Saturday, January 31, 2009

Splitting the Difference # 2 - Small 23/J Church 7" (Honey Bear, 1993)

A dynamite pairing if I do say so myself. Two totally archetypal '90s indie-rock acts, thoroughly representative of the period and genre. I've spoken about Small (23) in a previous post for the Fish Hips and Turkey Lips compilation they appeared on, right around the same time as this single. Hailing from Chapel Hill, NC, and sounding every bit like they do, Small's "Chew It Down" is a swift, popcore mindblower, a la No Pocky For Kitty-era Superchunk. Although it's exclusive to this single with a pressing of a mere 500 copies, there was in fact an accompanying video. The lo-fi recording of the song doesn't quite do it justice, but still a 10 out of 10.

J Church were perhaps the most prolific indie band of the '90s, equalled only by Guided By Voices in terms of sheer recorded output. In fact, I own about half a dozen more J Church split singles, some of which may materialize in future Splitting the Difference installments. By and large, J Church, fronted by Lance Hahn, were a punk band with pop inclinations, and their contribution here, "Crazy Lady on Market Street" is about as good a song to familiarize yourself with as any in their oeuvre, but if you've read this far, you probably already know what I'm talking about. "Crazy Lady..." eventually wound up on a J Church singles and rarities compilation album, Meaty, Beaty, Shitty Sounding. More background on this single can be perused here. Hahn died of natural causes in 2007.
A. Small 23 - Chew it Down
B. J Church - Crazy Lady on Market Street

Splitting the Difference # 1 - Garden Variety/Jejune 7" (1996, Montalban Hotel)

With the Wilfully Obscure Singles Going Singles series almost at the 100th post mark, I thought it was time to start a new one, dedicated to split singles. This series will probably range from 50 to 75 entries. Kicking things off is a 7" that features two of my favorite '90s bands, Long Island post-hardcore stalwarts Garden Variety, and Boston by way of San Diego's Jejune, both long departed.

Valley Stream, NY's Garden Variety were anything but. With dense, dissonant guitar mangling aplenty courtesy of Anthony Rizzo, and Anthony Roman's angst-addled vox, the trio employed the same gnashing, aggro leanings Drive Like Jehu were wont to revel in, albeit with some poignant melodicism, occasionally approaching Superchunk and the like. GV released a pair of devastatingly intense and addictive albums during their run, a self-titled effort on Gern Blandsten Records, and the more accomplished Knocking the Skill Level. Roman went onto front the exponentially more appreciated Radio 4, while drummer Joe Gorelick wound up in Retisonic. Their contribution to this single, "New Guitar Parts" is a non-lp track that wound up on the Revelation Records Anti-Matter compilation, however this mix is exclusive to the single. 'There's a lot at stake...'

Like their flipside counterparts, Jejune were also a trio (at the time of this recording), and a co-ed one at that. They were about as "emo" as Jimmy Eat World, and I guess that's downright fitting when you consider they did a split single with them as well. Like Garden Variety, Jejune burned out too quickly, and moreover could be pretty cathartic and carry a captivating tune at the same time. "Drive By Negly" (not sure if they're referring to a person or place) is quintessential Jejune, and should you appreciate it, you're well advised to investigate their back catalog.

A. Garden Variety - New Guitar Parts
B. Jejune - Drive By Negly


Friday, January 30, 2009

Auto Interiors - No Frill Haloflight (2001, self released)

For all three of you reading this who are acquainted with Auto Interiors, it's a safe bet that their 2007 album, Let's Agree to Deceive Our Best Friends on Rykodisc was your introduction. This album, in fact, has a predecessor, the 2001 self-released No Frill Haloflight, and what a corker it is! Throughout it's eleven songs, the Interiors expel buzzing, yet occasionally dreamy indie-guitar rock with tuneful abandon, harkening to the likes of Superdrag, Gem, The Wrens, and Monsterland. Some pretty arcane references I just rattled off there, I know, but to the unconverted and otherwise, take a few minutes to investigate Auto Interiors. Below is a review for their most recent offering, the forementioned Let's Agree... which I penned for Big Takeover magazine a couple years ago.

