second Grade Applauds," "Even You," and the phenomenal "Go Back To Sleep Little Susie (Aerodeliria)." And there's covers, even! Eno's "Needle in the Camel's Eye," a semi-acapella reading of the Beatles "All My Loving," and Rundgren's "Forget All About it" receive the bedroom treatment, and even more riveting a radio session take of Big Star's "Back of a Car" from 1989 that's been making the rounds among Game Theory bootleg aficionados for ages. Michael Quercio gets some time on the mic as well via "Water," initially appearing on a G/T fan club cassette release, and a home recording of the Three O'Clock's 1983-era "A Day in Erotica."
Again, I don't fully grasp the rationale for why some of the bonus cuts weren't included amidst the main course (and vice versa), but that contention aside, Across The Barrier Of Sound: PostScript is manna for Game Theory fans still holding out for wholly unique and unreleased Scott Miller tunes. A bit of a hodgepodge? Sure. Moreover, couldn't half of this album been alternately categorized as Loud Family demos, and set aside for say, a Record Store Day release? It's hard to argue not, but in the grand scheme of things we're blessed to have this embarrassment of riches at our disposal - and to get a glimpse of where Game Theory might have been headed had circumstances played out a little differently.
It's available now on CD or double LP vinyl straight from Omnivore. Itunes and Amazon will take care of your digitally as well.
Here are as many requests I could get to. If I missed any you can let me know in the comments. If anyone has the files for the P.S. I Love YouHeart of Stone disc I uploaded last year please get in touch. I seem to have lost them entirely and can't locate the original CD right now. Thanks.
Sorry of it seems like I've taken another sabbatical. I've got to work on giving you more content than I have been. These are phenomenally wack times, so I thought I'd go with something today that sort of exudes a similar WTF? quotient. Like a lot of discs I share, there's little to no relevant details online pertaining to 3rd Degree, save for a Discogs entry and a couple Ebay listings that chalk this one up to be nothing more than synth pop. That borders on grossly inaccurate and shortsighted. I don't think this trio (ostensibly from Los Angeles) had much intention of skewing to a particular genre, but All You Wanna Do? radiates an undeniably pronounced, not to mention dark, energy. A good 50% percent of that energy resides in the drumsticks of skin-basher Thom Douglas whose savage, bongo-enhanced
attack would've been enough to make John Bonham or Keith Moon wilt on a
good day. The man's fearsome, tribal-rhythmic assault permeates near
every damn nook and cranny of this disc, but beyond that, a band is
obviously more than just percussion, and on many songs (especially
those occupying side one) frontman Jan Alan Henderson is a malestrom on
the mic, channeling the intensity and fervor of such '60s counterculture belters as Edwin Starr and Barry McGuire. There's more than a little
of that Vietnam War-era urgency on All You Wanna Do?, and even if it
lends a slightly dated feel to 3rd Degree it's well suited for such
sociopolitical screeds as "Stop Molesting the Earth" and "Voodoo Rhythm." Additionally we’re treated to some icy, post-punk guitar constructs on
the aforementioned “Stop Molesting...” plus "Deadly Innocence," and the all instro “Solar Surf,” the most legit
examples of this trio’s supposed "new wave" bona fides. Nonetheless 3rd Degree weren’t
about to give Killing Joke or Siouxsie a run for their money anytime soon. So yeah, this one is a bit of a challenge to pinpoint, but in the era of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, and conversely, sacred indie totems Husker Du and the Minutemen, this threesome were in a veritable league of their own. This appears to be the band's first and final offering. 01. Put Me On Hold 02. Invisible Man 03. Voodoo Rhythm 04. Solar Surf 05. Light Year 06. Deadly Innocence 07. Stop Molesting the Earth 08. All You Wanna Do
Five decades is a long time to be playing the rock and roll game. Yes, technically that's how long the Pedaljets career has spanned...if you count the 2020's and almost two full decades of inactivity between the early 90s stretching well into the 'aughts. And for what it's worth we've been on their tail since 2007 when I shared tracks from their phenomenal 1988 debut, Today, Today.
