Tuesday, September 30, 2008

fig. 4 (Tobin Sprout) s/t ep (1984, QCA)

When the world became acquainted with Guided By Voices, circa their 1994 magnum opus Bee Thousand, the name Tobin Spout was suddenly on every self-respecting hipster's lips. The McCartney to Robert Pollard's Lennon, Tobin graced GBV's repertoire for about five or six albums as a key collaborator and songwriter, and while many followed his solo career upon his departure from the band, only die-hards excavators are familiar with his music prior to his guildsmanship in Dayton, OH's finest. Fig. 4 was the name of the obscure band he fronted during the mid-80s, a slightly oblique, REM-ish college rock trio, that also included bassist Dan Toohey, another future GBV alumni. Fig 4's main body of work was a self-titled album issued in 1987, and later reissued on CD ten years later, right smack in the midst of Sprout's/Pollard's collective heyday.

Although the reissue tacked on a number of solo Tobin selections, it missed the self-titled fig. 4 7" ep that preceded the album. Released in 1984 on the local QCA label, in what must have been an extremely limited pressing, the four-song ep isn't particularly revelatory, but it's scarceness will no doubt be of interest to those anguishing for every nook and cranny. Though almost as developed as the impending album, this ep leaves less of an impression, but ideally it should have appeared on the reissue. Nevertheless, enjoy it here and now, a quarter of a century later.
01. Behind Her Eyes
02. Dirt and Dog
03. Thief
04. I Saw it There

Monday, September 29, 2008

Singles Going Single # 71 - Even Greenland 7" (1986, Big Monkey)

They say not to judge a book by it's cover, so as far as the sleeve of this disk in concerned, that goes double. Within the tattered black and white paper lies an artifact of a bygone era, specifically the "new south" sound popularized by REM, Let's Active, and dozens of other '80s jangle merchants. No band info is provided, but a joint production credit to Tim Lee of Windbreakers fame, and associate Randy Everett, is revealed on the back cover. If you're familiar with any of the names in this paragraph, you probably know what you're in for. Even Greenland were ostensibly based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but the only other additional details I have for you can be perused courtesy of the A Million Miles Away blog (scroll about halfway down). The vocalist could be a dead ringer for the lead singer of the Moody Blues, but otherwise, Even Greenland subscribe to the DIY ethic, exuding a modest, homegrown noise that rivaled their "modern rock" contemporaries.

A. Another Place to Hide
B. The Four


Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Dambuilders - A Young Persons Guide to Dambuilding (1989); Geek Lust (1991); Islington Pawn Tapes (1993)

Hawaii by way of Boston's violin-toting Dambuilders made a splash on the newly adopted American "alt-rock" scene in the mid-90s with their 1994 album, Encendedor, anchored by two moderate radio hits, "Smell," and "Shrine." Despite their blatant eccentricities, the Dambuilders, for a brief period anyway, crafted a bevy of wry but affecting songs that unfortunately didn't have much staying power with their fickle audience. Prior to the major release of Encendedor, it was known to little of their fans that the Dambuilders has a significant back catalog. In fact, the first three Dambuilders albums didn't see widespread distribution until the late '90s, just as their stature began to peter out.

The first of this little-known trifecta, A Young Person's Guide to Dambuilding, wasn't intended as an album per se, so much as a glorified collection of demos. Cutting their collective teeth on seventeen tracks (some frivolous bonus cuts included in that tally) the band resembled a less serious Gin Blossoms or Toad the Wet Sprocket. An album that can safely be relegated to the college rock strata of it's era, A Young Person's Guide... wasn't particularly representative of the Dambuilders soon-in-the-offing halcyon period, but Geek Lust, what many consider to be the group's formal debut, sets the ball in motion in a much bigger way.

By the time of Geek Lust's release, the Dambuilders had since relocated to Boston. Joan Wasser's violin maneuvers became more up-front, and bona fide hooks were truly emphasized. "Pop Song + Food," and "Mr. Insomnia," were two examples of this, and on "Fur" and "Arkansas" a grittier, not to mention a decidedly more crass tact was suddenly employed. Regarding the latter of those two tracks, The Dambuilders at the time were somehow inspired to write a song (or simply name a song) concerning every state in the US. I don't think they lasted long enough to attain that goal, but Geek Lust was the springboard for this practice. In fact, their follow-up (see below) boasted no less than four state monikered songs.

