Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mean Red Spiders - Places You Call Home (1998, Teenage USA)

Toronto's second-wave (or arguably third) dream-popsters Mean Red Spiders, didn't approach the heavy handedness of their denser predecessors like My Bloody Valentine and Lush, and all the better if you ask me. A little subtly, not to mention a keen ambient awareness, goes a long way, and this co-ed's 1998 debut is a beaut. Places You Call Home, alternates between warm, pastel hues and gentle feedback skirmishes, producing a relatively low-key ethos, where even an unlikely cover of Burt Bacharach's "Trains and Boats and Planes" meshes nicely amidst the Spider's originals.

Places...distinctly recalls the eponymous debut album by Dutch shoegazers, The Nightblooms. A probable coincidence perhaps, but if you're familiar with the aforementioned, MRS craft a lucid, less-insular enclave by comparison.
Two more Mean Red Spiders albums would follow, Starsandsons in 2000, and Still Life Moving Fast two years later. The band is apparently still active, as evidenced by newly recorded tunes on their Myspace page (linked above), including a sweet variation of the Beach Boys "Feel Flows."

01. Shiny Skin
02. iiieved cove
03. Trains and Boats and Planes (Burt Bacharach)
04. C1
05. Belle Elemore
06. I Recognize
07. Necktie
08. Eat Without Sowing
09. Meanness
10. Places You Call Home
11. Max

Now available from iTunes, Amazon downloads and Emusic.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Dentists - Naked 10" ep (1991, Independent Projects)

The Dentists weren’t the most renown ambassadors of the England’s mid-80s, C86 indie scene, but at their most potent they deserved their rightful place among movers and shakers like, the Wedding Present, Mighty Lemon Drops, and Close Lobsters. For an earful of prime, ringing, guitar-laden glory, there’s no better place to start than with the Dentists Dressed CD compilation of nascent singles and crucial album selections from their late ‘80s goldmine, which if you can’t find used, you can conveniently download here.

Naked, a 10” ep's worth of demos, recorded between 1984-87, released in ’91 as part of Independent Project Record’s “Archive Series,” is an undeniable treat for hardcore Dentists fans, and for that matter jangle-pop enthusiasts in general. The sprite, driving opener, “Ugly” is damn-near sublime, while “We Thought We’d Got to Heaven,” and “The Sun in Sands” offer thoughtful ruminations a la the Smiths, sans any of Morrisey's patented posturing and preening. In sum, not a bad little record.
01. Ugly
02. We Thought We'd Got to Heaven
03. Crimson Skies Again
04. The Sun in the Sands
05. Streets & Houses
06. Reading the News
07. Naked

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Texas Instruments - Crammed Into Infinity (1991, Rockville)

Here's another quick and dirty CD upload while I buy myself some time to transcribe more vinyl to ones and zeroes. Not particularly rare (you can buy a gently used copy from Amazon for about the price of a postage stamp - no joke), or one of the crown jewels in my collection, but still worthy nevertheless. At the urging of a record store clerk many years ago, it was suggested I buy a used cassette of this album with the expectation that I would find The Texas Instruments akin to a Superchunk soundalike. Utter nonsense as it turned out, but I digress. Their third album, Crammed Into Infinity remains my only exposure to this Austin, TX quartet, and I certainly hope it doesn't stay that way. The album is rooted in the college rock environs of it's era, but with it's loose dexterity, a la the Velvet Underground, the Instruments aren't wont to be anchored in any particular neighborhood (and none-too-shy about dabbling in country and folk I might add). According to the estimable Trouser Press:

The band finally blossomed on Crammed Into Infinity: the music is more precise, while the lyrics hit hard with observant social sketches and pointed cultural muckraking. "Don't Force Me (To Force You)" smartly compares the vision of society's marginals to those who have it easy; the weary, insanely catchy title track is a nonpareil rock'n'roll song.

That too I suppose. Enjoy.
01-Crammed Into Infinity
02-Don't Force Me (To Force You)
03-Hanging By a Thread
04-Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go
05-World's Gotten Smaller
06-Walking Question Mark
07-Big White House
08-She's Not Free
09-Decade of Denial
10-Over Before it Started

Singles Going Single #56: The Halo Bit 7" (1992, spinART)

Providence, RI’s The Halo Bit featured Alex Kemp of Small Factory and Godrays notoriety. This single was released a couple years prior to Halo’s only LP, 1994’s Gravity (Is the Force That Brings You Down), also issued on the now defunct spinART Records. Sonically, the Halo Bit were almost completely analogous to Kemp’s full-time project of the era (Small Factory), swapping the gleefully twee element, in favor of a mildly downcast modus operandi. Offering three slices of modest, minor-chord indie pop, this chunk 'o wax will be highly palatable to connoisseurs thereof, just not particularly radical or revelatory.

A1. Stay Away For Awhile
A2. Peggy & Helen
B. Dad's House


Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Squares - Enjoy Yourself...and others (1987, Boat)

Earlier this year I learned of a CD reissue of a demo cassette from a long-lost ‘80s indie rock troupe from the Midwest dubbed The Squares. My enlightenment came via a Not Lame Records stock update of all sources. This reissue was of the band’s debut, Number 1 Cassette, which you can read about and order here. I was so impressed with “Cassette” that I investigated their subsequent releases, including the band’s first proper full-length, Enjoy Yourself…and Others. I have cut and pasted some background info on the Squares below to whet your appetite, but it’s safe to say that if you’re a fan of The Feelies, Figgs, or anywhere in between, Enjoy Yourself is bound to satisfy. My apologies for all the snaps and pops.