Gestating in Kansas all the way back to 1984, the 'jets brand of serrated guitar-jangle was a tangy and sometimes insular approximation of contemporary icons REM and the Replacements. If not wholly groundbreaking, there was a subtle mystique at play making Today, Today, and a well circulated demo tape from a couple years prior, staples among the few thousand fans who were lucky enough to have made their acquaintance. Fast forward a couple years to the band self-titled second album, which brought a leaner and sturdier Pedaljets to the fore. Perhaps not as distinctive as their debut, 1990's Pedaljets exuded some discernible muscularity and tighter songs. Not satisfied with the original mix of that record the album underwent a significant re-calibration and reissue in 2008. Coincidentally or not, right around the same time the Pedaljets started to play gigs on their own home turf again, and in 2013 their belated third album, What's In Between surfaced.
If fans thought they were lucking out with a reunion record seven years ago, how about an even better and more consistent follow-up to that? Amazingly, still boasting their original core lineup of leadman/guitarist Mike Allmayer, bass twiddler Matt Kesler and drummer Rob Morrow The Pedaljets have not only defied the longevity odds but have returned with what is arguably the best disc they've put their namesake on in over thirty years. The freshly minted Twist the Lens is not a throwback to their college rock days of yore, but a bold assertion of where their creative impetus has been residing in the here and now. Things start off with a veritable bang on vigorous opener "Disassociation Blues," a taught, infectious riff rocker. This formula is repeated to even greater effect on "Loved a Stone," "One Away," and Lens' punky closer, "The Fader." Nonetheless, this album isn't all pent-up aggression mind you. Things are tempered considerably on mid-tempo keepers "Placid City Girl" and "Uncounted Heads," suggesting an absorption of '90s Wilco and the like, and the Jets even pitch us a couple of bona fide ballads in the guise of "Sleepy Girl" and the melancholia-laced "What Only Cats Chase." In fact, there isn't one iota of triteness or cliched maneuver in sight on Twist the Lens, a remarkable feat for any band of veteran status. You can hear the results for yourself at Amazon downloads, or buy a CD or album (blood red vinyl, kids) straight from the band.
Sorry for another "drought" folks. Haven't had much time to digitize lately, so I went with one of the dwindling out-of-print CDs left in my collection that isn't available from the usual sources. As was the situation with last weeks post of Quinn the Eskimo, City Giants were another UK cold case from a particularly golden era in the British isles indie pop scene.
With a shelf-life spanning merely a year and a half, C/G were composed of four North Wales to London transplants whose discography prior to this anthology CD was a 1987 7" ep (represented here on tracks 3-5). Seemingly inspired by early Aztec Camera, and to a lesser extent The Smiths, the Giants belied their larger than life moniker with a considerably modest sonic aptitude, not far removed from contemporaries The June Brides and Bodines. Like the aforementioned there's a preciousness to their music, but these gents stopped just short of any overt twee transgressions. Of the fourteen studio cuts here you'll find little that is brash or overpowering, and while Provenance isn't uniformly revelatory it is consistently satisfying. Two selections in particular stick out as comparatively polished, "Stay Heartbroken" and "Forgiveness" recorded during the band's waning days in '88, and pointed to some serious commercial ambitions had they stuck it out a little longer. Guitarist Paul Davies published a a book in 2014, not so much about music, though there is a brief detour where he discusses the band. Unfortunately, this reissue was almost as limited as the band's now collectible single, and it took some time before I came across a reasonably priced copy, but as usual, I digress. Dig in.
01. The Wednesday Girl
02. Million Faces
03. Have You Got Any Idea
04. Little Next to Nothing
05. Where Love's Concerned
06. You're the Only Person
07. The Hardest Book to Read
08. The Paragon
09. She'll Twist Me Up
10. Stay Heartbroken
12. Heat And Inspiration (live)
13. Jamming On A Sunday (live)
14. Let's Make Him Wanna Wanna (live)
15. My Soul Is Your Home (live)
16. The Athletic Affair
17. A Collection Of
18. I Ate My Lucky Star
2007 compilation featuring no less than 31 key tracks from this band's catalog, albeit not always the album versions. Per the liner notes: This is for the people who have everything we ever released or the ones who have nothing we ever released.