Islington would feature songs that were to appear on the Dambuilders Tough Guy Problem ep and on the aforementioned Encendeor. By now, the quartet was operating at full potential, branishing the robust, string-enhanced, full-bore indie rock they were to become synonymous with. Perhaps not the stuff of sheer genius, the Dambuilders often come damn near close here, and thankfully they reached the wider audience they were destine for. Future 'Builders efforts, specifically 1995's Ruby Red, and Against the Stars in '97, saw the band veering off significantly, but if anything can be said about the band, they never made the same record twice. You can read about the current activities of the Dambuilders' alumni here. All three of these albums were released on the German Cuacha Records label.
A Young Persons Guide to Dambuilding
01. God Wears Gl;asses
02. Kevin Keegan
03. Four Eyes
04. Love is All Around You
05. Radio is King
06. Rose Vitta
07. I'm a Bum
08. Joan
09. I Hate Weekends
10. She's Coming Down
11. The Night I Fell
12. Hibachi in the Rain
bonus tracks:
13. Splash
14. Swing the Cat
15. Letter
16. Appraoch the Horse, Sexually
17. Teenage Bum
Geek Lust
01. Yo Mamafish
02. Myron's Girlfriend
03. Mr. Insomnia
04. P.P. Man
05. Fur
06. Leather
07. The Lesser Poet
08. No Raum For You/Dakota, North
09. The Well Wishers
10. Pop Song = Food
11. Arkansas
12. ST 100/6 (Big Star cover) 
Islington Pawn Tapes
01. Copsucker
02. Lousiana
03. Heather
04. Idaho
05. Colin's Heros
06. Smell
07. Shrine
08. Candyguts
09. Dose
10. Montana
11. Pennsylvania 
A Young Persons Guide to Dambuilding: Hear
Geek Lust: Hear
Islington Pawn Tapes: Hear

Friday, September 26, 2008

smoke some krill

Taking a brief hiatus. Check back Sunday, or the day following Sunday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gem - Hexed (1995, Restless) & I Am a Tree (199?, Scat)

Before he hooked up with Robert Pollard in Guided By Voices, mach bazillion, come 1997 for the Mag Earwig album, Gem leadman Doug Gillard made a name for himself in Ohio's indie rock circuit during the '80s in Death of Samantha and later, Cobra Verde. It wasn't until the mid-90s when he and another future GBV alumni, Tim Tobias, really blew the doors off their collective hinges as a wizardly songsmith in Gem, on par with the ultra-prolific Pollard himself.

Gem's 1995 debut album, Hexed, is chockablock with slightly ironic, guitar-heavy power pop that's as robust and melodic as you could possibly yearn for. The breezy "Suburban Girl," and the foot-stomping "Your Heroes Hate You," get my jollies off, but Trouser Press puts it this way:

Hexed is a tuneful rush of smart, catchy and simple rhythm guitar pop-rock — sort of grown-up Weezer without the anxious pretensions. Although contributions from the others aren't as crafty, main songwriter Gillard comes across with the woolly and weird chant of "Sheep," the bracing T. Rex borrowings of "Your Heroes Hate You" and the countryfied pun of "Only a Loan."

I don't have an exact release date for Gem's I Am a Tree vinyl 12" ep, but it was recorded between 1993-96. The title track was usurped by Robert Pollard for the Mag Earwig album, but listening to Gillard's original execution of the song is fascinating and rewarding. The record's second strongest moment, "So Good to See You" (not the Cheap trick song, but almost as satisfying) eventually wound up on the second Gem album, Sunglare Serenades
02. Your Heroes Hate You
03. Only a Loan
04. Failed to See
05. Suburban Girl
06. Little Star
07. I Hate It
08. Any Trepidation
09. Like This
10. Many Moons Break
11. Yeahya
12. 2 Me Now
I Am a Tree ep
01. I Am a Tree
02. Good To See You
03. A Requiem
04. When They Pull You Out
05. Amnesia
Hexed: Hear
I Am a Tree: Hear

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Singles Going Single # 70 - Springhouse - Menagerie Keeper 7" (1990, SOL)

With so much phenomenal music being cultivated in the early 1990s, including but not limited to: UK-based "dreampop," the raw, bottom-heavy demi-metal coming from the Pacific Northwest (aka grunge, duh), not to mention industrial, power-pop, and plenty of good ol' American indie rock, I suppose it's understandable why New York City's Springouse were sort of lost in the fray. Indeed, "alternative rock" was about to bum-rush the mainstream, but virtually anything not airing on MTV fared no better then before...despite the "revolution."

