Thursday, November 29, 2007

this probing in public

Hiya folks. I'm in the midst of some serious hard drive surgery and may not post again until early next week. I'll try to compensate with some really kick ass stuff in 2008. Thanks for your patience...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Crackerbash - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection

Like many indie-rawk bands hailing from Portland, Oregon during the 1990s, Crackerbash, along with such hometown brethren as Hazel, Heatmiser, and Pond opted for something less bludgeoning than their flanneled neighbors to the north. Crackerbash were less prominent than pretty much all of the aforementioned, but no less worthy. The band's calling card was Sean Croghan who's deep and none-to offbeat bellow was coupled by flurries of crunchy, chiming guitar riffs, the product of his own two hands no less. The band's finest hour came in the form of a self-titled debut album on Empty Records in 1992. It would also be their only full-length, with the Tin Toy ep coming on it's heels a couple of years later.

There were also some admirable singles, which is the topic of this very post. Not a crowning achievement so much as a quasi status symbol, The 'bash had the privilege of partaking in Sub Pop's fabled singles of the month club, with their 7" slab arriving on the August 1992 installment. I apologize for the pesky vinyl noise on the A-side, "Nov. 1," but nevertheless a standout track, backed with a Spinanes cover on the flip side.

Even more stunning was the ringingly melodious "Holiday" from a '92 7" released on the locally based Imp Records. A huge personal favorite of mine, despite it's two so-so accompanying tracks. If Crackerbash had a "signature song," so to speak, then by golly, "Jasper" just might have been representative as such. With it's mesmerizing wall of power chords and Croghan's throaty wail, "Jasper" is a slice of indie-punk perfection. In addition to it's release on an Empty Records 7", the song also made an appearance on their album. Some of the recordings on this Crackerbash triple-shot may sound a trifle crude but so be it. Their magic shines through nonetheless. A complete Crackerbash discography can be found here.

Holiday 7" ep (Imp Records)
01. Holiday
02. All Work
03. Walk Back

Jasper 7" ep (eMpTy Records)
04. Jasper
05. Aluminum Siding
06. Leaving 
Sub Pop single of the month (August 1992)
07. Nov. 1
08. Halloween Candy

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Heavens to Betsy - singles and demos (1992-94)

Olympia' Washington's Heavens to Betsy will always be remembered as the band Corin Tucker had her riot grrrl antecedents in prior to forming Sleater-Kinney, but H2B's merits are considerable, if a little unheralded. An economically efficient duo with Tucker on guitar and Tracy Sawyer flailing away on the skins, H2B convincingly and palpably bore the exfoliated nerve of societal repression and abuse (particularly as it pertained to young women). Perhaps it was Hole and Bikini Kill that gave the riot grrrl movement international prominence, but despite Tucker and Sawyer's sonically minimal delivery, H2B drove their point home just as loud and clear, if only to a more meager audience.

The 1994 Calculated lp on Kill Rock Stars was H2B's most accessible release, at least in terms of retail attainability, the releases leading up to it were in my opinion even more remarkable. A self-titled 1992 demo tape went a long way not only in laying out the blueprint for H2B future recordings, but functioned as a gut-check of sorts to anyone in earshot that could relate to the sentiments laid out in "Stay Dead," and "My Secret." These songs, among more to follow, concerned the post-traumatic aftermath of domestic and/or child abuse.

Heavens to Betsy's first official vinyl offering was a four-cut 7" ep, These Monsters Are Real, on the esteemed Kill Rock Stars imprint. It found Sawyer and Tucker delving into more melodic terrain, while fully retaining the cathartic energy. The Calculated lp that was soon to follow was hardly anything it's title would suggest. Surprisingly, much of it was not as substantive as the demos and Monsters 7" would suggest. It's still required listening for anyone who's devoured their lesser known recordings, but with such a heavy emphasis on sung/screamed dynamics, the songs tend to get lost in the process.