**Please do not reveal artists in comments!** Hear
If Quinn the Eskimo strike you as a "lost" band from the Brit C86 indie pop scene...that's pretty much because they were. So lost in fact, the quartet surprisingly haven't been anthologized on any of the myriad of recent/semi-recent compilations documenting their rather revered stripe of music. Groomed on the likes of The Smiths, Orange Juice, early Sarah Records, etc, the quartet in question may not have arrived at the table first, but their jangle/strum aesthetic was tempered by mild folky undercurrents (thankfully not in the same wheelhouse as say, The Proclaimers. Typically with bands of Quinn's ilk I gravitate to the more upbeat songs, and with that in mind, "Samantha Rain," "Eastwood," and the Byrds-ian persuasions of the sprite "Breathing" begged many a repeat listen. Despite their moniker, you'll find no Dylan-isms to unfurl on any iota of this record. A concise blurb summing up The Mountain is a Dandy can be perused here. Enjoy.
01. Samantha Rain
03. Big Hedge
04. The Haymaker
05. Like a Flame
07. Once Upon a Day
08. The Wreck
10. The Importance of Being Honest
This may not be my most crucial wax I share this year, but I do enjoy it. For a band hailing from Dublin these guys didn't sound a stitch Irish. Nor did Light a Big Fire strike me as a product of anything emanating from the British isles, save for maybe the Screaming Blue Messiahs, of which they shared a slightly skewed sense of humor with. Truth be told they sound wholeheartedly American, in the vicinity of Jason and the Scorchers. A little pedestrian, and even more subtly rootsy, but the tunes are fun and hold up. I plucked the following bio blurb from Irish Rockers.com, albeit it doesn't mention that Pete Holidai from Irish punk rockers The Radiators eventually joined LaBF's lineup.
Formed in Dublin in 1982 when bass player Pat Driskin got together with a
couple of friends, guitarist Pete Dench and drummer Ray Rowland. They
were joined by singer Tom McLaughlin from Belfast and additional
vocalists Daunta Grudrinska and Owen Conroy. They signed to Eamonn
Carr's Hotwire Records in Ireland (Carr became one of their managers)
and released a number of singles in Ireland as well as the mini-album,
'Gunpowders'. They signed an international deal with Siren Records and
released the album 'Surveillance'.
Despite hailing from San Diego, Friends of Ghosts sounded like they were the stuff of thoroughly British stock. Frontman D. Andrew Marries (aka Donnie Darq) went a long way in playing up the trio's Anglophile leanings by floating a convincing Brit accent atop Friend's noir, but often cheeky canvas. On Realm of the Senses it's often hard to discern where the irony ends and where the gravity begins. Much like the coterie of inspirational antecedents they were wont to draw from - The Birthday Party, Syd Barrett and Bauhaus, there's often a lack of immediacy to this record. So much so there's barely a hook in sight to grab onto until you reach Realm's halfway mark on "Eleven Boy" - but when it peaks you'll be duly rewarded. Textures and idiosyncrasies were the Friend's ostensible raison d'etre, wherein these kids hopscotched from the percussive "Windows" to the metallic stomp of "Juju Digby Juju," and onto "Ciao Manhattan," which escalates from a chilled out piano ballad to something entirely more rocking. Virtually every realm that inhabits Realm bares a demeanor of it's own making, the most persuasive being the concluding "WMT" a melodic and measured three minute bliss-take that suggests what the Psychedelic Furs might have conjured up around the same era had they not gotten so irreparably tangled up in pink.