A trio (not quite the "power" variation), spearheaded by singer/ax-wielder Mitch Friedland, Springhouse boasted something most new bands couldn't - something of a built-in audience, thanks to drummer/backing vocalist Jack Rabid, an established music journalist and publisher of Big Takeover magazine. Springhouse would eventually ink a two-album deal for Caroline Records, but not before issuing a two song 45 on Bob Mould's short lived Singles Only Label.

Friedland and Co. sculpted a wonderfully melodious shade of modern Anglophile rock, with a propensity for deliriously chiming guitar-work, gracing the backdrop of an unmistakable melancholic ethos. The A-side to this single, "Menagerie Keeper" by and large fleshed out the blueprint that would be Springhouse's calling card on their remarkably consistent, but otherwise under-promoted albums, Land Falls (1991) and Postcards From the Arctic (1993). Largely obscured from Springhouse's pensive, world-weariness, lurked a cautiously optimistic outlook, faint as it may have been. Fans of the Chameleons UK, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the like will find a treasure trove of fine music on these records.

Springhouse have reconvened for a new album, From Now to OK, set for release later this year on Independent Project Records, as well as a brief fall tour. Music can be sampled and tour dates can be obtained from the band's Myspace page.

A. Menagerie Keeper
B. Soul Astray

The Mock Turtles - 87-90 (1991, Imaginary)

In my opinion, Manchester, England's Mock Turtles were at their creative zenith on their 199o debut album, Turtle Soup, but some of the singles that preceded it were album worthy to boot. The Turtles explored their psych-revival tendencies, but were wise enough not to hem themselves to the "Madchester" movement, nor were they overly derivative of any particular '60s originator that happened to grace their turntable.

Many of the covers compiled on this 1991 singles collection are telling - "No Good Trying (Syd Barrett); "Big Sky" & "Shangri-La" (Kinks) and "Time Between" (The Byrds). While these remakes outdo many Mock Turtles originals, 87-90 delivers it's share of band-composed keepers. A strings-enhanced version of Turtle Soup's "Oh Helen How" is utterly sublime, "Calm Before the Storm" references C86 jangle, and "Magic Boomerang" is pop bliss, not to mention representative of the best of what the Mock Turtles-era had going for it.
01. John O'war
02. No Good Trying
03. Bathing In Blue
04. Watching the Waning Moon
05. Big Sky
06. Fionnuala
07. Oh Helen How (strings vers)
08. Shangri-La
09. Time Between
10. Calm Before the Storm
11. Magic Boomerang
12. Take Your Time

Friday, September 19, 2008

No Knife - Singles: 45s and under (1994-97)

Had a request for some No Knife singles a few weeks ago in the comments for my aMINIATURE 7" upload. In the summer of '94 I went to a Drive Like Jehu gig in Toronto. A mindblowing band named Tanner kicked off the proceedings, and convinced me to buy some of their merch, including a split 7" with No Knife. Tanner definitely packed a walloping punch, but it was No Knife's "Sweep Away My Shadow" that truly rocked my world. So enthused by this little ditty I got a hold of frontman Mitch Wilson and asked if I could put a No Knife on my then non-existent homegrown record label. That homegrown label remained non-existent, but at any rate, I was a super fan of the San Diego quartet for life. It turns out that No Knife would soon attract a decent amount of attention, and a year or two thereafter, released their first album, Drunk on The Moon, which after initial release on Goldenrod Records was usurped by the Time Bomb Recording label.No Knife was a self-referenced "audio karate" band. Brandishing a dazzling technical finesse, particularly guitar-wise, the group's cerebral and dynamic spin on the then burgeoning post-hardcore movement was also espoused with tuneful sensibilities. With a nod to DLJ/Rocket From the Crypt's John Reis ax-shredding salvos, No Knife weren't quite as gnashingly fierce as their forebearers, but truthfully, they didn't need to be. To me, they were the best of many worlds.
This post covers the aforementioned Tanner split single, as well as two more early NK 45s. "Habits," from their 1994 7" on Goldenrod was later retooled for the Drunk on the Moon cd, with the sly riff-rocker, "Oh...I" that occupied the B-side remained exclusive to the single. Prior to the release of their second album, Hit Man Dreams, in 1997, a preview single was released containing the album cut "Jack Boots," backed with a cover of Japan's "Communist China." The curiously oblique Hit Man... album also included a rerecording of "Sweep Away My Shadow," originally offered on the Tanner split 7." Even greater things were to come in the form of their third, and arguably strongest record, Fire in the City of Automatons, circa 1999. A fourth album, Riot for Romance! reared it's head three years later, but life from the No Knife camp has largely been mum since, with the exception of some recent murmurings about possible reunion gigs. No Knife were anything but linear, however these nascent singles were as close to "conventional" as they would ever come, and were quite an accomplishment in themselves.
1994 7" (Goldenrod Records)
01. Habits
02. Oh...I
1997 7" (Time Bomb)
03. Jack Boots
04. Communist China