Their final recording, 1994's Direction ep made up for Calculated's foibles, showcasing H2B at their most poised and focused, and once again, wrought as ever. It features one of the duo's crowning achievements, "Get Out of My Head." You'd be hard pressed to find music of any stripe or genre more genuine than Heavens to Betsy's brief catalog of justifiable, post-adolsecent angst

1992 demo

01. Good Food
02. Factory
03. Seek & Hide
04. Stay Dead
05. My Red Self
06. Ain't Never Goin' Back
07. Baby Gone
08. My Secret

These Monsters Are Real ep

01. Me & Her
02. Monsters
03. Playground
04. Firefly
Direction ep

01. Direction
02. Get Out of My Head
03. The ONes
04. Driving Song

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Bats (US) - How Pop You Can Get? (1982)

Before scoring soundtracks (i.e. I Heart Huckabees), enjoying a coveted spot in the short-lived, mid-90s pop supergroup The Grays, not to mention recording a thoroughly excellent solo album, Meaningless in 2001, Jon Brion endured a little-known skinny-tie phase predating all of the aforementioned. Some 25 years ago in Connecticut, a band dubbed The Bats committed to tape a fairly convincing power-pop-ish album How Pop Can You Get? on the small and assumedly local label, Gustav Records. Though hardly a landmark for the genre or otherwise, The Bats romantic sentiments and period keyboard accoutrements were if anything competent, and for that matter, sometimes downright hook-laden, as evidenced by the title cut.

I do not own an original copy of this album, nor will I likely be fortunate enough to (unless it's reissued *hint, hint*), however I was able to procure a decent rip in the outermost regions of cyberspace for your listening leisure. Now, how pop can you get?

01. chauve-souris
02. how pop can you get
03. not easy for me
04. will she ever come around
05. mr. peculiar
06. living in alaska
07. not my girl anymore
08. something ventured
09. hey teen-age
10. why does suzy have bad dreams?
11. paranoid schizophrenic
12. every night
13. too out-bottom of the ninth

Update: this has been reissued online from the original tapes! Sounds impeccable. Get it from Amazon, Emusic, or iTunes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Junk Monkeys - Five Star Fling (1991)

Detroit's ingenious Junk Monkeys were under everyone's noses (or more precisely in used bargain CD and tape bins, he he) during the early '90, but few actually took the 'fling,' so to speak. Perhaps the best Detroit-based band of their era, the Monkeys doled out raw, thrashy rock 'n roll with a decidedly unabashed nod to the Replacements. Their 1993 follow-up to this slammin' set, Bliss, may have been their most consistent and accomplished album, but it can't touch Five Star Fling, in all it's visceral, devil-may-care glory. An unlikely Who cover is thrown into the mix as well, but it's originals like "Sad Letters" and "Skippin' Stones" that dazzle the most.

Incidentally, the Junk Monkeys were signed to the Metal Blade division of Warner Brothers simultaneously with the Goo Goo Dolls when the latter's integrity was mostly intact (and in my opinion, quite remarkable at that - check out the Goos Jed and Hold Me Up for further convincing). Keep your eyes peeled for more Junk Monkeys on here in the future.

01-Sad Letters
03-Everything Remains The Same
04-I Don't Mind
05-Skippin' Stones
06-Like A Firecracker
07-Time On Hand
08-A Quick One {While He's Away}
09-Every One Can See You
10-Wig Shop

Amazon Downloads

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Verge - Habitual ep + 1 (1983)

Yet another one from the 'wish I'd been there' chronicles. Hardly known as a musical breeding ground, Albany, NY's Verge, managed to cultivate one heck of a 7" ep, almost a full 25 years ago. Brandishing an archetypal post-punk inclination, The Verge married jagged, but sweet echoing guitar licks with Thomas Rella's amelodic vocals. The result were surprisingly intoxicating, not unlike what Killing Joke and Middle Class were dispensing around the same time. Definitely a must for all you KBD fans out there.

Truth be told, I know nothing about the Verge save for their location and meager body of work. The music will really need to speak for itself this time, and trust me, it does. In addition to the four-song Habitual ep, I've also tacked on the excellent "1-2-3-4-5-6," lovingly extracted from a forgettable local compilation, Hudson Rock, released in 1982, that furthermore proves how incredibly gifted this trio were and what more they could have done. If anyone can provide me with more background info on the Verge, by all means...