01. Realm of the Senses
02. William the Scotsman
03. Hollywood Land
04. Sinister Daze
05. Eleven Boy
07. Juju Digby Juju
09. Ciao Manhattan
10. Broadcast of Love
Sorry I haven't set you up with much in the way of fresh sounds this week, but hopefully this compensate. In fact, I was thinking about saving this for one of my Chanukah presentations, but why not pull the trigger early? 11th Hour were a Pittsburgh combo who may have disbanded as long as three decades ago (though I uncovered evidence of a 2018 reunion gig). The band's straight-up power pop modus operandi possessed a strong jangly bent, but the Shawn Harrison-fronted quartet were flexible enough to spill over into ballsier garage punk on "I'm Comin' Down," gravitating in the vicinity of locals The Cynics, and less obviously the Lime Spiders. They even dabble briefly on the psych side of the fence on the fleeting "Garden of Sleep," but 11th Hour's penchant for lingering in more conventional guitar pop environs yields at least half a dozen startlingly great tunes on Shapes and Things to Come including "There's No Danger," "Can't Get Through to You," "Go to the Edge" and "Pictures In My Room." Shapes and Things to Come concludes on a fitting note with a wailin' reading of the Eddie and the Hotrods classic, "Do Anything You Wanna Do." BTW, Huw Gower of The Records has a co-production role on several tracks!
In addition to Shapes... proper, the CD incarnation appends the just as valuable Alder St EP, initially released as a double 45 in 1987. Bearing an even rawer aplomb, it hones in on 11th Hour when they were fully ensconced in sweet, ringing guitars, wielding even more delirious and devastating hooks. This is stuff of immensely grand proportions, and you need to make your belated acquaintance with these guys NOW.
01. Release You
02. Can't Get Through To You
03. The Changing Of The Guard
05. I'm Comin' Down
06. Live Your Life Again
07. Go to the Edge
08. Garden of Sleep
09. Don't Sell Me
10. Under the Fire
11. There's No Danger
12. Pictures In My Room
13. Do Anything You Wanna Do
Alder St. ep (1987)
14. The Seasons
15. She Goes Away
16. There's No Danger
17. Can't Wait Another Day
18. The Bells of St. Mary
19. Find Some Meaning
Way back in 2011 when I addressed Timco'sFriction Tape LP, I mentioned a collection of their singles would be forthcoming. Well, a full nine years later the forth has belatedly come. Since this is a band that hasn't been active in roughly a quarter century I can't enlighten you much more than I already have. Nonetheless here are the basics. The fulcrum of Timco were two alumni from one of a really choice, not to mention noisome indie rock troupe from the '80s I've oft featured on these pages, Nice Strong Arm. Kevin Thompson parlayed his frontman role in NSA to Timco, and also brought along Ethel M. Deathel from his old group. Timco eschew much of NSA's wailing maelstroms, instead reveling in emotive, and sometimes highly dynamic downer rock bristling with texture and sobering resignations. If that description strikes you as a bit of an oversimplification, maybe it is, and while it may apply to their albums, the aforementioned Friction Tape and 1996's Gentleman Jim, Timco's first blush of short-for
m releases reveal a more varied story.
Birds, Bees & Cherries, a double 7" ep delivers a quartet of four-track demos cut by Thompson in '91. The commencing "Dragg Dabb" is the most engaging, anchored by a low roar of melancholy vocals and a gradually escalating crescendo of layered post-punk fretwork. Sheer magic. "Water Sucks Bugs" is even rawer and more amped-out and just about the closest Timco ever came to stretching back to Nice Strong Arm's sonic posture. The two songs occupying the second 45 are more subdued - not to mention a bit sardonic, proving Thompson possesses something resembling a sense of humor, idiosyncratic as it may be.
Another single, The Hotel Radio surfaced about three years with two songs culled from a radio session on KPFK in Los Angeles. The A-side, "Gone" is relatively spare but effective thanks to a devastatingly powerful vocal hook. This song would reside comfortably next to work of Timco contemporaries Seam and Versus. The flip, "Louisiana" is a ballad of dark proportions, although Thompson's dialogue leading into sounds a tad disingenuous.