1994 No Knife/Tanner 7" (Goldenrod)
05. No Knife - Sweep Away My Shadow
06. Tanner - Slightly Calculated

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Singles Going Single # 69 - The Latter Day Saints - Plaster City 7" (1993, Campground)

I originally intended to share this single in a post encompassing the myriad of music projects pertaining to Latter Day Saints head-honcho, "Skip" (common nickname for Ron Greer), but I just couldn't wait. Most people who are at all familiar with Skip to begin with, associate him with the wry but sophisticated '90s pop-punk act from the Bay Area, The Wynona Riders. In fact, it wouldn't be far off the mark too assume that a lot of Wynona Riders fans don't know of the existence of this one-off single released on the homegrown Campground record label some fifteen years ago. Furthermore, a lot of people with the good sense to own the Riders classic album J.D. Salinger, are also unacquainted with two equally as obscure WR offshoots, Here Kitty Kitty and Toyboat, but I'll get to those and the Riders in another post, I assure you.
To my knowledge, the two songs enshrined on this record are the only released LDS recordings, and such a shame that is. Skip possesses a unique timbre that lends itself perfectly not only to the upbeat and animated work of the Riders, but to the simmering, yet bittersweet "592," that comprises the first half of this record. "Sheep Dog," occupying the flipside, is akin to Born to Run escapism, via a skateboard instead of a car. Superb stuff. Wish there was more of where this came from.

A. 592
B. Sheep Dog


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Fumes - Self-Appointed Guardian of the Machine (1996, eMpTy)

As far as city scenes go, Spokane, WA couldn't hold a candle to the blossoming empire their westward counterparts in Seattle were amassing in the '90s, but they did lay claim to some standout punk bands, first and foremost, The Fumes. Not a whole lot of info about them online-wise, save for a Myspace page and here. The Fumes, spearheaded by a chap named Dee Farmin, specialized in the same breakneck, aggro-as-fuck punk rawk swill that folks like the New Bomb Turks and Zeke were perfecting right around the same time. Heck, you could even liken the Fumes to a less offensive Dwarves (if that makes any sense). Self-Appointed Guardian of the Machine was the band's second album, following up the very fun and even more furious, Knock Out the Axis. Machine was more accomplished then it's predecessor, easing the reigns ever so slightly, still stuffed to the gills with Gearhead venom and blitzkrieg aplomb. A followup album, Pure Bad Luck, released in 1998 would be the final word on the Fumes. Damn, it feels like I'm writing an obituary half the time on here. Furthermore, the band was also survived by a bevy of singles that would have made a fine LP unto themselves.

01. She Wears Boots
02. Nite of Mason
03. Indonesian Carpet Burn
04. Shout Out My Heart
05. Depression
06. Hen House
07. Flame Thrower
08. Broken Crown
09. Greek Riot
10. GTO
11. Head-on Collision
12. Mr. Bushmills
13. Leash

You're gonna get it from Amazon and you're gonna like it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zumpano - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection (1994-96)

In the beginning there was light...and a little bit later, Zumpano. To know Zumpano is to not so much know the man that bares the group's namesake (that would be drummer Jason Zumpano), rather one Carl Newman (aka A.C. Newman). As frontman for the Vancouver B.C. piano/organ pop quartet, Newman helmed Zumpano on two delectable, but often passed over albums for Sub Pop Records, Look What the Rookie Did (1995) and Goin' Through Changes (1996). They were something of an anomaly for the Seattle Label, but alongside contemporaries Ben Folds Five, Zumpano found themselves in something of a pop-revival, albeit performing to small scale crowds. Carl Newman went on to co-found and lead The New Pornographers with burgeoning singer/songwriter Neko Case and the Evaporators John Collins. Later on, our man would strike out on his own, under the slightly altered moniker A.C. Newman, and a deliver a successful solo album, The Slow Wonder, in 2004.