Habitual ep
1. Tradition
2. Understand
3. Picturesque
4. Hypocrisy
5. 1-2-3-4-5-6

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Proof - It's Safe (1980)

I was damn-near surprised to see that this gem of an album never caught the watchful eye of some of the kingpin power-pop blogs out there. Surprised if only for the fact that The Proof's It's Safe album was released under the auspices of a major label no less, in this case the venerable CBS Records. To be more precise, It's Safe was born into the world on a tentacle of CBS, Nemperor Records, most notably home to power-pop, leather-tie traditionalists The Romantics.

The Proof's lone-lp is overflowing with spunky (not punky), rhythmically aware new wave-inflected pop, that could have easily gone head-to-head with such period contemporaries as The Hawks, Quincy, and to a lesser extent 20/20. Assuredly, this quartet was yet another major-label fatality of their era, right along with some of the aforementioned. For shame...

01. Stay Sixteen
02. First Rate
03. I Would Be there
04. Won't Give an Inch
05. I Want You
06. It's Safe
07. No Answers
08. Crazy Nites
09. Hello
10. That's That
11. Love in A Hurry
12. Does It Show

Friday, November 16, 2007

Nice Strong Arm - Stress City (1989)

To some people, Nice Strong Arm were just another noisy post-punk band on Homestead Records. My first encounter with them came courtesy of college radio in the early ‘90s when I was at an impressionable age . Specifically, the song that lured me in was this very album’s “Desert Beauty Bloom,” and it was a tremendous revelation. With it’s lofty escapist sentiments, abetted by a sonic fusion of maelstrom and melody, “Desert Beauty Bloom,” went that much further in legitimizing my increasing dedication to indie-rock. Stress City, along with albums/singles by dozens, if not hundreds of bands that flew under the collective mainstream radar, motivated me to gradually forfeit nearly a decade’s worth of heavy metal and classic rock schooling. Everyone says that Nirvana killed hair-metal. I’d argue that Nice Strong Arm proved to be damn near effective as well, at least for me.

New York’s NSA opted for a dreary foreboding landscape for many of their songs, and Stress City’s ten selections are certainly no exception. “Desert Beauty Blooms” is relatively hopeful, but I think I’ve commented enough about this song above. Although much of the remainder of Stress City is less than immediate (to say the least) it’s still worth the investment.

Lead Arm, Kevin Thompson would later helm the much mellower
Timco, but we’ll leave them as a subject for another time.

01. Desert Beauty Bloom
02. Stress City
03. Lost Sleep
04. Neighborhood Voyeur
05. From Heaven
06. Amnesia
07. My Perception
08. Cakewalk
09. Autumn Green
10. White Wonder


Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Meices - early singles (1991-92)

Were the Meices given the whole "Behind the Music" treatment, something tells me they'd have a pretty
interesting story to tell. Ultimately, notoriety of just about any sort was not in the cards for this 'Frisco trio who pumped out three consistently impressive albums of a rather indigenous brand of rough-and-tumble pop-punk that hasn't been heard since their dissolution in the mid-90s. Two of that trio of long-players, 1994's Tastes Like Chicken, and 1996's Dirty Bird, were issued on a major label (London Records) no less, but the wider exposure espoused to the Meices did little to maximize their meager, but dedicated following.

Over the course of three albums, The Meices matured steadily and noticeably. As for the band's pre-lp introductory singles, the Meices at their rawest and most unbridled could outdo the "prime" output of many of their contemporaries. The punk-pop tag is likely to conjure up Blink 182, Green Day, and god forbid Good Charlotte, but Joe Reineke and company weren't shy about kicking up a little dust to come up with something a little more impulsive and dynamic. The Meices made their official debut wih the Not Funny (ha ha) 7" ep on Two Car Garage Records in 1991. Four slices of roughhewn, rip-roaring rawk, that featured what was to become one of their signature songs, "Alex Put Something In His Pocket." Total fun, and even though it was far from their potential it was a more than respectable start. Many other songs from the Not Funny sessions would wind up on an import-only CD, Pissin' In the Sink.