Having made a name for themselves as one of the premier reissue labels on the planet, Rykodisc rarely throw their weight around a contemporary band, especially a seemingly out of nowhere act like Auto Interiors. Hailing from Boston (where else, given their Rykodisc credentials?) the Interiors are a respectable four-piece guitar outfit who play it straight down the middle, although rumor has it that they’re reformed shoegazers. They definitely have their antecedents in 80s indie/college rock, but no heavy-handedness to speak of. There’s some Mascis-esque chord-bending happening intermittently, and Eric Waxwood vocals approach Matthew Sweet and Velvet Crush, but it’s more by coincidence than intention. Auto Interiors don’t really overdo anything on Let’s Agree…but ultimately this album is enjoyable, just not flooring.

A brief interview with Auto Interiors can be read here.

01. Green Arrow
02. Cryptic Boy Son Blues
03. Something Good
04. Drama Queen
05. Shooting Flares
06. Simply Saucer
07. Brandywine
08. Aero-Tower Shop
09. Lose Your Pill
10. Sylvia Lately
11. Glitter Suit

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VA - Lonely Planet Boy (Back of a Car - Big Star fanzine comp, 1995)

Once upon a time there were these neat little self-published/self-printed "magazines" lovingly put together in someone's bedroom or basement, specific to the "publishers" interests and whims. Fanzines are what they called 'em, but by now they have all but fallen by the wayside, due mostly in part to *gulp* BLOGS! There was even a short running 'zine called Back of a Car, a tribute to the band Big Star, whom I've recently dedicated a post to. I never held a print copy of BOAC in my hands, but I did obtain an original copy of a zine sponsored compilation CD, Lonely Planet Boy, released in 1995.

The centerpiece of this disk is arguably the first track, an up until then unreleased Chris Bell song, "Country Morn," later re-written as "Watch the Sunrise," with virtually the identical arrangement, but new lyrics. According to the liner notes, the song was issued on a flexi-disc with BOAC #2. Bell of course was one of the co-founders and lyricists for the pioneering, proto-power pop Memphis quartet.

The rest of the disk is germane to Big Star, if only aesthetically. Featured are a clutch of contributions from Big Star "disciples," including such small-of-fame, underground pure-pop acts Tommy Hoehn, The Scruffs, and Outrageous Cherry. Sister Lovers flew the Big Star flag so damn high they christened themselves after the band's third album, while Norway's The Chairs penned a tribute song to Mr. Bell himself. There are some stunning relative unknowns on LPB too, namely Yuji Oniki and Mystic Eyes to further sweeten the pot.

For your reading pleasure, I've scanned the entire zine booklet (essentially a double sided piece of paper) which provides pertinent band and zine info. Check out the links in my intro paragraph too.

01. Chris Bell - Country Moon
02. Outrageous Cherry - Boxtop
03. Paranoid Lovesick - Feelin' Alright to Drive
04. The Knobs - Cut Out Bins
05. The Chairs - Christopher Bell
06. Tommy Hoehn - Cuba
07. Van Duren - Nothing's Too Good For My Baby
08. Sid Selvidge - Torture and Pain
09. The Scruffs - Number One
10. Yuji Oniki - Cover
11. Sister Lovers - Radiator Girl
12. Big Ray - Evergreen
13. Mystic Eyes - Turn and Kiss Me Goodbye


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Singles Going Single # 99 - Silent Partner 7" ep (1981, Lucky Boy)

Silent Partner are a long defunct Athens, GA outfit lauded on a pair of fellow music blogs, namely Crud Crud where I originally learned of them, and more recently on Little Hits. Definitely an anomaly for their locale of choice, SP are rumored to have started life as a prog band with occasional pop sensibilities (check out the title track of their exceedingly rare 1975 LP, Hung By a Thread on the Little Hits link above). By the time they got around to this four-song 7," they had ostensibly shorn their prog connotations and went for something approaching 70s AM Rock, albeit with considerably more depth. The opening "Radio Activity" is a thing of beauty - four sublime minutes of downcast singer/songwriter pop, loosely reminiscent of Todd Rundgren, certainly one of their primary influences. "The Second it Surrounds You" excavates folkier territory, while "Blank Page" veers towards late '70s power pop with admirable acumen.