Zumpano were modest in comparison to the New Pornographers, and all the better for it were you to ask me. The sprite "Wraparound Shades" boasted on their debut 1994 single exuded the kind of warmth and moxie any pop-fanatic could ever ask for. It would later be included on Look What the Rookie Did, while the flipside, "Orange Air," would remain exclusive to the single. The 1996 7" on the Sloan-owned and operated Murder Records" would be their first and last for the label, which included an early version of "The Only Reason Under the Sun," (later rerecorded for Changes). A reading of the Fab-four's "Long and Winding Road," on the b-side, is faithfully executed.

Some of these songs (and many more) are already available on Zumpano fan shrines, but I thought I could do further justice to them and offer an enticement for the uninitiated to investigate the albums. To my understanding there was a third, yet unreleased Zumpano album. Jason Zumpano would continue his career in Sparrow.
Sub Pop 7" (1994)
A. Wraparound Shades
B. Orange Air
Murder Records 7" (1996)
A. The Only Reason Under the Sun
B. The Long and Winding Road

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Grinning Plowman - I Play Jupiter (1989, Carlyle)

Back in the late '80 when I couldn't get my fill of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, an acquaintance suggested The Grinning Plowman. It took a few years before I found this album in a used CD rack, and thus far it's the only GP recording I've come across. The gothic overtones weren't as prevalent as I was expecting (fine by me), but I Play Jupiter definitely offers it's fair share of nods to Killing Joke, The Fall, and strangely enough, even The Art of Noise occasionally. None of the aforementioned however could match GP's percussive emphasis, or the eerily surreal vista laid out in "Skyscraper." Hopscotching from the relatively conventional to the utterly avant-garde, I Play Jupiter is an acquired taste that a lot of people just won't "get" period. And would you believe they're from Nashville, TN?

Prior to this album, The Grinning Plowman released an ep called Days of Deformity that you can check out here.
01. Radiator
02. Alone at Last
03. Magic House
04. Skyscraper
05. No More Love
06. Preta's Opera
07. Chinese Box
08. Smoke
09. Esmeralda
10. Koo-ka

How available on Amazon and iTunes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic - alternate versions (1989-93)

The trouble with having a "favorite" album is that it may not stay your favorite after excessive listens. I've had friends tell me that they shelve their desert island disks, and try not to listen to them in any great frequency, or at best moderation in an attempt to ward off any impending immunity to the pleasure they derive from them. This theory is fully logical, but it's a lot easier to follow when the artists of those said desert island disks are still issuing new material. That's not the case with The Sundays, who in fact have not recorded an album since 1997's Static and Silence. In fact, that album may never be followed up, unless that is, the band's opted to take a page from Axl Rose...but who am I kidding.

It's almost shameful for me to suggest the Sundays peaked on their debut, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, circa 1989, but song for song, this album is a delicate tour-de-force of Morrissey-ian, self-deprecating ruminations emanating from the mouth of one Harriet Wheeler amidst dreamily chiming guitars and a subtle rhythm section. It's been an inseparable part of my life for some eighteen years now, and although two follow-up albums have followed in it's wake, I'm virtually gasping for more.
Regarding what I explained in the first paragraph, about two years ago it dawned on me that I had in my possession all ten tracks from Arithmetic in either live, radio session, or demo incarnations. Naturally that realization was the germ that possessed me to slavishly cobble together an "alternate" Arithmetic, that I could substitute the proper album with, minimizing the immunity I've have feared for almost as long as this album came into existence. 
The two demos, "Can't Be Sure," and "You're Not The Only One I Know," were b-sides to part two of the 1997 "Summertime" import cd-single. I'd love to hear more where they came from, but unless a deluxe reissue of Arithmetic is impending, I suspect not. The stunning Peel Session take of "Skin & Bones" is more transfixing than the album version. The three cuts culled from the Netherlands March 1990 show, appear to originate from a soundboard recording - almost unheard of for collectors Sundays live shows. "A Certain Someone" performed live on the Blind tour in 1993 was taken from a bootleg CD, likely derived from a decent, if a little bass heavy audience recording. Finally, a couple of representative cuts from the Sunday's Black Session, recorded in France 1992 round out a thoughtful recreation of an album that I hope to never tire of. Hope you like it. 
01-Skin & Bones (Peel Session 1989)
02-Here's Where The Story Ends (Black Session 1992)
03-Can't Be Sure (demo)
04-I Won (live Den Haag, Netherlands 3-2-90)
05-Hideous Towns (live Den Haag, Netherlands 3-2-90)
06-You're Not The Only One I Know (demo)
07-A Certain Someone (live Ventura, CA 6-3-93)
08-I Kicked a Boy (live Den Haag, Netherlands 3-2-90)
09-My Finest Hour (Peel Session)
10-Joy (Black Session) 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Public Bulletin - Broke From the Sound ep (1986, Carpenter Shop)