The "gravy" would trickle out shortly thereafter with two singles for
the Seattle-based Empty Records. They were released as precursors to a dynamite debut album for the label, dubbed Greatest Bible Stories Ever Told. The A-sides, "Don't Let the Soap Run Out" and a reworked "Alex" found their rightful place on the aforementioned 12," but the b-sides weren't shabby either. The downer vibe of "We're Freezing" secured a place as one of the most "serious" songs in the Meices oeuvre. A faithful rendition of "Back In Your Life" in no uncertain terms revealed Reineke's sincere appreciation for Jonathan Richman, while "Alex's" flipside, "Crash," is a melodious stunner that would have made a fine addition to any Meices album, not just the first.

The only Meice with any real prominence, Joe Reineke went onto found the even more prolific Alien Crime Syndicate in the late '90s, a band that added some electronica accoutrement's into the picture, but still brought the rawk.
Not Funny, Ha Ha 7" ep
01. It's Oakland
02. We Was Gettin' Drunk
03. Where You Get On
04. Alex Put Something In His Pocket
1st eMpTy Records 7"
01. Don't let the Soap Run Out
02. We're Freezing
03. Back In Your Life
2nd eMpTy Records 7"
01. Alex
02. Crash

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ups and Downs - Rash ep (1991)

From Brisbane Australia they came, and profile-wise their audience sadly didn't reach much further than Oz. In the mid-to-late 1980s, The Ups and Downs released a bevy of indie singles and two strong albums, Sleepless in '86, and Underneath the Watchful Eye two years later. (The former can be obtained here). Their sound was classic anglophile modern rock, with lots of ringing guitars and a faintly melancholy undercurrent.

The 1991 Rash ep, available on Nettwerk Records in North America, was their last gasp, and although I'm likely in the minority here, I found it to be their peak moment. Rash plot the Ups and Downs on a decidedly more commercial path, but with the glossier veneer came sublime, melodic gems like "Jack," and "Untie Ian." This ep was a bittersweet proposition in all respects, from the contemplative songs that encompassed it, to the sobering realization that there would be no more where this came from.

01. Awesome
02. Jack (what the hell does that mean)
03. Safer (remix)
04. Karma
05. Untie Ian


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Blases - s/t lp (1989)

The Blases lone, eponymous album is the stuff this blog was born for. Not so much a classic, rather a classic example of an album lost to the limits of DIY distribution and homegrown record labels. Until I found this album online sometime in the very late '90s, my affiliation with these Jersey bar-rockers was solely through a grainy video for this album's brilliant "Time Walks Away," which aired on MTVs 120 Minutes, dare I say in 1990-91(?). To my memory, no album or label information was provided with the usual "ID" info, but in years to come, I would learn that then 120 Minutes host, the infamously gravel-throated, Matt Pinfield was keenly familiar with the Blases, so no great mystery there as to why the video was sandwiched between Jesus & Mary Chain and Julian Cope clips at 1:30 AM.

Despite my eventual absorption of the Blases record, and even with the ever expanding "information highway" at my fingertips I have unsuccessfully learned much about the band, with the exception of reading of a one-off reunion show in recent years. The Blases is no magnum-opus, and is probably what Soul Asylum would have amounted to had they pursued the gin-mills and nothing else. However the song that lured me in the first place, the aforementioned "Time Walks Away," is stunning, due in part to it's relatable 'one-that-got-away' motif, and an incessantly, jangle-ridden hook. Side two's "Wasting My Dreams to Sleep," comes in at a fairly close second, and although the nine-song collection is more than listenable, great swaths of it don't particularly stick.

I foolishly passed up the opportunity to buy a Blases single on Ebay many years ago, so if any of you have any juicy details on that, or for that matter the band themselves, don't be a stranger.

01. I Walk Alone
02. She Catches Fire
03. The Point
04. Time Walks Away
05. Oh Mammy
06. Firefighter
07. Alis
08. Wasting My Dreams on Sleep
09. Sorrow My Eyes

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Scruffs - Teenage Gurls (recorded 1979, released 1998)

Over the years, many a power pop-centric music scribe/audiophile has espoused the "no-home-should-be-without-one" notion regarding the 1977 debut album from Memphis' Scruffs, Wanna Meet the Scruffs? The updated Merseybeat that occupies that album's grooves is perhaps on par with the best of the Raspberries output, but certainly not to be outdone by the first two Big Star albums. To this set of ears, Wanna Meet... isn't a masterpiece by any stretch, but as Joy Division were to goth, and what Black Sabbath were to heavy metal, The Scruffs weren't the pinnacle of the proto-power pop movement, rather they were one of the fortunate innovators. Innovators in this case that hardly got their due I should add.

