Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - The year in rear view (my top-20 and more)

First off, congratulations for making it to 2009 everyone! For many if not most of you who peruse Wilfully Obscure, you're probably aware that this is blog is shall we say "retroactive" or even "retrofitted." That's right, the 21st century may as well have fallen victim to the Y2K "bug" in this corner of cyberspace, BUT that hardly means I'm ignoring the here and now. However it's getting pretty tough these days to find quality new bands, or the continuing progress of established acts of merit, which is perhaps subconsciously why I've dedicated Wilfully Obscure to (mostly) pre-2000 recordings.

I know, I'm so September 10th, but dammit, I'm going to go out on a limb and pronounce that 2008 was the single most disappointing year for music, at least in my lifetime...and I can only hope that it will stay that way. Assembling a top-20 list for '08 was agonizing. Excruciating even. There were many good to very good albums on my list, but the only one that I can honestly deem as exceptional was a three song ep, that comes courtesy of an unsigned Portland, OR band, The Lives of Famous Men (who amazingly have a mere eight songs in their entire recorded repertoire) . Technically, it may not even qualify given it's late December 2007 release, but chances are the tangible version of Modern Love, The Wooden Vehicle didn't make it into the hands of many people before '08.

Maybe if I still had a shift at my old college radio station, whereby I could potentially be exposed to dozens of new bands that I wouldn't hear of otherwise, I'd be more enthusiastic. If only that was the case. As a measuring stick of sorts, the latter half of my Top-20 album list would have only qualified for "honorable mention" status in any other given year. Even my old standbys like Damien Jurado, For Against, Death Cab, and The Telepathic Butterflies barely grazed the rim of the 2008 dartboard. And for those of you drooling over the likes of Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Fucked Up, and Gaslight Anthem, sorry folks, these combos simply didn't cut the mustard, not on my hot dog anyway.

In recent years, it's often been joked that reissues have been more rewarding than new releases. For 2008, this might as well have been an empirical fact - so much so that I've created a separate top-20 for reissues, deluxe editions, and thoughtfully assembled anthologies and best-ofs. Regarding the unlikely titles on my top-20 new releases list - Metallica? A Big Drill Car tribute album? Yeah, it was that kind of year. Enjoy (or not). And make sure to check out The Lives of Famous Men.

01/02/09 - Made a few necessary revisions (just in case you're keeping track).

Top-20 releases of 2008

01. The Lives of Famous Men - Modern Love, The Wooden Vehicle ep
02. Nada Surf - Lucky
03. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing
04. The Bon Mots - Forty Days and Forty Nights With the Bon Mots
05. Daysleepers - Drowned In a Sea of Sound
06. Various - And You'll Spin - a tribute to Big Drill Car
07. Lagwagon - I Think My Older Brother... ep/Joey Cape - Bridge (one and the same - sort of)
08. Ben Folds - The Way to Normal
09. Jack's Mannequin - The Glass Passenger
10. Kings of Leon - Only By the Night
11. Stuyvesant - Linden Calling
12. The National - A Skin, A Night/Virginia ep
13. No Age - Nouns
14. Socratic - Spread the Rumors
15. Boston Spaceships - Brown Submarine
16. Cruiserweight - Big Bold Letters
17. The Spinto Band - Moonwink
18. Metallica - Death Magentic
19. The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
20. Phantom Planet - Raise the Dead

Honorable mentions:

Young Sportsmen - If You Want It
Centro-matic/South San Gabriel - Dual Hawks
Robert Pollard - Robert Pollard is off to Business
Lemuria - Get Better
Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy
The Night Marchers - See You in Magic
Bob Mould - District Line
Albert Hammond Jr. - Como Te Llama?

20 kickass reissues

01. The Replacements - back catalog ( you really expect me to type all eight of them?)
02. The Anniversary - Devil on Our Side : B-sides & Rarities
03. Various - Titan: It's All Pop (Titan Records anthology)
04. U2 - Boy/October/War/Under a Blood Red Sky
05. Portastatic - Some Small History
06. Pavement - Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition
07. Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls, and Marchers/Vs.
08. Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (deluxe edition)
09. Hellogoodbye - s/t & Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! and More!
10. Whiskeytown - Strangers Almanac (deluxe edition)
11. Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff (deluxe edition)
12. Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool
13. Summer Suns - Greatest
14. The Nerves - One Way Ticket
14. Big Dipper - Supercluster, the Big Dipper Anthology
15. The Lines - Memory Span
16. Translator - Different Time
17. The Bats - How Pop Can You Get? (available online only at Amazon and Emusic)
18. Adam Marsland - Daylight Kissing Night: Greatest Hits
19. Apples in Stereo - Electronic Projects for Musicians
20. Classic Ruins - Lassie Eats Chickens