Here’s a great find from the mid-80s! Fans of The Bongos, The Feelies, early Talking Heads, The Reievers, REM and dBs, check the Squares! Basically, right after REM knocked the rock-n-roll Establishment on the head with Murmur, the sQuares left the corn fields of Indiana and headed north. For some unknown reason (cheap rent and beer?) the boys landed in Milwaukee.
“Although none of its members hailed from the Brew City, the Squares were one of Milwaukee's best bands in the 1980s, mixing high energy rock and roll with melodic pop in the style of the band's heroes Elvis Costello and REM. Although it only released one vinyl LP, "Enjoy Yourself (And Others)," one vinyl 45 and one CD, "Answer," the band was very prolific, recording a number of locally-released cassettes and more than a few unreleased tracks. In 1985 they spent most of their time writing songs and practicing. In the autumn of that year they spent a weekend in the studio and produced the critically acclaimed Number 1 Cassette.

01. Enjoy Yourself
02. Truth Is
03. Blue Notes
04. The Street
05. Chemical Bomb
06. World That Never Was
07. Existential Birthday
08. You Don’t Know Me
09. All Voices
10. Christmas
11. Well Protected
12. Ways to be Weird
13. Safety In Numbers


Singles Going Single #55: Vertigo - Rub 7"

If you ask me, Vertigo were the most conventional and approachable outfit to ever brandish an Amphetamine Reptile logo on their records, but that’s not to say they couldn’t kick up an unholy swill of sinewy distorto-punk on their more rockin’ releases like this one. A bass-less Mpls trio, Vertigo generally subscribed to the raw, aesthetics Am Rep was notorious for, while appealing to more pedestrian listeners with a decidedly linear approach. Compared to their more savage label-mates, like Halo of Flies and Hammerhead, Vertigo’s straight-shooting penchant ultimately failed to pay off, recording three full-lengths for the now defunct label that garnered nil attention. A tad non-descript at times, particularly on their often pedantic, mid-tempo albums, the band pulls it together on the Rub ep, featuring a quartet of their most ragin’ full-on tunes.

01. Rub
02. Murder by Guitar
03. Snakes
04. Smoked


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seafood - Messenger in the Camp (1998, Fierce Panda)

Seafood still seem like a “new” band to me, although they’re practically on the cusp of veteran status, having gestated all the way back in 1996. Hailing from London, the bands earliest efforts found them immersed in the wonders of Yankee indie-rawks sensations Sebadoh, and to a lesser degree Sonic Youth. If anything is to be emphasized about Seafood, it’s their startling sense of dynamics, particularly on Messenger in the Camp, a presently out-of-print compilation of their earliest singles on the Fierce Panda label. The impact of “Scorch Comfort,” and “Porchlight” may not be immediate, or for that matter the sharpest knives in their collective arsenal, but hint that their finest hours were not far in the offing.

Seafood’s excitement quotient has taken a back seat on their latest albums, but if you enjoy this, you’re bound to drool over their 2001 debut, Surviving the Quiet, not to mention the almost nearly bitchin’ follow-up, When Do We Start Fighting.

01. Scorch Comfort
02. Psychic Rainy Nights
03. Porchlight
04. Ukiah
05. Rot of the Stars
06. Dope Slax
07. We Felt Maroon
08. Dig
09. hidden track 
Now on Amazon

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eric Menck and Paul Chastain - Firetrucks and Periwinkles (198?)

To many of you, the names above will instantly conjure up the cult-classiqe, power/jangle pop act Velvet Crush. You know, two-dozen chart topping hits, platinum albums, international media empire, etc.. No? Don't think so? Who am I kidding...anyway. The Menck/Chastain alliance actually predates Velvet Crush's 1990 debut wax by quite a few years. If you're familiar with the posthumous album of the duo's late '80s recordings, Hey Wimpus: The Early Recordings of Paul Chastain & Ric Menck (aka Choo Choo Train) you know the deal. You can get the full scoop here and even order the album which is still readily available.

Firetrucks and Periwinkles is an unofficial, hissy-cassette derived compilation of demos that didn't appear on Wimpus, but by the sound of it were likely outtakes thereof. I stumbled on this on Soulseek just a few weeks ago, but since many of you don't use file-sharing applications, I thought I'd lead you to a shortcut. Some of the twelve titles here, including "Perfect Day," "Sunflower," and "Delaware Rain," among a few others, appear on Menck's singles comp album, The Ballad of Ric Menck. Since none of the overlapping tracks are credited to Chastain in the liner notes of the Ballad of... I'm going on the assumption they are not the same versions, perhaps with the exception of the Hollies cover ,"Clowns," which sounds nearly identical on both sources, whereas everything else doesn't. I apologize in advance for any confusion. And speaking of covers, you'll also be treated here to a remake of the Velvet Underground's tear-jerking "Candy Says." If anyone can fill me in on the names of the two untitled songs, drop me a line. Enjoy.
01. This Perfect Day
02. Sunflower
03. Delaware Rain
04. The Bicycle Song
06. Clown
07. Nothing Else
08. There Before the Dawn
10. Rain
11. All Fall Again
12. Candy Says