The final single, also from 1994, features two live tracks from the Friction Tape-era. Ironically, Friction... itself was cut live in studio, and it's almost impossible to tell these singler versions apart from the album. The angsty "Walking Papers" is the epitome of what Timco were all about, while"Screw You" is an insular kiss-off if there ever was such a thing. Enjoy (or not)
I keep finding great unsung Austin, TX bands from a good 30+ years ago and though I don't know much about Ring Theatre's collective bona fides, I'm happy to report they're well above average. Not resembling or mimicking anyone in particular, the quartet's serrated guitar pop dabbles in lightweight punk chords on the feisty opener "Mrs. Ann" and "Second's Romance." Elsewhere the going never gets too middle-of-the-road thanks to RT's organic power pop angles and humble garage tendencies. In fact, this platter isn't far
removed from such other cold cases I've dispensed to you over the years by Public Bulletin and Signal Thirty, arcane as those references may be. This appeared to be Ring Theatre's one and only vinyl offering. If anyone in the audience has more details don't be a stranger.
01. Mrs. Ann
03. Second's Romance
04. Kill Yourself
05. Remember May
If Minor Alps haven't made it onto your radar by now, it's safe to say it's going to remain that way, as the duo of Matthew Caws (Nada Surf) and Juliana Hatfield (Blake Babies) haven't been particularly active since their debut 2013 LP, Get There. The collaboration seemed to be a one-off, as there was never a follow-up, but it's two participants did some touring behind the album, including a handful of dates in Europe. The April 2014 gig in Köln, Germany that I'm sharing today is an acoustic performance, and while not necessarily exciting or even climactic, it's a treat if you're an established fan of either Hatfield or Caws (in my case both). If not an out-and-out revelation, I thought Get There really played gracefully to the more austere, melancholic strengths of both of them without delving into anything heady or dramatic. This show, largely derived from songs from that album, follows suit with some poignant examples of this ethos like "I Don't Know What to Do With My Hands" and "Far From the Roses." As you might expect, given Hatfield and Caws' deep song catalogs outside of Minor Alps these are dipped into as well, albeit some of their more obvious signature titles are passed over in favor of less familiar ones. No complaints from my end there. Just a hint, track 21 is a cover...as if I had to tell you. Anyway, I'm making this whole shebang available in MP3 and FLAC below. Major thanks to whomever tracked this show and supplied pics/artwork.
01. I Wanna Take You Home 02. If I Wanted Trouble 03. Far From The Roses 04. Buried Plans 05. Candy Wrappers 06. 'taking three steps forward'/Bob Dylan banter 07. Wish You Were Upstairs 08. Live On Tomorrow 09. Maxon 10. Such A Beautiful Girl 11. Inside Of Love 12. Waiting For You 13. Out There 14. Beautiful Beat 15. Lonely Low 16. The Moon Is Calling 17. Airscape 18. I Don't Know What To Do With My Hands 19. Away Again 20. The Way You Wear Your Head 21. Bette Davis Eyes 22. Fruit Fly
This Liverpoolite brother act (Rob and Alan Fennah) had only negligible chart success in the mid-80s, despite bearing a smart yet accessible wave-pop sound that put them roughly in league with contemporaries The Korgis, Split Enz (and perhaps more coincidentally The Three O'clock). First Night is a cobbled-together compendium focusing on Alternative Radio's initial blush of (mostly) synthy singles, and offers delightful confections aplenty like the the title track and the yacht-rocky "Strangers in Love," alongside strummier forays "No Indispensable Man" and "Emotional Disaster." A couple of proper full lengths arrived belatedly in the mid-90s (and another in 2008), but these days the brothers are said to be scoring show tunes. Do check this one out.