Mod Lang - Where Your Heart ep (1988, Certain)

A song from this ep, specifically "Jill," has already been featured on Little Hits and The Poor Ditching Boy, but I thought I'd go to the trouble of uploading the whole deal. I'd still recommend visiting those blogs for further background info on Mod Lang. From what I understand, this was the only release Mod Lang issued under this particular moniker, as they were apparently forced to change names to Marcel Monroe.

Mitch Easter didn't have squat to do in the production or creation of Where Your Heart, but this co-ed New York trio certainly has some obvious affection for Let's Active. Assumedly taking their name from the Big Star song, Chilton and Bell didn't rub off on them as poignantly as Easter and Co. What you get are five, crisp cuts that would have fit in perfectly on college radio playlists of it's era. A great little record that I really should have posted earlier.
01. Jill
02. There's a World
03. August
04. He's a Wreck
05. Woke Up Listening

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten Bright Spikes - Astro Stukas (1992, New Red Archives)

Probably isn't a whole lot I can tell you about Ten Bright Spikes that isn't already covered in their bio on the New Red Archives site. I might make more sense to talk about the music on their makeshift album, Astro Stukas, but to do so accurately would require a song-by-song dissertation, so I don't thank that's going to work either.

To cut to the quick, TBS were instituted by two ex-hardcore guys - Jason Honea from the San Fran-based Social Unrest, and Nicky Garratt of the UK Subs. The often frenzied, fevered pitch of the aforementioned are largely, if not entirely eschewed on Stukas. I mentioned this was a "makeshift" album above given that about half of the songs are culled from a trio of 10" eps: Vertical Brando, The La Mancha Candidate, and Der Ferngesteuerteschlafanzug, (love that last one) with the rest exclusive to this CD. Though all nine tracks are disparate works unto themselves Astro Stukas flows near seamlessly, veering from the spicy distoro-crunch of "Your Breathing Doll," to the sprite, pop leanings of "Spleen", to the melancholic hue of the viola-enhanced "Ten Bright Spikes," and concluding with "Plumflower," a loose trifecta that hems together piano, bells and even more viola, trailing off into a quasi world-beat chant. You so need to check this out, and TBS' follow-up, Blueland.
01. Norse
02. Your Breathing Doll
03. Vertical Brando
04. Spleen
05. King of Sweden
06. Dog Star
07. Ten Bright Spikes
08. 000,000
09. Plumflower
a. Prayer For the Night
b. Ghostshirt
c. Waterghost
Now available from iTunes, Amazon Downloads and Emusic

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Singles Going Single # 92 & 93 - Spavid 7" (1993, Cash Cow) & One Eyed Jack - Ride the Hide 7" (1993, Happy Go Lucky)

It was recently suggested that I share a single by the band I derived my intermittently employed 'handle' from. Totally logical, and even more so, a custom fit for the Singles Going Single series, given they only released one 7" in their too-brief lifespan.
If it wasn't for their brevity, locale, and minuscule discogrpahy, Buffalo, NY's Spavid may have been whispered in the same breath as fellow "post-rock" collectives as Tortoise, Gastr del Sol, and Codeine. In short, post-rock is based on the notion that "music" can still be deemed as such, while bearing little to no antecedents of traditional rock, pop, country, jazz, or even punk song structures. (The Wikipedia link above might lay this definition out more accurately than I can). Given their comparatively abrasive and brusque textures, a lot of folks lumped Spavid in with the "post-hardcore" punk set, but aesthetically the band was coming from a different angle. Groomed on the likes of Shellac, Drive Like Jehu, Bastro, and most notably, Slint, talked/shouted vox, a healthy dollop of dissonance, and startling stops and starts that could turn on a dime were this trio's calling cards. Spavid shows, were they held in a basement, somebody's loft, or more commonly on a stage, were nothing short of an assault on the senses, and it's obliterating effect would stay with you long after the band packed up their gear.