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Norberts - Mishmish ep (1989, Moon Cheese)

Not a whole lot of background on this quartet, hailing presumably from the suburban Boston area. The Norberts' Mishmish, or alternately referenced as Mish-Mish in the sleeve notes, was something of an eBay gamble that paid off, sorta. The band saves the best for first, with the sprite, lead-off track, "Under My Feet," recalling such gnarly indie acts of the era like The Chills and The Mighty Lemon Drops. The Norberts press onward, eschewing some of their more tuneful inclinations in exchange for a colder, post-punk tact, not to mention feigned British accents that get old real quick. "Sacred Kow's" lyrical content, for example, is littered with collegiate drivel, but as a song it sure as hell beat the crap out of whatever the Fine Young Cannibals or Concrete Blonde were doing at the time, and if you ask me, that alone should warrant some praise. The Norberts redeem themselves with the lofty concluding track, "New Religion."

01. Under My Feet
02. Tin Tin
03. Two Critics
04. Sacred Kow
05. New Religion


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life Before Superchunk - Part 3: Metal Pitcher - A Careful Workman is the Best Safety Device 7" (1989, Merge)

The once love affair between Superchunk's Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance may not have entailed the turbulence, or for that mater, fatal outcomes of Sid and Nancy's or Kurt and Courtney's respective arrangements, but it did yield no less than eight 'chunk LPs, a bazillion singles, and this rather arcane precursor. Although this 7" was reportedly limited to a mere 300 copies, thousands of people have already heard Metal Picther, or more specifically the A-side, "Mental Picture," courtesy of it's inclusion on the Merge Records fifth anniversary compilation, 5 Rows of Teeth (which I strongly encourage you to buy).

Merge Records, catalog #3, A Careful Workman is the Best Safety Device is the first publicly released collaboration between Mac and Laura, predating Superchunk (originally named Chunk on their first single), by lets say, a whopping six months or so. Rounding out the trio with Jeb Bishop (also of Angels of Epistemology) on percussion, Metal Pitcher were far more rudimentary than even Superchunk's initial singles and self-titled debut LP, particularly with Laura's single-chord bass-lines, so straightforward that even Sid Vicious himself wouldn't have a legitimate excuse to fake them. This is a neat little artifact, especially to completists, but it's easy to understand why these two numbers were kept under a separate umbrella from Superchunk, even though the band lineups were 2/3 identical. A Careful Workman... is Metal Pitcher's discography in total.

Coming up in Part 4 - yep, you guessed it - Bricks.
A. Mental Picture
B. The Moon

Friday, July 18, 2008

Then Jerico - First (The Sound of Music) (1987)

Bit of a guilty pleasure here. As was the case with the long defunct MTV News weekly program, the broadcast would often conclude with a spotlight on some hot-shit, up-and-comers, and in 1988, that was how I became acquainted with London, England's Then Jerico, who I was fascinated with from first listen. Like most bands, Then Jerico were signed based upon precedent. The precedent, in their case, hinged on no less than the two biggest bands on the planet - Duran Duran and U2. TJ didn't quite have the sex appeal of Duran, nor did they adequately exude the visionary aptitude of Bono and Co., but sonically you couldn't ask for a more perfect melding of the two (not that anyone was pining for such a combination, mind you). Sprawling, yet wholly listener friendly, TJ's debut, First...wasn't a milestone in the grand scheme of things, but no doubt intelligent and stylish late '80s synth/guitar pop that still impresses.

According to Wikipedia, the album generated no less than four singles in the UK, but were largely low charting. Typically, the album's more affecting cuts like, "Laughter Party," and "A Quiet Place (Apathy and Sympathy) weren't singles. First was released in the UK in 1987, while the domestic version saw a delayed release a year later. This rip is from the American incarnation, which thoughtfully included three bonus extended/remixed cuts. The album was a flop Stateside, but their 1989, followup, The Big Area, produced a bona-fide hit for TJ in form of that album's title track. Check out Allmusic's bio for further historical data.
01. Let Her Fall
02. Blessed Days
03. Laughter Party
04. Stable Boy
05. The Motive (Living Without You)
06. Muscle Deep
07. Prairie Rose
08. A Quiet Place (Apathy and Sympathy)
09. Play Dead
10. The Hitcher
11. Let Her Fall (UK mix)
12. Prairie Rose (UK extended)
13. The Motive (Living Without You) (U.S. Extended)
Now on Amazon

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Singles Going Single #54: Bright - Plymouth Rock 7" (1998, Darla/Ba Da Bing!)

During the mid-to-late '90s, Boston's Bright were loosely lumped in with space rock/ambient revivalists like Fuxa and Windy & Carl. Unlike their droney contemporaries however, Bright often imbued their songs with some faint catchiness (when they made the extra effort that is). Imagine if you will, Bailter Space crashing the wedding of Stereolab and Sonic Youth. Instrumental amblers at heart, Bright could yank out a genuine hook or two, like the one tucked into this single's relatively charismatic "Plymouth Rock." Still making music, Bright lay claim to eight albums thus far, including the coveted Albatross Guest House from 1997, a fan and critical fave.