Nada background info on this one. What can I say, I bought it in admiration for the sleeve. The back cover divulges little liner info, except for denoting Broke From the Sound, was recorded in Austin, TX, and the band appeared to be based in San Marcos, TX, not far from the state capitol. Public Bulletin, who boasted a six-man roster, very likely may have been contemporaries to such Austin-situated, period acts as The Reivers, True Believers, and The Texas Instruments. What you get is four tracks of modern indie-rock fare, negligibly reminiscent of REM. The harmonica's that lead off "Victim," and "Green" are about as "Western" as the vibe gets. My pick here is "Killing Us," enhanced by washes of keyboards and poignantly ringing guitars. Enjoy.

01. Victim
02. Green
03. Killing Us
04. May


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Singles Going Single # 68 - Huffy 7" (1995, Ringing Ear)

I know another band may come to me later, but in all my infinite wisdom, or more accurately, taste, Vermont never spawned a band so striking as Huffy. I fell in love at first listen with this single, particularly the A-side, "Anything Goes," a song that I still rank as one of the ten greatest songs of the 1990s. Possessing perhaps the most compelling guitar riff since Boston's "More Than a Feeling," Huffy's "Anything Goes" ushers you in like few pop-punk songs can. Once you're in the lobby, things become even more sonically spellbinding. By mid-song, you will doubt find yourself in a sublime state of conjecture, as you try to hem together the disparate lyrics entailing milk, steering wheels, and some nonsense about "shaking the way I feel." Yeah, I can't figure out what's going on myself, but it sounds phenomenal. If there's a classic one-liner to be culled from the track, it's surely, "one foot in the door, the other in my mouth." Furthermore, leadman Tim Lauben has one of the single most distinctive voices you're ever likely to hear.

The flipside, "Handlebars" lurks in the toppling shadow of it's better half, but carries on in the same Doughboys/Dino Jr., inflected pattern Huffy would further explore on their full length, No High Five on Me Too Records, still available for mailorder I might add. It was to be Huffy's parting shot, but Lauben would soon resurface in My Own Sweet, and in this millennium with The Red and the Black. These days, he's perfecting his solo muse, which you can sample here. More info on Huffy can be gleaned from an interesting 2003 post on Bradley's Almanac.

The rip of "Anything Goes" was taken not from the vinyl, but actually the Ringing Ear Records, Flex Your Specs compilation CD. I think that covers all the bases.
A. Anything Goes
B. Handlebars

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Transistor Sound & Lighting Co - s/t (1998, Vik)

Nothing succeeds like success, and boy, were Winnipeg, Manitoba's Transistor Sound & Lighting Co a smash hit! Not quite actually. Living close to the Canadian border lent itself to hearing certain Toronto radio stations with relatively good reception. I was acquainted with the Transistors on CBC Radio 2 during a Saturday, mid-evening pizza delivery run. This must have been in 1998, just as the halcyon era of '90s indie-rock was about to fade into it's inevitable twilight.

The hushed ramblings of, "flangability, fuzzed overtone, sunny lake music" that prefaces the opening "Coffee Song," deliberately or not, sums up the motif of this album quite accurately. TS&L embraced fidelity in all of it's flavors - lo, mid, high - often indulging in all three within the span of a single, two minute song. And I must say, this trio championed an unwieldy sense of dynamics, so much so that this album is frequently the aural equivalent to a Jack-in-the-box. These fluctuations however, thankfully did nothing to stifle the songs themselves, which were not necessarily infectious, but memorable nonetheless, as evidenced by my personal faves, "Anyways/Mayonnaise," and "Prince Vince." As for comparisons, TS&L presumably imbibed the recorded output of such illustrious Great White North outfits as, Eric's Trip, The Papillomas, and early Sloan. I'm not sure why or exactly when the band derailed, but this was to be their only album. You can read some more thoughts on the TS&L here
01. Coffee Song
02. Crayola
03. Prince Vince
04. Sasparilla
05. The Blanket (Gives You Zen)
06. Anyways/Mayonnaise
07. Planet Sweetness
08. House of Sleep
09. Good Egg
10. Three Chords
11. Elegy for Peaches
12. The Trampoline Delay
13. Fly the Trike, a Faster Bike
14. Jaded & Elated
15. Proletariat Rant
16. Fade Away 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Singles Going Single # 67 - Bracket - Giant Midget 7" ep (1993)