On the heels of their briskly-selling single, the band recorded an album for the now defunct Humble Records label. In 1994, they dissolved rather instantaneously after a tour that I was informed that didn’t go to everyone’s liking. Spavid's lineup featured vocalist/guitarist Mike Scully, bassist Bruce Reckann, and skinsman Jason Kourkounis. Kourkounis would soon go onto two bands of much greater prominence, Mule and The Delta 72. Scully has since relocated to Portland, OR, and is now fronting Joyland. You can bone up on Cash Cow Records, the imprint that released the Spavid single right here.

One Eyed Jack was the immediate precursor to Spavid, containing Scully and Kourkounis in it's lineup. The Ride the Hide 7" is culled from the same cloth, but in my opinion is a little more approachable given the band's rather pervasive Amphetamine Reptile-era stylings. 
Spavid 7"
A. Itchy
B1. Jarneck Chump
B2. Slept 
One Eyed Jack - Ride the Hide 7"
A. El Pintauro
B. The Mill 
Spavid: Hear
One Eyed Jack: Hear

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fire in the Radio - Red Static Action (2000, Wednesday)

Fire in the Radio were a little known turn-of-the-millennium outfit from State College, PA (a town who's moniker is as curious as 'King of Prussia,' but I digress). This ever so slightly wet-behind-the-ears quartet bridged the gap between indie-rock and emo, putting them in league with contemporaries The Get Up Kids, Juliana Theory, and to a more negligible extent, Superchunk. Red Static Action may not have been particularly seismic, but it wielded the potential for a much more incendiary follow-up album - one that sadly never came to pass, for reasons unknown to myself. This fleeting ten-song disk appears to be the first and final word on Fire in the Radio. Physical copies may still be available from Insound. Furthermore, if you enjoyed this, check out my recent m.i.j. post.

01. A Separate Piece
02. Hold My Pocket
03. Answering Machine
04. Tryst Affair
05. Probably German
06. The Bean and the Cod
07. The Flight in Miles
08. Distress Call No. 416
09. Lessons
10. Talk for the Tired


Singles Going Single # 91 - Flying Nuns "Yard" 7" (1993, Warped) + 2 eps

Boston's now presumably defunct Flying Nuns, didn't boast a particularly large catalog of releases, but what little was made available to the public large was more than impressive. Beginning life as a trio in 1989 in Connecticut, (and eventually become a quartet) the band emigrated to Massachusetts, and soon thereafter materialized onto the collective radar of ear-t0-the-ground indie rock enthusiasts.
Delivering a loud, clangy, post-punk rush, cloaked in a slightly melancholy context, it was apparent that the Flying Nuns sonic inclinations were drawing significant inspiration from another set of Beantown boys done good, Mission of Burma. This comparison was further validated with FN bassist and mouthpiece Kevin Sweeney evoking Roger Miller's urgent, world-weary vocals, to a near fault at moments. Bailter Space, and to a lesser extent The Wedding Present and The Wipers also informed the bands palette. Like the aforementioned, The Flying Nuns don’t skimp on hooks, albeit they were often of the barbed variety.

Their 1993 "Yard"/"Shirt," and the much better circulated Matador Records release, the Pilot ep in 1995, are their most gratifying records in my opinion. During their stint on Matador, The Nuns pined for greater things to come, but twas not to be, and the band was unceremoniously dropped when the burgeoning label co-opted themselves with Atlantic and Capital Records. In 1998 they released a self-titled ep that included a convincing interpretation of the Joy Division classic "Disorder." In 2002 they finally got around to releasing a bona-fide full-length, Everything’s Impossible Now These Days on Q-division records (not included in this post). You can get it as a paid download through the Nuns Myspace page, or if you want the CD version go here.

7" (1993)
A. Yard
B. Shirt
Pilot ep (1995, Matador)
01. Submarine
02. Frank
03. Shades
04. Carousel of Freaks
05. Life on the Ground
s/t ep (1998, Spinning)
01. Mirror Mirror
02. Separation Anxiety
03. Disorder
04. Border States
05. Sinking Ritual
06. The Servicing Man

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Big Star - Ardent Studio Sessions (1972-73)