01. Radio Activity
02. The Second it Surrounds You
03. A Blanket Statement
04. Blank Page


V/A - Diamonds and Porcupines (1989, Beat All the Tamborines)

I had seen this post-C86 artifact making the rounds on Ebay for a couple years now, and finally got a deal on it that was too good to refuse. The vinyl-only Diamonds and Porcupines 16-track comp places the emphasis on Brit and European bands, with Calvin Johnson representing not one, but two of the only three Yankee participants (Beat Happening and The Go Team to be precise). Heck, I didn't even know the Go Team existed before the '90s until I picked this up, but I digress. A vintage, and otherwise unavailable Bats (N.Z.) cut, "Downfall" was the real draw for me here - that and a demo incarnation of the Pale Saints "She Rides the Waves." The Wedding Present's adaptation of Tom Jones "It's Not Unusual" cut for a German radio live session is fun, but not essential. Jangle merchants Crocket and Jones, Viola Crayfish, and St. Christopher left a reasonably good impression on me, especially the first of this trifecta. Ausralia's Cannanes round things out with "Felicia," a winsome, Velvets-y number that shall encourage me to investigate their back catalog in the very near future. Returning to Beat Happening, Calvin leads off the classic "Cast a Shadow" with a couple minutes of unproductive audience dialogue, but fortunately without sullying the song. This record was supposed to come with an insert adorned with band photos and pertinent info, but my copy of Diamonds is sadly lacking it.

01. Wedding Present - It's Not Unusual (live)
02. Montgomerys - Train Train
03. Go Team - Sand
04. The Bats - Downfall
05. St. Christopher - If Even the Sky Seems Blue
06. Mc Tells - Funck
07. Earwigs Under Fire - Banquo's Ghost
08. Sachinko - Mr. Right
09. Crocket and Jones - Red Balloon
10. Fenton Wells - Playtime
11. Pale Saints - She Rides the Waves (demo)
12. Easter Island - The Life and Times of Mr. Price
13. Dog Faced Hermans - John Henry
14. Beat Happening - Cast a Shadow (live)
15. Viola Crayfish - Love is More Than Weather
16. Cannanes - Felicia


Friday, January 23, 2009

Blake Babies - Nicely, Nicely (1987, Chewbud/Mammoth)

Here's a lazy, but thoughtful upload to tide you over 'til I'm able to transfer more wax to digital. Nicely, Nicely was the first release from Juliana Hatfield, Freda Boner (now Freda Love), and John Strohm, collectively known as the Blake Babies. At present, their entire catalog is out of print, but for awhile, this "macro" ep was going for a nice wad of cash, however according to the usual suspects, it somehow has become more affordable. Waning interest perhaps? At any rate, the Blake Babies nascent recordings were competitive enough to win a loyal local following. The rest is history. Newcomers would be advised to check out the excellent Babies' summary, Innocence and Experience first for all the classics.

01. Wipe It Up
02. Her
03. Tom and Bob
04. A Sweet Buger LP (live at Harvard Univ)
05. Bye (live at Harvard Univ)
06. Let Them Eat Chewy Granola Bars
07. Julius Fast Body
08. Better 'n You (w/ Evan Dando)
09. Swill and the Cocaine Sluts


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Junk Monkeys - Kick Out the Jelly! (1988, Happy Face)