A. Plymouth Rock
B1. Superstrings
B2. Nova


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Moped - It Won't Sound Any Better Tomorrow (1996, Summershine)

A '90s New Jersey coed trio, Moped’s buoyant indie guitar-pop struck me as an infectious merger between the Blake Babies and Versus. Humble in approach, but ultimately quite robust in execution, Moped managed to strike a perfect balance of practically everything throughout It Won’t Sound Any Better Tomorrow, their one and only full length. The combo followed this up with an equally consistent singles compilation, The Horrible Truth About Moped on Vital Cog Records a couple years later. Vocalist/drummer Kara Lafty went onto another likeminded, quality project, Sonny Sixkiller. And the rest is history. As for the absurd proposal broached on an answering machine in the mid-album cut “Bangs and Booms,” it’s safe to say there are some exceedingly bored individuals inhabiting Jersey…at least there were ten years or so ago.

01. Mouthsore
02. Stephaen Hero
03. Window Shopping
04. Turkey
05. Vague
06. Does Your Back Hurt
07. Hotel
08. Cheap Strings
09. Bangs and Booms
10. Roadtrip
11. Sibling
12. Bottle
13. Through the Cracks
14. Keep in Touch


Monday, July 14, 2008

Singles Going Single #53: The Breeders - Head to Toe 7"

I loved The Pixies (who didn't?) but after they were put to pasture, I never felt the impetus to hop on Kim Deal's bandwagon. This single was an exception however. At the height of Guided By Voices hysteria in 1994, fellow Dayton-ite Kim Deal saw it fit to record GBV's Grand Hour ep classic, "Shocker in Gloomtown" for this single. What's more, the amusing video featured the Breeders running through the tune in a garage, with the GBV lineup peering through the window. Apparently. this only ran on MTV's 120 Minutes (and now on You Tube in perpetuity). The title track is a good ol' fashioned hardcore punk hoe-down, while the flip offers yet another cover, Sebadoh's Sebadoh III chestnut, "The Freed Pig."

A1. Head to Toe
A2. Shocker in Gloomtown
B. The Freed Pig 
It's been requested I no longer share this one. My apologies.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sub Pop singles triple-shot: Poster Children (1990) Tsumani/Velocity Girl split single (1992), Pond (1994)

Thought I'd wrap up my Sub Pop Records homage this weekend with a tribute to what helped brand the label, at least in the earlier stages of it's existence - singles. I never belonged to the fabled Sup Pop Singles of the month club, which from what I understand is about to be reintroduced. Nevertheless, various "editions" made their way into my collection. It wasn't the collectibility or prestige of these one-off Sub Pop 7" that appealed to me, rather the music.

Champagne, IL's Poster Children is a perfect example. Sporting an art-deco-ish sleeve and two exclusive songs, Pop Records single of the month for October 1990 featured the dexterous and rattling "Thinner, Stronger," backed with the taught, mildly dissonant "Pointed Stick." Perhaps not indie-rock manna for the ages, it was still an enormous treat for Poster Children fans, not to mention an ideal appetizer for their 1993 major label debut, Tool of the Man. Wonderful people as well. Here's hoping that Rick and Rose revive their Radio Zero program.

Pond's albums have always been growers for me, but the a-side to their 1994 non-singles club 45, "Moth" was a direct hit to the sweet spot. Perhaps it's the vinyl medium itself that insinuates this was a deliberate attempt at lo-fi punk-pop, or maybe I'm misreading it. Whatever, it was a treat coming on the heels of their 1993 self-titled debut album, which in later years I would covet as one of the single most primo recordings of the '90s. Post-grunge? Jangle? Indie-rawk? How about a scoop of each, and then some...

The aforementioned Pond 7" was independent of the Sub Pop Singles series, but by golly, the Tsunami/Velocity Girl split 45 brandished the hallowed tag for the January 1992 installment, and honorably so. Featuring two Wash D.C. area pop conglomerations that would become mightily accomplished in the months and years to come, this beautiful see-thru, ruby-ish slab of wax was a signal of sorts, sent to the hipster cognoscenti of the moment that Sub Pop wasn't just about grunge anymore. The signal resonated from the very moment the record stylus planted itself in the groove of Velocity Girl's "Warm/Crawl," the first half sublime shoegazer bliss, the latter, quintessential noise-pop. Tsunami's "Left Behind," was a valiant effort, but their best work was clearly ahead of them. Aside from this single, Velocity's "Warm/Crawl" was only available on CD in the form of a four-cut Velocity Girl sampler, ostensibly only sent to radio stations. If anybody knows how I can get my hands on an original, don't be a stranger. 
Poster Children
A. Thinner, Stronger
B. Pointed Stick
A. Moth
B. You Don't Quite Get it Do You But You're Thinking Hard 
Tsunami/Velocity Girl split
A. Tsunami - Left Behind
B. Velocity Girl - Warm/Crawl 
Pond: Hear
Tsunami/Velocity Girl: Hear

Update:  The Poster Children are now sharing both sides of this single alongside many other rarities on a Bandcamp'ed compilation, Copyright.  Since this is the case I am really no longer at liberty to share it.  Please show 'em some love!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Green River - "last show" Los Angeles 10/24/87

Green River's slot this Sunday on Sub Pop Records 20th anniversary shindig at Seattle's Marymoor Park conjures up some bittersweet emotions. For many, many years I promised myself that I would go to Seattle if by some miracle there was a Green River reunion concert. Assuming it would never happen, I visited the northwest for the first time last October, and wouldn't you know it... With airfare being what it is these days, I can only keep my fingers crossed that their set will be taped for my vicarious cravings (in fact, there are already recordings of Green River's "secret show" at Seattle's Sunset Tavern on July 10th making the torrent rounds as we speak).