01 - Feel (rough mix with alternate guitar)
02 - Ballad Of El Goodo (rough mix with alternate vocals)
03 - In The Street (rough mix with alternate guitar)
04 - In The Street (alternate take)
05 - Thirteen (alternate mix)
06 - Don't Lie To Me (rough mix)
07 - When My Baby's Beside Me (alternate mix)
08 - My Life Is Right (alternate mix with intro)
09 - Give Me Another Chance (rough mix with alternate lead guitar)
10 - Another Time, Another Place And You (instrumental backing track)
11 - There Was A Light (demo with Chilton vocals)
12 - I Got Kinda Lost (demo with Chilton vocals)
13 - Motel Blues (demo)
14 - Gone With The Light (demo)
15 - O My Soul (rough mix with alternate vocals)
16 - Mod Lang (rough mix with alternate vocals)
17 - You Get What You Deserve (alt mix)
18 - (unknown) (instrumental backing track)
19 - Way Out West (rough mix with alternate vocals)
20 - Daisy Glaze (Instrumental Backing Track)

21 - She's A Mover (alternate take)
22 - Morpha Too (rough mix)
plus: Lovely Day (rare, original version of "Stroke It, Noel")

This is a collection of alternate mixes and outtakes from the sessions for #1 Record and Radio City. Some differences are only noticeable to the obssessive and some are very obvious. The alternate take of 'In The Street' was released (by mistake?) as the b-side to the original 'When My Baby's Beside Me' single in 1972 and is a MUCH better version with a totally different guitar solo. All other tracks are unreleased versions. Pride of place however go to tracks 10-14 and 18 which are previously unavailable in any form! 'Another Time, Another Place & You' and 'Unknown' (my title) are backing tracks for songs that were apparently never finished. 'There Was A Light' (or LIFE in this version) and 'I Got Kinda Lost' are Big Star recordings of the songs that would later appear on the Chris Bell solo collection I Am The Cosmos and are particularly interesting due to the lead vocal on both being sung by Alex Chilton, which puts a question mark over quite how much of Chris Bell's solo work was left over from his time with Big Star and whether they are in fact Chilton/Bell compositions...'Motel Blues' is a studio version (at last!) of the Loudon Wainwright song that Chilton played in the acoustic segment of the WLIR Radio broadcast in 1974, and 'Gone With The Light' has never surfaced before or since in any form as far as I am aware. (These aren't my notes - spavid).

Posted January 26, 2009: Thanks go to Steven for graciously assembling album art for this post!

Update: Since so much of this overlaps with the Keep An Eye on the Sky box-set, I am no longer sharing.  Sorry.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Beezewax - A Dozen Summits (1997, LaNuGo)

Although their second album, South of Boredom was my initial encounter with Beezewax, I found their debut, A Dozen Summits more endearing. That's why I decided to upload it first, and maybe South a little later. A Norwegian quartet, Beezewax don't quite subscribe to the more polished inclinations of their due-east neighbors over in Sweden, and they let you know it on ...Summits, an album laden with errant, but none-to-distracting shards of feedback and amp noise. More vivid is Beezewax's resemblance to The Posies, and perhaps the irony that this album was released on the heels of the demise of Bellingham, WA's finest. It's a lazy comparison, but a pretty damn accurate one. South of Boredom would actually wind up being produced by Posies prime-mover Ken Stringfellow himself, but I digress.

Teaming with soaring melodicism, as well as intense, post-adolescent emotion, A Dozen Summits exudes a cozy glow in the face of frequent J Mascis-reared guitar outbursts and a vigorous rhythm section. A start to finish beauty, with such highlights as "Miss Playin' Basketball" and "The Snooze Is On," that are liable to win you over just as fast as they did me.
01. The Snooze Is On
02. On The Floor
03. Kato's...
04. Take The Wheel
05. Miss Plain' Basketball
06. Cool You're Here
07. Favourite Me
08. Miracle Mile
09. Tear Stained Teen
10. Off Your Foot
11. Watch For Me
12. Leaving Tracks

This is now available again through Amazon and iTunes.

Singles Going Single # 90 - The Look "Three Steps Away" 7" (1981, MCA)

Some British pop for ya here, of the "power" variety that is. The Look released but one proper album during their brief lifespan in the halcyon era of the power-pop movement. Behold, two slices of taught, and dare I say nervy, three-chord rock with the b-side "Much Too Late For That" remaining exclusive to this wax. "Three Steps Away," a should-have-been classic went on to their self-titled album issued the same year, but my understanding is that another single, "I Am the Beat" was more successful. A thorough history is revealed on their website (linked above) and furthermore, ordering info for their recently released second album, Pop Yowlin', on Angel Air Records is also provided.