It took me a good five years or so to find this record, and I haven't seen it before or since. The Giant Midget 7" by Forestville, CA denizens Bracket, was their premier effort, and a highly effective demonstration of their "melodicore" prowess, beating nearby homeboys Green Day at their own pop-punkin' game. Problem was, even though they had major label distribution, the much needed push of touring and promotion was sorely lacking. That aside, their addictive melodies and savvy three-chord fret-runs were nothing short of stupendous, particularly on their bitchin' early albums, 924 Forestville St. (1994) and 4-Wheel Vibe (1995).

The takes of "Why Should Eye," and "Missing Link," here may or may not be same as the versions on 924 Forestville. They're pretty identical, but the liners don't provide a definitive answer. The highlight here is actually "Imaginary Friend," which never saw release on a Bracket album, but instead, was included on the Shreds Vol. 1 compilation on Shredder Records. My long elusive copy of Giant Midget is inordinately static-y, so if this made a good impression on you, I'm sure you can locate the aforementioned albums, not to mention many more Bracket offerings, online cheap.
01. Why Should Eye
02. Skanky Love Song
03. Missing Link
04. Imaginary Friend

Update:  The Bracket crew are in the midst of digitizing a slew of rare and unreleased material, and making it available on Bandcamp via a three part series of compilations.  Just posted earlier this month, Rare Cuts Vol. 1 features "Imaginary Friend," and other songs from Giant Midget are likely to follow on installments 2 & 3.  Proceeds from all sales will go to fund a new album, so do your part and show Bracket some love!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Clocks - s/t LP (1982)

You don't hear much about bands from Wichita, KS, and that went double for me, given The Clocks (not certain if the "The" was officially part of the band's name - it isn't on the album sleeve) were a couple years ahead of my time. The album's lead-off cut, "She Looks a Lot Like You," purportedly made a measurable splash on MTV during the channel's infancy. The Clocks played fairly straight-down-the-middle. AOR rock a la Off Broadway USA, The A's, and arguably, even Cheap Trick. Flourishes of keyboard, especially on the animated "19," exude faint "wave" tendencies, but not enough to jettison them into that threshold. So far as I know, there was no immediate follow-up to Clocks, however 2004 saw the release of a "new" Clocks album, The Black Box, on Zip Records, featuring early demos, and some new tunes spawned from reunion sessions during 2003. Black Box is still available here.

01. She Looks a Lot Like You
02. Here They Come
03. 19
04. Without You
05. Nobody's Fool
06. When She Puts You Down
07. Someone (Not Me)
08. When Will I See You Again
09. Summer
10. Feeling This Way

Get the reissue here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Aenone - Red ep (1992); Saints & Razors ep (1993, Kokopop)

Aenone were a downstate New York act from the early-90s, who embraced the Shoegazer movement with what appears to have been every fiber of their collective being. Glistening chords, flange, fuzz, and Craig Sterns generally hushed vocals dominated their meager recordings. Sublime. Delectable. All that good stuff.

Though they were archetypal of the genre, Aenone devoured what was going on across the pond (Lush, Chapterhouse, et al) but also gave a wink and a nod to home turf dream-poppers, Fudge and The Drop Nineteens.