Their long-gone. hometown brethren The MC5 may have had the gumption to Kick Out the Jams, but dammit, The Junk Monkeys opted to Kick Out the Jelly, and all the better for it if you ask me. This is an exceedingly belated follow-up to my November 2007 post of the Junk Monkey's Five Star Fling album. I've been sitting on a sealed copy of this vinyl-exclusive "maxi-ep" for years, but recently a friend mailed me his own rip, so I had little excuse to procrastinate any further. Check out the aforementioned Five Star Fling post for what little biographical info I can offer, but the short story is that the Monkeys had a lot more in common with the Replacements and the Magnolias than Rob Tyner and Co. Jelly was the first of five Junk Monkey's releases, and though not totally representative of their later work all the right ingredients, albeit somewhat latent were all here. BTW, five of the cuts here wound up on the Monkey's Soul Cakes compilation, which in itself is almost as scare as this disk.

01. Medicine
02. So American
03. Fallin' Out
04. Today Is Summer
05. I Couldn't Smile
06. One More Drink
07. I Want More


Monday, January 19, 2009

Rich Kids - Burning Sounds (1998, Rev-Ola)

In the latest print edition of Big Takeover magazine (#63 if you're keeping count), editorialist Tim Sommer lays out the notion that the Sex Pistols, had they been a relatively copacetic unit, had the potential to develop into one of the defining rock acts of their time - and not just because they were adept at writing snotty punk tunes. The subsequent endeavors of all four original members, Johnny (Rotten) Lydon, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, (and a soon to be fired bassist) Glen Matlock, included an array of projects such as Public Image Ltd, The Professionals, and The Rich Kids, among others, illustrating that their individual contributions and talents were not fully realized until the most dysfunctional nexus in rock and roll imploded so spectacularly in January of 1978. Lydon was perhaps the most visionary of the group, founding PIL and arguably the "post-punk" genre, as many came to define it, but Glen Matlock would rival and trump "Rotten," if only for a couple years in the late 70s, in the much underappreciated Rich Kids.

Like PIL, the Rich Kids were not the logical successor to the Pistols, and all the better if you ask me. While hardly eschewing punk entirely, the quartet which featured a pre-Ultravox Midge Ure on vocals embraced classic (and then current) British rock with more charisma and class than the Pistols exuded in a calender week. Wasting little time, In 1978 co-frontman/songwriter Glen Matlock, Ure, guitarist Steve New and drummer Rusty Egan quickly broke ground, building on the foundation of The Clash/Heartbreakers' firepower, David Bowie's sophistication, and a lil' Mark Bolan swagger. That same year, the Rich Kids brewed an incredibly potent concoction dubbed, Ghosts of Princes in Towers. It was to be their one and only album, augmented by a trio of singles. There was enough demand for a reissue in the '90s and has largely remained in print since. It remains one of the greatest and most stimulating albums that 99.9999% of the world has yet to hear. The rather enigmatic title track staked out a glorious, par excellence blueprint for mesmerizing and substantive rock and roll, as did other choice tunes like "Bullet Proof Lover," "Young Girls," and and the band's quite literal signature song, "Rich Kids." True blue staying power to the Nth degree some 30 years on.

The now out-of-print Burning Sounds is a plentiful 21-song compilation of demos and outtakes for Ghosts, as well as the Kid's unrecorded follow-up LP. It functions as an enticing appetizer for the uninitiated, and a treat for established customer, although all of the the finalized album versions are superior to varying degrees. Some of the concluding songs, particularly the synth-endowed "12 Stories" were clear indications of where Midge Ure would soon cash-in with Ultravox. Burning Sounds also contains a live version of "No Lip," a holdover from the Pistols era. Nine cuts here later appeared on a "best of" Rich Kids CD, which also contained Ghosts in it'a entirety, and it's trio of accompanying b-sides. Various live bootlegs are floating around as well. Enjoy (or not).
01. Ghosts of Princes in Towers
02. Rich Kids
03. No Lip
04. The Move
05. Empty Words
06. Strange One
07. Bullet Proof Lover
08. Burning Sounds
09. Hung on You
10. Shape of Things to Come
11. Cheap Emotions
12. King
13. Precious
14. Just Like Lazarus
15. Ambition
16. Twisted
17. Tomorrow’s Zero
18. Forever and Ever
19. 12 Miles High
20. Point it to Your Head
21. Silence