Even if Mark Arm, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament had gotten jobs as shoe-salesmen, and not gravitated to godhead status in Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Mother Love Bone, Green River would have been every bit as significant to the fans and musicians that revere them to this day. Although my discovery of Green River was slightly posthumous, they were a band that defined my high school years. Corralling a bruising amalgamation of punk, metal, and to a lesser extent, blues, Seattle's fabulous-five wrapped up the whole enchilada in a frayed, feedback-addled tourniquet of raw, white-hot power. Motifs of boredom, teen angst and romantic frustration were not merely anguished over, but pushed the mental envelope to it's breaking point, and boy, was it ever cathartic.

Though tracked at a meager bitrate, this so called "final show," performed in L.A. is still a commendable memento. This show was a part Green River's five day tour down the West Coast. The tensions in the band come to a head at this show, but 21 years later, who would have guessed?

If you're new to the band, a mindblowing crash course can be experienced for about $10.00. 
01. Forever Means
02. Rehab Doll
03. Queen Bitch (David Bowie)
04. Together We'll Never
05. By Her Own Hand
06. This Town
07. Smilin' and Dyin'
08. Swallow My Pride
09. The Needle and the Damage Done/Ain't Nothin' to Do (Neil Young/Dead Boys) 

The Fluid - Roadmouth (1989, Sub Pop)

As a continuation of yesterday's Sub Pop post regarding Swallow, I've decided to zero in once again on another worthy band that had the good heart to reunite for the label's 20th Anniversary gonzo event, The West Seattle Summerfest. Denver, CO's The Fluid were the subject of an earlier post that I assembled last October for their second album, Clear Black Paper. Roadmouth was the album that followed and was something of a revelation for me (I urge you to click the CBP hyperlink for all the accolades I gave Roadmouth in that previous post).

Being the first band outside of Seattle to sign with Sub Pop should justify some bragging rights, but compared to Nirvana's Bleach, which was released within months of The Fluid's most stunning effort ever, the Jack Endino recorded Roadmouth, tanked by comparison. Yet almost everyone that heard the album, along with their subsequent Glue ep released in '90, became an instant convert. The Fluid's bass heavy, walloping groove (sans any "boogie" cheesiness, thankfully) and James Clower's and Rick Kulwicki's down and dirty six-string maneuvers, lent itself perfectly to the sludgy brew that was slowly smoldering in the uppermost region of the Pacific northwest at the moment. In other words, they were as "grungy" and muscular as any of their Seattle contemporaries, but The Fluid's punk bent (think The Stooges after an Arnold Schwarzenegger style bulk-up) put them on par with the Sex Pistols, if only in my own personal Small of Fame. The songwriting on Roadmouth was, and presumably still is intended to be of an esoteric nature - either that or just a bunch of stream-of-consciousness flapdoodle. Nevertheless the album's impact is sustained, succinct, and a blast to listen to, especially in the car.
Roadmouth's various "retail" incarnations are in my opinion deserving of explanation. You could buy the straight vinyl version containing the first eleven songs listed in the tracklist below, OR get cheated (like me)and buy the cassette/CD version that paired the full six-cut Glue ep with a truncated version of Roadmouth that omitted two songs - "Leave It," and "Big Brother," the latter a wah wah-laden Rare Earth cover. Low and behold however, the European version of Roadmouth, a co-release with Sub Pop and Glitterhouse Records was released as a stand-alone CD with all eleven songs intact, and "Saccharin Rejection," one of the more stimulating cuts from their debut album Punch and Judy. This rip is derived from the Glitterhouse CD version that I was damn lucky to stumble upon many years ago. All versions of the album are out of print, as is the rest of The Fluid oeuvre.

The band's Seattle reunion this weekend, and a previous gig in their hometown of Denver have been documented in a few recent articles. An interview with mouthpiece John Robinson is here, and James Clower here, and even a review of the Denver gig. You can also listen to many a Fluid tune at this location.
01. Hooked
02. Human Mill
03. Big Brother
04. Girl Bomb
05. Leave It
06. Fool's Rule
07. Cop a Plea
08. Ode to Miss Lodge
09. Twisted & Pissed
10. Is It Day?
11. What Man
12. Saccharin Rejection

Friday, July 11, 2008

Swallow - s/t (1988, Sub Pop); Sourpuss (1990, Sub Pop)