01. First Night
02. Valley Of Evergreen (long version)
03. No Indispensable Man
04. Everybody Wants To Be Loved
05. Strangers in Love
06. Concertina Ballerina
08. Emotional Disaster
09. What a Dream
10. Summer 85
11. First Night (Long Version)
12. Strangers In Love (Long Version)
For an artist who arguably peaked on his first two albums, Marshall Crenshaw has remarkably not pumped out a subsequent steady stream of diminishing returns. That's no easy feat given the caliber of 1982's Marshall Crenshaw and the following year's Field Day which are revered by both guitar pop purists and early adopters of the gentleman in question. In fact, from a creative standpoint things never really went "south" so to speak for Crenshaw, rather just on divergent tangents. Nonetheless, some of his albums (roughly a dozen of 'em) fared better than the rest, and there are even ones I've modestly taken exception with (Life's Too Short anyone?).
If anything else, a good chunk of the man's catalog has been neglected, specifically a slew of albums he cut in the mid-90s through the 2000s that didn't bear a major label imprint. His seventh studio LP, Miracle of Science, circa 1996, was his maiden indie foray, and is now being released on vinyl for the first time, with a rejiggered song sequence and significantly refurbished sleeve art. And it's not a bad album to revisit at that, as it proved to be one of his loosest and varied affairs. Thing is, virtually every album Marshall Crenshaw brings to market feels like casual day at the office, with Miracle... being especially representative of this modus operandi. The commencing "What Do You Dream Of," with it's serendipitous flow of acoustics and electrics, is the kind of pop tune that would seem a miracle of musical science in the hands of any other singer/songwriter, but for M/C it emanates as naturally as putting on a pair of slippers. Another absolute stunner, "Starless Summer Sky," harkens back to the aesthetic of his breathtaking early records, brandishing a structure that smacks of the finest Field Day had to offer. "Laughter" and "A Wondrous Place" amble along on a considerably lackadaisical path, particularly the latter which features strings, marimba and some faint flamenco affectations.
Amidst the inspired originals on Miracle reside a pair of covers. A reading of Dobie Gray's 1964 oldie "The 'In" Crowd" isn't much of a revelation, but how about a Grant Hart solo cut? And not just any old Hart song, but one of the finest the sadly departed Husker gave rise to, "Twenty-Five Forty-One." Truth be told, it wasn't the original incarnation that Crenshaw became acquainted with, rather Robert Forster's version on the I Had a New York Girlfriend covers collection, but no matter. It's great.
"Seven Miles an Hour" winds Miracle... out, but not before M/C messes with us by prefacing it with a backwards take of the song in it's entirety, included as a bonus cut. Furthermore the vinyl variant of the album is coupled with a bonus single of two more recently recorded songs (both remakes including Michael Pagliaro's "What The Hell I Got"). Elusive Disc will take care of you if opt to spin the black circles, while Amazon is holding down the CD and digital fort. Available as we speak.
Just four short months ago I posted an Elton Motellosingle, and was enthused enough about it to spend some quality time with his second long-player, this one. You can refer back to that original entry for some pertinent biographical specifications. Pop Art is a minor new wave masterpiece, exuding just about everything that was creative and incisive about that genre's nascent era, while gracefully sidestepping any of it's patently negative shortcomings that would become ubiquitous over the next couple of years. A fantastically nervy strain courses trough virtually every morsel of this album, that sonically points to the acerbic modus operandi of some of Elton's (actual name Alan Ward) contemporaries likes Devo, Donnie Iris and to a lesser extent Gary Numan. Some surprisingly rollicking and punky outbursts crop up here in the guise of "Pocket Calculator," "In the Heart of the City" (not the Rockpile tune but just as ripping) and "Panic in the Classroom," and if you're looking for par excellence power pop the title piece is both flashy and a hell of a lotta fun. Enjoy.
01. Pop Art
02. Can't Explain
03. Night Sister
04. Falling Like a Domino
05. Out of Limit
06. 20th Century Fox
07. In the Heart of the City
08. Pocket Calculator
09. When All the Boys Are English
11. Pay the Radio
12. Panic in the Classroom
hiya, I have way more re-ups to attend to, which I'll try to get to next week - as many as I can. Really flooded with requests at the moment, so please hold off with any more for another week or so. Much appreciated!