Wanna Meet the Scruffs? has for the most part been back in print since the late '90s. With renewed interest in the band some 20 years since that album graced shelves, the wise entrepreneurs who helmed the Memphis based Northern Heights Records, excavated the Scruffs vaults, and in 1998 released the bands second, and theretofore unreleased LP, Teenage Gurls. Sporting a logical progression from Wanna Meet..., the followup didn't dramatically jostle the proceedings, but the punky "Rock 'N Roll Heads" and "You, You, You," pointed to what contemporaries like the Nerves and Undertones were about to unleash.

Pound for pound, Teenage Gurls is just as worthy as it's lauded predecessor, and not a bad place for the uninitiated to start with. As an added note, The Scruffs recently reunited, and released a respectable album in early 2007, Pop Manifesto.

01. Teenage Girls
02. Go Faster
03. You, You, You
04. Nick of Time
05. At the Movies
06. Edge of Disaster
07. Now
08. Boys/Girls Get Their Own Way
09. Alice, Please Don't Go
10. Breakdown
11. Danger
12. Treachery
13. Rock n Roll Heads
14. How We Gonna Do It?
15. Shakin'

Now available from Amazon downloads and iTunes.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sand Rubies - Release the Hounds (1999)

If you know anything at all about Tucson, Arizona's Sand Rubies, you're probably aware that they evolved from a group called the Sidewinders, a critically renown "college rock" outfit that offered a mild but noticeable No-Depression inflection to their meager but earnest mix. As a matter of fact, you can check out one of their albums on for size right here (just scroll down a tad and you'll see it).

With little to no fanfare, the 'winders reneged on their original moniker and traded it in for the Sand Rubies, upon learning that the Sidewinders tag also belonged to another American band. In 1993, the Rubies signed to the major label affiliate Atlas Records and released a self-titled disk, much in the Sidewinders vein that largely went unnoticed in the grunge-era hoopla. Calling it a day in '94, a couple of low circulation posthumous Sand Rubies albums were released - a live document, and later a covers CD on the presumably homegrown imprint Gestrichen Records, Release the Hounds, which this post concerns.

Neither the Sidewinders or Rubies were what you would consider especially spirited (at least on record), but even though Hounds is par for the course, most of what they attempt is convincing, if not little shambolic at times. The remakes here are fairly straightforward and faithful to the originals, but what really reeled me in were their takes on the Records "Starry Eyes," Neil Young's late '80s anthem "Rockin' in the Free World," and of course, I just couldn't continue on my journey in life without hearing the Sand Rubies rendering of Spirit's "Nature's Way." And neither can you.

01 - when the time comes
02 - (i'm not your) stepping stone
03 - memories are made of this
04 - nature's way
05 - all along the watchtower
06 - you're gonna miss me
07 - i should have known better
08 - grey riders
09 - little black egg
10 - starry eyes
11 - rockin' in the free world
12 - signed d.c.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Hummingbirds - LoveBUZZ (1989)

An album as thoroughly excellent as the Hummingbirds loveBUZZ should not warrant a post on a blog dedicated to lost and overlooked records. Ideally it would be revered and ubiquitous, as say Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend. In other words, loveBUZZ should've/could've been a staple. Hailing from Sydney, Australia The Hummingbirds had the backing of a major label (actually Rooart Records, a big Oz indie co-opted by Polygram) and production of their debut album courtesy of the near-legendary Mitch Easter. The album was a modest success in their home country, but with the exception of college radio tanked Stateside.

As usually is the case, the music speaks for itself. The ceaseless, Rickenbacker jangle that permeates loveBUZZ, is paralleled only by the Hummingbirds co-ed harmonies. Allanah Russack is the dominant voice here, and although it's tempting to assimilate the Hummingbirds with contemporaries like the Primitives and Darling Buds, loveBUZZ makes that virtually impossible given it's depth and sonic splendor. In more recent years, the band has been represented with an official "best of" compilation, but this album plays like a veritable greatest-hits album in itself. The ever nagging melodicism of "Alimony," "Word Gets Around," and the album's 'big' single, "Blush," anchor eleven more could-have-been universal classics, making loveBUZZ downright vital for power-pop fans and otherwise.