A. Three Steps Away
B. Much Too Late For That


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Away with words

Taking some time off. Now's a great time to catch up and/or visit some of the gnarly MP3 merchants on my blogroll. Check back early next week (yes, just in time for Christmas & Chanukah).

Sue ya,

Singles Going Single # 89 - Pink Noise Test 7" (1995, T.O.N.) + Electric Train ep (1996, Boy's Life/TRG)

On their debut 7" L.A.'s Pink Noise Test were wet-behind-the-ears alterna-rawkers with unmistakable ambition. "Sink," which would later turn up on the Electric Train ep, ans again in rerecorded form for their lone full length, Plasticized in 1997, is an infectious slice of well manicured white noise, loosely informed by Smashing Pumpkins and shoegazer rock. A similar sonic aesthetic carries over to the flipside, "Dance," but isn't quite as effective.
In my opinion, PNT ascended to their apex on the Electric Train ep, which is an improvement in all significant aspects. By this time, the band had ostensibly consumed a heavy diet of Jesus and Mary Chain, with the results manifesting themselves in the near-plagiaristic "All the Same to Me" and "Electric Train." Derivative as tunes stuff may be, they're downright invigorating. "Everybody's Star" briefly breaks the Pyschocandy mold, but is just as luscious as the aforementioned.

Pink Noise Test were put to pasture after their major label effort, Plasticized flopped. Retaining some of the smarts the band exuded on the ep, Plasticized found them veering in a more techno-rock direction, a la a less abrasive Nine Inch Nails. 
A. Sink
B. Dance 
Electric Train ep
01. Sink
02. All the Same to Me
03. Electric Train
04. Everybody's Star
05. Smile 

Get both here

Monday, December 15, 2008

The No-Nos - Secret Luminaries (1997, Chromosome)

I rescued this CD from my college radio station's "reject" bin about ten years ago, and I'm pretty damn grateful that I did. The bio I've provided below mentions The No-No's boasting Tiger Trap and Halo Benders alumni in their roster, but the 11 cuts within are hardly twee (although occasionally cutesy). For that matter, they don't exude any riot grrrl angst either, which makes I suppose is logical considering half of the band (at the time of this recording anyway) was male. Sharp pop sensibilities are all over Secret Luminaries in a big way. Very consistent stuff, with the second song in, "New Species Anthem," really taking the cake. The No-Nos followed Luminaries up with a few more CDs before going bye-bye. As promised, the bio from Allmusic:
The No-Nos began in Portland Oregon in 1995 through the collaboration of former Tiger Trap vocalist Heather Dunn on drums and her friend Robin on vocals After recruiting guitarist Mike Clark and Halo Banders bassist Ralf Youtz the completed line-up was followed by a number of demos and weekend tours Ross Records released the groups debut single New Species Anthem in 1997 resulting in immediate Tiger Trap and Fastback comparisons The hybrid of indie-pop-punk continued in 1999 as the groups own Chromosome Records put out the album Secret Luminaries in January 1999 Dunn departed soon after its release to join the Bangs and Dub Narcotic Sound System The No-Nos continued on as Chromosome issued the 2000 EP Damage Done and the full-length Tinnitus in mid-2000

01. Jupiter Girl
02. New Species Anthem
03. Secret Luminaries
04. Pennies on the Tongue
05. The Softest Shoe
06. The Other
07. Diminishing Returns
08. Brusha Brusha
09. Goodbye Turpentine
10. Fancy Free
11. Pinesap


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Polvo - s/t ep (1991, Kitchen Puff/1996, Jesus Christ)

I believe it was Alan Alda who coined the phrase, "If it bends it's funny, if it breaks, it's not." Straight outta the glistening hotbed of Chapel, Hill, NC, Polvo's utterly malleable song sculptures were not merely bent, but perhaps a little mangled too. Crooked and sinuous as-all-get-out guitar tunings, somewhat buried vocals, and an uncanny off-kilter stop/start penchant were all seemingly indigenous to perhaps the most original indie-rock troupe ever, at least in the '90s for sure. Many albums and eps were cut for Merge Records, but this self-titled ep commenced Polvo's recorded output.