And so I present you with the final piece of the Nice Strong Arm puzzle, their debut, Reality Bath. I've featured their subsequent platters Mind Furnace and Stress City eons ago, and a convenient thing that since both were extractable from CDs. Reality Bath, on the other hand, was a vinyl/tape-only proposition. Those in the know about these angsty New Yorkers, fronted by one Kevin Thomson, will no doubt boast their noisenik credentials, and rightfully so I suppose, but these folks were emanating from points of catharsis and artful sensibility, not so much full bore aggression.
On second thought, it's damn near impossible to deny that Reality Bath isn't chockablock with raging, dissonant notions and eardrum-frying sprawl. Even relatively likeminded contemporaries Live Skull and Red Temple Spirits couldn't quite compete with NSA's near-disorienting
sonic alchemy that often fell just shy of surreal. No, taking this proverbial Bath won't be of Calgon proportions in the least, and dare I say there's not much here that's "fun," but despite it's miles-deep layers of sinewy latticework, the going rarely gets difficult. Furthermore there’s more guttural,
emo pathos at play here than Rites of Spring ever thought to fling in our direction. If you're looking for some comparatively melodic respites, you may want to dive in at "When Truth Comes Around," "Minds Lie," and "Free At Last." This one's an acquired taste that's well worth acquiring, and check out NSA's second and third records linked above
01. Life of the Party
02. Date of Birth
05. When Truth Comes Around
06. Life is So Cool
07. Minds Lie
08. Free at Last
09. Notes From a Gut
10. Dying Skin
In the early '90s British-based Clawfist Records was responsible for a spate of split singles featuring (mostly) indie band covering one another on the same piece of wax. Way back, I featured one of their 1991 specimens, Poster Children/Thin White Rope, and some ten years later I'm sharing another in the Clawfist series. Smashing Orange (not to be confused with you-know-who) were one of my small-of-famers back in the day. A fantastically noisome blur of manicured noise and dream pop ethos who responsible for handfuo of eps and two albums, The Glass Bead Game being the foremost of the pair. On this split 45 they cover The Sunflowers, a combo I'd never really investigated before. Per Discogs the band only released a few singles, and ironically the tune Smashing Orange take to task here, "Something You Said" didn't materialize on any of them. Nonetheless, it's glorious noise-pop overdrive if I've ever such a thing. The Sunflowers return the favor by doing a rendition of one of my go-to Smashing Orange songs, "Collide" nailing it quite capably at that.
A. Smashing Orange - Something You Said
B. The Sunflowers - Collide
It's cherry picking season again. Here's my annual postmortem assemblage of the creme de la creme of what I just offered you a year prior. A taster, or sampler if you will. I'm really not sure if these yearly distillations are really hitting their desired audience (neophytes, stragglers, etc) or if I'm merely preaching to the choir. At any rate, I've plucked 23 of the most succulent feathers from the wild array that was 2019. As was the case in 2018, I've grown increasingly slack in the amount of shared content, and as such offered even less in the past year. Turns out though that a decent chunk of what I managed to get up '19 was of particularly high caliber.
Thing was, I presented such a haphazard pastiche of styles and genres that it made sequencing this mix a bit of a bitch, but I think I pulled it off, beginning with a cluster of acts that loosely skewed to the power pop end of the spectrum. Midway, I sort of hit a downcast stride with the emphasis on post-punk, but managed to conclude this playlist on a surprising note of levity. I don't have an adequate amount of time to elaborate on individual cuts, though I plan on attaching links to the original artist entries later this weekend. Included are three additional, previously unshared kernels that are noted with an asterisk. One item not to be overlooked is that of a virtually unknown and unsearchable quantity, La Voix Celeste (circa 1983) who deliver the melancholic, minimalist wave piece "Phases," which doesn't just strive for mood, but a sublime hook as well. This whole package concludes with one of my most listened to songs of the past couple years, a sleeper if there ever was one that you can read more about here. Enjoy.