To coincide with Sub Pop Records 20th anniversary celebration this weekend, revolving around a two-day outdoor concert festival in Seattle’s Marymoor Park (aka West Seattle Summerfest), I have decided to dedicate this weekend’s posts to, you guessed it, some of the label’s more far flung heyday acts. And what better way in the whole wide world to kick this off than with the little known Swallow.Almost simultaneously releasing their debut album with soon to be heavy hitters Nirvana and Mudhoney, Swallow’s lack of presence (at least in U.S. record stores) was astonishing, given they should have been the single most representative band of the late ‘80s grunge du-jour. According to their lengthy Allmusic bio, the Seattle-based (naturally) Swallow were never a priority for Sub Pop, to the extent that their sophomore album, 1990’s Sourpuss, was puzzlingly released in Europe exclusively. In fact, their self-titled debut was also something of an other-side-of-the-pond priority, being co-opted by Sub Pop in the States and the nascent Tupelo Records in London England. Band infighting and dwindling potential for anything approaching recognition, let alone success, spelled the kiss of death for Swallow, coincidentally just as Nirvana’s Nevermind had peaked in early 1992.Swallow’s take on so called “grunge” drew from punk more than metal, and unlike contemporaries Soundgarden and Skin Yard, Swallow didn’t take themselves as seriously. While not entirely frivolous, and in fact, rarely silly, Swallow’s heaving power chords, and low-end rhythm section collectively wrapped themselves around tales of debaucheristic escapades, and ruminations on corpses…and bodily fluids. Not nearly as intimidating as it might sound, I assure you.

I have uploaded the aforementioned pair of Swallow albums in their entirety from CD, not vinyl, and as far as I know Wilfullly Obscure is the only blog that has undertaken such an endeavor (
Lamestain’s tribute to the band is informative as well). There’s some excellent music here, and a lot more melodic than you might expect.

An album’s worth of unreleased Swallow recordings from 1990, Teach Your Bird to Sing, was issued in 2007 on
Flotation Records. The band will be making a reunion appearance at one of this weekend’s kickoff events. Word. Rod Moody, Swallow singer/guitarist, has also prepared this 'lil write-up.

Please note, this is not the same Swallow as the shoegazer-lite act on 4AD Records that existed contemporary to their Seattle counterparts.

01. Zoo
02. Foetus
03. Coffin
04. Guts
05. Hard
06. Cold
07. BSA
08. Trim

plus special for you:
09. Home (cd-only bonus track)
10. Trapped (from Fuck Me I'm Rich compilation)

01. Forever
02. Thankx
03. Sex Pig
04. Nice
05. Fed
06. Take Me
07. Queen
08. Sink
09. Time
10. In Effect

Swallow: Hear
Sourpuss: Hear

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ben Kweller - Bromeo (2000); Freak Out, It's Ben Kweller (2000)

The 21st century has been some mighty slim pickin's for raw talent. It's not as if there is a dearth of bands of personalities, rather those that spark a visceral charge, at least for me. One glaring, and very thankful exception is Ben Kweller. A singular voice to say the very least, Ben cut his teeth in a Denton, TX-based post-grunge outfit called Radish, who were signed to a major label when he was just a scant sixteen-years old. They released an album, Restraining Bolt in 1997, but main Radish, Ben Kweller was about to pick himself off the vine and head to the east coast. It was when he started banging out his first solo songs a year or so later that the sensitive, endearing singer-songwriter came to the fore.
In 2002, Ben Kweller's proper solo debut album, Sha Sha was released, and it stands as perhaps my favorite rookie effort of that year. Shortly thereafter, it slowly began to leak out that Ben had assembled a series of self-released (and assumedly self-financed) CDs prior to Sha Sha. To this day I have been unable to obtain original copies, and truthfully I gave up several years ago. Via the miracle of the www, and not the least of which, file sharing platforms, I found two eps from 2000, Bromeo and Freak Out, It's Ben Kweller. Bromero features eight songs exclusive to it's release, with the exception of "I Don't Know Why," which oddly didn't resurface again until his 2006 self-titled third album, and "Different But the Same," which found it's way in a re-recorded incarnation on 2004's On My Way. Hmmm. Freak Out... on the other hand houses a quintet of songs that would appear in altered versions on Sha Sha. Strangely enough,the ep version of the melancholy piano ballad, "I Other Words," is more ornate than it's album counterpart. Hmmm. Sixteen songs between both of these recordings, and they're all quite commendable. Enjoy. You can browse a very thorough Ben Kweller discography right here.
01. I Have the Power
02. Panamanian Girl
03. Debbie Don't Worry Doll
04. New and Improved (Loladododo)
05. I Don't Know Why
06. Different But the Same
07. Concentric Town
08. Until I Die

Freak Out, It's Ben Kweller
01. BK Baby
02. Walk On Me
03. How It Should Be (Sha Sha)
04. Make It Up
05. In Other Words
06. I Don't Know Why
07. Lizzy
08. Problems
Bromeo: Hear
Freak Out: Hear

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Singles Going Single # 52 - The Jumpers 7" (1979 Play it Again, Sam)

The Buffalo, NY punk/powerpop scene during the late '70s and '80s certainly wasn't the most prevalent in the nation, but nevertheless generated some talent that's weathered the test of time. Truth is, I wasn't anywhere near Buffalo during said halcyon era, nor was I even conscious of it other locales. Word on the street was that The Jumpers were the creme de la creme of the Western New York scene at the time, and as luck would have it, they've performed several reunion shows in the past five-to-six years. As luck would also have it, I came into possession of this scarce 1979 single a few years ago. Fronted by Terry Sullivan (later of the long-running Terry and the Headhunters), the Jumpers had all the proper ingredients baked into an ever-so-luscious cake - an euphoric level of enthusiasm, bravado, chops, and relatable lyrics. If you're under the impression that both "Sick Girl" and/or "This is It" could pass for long lost classics, it's because they ARE long lost classics! This is essential listening for all you Powerpearls and Teenline types. You know who you are.