This post encompasses two eps - Saints and Razors, released on Kokopop Records fifteen years ago, and an earlier work, the six-cut Red ep, the latter of which I have no physical evidence to prove it was ever commercially released. After Saints and Razors, Aenone were forced to change their moniker, settling on Nyack, their hometown. Nyack released a couple of eps under their own name, and an LP, 11 Track Player. Much can be read on Aenone and Nyack on their respective Myspace destinations, hyperlinked above. Aenone have reunited and are reportedly preparing an album. 
Red ep (1992)
01. I Remember Red
02. Evergreen
03. All That Shine
04. I'm Your Star
05. Numb
06. Dreamland 
Saints & Razors ep (1993)
01. Saints & Razors
02. Gaze
03. Celestia
04. Going Nowhere

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Cucumbers - Who Betrays Me...and Other Happier Songs (1985, Fake Doom)

Like the afore-discussed Individuals, The Cucumbers operated in/around Hoboken, NJ, but were dwarfed by such hometown heavy-hitters as The Feelies, and a little later on, Yo La Tengo. An intermittent, but nevertheless long-running, coed outfit who have released records as recently as 2004's All Things to You, The Cucumbers beginnings date back to the early '80s. Who Betrays Me, issued on Fake Doom Records, was their debut full-length, preceded by a debut ep, Fresh Cucumbers two years earlier. Falling squarely between The B-52s and Let's Active, I surmise the Cukes were a sizable success on college radio - enough so to garner a deal with a very big indie at the time, Profile Records. A self-titled sophomore effort came out in 1987, and at the time I recall seeing a video from it on the USA Network in between b-movies, or something like that. Some critics suggested they lost their edge, but opinions aside, the album bombed commercially, and they were evidently dropped like a bad habit.

I was intrigued enough to take a chance on this album when I saw it at a used record dispensary last year. Not a desert island item, at least to my eardrums, but I'm sure I'll find a few takers here. Enjoy. You can also check out some Myspace action here, and edjumicate yourself about their entire discography, courtesy of Trouser Press.
01. Who Betrays Me
02. Walking and Talking
03. Everything Goes
04. Love
05. Want to Talk
06. Susie's Breakdown
07. D-Zep
08. Desperation
09. Feels Good
10. You're Still Here in My Arms
11. Don't Watch TV 


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Helen Keller Plaid - Din (1989, Mad Rover)

Helen Keller Plaid may have emerged from Sacramento, CA, but they brandished a swagger and spirit akin to Midwest contemporaries Soul Asylum and the Magnolias. Their debut album, Din, exudes a taught balance between grit and melodicism, though a cover of David Essex' "Rock On," strikes me as a tad random. Even though major changes in the "modern rock" strata would soon be afoot after the release of this album, HKP were still wholly representative of the college-rock underground of their era. Very little is to be unearthed about this quartet on the web, including the origins of their offbeat name, but a second album, One Swell Foop, was released in 1991.

01. If I
02. Take the Fifth
03. Leaving
04. She Covers Up
05. Changed My Mind
06. Sunday
07. x10
08. Rock On
09. Another Eight
10. Starting Line


Monday, September 1, 2008

Singles Going Single # 65 - Trusty 7" (1993, DeSoto) & #66 The Trans Megetti Rent a Rocket 7" ep (1996, Art Monk)

Trusty and The Trans Megetti were two unrelated Washington D.C. area bands, that coincidentally had a couple things in common, the most visible one being their monikers which both began with the letters "TR," Amazing, huh? All phonetics and proximity matters aside, the two bands were also contemporaries of each other . Despite not having any overlapping members, Trusty vocalist James Brady, and Trans Megetti mouthpiece Mark Tesi, distinctly recalled the pipes belonging to yet another D.C. based singer, demi-god Jeff (or sometimes Geoff) Turner, of 3/Gray Matter/Senator Flux renown.

Trusty made their debut in the late '80s, but didn't hit their stride until a lineup change, prior to their flooring Goodbye Dr. Fate album on Dischord Records. That album, as well as this two-song beaut on De Soto Records, witnessed Trusty trading in their mundane, hardcore-wannabe beginnings for the "smart" punk-pop chops they would soon become synonymous with, if only to modest audiences. Fate's followup, The Fourth Wise Man saw the light of day in 1996, but unfortunately, Trusty folded just as they peaked

The obliquely named Trans Megetti took a slightly more "aggro" route, not so much in the mold of a traditional hardcore band, rather noisy post-hardcore bands of the period, like Drive Like Jehu. The songs contained on Rent a Rocket, as did other TM records, pack a cathartic urgency, while maintaining a semblance of melody, and more than a little technical guitar prowess I might add. The Megetti released two full-lengths, Steal the Jet Keys, and Fading Left to Completely On, during the '90s.

Trusty - DeSoto Records single
A. Kathy's Keen
B. No One

The Trans Megetti - Rent a Rocket 7"
A. Rent a Rocket
B1. Mercitron
B2. Yes, I Can Read

Trusty: Hear
Trans MegettiHear