Sunday, January 18, 2009

V/A - I-5 Killers (1990, Schizophonic)

Given the Dharma Bums kickoff this compilation of Portland, OR (and thereabouts) artists, I thought it would be a fitting followup to my recent post on them. As "scene reports" go, the burgeoning indie movement in this particular corner of the Northwest, circa 1990, was just about average, but would improve exponentially in a couple years down the road with excellent newcomers like Pond, Sprinkler, Hazel, Heatmiser/Elliott Smith, and dare I say Everclear.

In an event, the Bums rather raucous contribution "Initial Explosion..." harkens back a bit to Twin/Tone-era Soul Asylum, and as far as I know remains exclusive to this disk. The Wicked Ones, Confidentials, and Blubinos offer slightly differing variations of garage/bar-rock. Crackerbash (as previously noted on these pages) conjure up a slice of fuzzy, noisenik goodness that never made it onto their albums or singles.

The Whirlees "Didn't Bat an Eye" is a long-winded, seven-minute number, that's eventually worth the time invested. "Indecision Sure," courtesy of The Webbers, is a hardy riff-rocker that somehow manages to bridge the divide between George Thorogood and The Smithereens. Cacophonous, cult faves the Hellcows draw I-5 Killers to a close. There would be second and third sequals in the I-5 compilation series, both of which are available from CD Baby. This initial installment appears to be vinyl only.
01. Dharma Bums - Initial Explosion/Bath of Napoleon
02. Red Vines - Johnson County
03. Rawhead Rex - False Profits
04. Wicked Ones - Back to My Cave
05. Carl Hanni - Bad Train (spoken word)
06. Whirlees - Didn't Bat an Eye
07. Confidentials - Big Man-Big Attitude
08. Blubinos - Take a Walk
09. Crackerbash - Spreading Flames
10. Bloodmen - Whiskey
11. The Webbers - Indecision Sure
12. Hellcows - Cornutz

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Singles Going Single # 98 - Blue TV 7" (1985, Twilight)

I picked this beaut of 45 up a couple years ago at Wuxtry Records in Decatur, GA when I was visiting the Atlanta area (keeping my fingers crossed that they're still in business). Actually, half of it ("Back in Time") has already been made available on Little Hits blog, amidst tracks by a half dozen other like-minded combos that you can check out here. At any rate, I enjoyed it enough to include it in it's entirety in the nadir of my Singles Going Single series. As specified in the Little Hits post, Atlanta's Blue TV, like dozens of bands of the era, fell under the pervasive influence of R.E.M's groundbreaking albums, like Murmur and Reckoning.

The pair of songs enshrined on this 45 could arguably have come to fruition without the presence of Athens, GA's fab-four, given the rapid and robust trajectory of post-punk music at the time, but I'm really not here to make a point. "Back in Time" is the more approachable of the two, with it's flip, "Train Wrecks" staking out a darker, more frenetic path. But enough of me, let the music do the talking.
A. Back in Time
B. Train Wrecks

The Lines - Statues ep (1981, Live Wire)

The Lines (not to be confused with the recently-reissued British post-punk group of the same name) were quite simply a product of their environment, or more precisely, era. By the time the 12" Statues ep was minted in 1981, this Long Island, NY four-piece had fully inundated themselves with the offerings of Elvis Costello, The Cars, Talking Heads and the like. Expelling such easily identified influences over the course of four songs, with considerable aplomb and competency, The Lines boast whirring synths, rythmic incisiveness, and neurotic vocal intonations. The Statues ep is excusably derivative, and moreover, lots of fun. All of these songs (plus two more) can be downloaded from The Lines website linked above, but at half the bitrate of mine and sans the nifty artwork.