For more Jumpers action, and an in-depth excavation of Buffalo's turn of the decade scene, head over to CD Baby for This Is It - Greater Buffalo's Greatest 1977-1984, a plentiful 2 CD overview that includes about two dozen other Queen City local yokels as well.

A. Sick Girl
B. This is It

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Red Lorry Yellow Lorry - Nothing Wrong (1988, Beggars Banquet)

Of the 200+ records I have posted heretofore, it is safe to say that I endorse Red Lorry Yellow Lorry's third album, and in my opinion, masterstroke, Nothing Wrong head and shoulders above the rest. When I discovered this album in 1989, it was an enormous revelation to me, and one of the defining pieces of music that implored me to fully immerse myself in the world of "alternative" or "modern rock," and I've never looked back.

To give you a little background, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry (named after a none-too-challenging tongue twister) were a Leeds, England quartet, formed in 1981 by vocalist Chris Reed. Longtime guitarist Dave "Wolfie" Wolfenden jumped aboard a litte later. They would comprise the Lorries core-lineup through their fourth album, 1989's Blow. Virtually from day one, RLYL were lumped into the burgeoning British Gothic rock scene, much to their dismay and confusion. To make matters worse, they were, and remain perennial footnotes in this so called "movement." By and large, their first two albums, Talk About the Weather (1985), and Paint Your Wagon a year later, along with a slew of crucial early singles (released almost entirely on the Brit sh Red Rhino imprint), was the allotment of their discography most revered by critics and old school Lorries devotees. Overtones of Joy Division were fairly evident, but the Lorries busier and more robust arrangements aesthetically put them in league with contemporaries Killing Joke, and to a lesser extent the Chameleons UK.

The album in question, Nothing Wrong, was RLYL's debut major label offering. Released on Beggars Banquet/Situation Two with distribution through RCA on both sides of the Atlantic, the band's ever changing rhythm section included bassist Leon Phillips and skinsman Mark Chillington for the recording, but would be altered once again on the coinciding tour.

There is an inescapable semblance of doom and anxiety that courses through nearly every vein of this album. Trouser Press magazine opined that Reeds lyrics on Nothing Wrong were "straight out of an Existentialism 101 textbook." A charming observation in retrospect, but Reeds droney, deadpan vocals further bolstered such comments, yet they add to the magic. The Lorrie's other main ingredient, Wolfie, carves out a vast, echoing canyon of fretwork, glazing prime cuts like "Hands Off Me," and the bustling "Open Up," with a dense and an enthralling vigor that take firm command of the senses. Topping that off is Chillington's unremitting drumming, nearly as pounding and rhythmically intense as the bludgeoning din of a freight train, and to very appropriate effect I might add. Nothing Wrong is all about atmosphere - raw, bleak and foreboding as it's convincingly represented herein. Thematically, RLYL outline the cutthroat nature that is the modern world, but underlying all the insanity and pressure it entrails, perseverance can, and usually does prevail. For me, this record took on a life of it's own, and remains not only one of my top-10 album picks of the '80s, but all time.

As you will no doubt discover, Nothing Wrong features occasional dialogue from African Bushmen on a few tracks, from a British TV documentary, Testament to a Bushmen. Still trying to figure this one out myself folks.

Nothing Wrong was released in the US as a 14 track LP/CD. The British CD incarnation lops off two cuts from the domestic version and substitutes them with three b-sides. I've posted the US version in it's entirety, along with the three b-sides as an addendum. Out of print for years, Nothing Wrong was reissued in 2001 with the Blow album on one uncomfortable CD, that omits many tracks to accommodate the 80 minute time constraint. Not recommended, if you hadn't already guessed. After Blow, RLYL capped things off in 1992 with a final album, Blasting Off, which boasted a completely revamped lineup. In 2004, Chris Reed corralled a few hired guns for Red Lorry Yellow Lorry version 2.0, that resulted in a handful of UK gigs and precious little else. A one-off reunion show is scheduled this August as a tribute to the recent passing of Red Rhino Records proprietor Tony K.

band bios (aside from the official website can be found here and here

01. Nothing Wrong
02. Open Up
03. Hands Off me
04. Big Stick
05. She Said
06. Sayonara
07. World Around
08. Hard-Away
09. The Rise
10. Only Dreaming (Wide Awake)
11. Do You Understand
12. Never Know
13. Pushing On
14. Time is Tight 

15. You Only Get What You Pay For
16. Another Side
17. Calling 

Now available on Albums and Singles 1982-89

Singles Going Single # 51 - The Gloria Record 7" (1998, Crank!)