01. Blush
02. She Knows
03. Hollow Inside
04. Tuesday
05. Word Gets Around
06. House Taken Over
07. Get on Down
08. Alimony
09. Everything You Said
10. Barbarian
11. Thee in the Morning
12. Michelle As Well
13. If You Leave
14. Miles to Go

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Numbers - Add Up (1979)

The Toronto based Numbers were a straight-up power pop quartet that released their one and only album, Add Up at the crest of that genre’s movement in the late-70s/early 80. Arguably, their moniker was accurate, in that their approach was pretty much by…well, the numbers. Not withstanding their lack of innovation, they delivered an excellent batch of tunes, with the emphasis particularly on the jagged lead-off cut, “Sideways Elevator,” which was also released as a single. Elsewhere on Add Up, The Numbers proved they could go head to head with such contemporaries as The Records and Plimsouls, evidenced by the sublime jangle of “Leave It To Me,” and “Can’t Take It.”

A good summation of the Numbers brief career can be found at Canoe’s Canadian encyclopedia of music here .
I have also included the text of it below:

Coleman York (drums, backing vocals)

Jim Kennedy (rhythm guitar, backing vocals)
Ed Blocki (lead vocals, bass guitar)
Peter Evans (lead vocals, lead/rhythm guitar, keyboards)
Colin "Archie" Gerrard (keyboards vocals; replaced Kennedy 1980)

With Canadian record label Attic Records always on the cutting edge of new, innovative ways of developing talent while keeping costs low, they hit on the idea of a no-frills label called Basement Records. Their first signing was Toronto act, The Numbers, in 1979. The band went into the Soundstage studios in Toronto in October of that year with Jack Richardson's son Garth Richardson producing.

Attic co-owner Tom Williams wanted the Numbers to be the first album released in 1980 so, at 9:00 AM on New Year's day, key radio music directors and journalists were sent a copy of the album 'Add Up' to their homes along with a Bloody Caesar alcoholic beverage. The ploy worked as The Numbers received a bit of activity with the first single, "Sideways Elevator", but when it came time to follow that up with a second album the band demanded a larger production defeating the ability for Basement Records to live up to its mandate. As a result the band made a deal to re-sign with Attic Records under the new name Hot Tip (whereby Jim Kennedy was replaced by keyboardist Colin Gerrard). Unfortunately, the band broke up shortly after its two singles could be released in 1981. With notes from Kevin Shea and Michael Coxe.

01. Sideways Elevator
02. Sunday Afternoon
03. Out to You
04. BIts & Pieces
05. Can't Take It
06. Leave it to Me
07. Mr. Dempster
08. Won't You Call
09. She's Got Everything
10. Get Away

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Papillomas - Twice as Early as You'd Ever Want to Be There (1997)

Victoria, BC's Papillomas were just one of scores of hot indie bands emanating from the Canadian border throughout the '90s, however this promising quartet didn't mean squat in the States, unless of course you were an avid listener of CBC radio like myself. Taking subtle cues from yanks like Pavement, For Squirrels, and Archers of Loaf, the Pap's brand of roughewn, mid-fi indie-rawk had a certain distinction of it's own, due in large part to Michael Kissinger's slightly offbeat timbre. Twice Is Early... is no through-and-through masterpiece, but some of the choicer selections, namely "Everything is Tired," "Wisconsin Camera For Higher," and "Cross Face Chicken Wing" are worth hitching the ride for. Preceding this album was the Papilloma's debut, Corolla, while 2001's When Years Were Bee Stings ep was the band's parting shot. Good luck trying to find any of them, because you'll probably need it.

01-Wisconsin Camera For Hire
02-Hail the Standard Eardrum Plan
03-Stryper '85
04-Jacked Up Truck
05-Tiger Mouth
06-Self Kicker
07-Everything Is Tired
08-I Want to Be It
10-Cross Face Chicken Wing
12-Flying V

This can now be found on Apple