01. Action/Fraction
02. Again
03. I'll See You
04. Statues


Friday, January 16, 2009

Singles Going Single # 97 - Dharma Bums 7" (1991, Frontier) + Haywire LP (1989, Frontier)

The Dharma Bums were a Portland, OR based combo who dished out a trio of long players in the late '80s to early '90s. Relatively linear for the "college" circuit, the Bums opted to pursue a no-frills tact when it came to thier brand of rumbling, yet often sweetly jangly guitar-rawk. Kurt Cobain was a big proponent of the band, although he was wont to name-drop the Vaselines and Raincoats exponentially by comparison. The allure of the dayglo-green clad sleeve of the 7" in question, wasn't so much the grungy a-side, "Givin' In," rather it's flip, a remake of the Flamin' Groovies iconic and invariably gratifying "Shake Some Action."

Haywire is my Dharma Bum's album of choice, which doles out a dozen Replacements cum early-REM nuggets, none indelibly brilliant, but recommendable nonetheless. As an extra bonus, I've tacked on "Shake" (not to be confused with their aforementioned rendition of "Shake Some Action), the b-side to their "Haywire" 45. "Shake" is a resplendent, chiming pop tune that on certain listens I swear outdoes anything on the album. Would love to hear any Dharma Bums material that predates these recordings.
A. Givin In'
B. Shake Some Action
01. Timeyard
02. Boots of Leather
03. Cruel Acres
04. Over/Under
05. Walking Stick
06. Mutiny
07. Hope of the Hour
08. Jet Pilot
09. Dropping Out
10. Farmyard
11. Flowers
12. Haywire
plus: Shake
7": Hear
Haywire: now available on iTunes, Amazon, etc

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Moving Targets - Brave Noise & Burning in Water (1986-88, Taang!)

Minneapolis had Husker Du, Chicago gave rise to Naked Raygun, and Boston, MA spawned the Moving Targets. This now scarce CD collects all the tracks from their first two records, 1986's Burning In Water, and Brave Noise from 1988. While on these albums the Targets didn't quite pack the anthematic moxie of Naked Raygun or the tuneful acumen of the Twin Cities "Fab-3," they were off to a nonetheless superb start.

Head-honcho Ken Chambers did some moonlighting during the late '80s in another bruising Beantown punk troupe, Bullet Lavolta, but managed to eke out a couple more Targets albums, including their high watermark, Fall in 1991, and the nearly as solid Take This Ride two years later, which would wind up being the final word on the band, save for some reunion gigs. All of the Moving Targets albums were minted on Taang! Records, still in operation, and from what it appears, Fall and Take This Ride are still available. Vinyl rips of these albums have popped up on other blogs, but I thought I would do them greater justice by sharing my flawless CD version, which I think might even include a couple bonus cuts.

Ken Chambers has several solo releases under his belt and continues to tour. Original bassist Pat Leonard died in 2008. 
Brave Noise
01. Falling
02. Brave Noise
03. Nothing Changes
04. Things Are Going By
05. Carcrash
06. Separate Hearts
07. Instrumental # 3
08. In the Way
09. 2500 Club
10. Into the Forest
11. June 7th
12. Through the Door
13. Lights 
Burning in Water
14. The Other Side
15. Faith
16. Let Me Know Why
17. Shape of Somethings
18. Less Than Gravity
19. Almost Certain/Drone
20. Urban Dub
21. Always Calling
22. Underground
23. MTV
24. Funtime
25. Coming Home
26. This World
27. Squares and Circles 
Update: Now available for download from Emusic, Amazon and iTunes

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Singles Going Single # 96 - God's Reflex - Shifting 7" ep (1998, Arms Reach/Johanns Face)

By today's standards God's Reflex Shifting ep would earn itself mid-period emo status, right alongside Sunny Day Real Estate and the first couple of Weakerthans albums. Yeah, that's right, there would be little room for these guys on any given Warped Tour itinerary, or so much as a mention in Alternative Press magazine. No big deal if you ask me, for every "youngsters" loss is our gain. A Rockford, IL quartet fronted by Zachary Newman, God's Reflex released this 7" in 1998, the same year as their debut album, A Brief Lesson In Affection. With A heightened penchant for melody, and just the right amount of post-hardcore vigor, the band easily won over aficionados of Jawbreaker and the like, but never quite made inroads nationally. Shifting features "Careering," later recorded for their second LP, 2000's Scenes From a Motel Seduction, as well as three exclusive cuts. A pretty scarce record these days. Here's a review from A Different Kind of Greatness zine.