Originally making the light of day as a double 7" for Kitchen Puff Records in '91, it entered the digital age five years later on the short-lived but substantial Jesus Christ Records label, retaining it's seven tunes but not a shred of the original artwork (I've included jpegs of the Kitchen Puff sleeve within file, swiped from Ebay). The lead-off cut, "Can I Ride" was rerecorded for Polvo's first album, Cor-Crane Secret. For an even greater appreciation of this record, you can read an essay of sorts from Battle For the Earth blog. A solid analytical deconstruction of Polvo's discography can be read here.

01. Can I Ride
02. Leaf
03. Lull
04. Totemic
05. Tread On Me
06. Teen Dream
07. Snake Fist Fighter

Merge Records recently did a nice reissue of this one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The dB's - 1983/84 demos

One of the key purveyors of the "new south" sound, alongside REM and Let's Active, The dB's hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those "left of the dial" types in the early to mid '80s that were ready to embrace a fresher alternative to the venerable, yet often unfulfilling and insipid Top 40 world. Having recorded two acclaimed albums, 1981's Stands for Decibels, and Repercussion a year thereafter for IRS records, as well as a flurry of independently released singles, the band's revered nucleus of Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple would soon splinter, with Stamey departing sometime after Repercussion. The band's third album, the Stamey-less Like This, was a corker however, even with only half of the dB's visionaries present.

This collection of 22 demo tracks feature a bundle of songs that would make it onto Like This, and even contained an early version of a songs that would make it onto the db's fourth record, The Sound of Music. Many songs here were outright abandoned. Chris Stamey, who apparently stuck around long enough to appear on a few cuts here, went solo in '83 with his debut album, It's a Wonderful Life
The "classic" lineup of the dB's reunited in 2005 and 2007 for a few concerts. 
01. White Train #1
02. Modern Boys and Girls
03. Molly Said
04. Elvis, What Happened
05. Big time (C. Stamey)
06. You Can't Take Her (C. Stamey)
07. ? (C. Stamey)
08. Rendez-vous
09. She Got Soul #1
10. She Got Soul #2
11. Lonely is (as Lonely Does)
12. Little Hands
13. Death of Rock
14. Repercussion
15. Spittin' in the Wind
16. This Crazy Town
17. Purple Hose
18. White Train #2
19. On the Battlefront
20. Darvy
21. Not Cool
22. Love is for Lovers

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tubetop - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection (1996)

At long last I've followed up my Tubetop Three Minute Hercules post some six months ago. Please click on the hyperlink for my commentary and bio details on this criminally overlooked Posies spin-off project from the mid-90s. I said it then, and I'll say it again, Tubetop were Seattle, guitar pop wunderkinds of near-monumental proportions, and are about as gratifying as anything you're likely to hear in the "power-pop" realm.

In addition to Hercules, Tubetop issued two singles of their own, and a split 7" with The Model Rockets. Tracks 1, 2, and 5 later appeared in rerecorded incarnations on Tubetop's aforementioned lone album. "Love Germ" & "Vixen," from the band's single on Laundry Room Records, are entirely exclusive to this release, and I gotta tell ya, it took me a couple years to track this piece of wax down. The sleeve of the C/Z Records single ("Bleeder" & "With You") features the band's name in a shiny, maroon veneer (mylar perhaps?), that unfortunately failed to translate from my scanner. Nevertheless, enjoy.
01. Bleeder
02. With You
03. Love Germ
04. Vizen
05. The Rules
06. World Won't Let Me (by The Model Rockets)

1 & 2 Laundary Room Records 7" (1996)
3 & 4 C/Z Records (1996)
5 & 6 - split 7" w/ Model Rockets on Collective Fruit Records (1996)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beatnik Filmstars - Laid Back & English (1994, La Di Da)

It wasn't all Britpop and shoegaze that emanated across the pond during the '90s. The UK's Beatnik Filmstars were something of an anomaly, releasing a Pollard-like avalanche of albums and singles during their tenure. Laid Back & English was their first length, and is representative of the utmost caliber they had to offer. Absorbing an unmistakable cue from slackers extraordinaire, Pavement, the Bristol-based quintet veered between relatively quiet, lo-fi toss-offs and startling, static-laden fretboard outbursts, without offering a moments notice as to which direction their uncanny dynamics were about to go. Everyone from the Wedding Present to the Pixies to Swervedriver and early Boo Radleys seemed to have rubbed off on them in various amounts as well I might add.