They may not have been the biggest and loudest (quite the reverse in fact), but The Gloria Record's "slow-core" imbued emo helped define the genre, at least the more contemplative strain thereof in the late '90s. The Gloria Record (or more precisely, singer/guitarist Chris Simpson and bassist Jeremy Gomez) had their roots in the Austin, TX-based Mineral. Mineral, along with Sunny Day Real Estate, and Christie Front Drive comprised a reluctant vanguard of bands who were unwittingly slapped with the emo tag, despite the fact that they bore little resemblance to the genre's mid-80s, originators like Rites of Spring and Embrace. For better or worse, that nomenclature wasn't the least bit misleading, given Mineral's aching, forlorn songs that pulled the wrenching heartstrings of those who were patient enough to acquire the taste. The Gloria Record were unarguably the logical progression from Mineral - quieter, delicate, fervently impassioned, but never maudlin or melodramatic. "Emo" soon infiltrated the mainstream, and was contorted into a caricature of itself, championed by love-lorn, My Space-d adolescent suburabnites too young to claim "Generation X" status. Comparatively speaking, the Gloria Record were the real deal. If you enjoy this single, you may want to investigate GR's self-titled ep, and full length, Start Here.

A. Grace the Snow is Here
B. And is it Ever


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life Before Superchunk - Part 2: Wwax - Like it or Not 2x7" (1990, Merge, rec 1987-88) & Pumpkin 7" (1991, Meat/1989 Lepoard Gecko)

Welcome to module two of Life Before Superchunk, and in depth excavation regarding the various musical projects of one Mac McCaughan, prior to fronting the Chunk. As I mentioned in the first installment Mac multi-tasked two gnarly bands in the late '80s, the Slushpuppies, and Wwax, the latter of which will be discussed here. Presumably the extra "W" in Wwax was to differentiate themselves from another outfit(s) dubbed "Wax." Unlike the previously explored Slushpuppies, Mac shared the mic with his other two Wwax co-conspirators, drummer Brian Walsby, and bassist Wayne Taylor. An interview with Brian can be read here, and a brief write-up on Wwax can be procured at this location.
While the Slushpuppies sounded like natural precursors to Superchunk, Wwax were a slightly different kettle of fish. Despite the melody quotient suffering considerably, coupled with tone-deaf vocals by all three gents involved, Wwax somehow sounded more musically adept then the 'Puppies were. The double 7" ep, Like it or Not, is really only appreciable to connoisseurs of Superchunk and Mac's former satellite bands. Nevertheless it's a valuable artifact for the die-hard, and what could be more timely then the sixth track in, "Price of Gas?" Recorded during the era of .89 cent unleaded fuel, I'd say Mac and Co. had very little to gripe about in retrospect, and I'm sure the band would be in complete agreement. Like it Or Not is supplemented with a four-page mini comic, which I have scanned in to be perused at your leisure. "Counting Thoughts" would later appear on the Merge Records fifth anniversary compilation, Rows of Teeth.
The much briefer single on Leopard Gecko (reissued on Meat Records in 1991) is more admirable, especially the a-side, "Pumpkin" which posses a comparatively devastating hook in contrast to the amelodic, jammier tendencies of the Like it or Not ep. "Inn Town" doesn't fare quite as well, but still thoroughly Representative of Wwax.
As some of you are aware, both the Slushpuppies and Wwax are included in the Evil I Do Not 7" box-set on Palindrome Productions, that was issued contemporary to these singles. If you completists have your nighties in a knot, I plan to upload Evil... in it's entirety before I close out this series, so don't sweat it.

Like It Or Not 2x7"
01. Seven
02. Like it or Not
03. Straw Man
04. Corduroy
05. Grows on Trees
06. Price of Gas
07. Counting Thoughts

Leopard Gecko 7"
A. Pumpkin
B. Inn Town

Update: All of this and more has been reissued online through Merge Records!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rotator Cuff - s/t ep (1995, Park 'n' Ride)

Just when I was about to write off this Highland Park, NJ as a heretofore forgotten, mid-90s delight, I discover that not only am I no longer their sole admirer in the universe, they even had a video for this ep's leadoff cut, "Alfa Romeo," that garnered a spin or two on MTV's 120 Minutes.So far as I know, this ep was their only release. Borrowing their name from an anatomical term given to the group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder (or so says Wikipeida). You Tube's Rotator Cuff bio enlightened me 

Rotator Cuff created a buzz following the release of an EP with the single "Alfa Romeo" on Park N Ride Records out of San Francisco. The Video for Alfa Romeo was featured on MTV's120 Minutes and the music on House of Style, The Real World and Unfiltered. The band featured Joe Woelf, Gary Kaplan, Rob Farrell and Dave Turov. Gary and Rob both are currently in the bands The Fletchers and The Anderson Council, respectively. 

Playing chiming, indie guitar pop, Rotator Cuff's unassuming sound was heightened with a mild downer vibe that kept the procedings that much more intriguing. The ep was produced by Kramer of Shimmy Disc Records fame. If you enjoyed my previous Edsel post, Rotator Cuff are sure to entice. 

01. alfa romeo
02. hot
03. nisku
04. your fault or mine?
05. 2nd friend