God's Reflex issued a much belated follow-up to Scenes, with last year's When It’s Down To This, which you can obtain through their website. For MySpace action and some clips from their latest album, go here
01. Perfect Blankets for November
02. Dandelion
03. Careering
04. Unfastened In Your Car

Monday, January 12, 2009

Citrus Groove - Sunswayed ep (1993, Honeychain)

Citrus Groove were a California four-piece who caught the tail end of the "Madchester" scene without a moment to spare. To my relief, their thing was more Soup Dragons than Happy Mondays. The two tracks that bookend Sunswayed are welcome exceptions to this rule, with "Angel" impressing me as the long lost cousin to The Only Ones "Another Girl, Another Planet." The closer "Hit the Ground" (also released as a 7" on Honeychain), flows down the same slipstream as Ride's headier, psychedelic moments, explored on that band's 1994 Carnival of Light album. You can read more about Citrus Groove here.

01. Angel
02. Sympathy
03. Mesmerized
04. Everything
05. Bass Driver
06. Bury Me With Roses
07. Hit the Ground


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Flag of Convenience (Steve Diggle/Buzzcocks) - Northwest Skyline (1987, MCM) & War on the Wireless Set (1988, MCM)

When The Buzzcocks originally split up in the early '80s, it actually turned out to be a lengthy hiatus. Though they would record five albums as a reunited unit in the 1990s and '00s, Steve Diggle the band's guitarist and co-songwriter, alongside vocalist Pete Shelly, established and fronted an entirely new entity during that hiatus period, Flag of Convenience (aka Steve Diggle and Flag of Convenience, or simply F.O.C.).


The band's earliest material, manifesting in the form of a deluge of singles and eps, were a logical progression from the Buzzcocks' uber-exuberant punk-pop. A good 20 of these songs were compiled on a dandy CD compilation in 1994, The Secret Public Years: The Best of Steve Diggle and Flag of Convenience. Spanning the gamut from Clash-informed demi-anthems like "Shut Out the Light" and "Here Comes the Fire Brigade," to the more wavish, keyboard-laden "Life on the Telephone" and "Other Man's Sin," F.O.C. largely lurked in the shadows, but were rewarding to the small crowd that followed them. The compilation however did not adequately represent material from two of Diggle and Co's proper albums, Northwest Skyline in 1987, and War on the Wireless Set a year later. Independently released and hard to come by, even when they were originally minted, these records bore a much more mature and sobering hue, almost as if to be taken as Diggle solo albums at points. There were still traces of sprite, punky pzazz to be found however, including "In the Back" and "Graduate of Pain" on Wireless, and Northwest Skyline's "Just Like Mr. Trendy Said." Oodles of great songs between these two criminally ignored disks.

Incidentally, the band's discography also included a cassette-only album, The Big Secret, that preceded these two records. If anyone can shed a light on the details of this tape, don't be a stranger. 
Northwest Skyline
01. Northwest Skyline
02. Pictures in My Mind
03. Just Like Mr. Trendy Said
04. Hell is Other People
05. Should I Ever Go Deaf
06. Drowned In Your Heartache
07. The Destructor
08. Gaol of Love
09. The Greatest Sin
10. From Day to Day
11. Mirror of the World 
War on the Wireless Set
01. Heartbreak Story
02. In the Back
03. Danger Time
04. New House
05. Scene of the Crime
06. Graduate of Pain
07. No Escape
08. Show Boy
09. One Hundred Tears
10. Drift Away 
Northwest Skyline: Hear
War on the Wireless Set: Hear

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Super Friendz - Slide Show (1996, Murder)

Halifax, Nova Scotia's (and later Toronto's) Super Friendz were coming from the same place, figuratively and literally as Sloan. Slide Show, the second proper Super Friendz album, saw the light of day on the Sloan owned and operated Murderecords in 1996. Unlike their debut, Mock Up, Scale Down, Slide Show received major label distribution throughout Canada via Universal.