The Filmstars didn't operate exclusively on either end of these extremes, and as such, the selections on Laid Back that strike a happy medium (deliberately or not) are the most appealing, particularly the irresistible distorto-pop of "Tearing Apart My World," and "Clean."

The band would later release two albums for Merge Records, 1997's In Hospitalable and Boss Disque in 1998. 
01. Ciao America No. 2
02. You Can't Fake Sadness Like This
03. Clean
04. Kick in the Head
05. Sick
06. Tearing Apart My World
07. Haircut
08. Skill
09. Revolt Into Style
10. Follow Cats
11. Missed
12. Ambulance
13. Swillyagro
14. Orange
15. Band A
16. Diseaser 399

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Singles Going SIngle # 88 - For Against - Autocrat 7" (1985, Republic)

Yeah that's right, that's the way it is.

A. Autocrat
B. It's a Lie


Singles Going SIngle # 87 - Swirlies - Error 7" (1992, Pop Narcotic)

If you were an ear-to-the-ground shoegazer in the early to mid '90s, you're probably well versed with the Swirlies. If not, let this single be your introduction. Along with other American distorto-merchants of the era like The Lilys, Drop Nineteens, and Fudge (who I'll soon be dedicating an upcoming post to), the Swirlies turned the Anglophile dream-pop movement on it's collective ear, intoning (quite literally) the foundation laid down by My Bloody Valentine and Ride with a deliberately lo-fi aesthetic and ample experimentation. On their first pair of records, 1992's What to Do About Them ep, and the hot-on-it's-heels full-length, Blonder Tongue Audio Baton, heavy flange, patchworked arrangements, and sublimely infectious, albeit sometimes indecipherable boy/girl vocal passages, comprised the Swirlies lovingly fucked-with calling card.

The Swirlies would go on to release several more eps and albums, but by and large abandoned the dream-pop thing for more ambient and avant pursuits. If you like what you hear, investigate the aforementioned records, as well as their worthy 1996 album, They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons. BTW, did I mention they're from Boston?

A. Park the Car by the Side of the Road
B. Upstairs


Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Search For Saturnalia - Four Letters (2000, Has Anyone Ever Told You?)

Yet another dollar bin find well worth it's weight in pennies. Not much background info to divulge about The Search for Saturnalia, save for the bio on their now defunct label's webpage. These clangy, but tuneful treble-kickers were based in Austin, TX, but they seemed to have fixed their collective gaze on '90s Canadian indie-rock, specifically the variety emanating from Halifax and Moncton. The opening salvo, "Her Little Note" exudes traces of vulnerability and yearnfulness, but is ultimately overshadowed by David Denosowicz's and Tina Lockwood's twin guitar surge. "Boomer Sonata" and "Will Travel" follow suit, while "You Were" is even more assertive. Four Letters is a great little album, but sadly it was Saturnalia's epitaph. Would love to hear the ep that preceded this. If you liked this, check out my relatively recent Sometimes Sweet Susan and Transistor Sound & Lighting Co. posts.

01. Her Little Note
02. Mercury
03. Boomer Sonata
04. In General
05. You Were
06. Ice Cream Heartache
07. Will Travel
08. Mustang Cobra
09. Thinking About It
10. Date


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rifle Sport - Primo & White (1990, Big Money)

Though operating on a completely different level than their Minneapolis brethren of the era (Mats, Husker, etc), Rifle Sport seemed to have their metaphorical compass pointing due south, to acerbic, post-punk Chicago bands like Big Black and Breaking Circus. As the Trouser Press link above dissects the band much more accurately than I can, there are definitely some Burma-esque rumblings permeating the Iain Burgess produced Primo. This is unquestionably a post-punk record, albeit one with the raw, Midwest indie movement of the late '80s written all over it.

For his extracurricular enjoyment, drummer Todd Trainer (who in fact played with Breaking Circus) rawked out on his own project Brick Layer Cake and would later go onto the Steve Albini-helmed Shellac. Bass-wrangler Pete (Flour) Conway eked out several albums of Big Black-ish industro-rock during his Rifle Sport tenure as well.
01. Exploding Man
02. Jobs
03. Black Shadow
04. Manfred
05. Positions
06. Clouds
07. 24 Doors
08. Sun in Sky
09. Kings and I
10. Jon 

Singles Going Single # 86 - Rule of Thumb (Dave Smalley) - Desperately Seeking Smalley 7" (1990, Club Rat)

When I snatched this gem up in the early '90s, I was entirely unacquainted with Rule of Thumb, but the band wasn't the selling point - guest vocalist Dave Smalley was. For those of you who haven't at one time or another dedicated the better part of a CD shelf or milk crate to the copious recorded output of bands Smalley has associated himself with over the last three decades (DYS, Dag Nasty, All, Down By Law), you can learn up on this much lauded punk demigod here and here in his own words.

The short version: Dave Smalley is credited with imbuing punk/hardcore (particularly as mouthpiece for Dag Nasty and the long-running Down By Law) a melodic prowess that left an impression on thousands of listeners, many of whom started their own bands. Some have defined him as a proponent of "posi-core" (positive hardcore) given the routinely chin-up sentiments that have colored much of his prolific songwriting. The A-side to this single, "Don't Look Down" is a more than perfect example, and very much in league with the rest of his melodicore endeavors in the bands mentioned above. In fact, his work has been so consistent and admirable, one is apt to forgive him for being a Republican.
A. Don't Look Down
B. Education

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Singles Going Single # 85 - Man Dingo How's My Driving? 7" & ifive LP (1994, Dr. Strange)

What would a self-respecting blog dedicated to the underexposed and under-appreciated like this one be without a post on one of the best power-trios of the '90s, Man Dingo? Guess that's not much of an issue anymore given said post is now before your eyes. Denizen's of Phoenix, AZ, Man Dingo's brand of pop-punk, with a highly pervasive influence from the very like-minded Big Drill Car (and to a lesser extent, early Green Day), never garnered the national audience they deserved. For shame, 'cos their succulent hooks, brisk tempos, and genuine passion for the quality of their craft was head and shoulders above the vast majority of their peers. I can't recommend these guys enough!

Man Dingo spent most of their tenure on the Cali-based Dr. Strange label, on which they released these two recordings, plus a subsequent LP, Macho Grande, another single, and I think a split ep with another outfit who's name escapes me at the moment. MD alumni would later go onto Stereotyperider.
For some reason, the band's ifive cd was mastered at an insultingly low volume, but through the miracle of Sound Forge I boosted it to a reasonable level. 
How's My Driving 7"
A. Closet Bully
B1. My Stereo
B2. Box

01. Dirtbag
02. Drop
03. Blue 60
04. Closet Bully
05. Bigger Than You
06. Moonburn
07. Cakeblister
08. Back on Time
09. Aquaman
10. Receipt
11. Term Oil
12. Outside 
How's My Driving: Hear
ifive: Hear

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Radiant Storm King - Rival Time (1993, Homestead)

One of the longest-running, but best kept secrets among the indie rawk cognoscenti, Massachusetts New Radiant Storm King have never been consistently thrilling, but their second album, the long out-of-print Rival Time, is the closest they've come to cultivating a masterpiece, however I'm sure there are a few fervent believers out there that would argue that's precisely what this album is. With a sound rooted in the essence of dissonant forebearers Mission of Burma and Sonic Youth, NRSK flirt with minor key melodies and play the dynamic card as if their lives depended on it. Like those legends, The King's modus operandi isn't immediately winsome, but Rival Time was accessible enough for Guided By Voices head honcho Rober Pollard to attest that track two, "The Opposing Engineer (Sleeps Alone)," went a long way in inspiring one of GBV's signature songs, "I Am a Scientist." In fact, Pollard and Co covered "Opposing Engineer" on an ace split single with NRSK in the mid-90s. For me, "Phonecall," a lively but bittersweet number regarding collegiate angst, is the one that really gets my juices flowing.

NRSK's recently reissued debut, My Little Bastard Soul, is even more wiry and fun, but many of the band's later works found them in a much quieter, and frankly un-enthused mode. A solid singles/oddities compilation, Leftover Blues 1991-2003, functions as one of the group's more durable albums, and is just as recommendable as Rival Time itself.

01. Viral Mind
02. The Opposing Engineer (Sleeps Alone)
03. Oil an Impatient Fuck
04. New Math
05. Phonecall
06. Hazardville
07. Commerical
08. 511 Little Mightmares
09. Happy For the First Time in Weeks
10. Country Box
11. Phonecall II
12. Do It For the Sensitive Guy