I suggest that the Friendz are coming from the same place as Sloan in that much of Slide Show exudes the lived-in glow and empathetic leanings of Sloan's generously praised 1994 release, Twice Removed. Pensive and literate, this album's most affecting moments including "Up and Running," 'Prattle On," and "Forever a Day," conjure up enough warmth to arouse the hopeless romantic in all of us (except for perhaps Dick Cheney). Things trail off a bit on the latter half here, but ultimately Slide Show is more than recommendable.

The band's somewhat punchier debut album, the aforementioned Mock Up... and a sweet 10" followup ep, Play the Game, Not Games, were condensed as Sticktoitiveness for US issued in 1997 on March Records, making it the Super Friendz lone Stateside release. All of this stuff is available used at reasonable prices on Amazon.
01. Up and Running
02. No Good Reason
03. Stop-Start
04. Two Songs
05. Prattle On
06. Everything Writes Itself
07. Fooled at First
08. Forever a Day
09. Absurd Without It
10. Slow-Motion Blues
11. Citizen's Banned
12. Star In One
13. Evening Sun
14. The World's Most Embarrassing Moment

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sometimes Y - One Fell Swoop (1984, Jane Bear)

Even though I bought this close to a year ago, I've been on the fence about posting it, due to an impending but non-existent reissue. Originally recorded in 1984, a recently reunited Sometimes Y planned on a 2004 CD rerelease of this album (their debut), but thus far it has not come to fruition. A follow-up LP, Be Happy, in 2003 however made it to market, but their Myspace page has been idle for a year now. Anyhow, the Butch Vig produced One Fell Swoop is chockablock with crisp, jangly pop, fitting well within the trends of it's quarter-century old release. A more pedestrian Game Theory comes to mind as a semi-accurate candidate for comparison to this coed Minnesota trio, which essentially translates to 'good,' just not remarkable. A little on the goofball side at moments, Sometimes Y are at their sharpest when they keep their collective eye on the ball, with "Walk Away" and "The Chores" being the choicest picks on Swoop. Check out the bio on Myspace for further infotainment.

01. Walk Away
02. Girl Like You
03. Because
04. Where's the Music?
05. (She'll Get) Pregnant
06. Oh Well
07. The Chores
08. Love Tunnel
09. (interlude)
10. Piecemeal
11. (interkude)
12. Doesn't Bother Me (At All)
13. Over Again


V/A - Been There, Done That comp 7" (1995, Science Project)

Time to get your handkerchiefs out for all you misty-eyed types. That's right, we're taking you back to the '80s (and a little earlier to be exact). Actually, I won't be taking you anywhere, rather four Albuquerque, NM bands, covering some rather classic material on a fun, four-way comp 7." If you know anything about alt-rock music from New Mexico it probably begins and ends with The Shins. A direct antecedent to the Sub Pop all-stars, Flake (later renamed Flake Music and eventually The Shins) turn in a somewhat lukewarm, Weezer-esque reading of The Outfield's AOR classic "Your Love." Scared of Chaka, a flabbergasting power-punk unit (who by the way featured future Shin Dave 'Yanul' Hernandez in their lineup) contribute a barnburning take of the Land of the Lost theme (would have been more enticing had they covered the Wipers song of the same name, furthermore keeping the '80s theme consistent throughout Been There...but anyway). I don't know who Bring Back Dad are, but they mimic the keyboards in their version of Gary Numan's much overplayed "Cars" to a near-fault, but fail to do the remainder of it justice. In fact, it's Treadmill's interpretation of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey" that takes the cake here in a big way. Definitely some history in the making on this brief and unlikely compilation of future indie-pop darlings.

01. Flake - Your Love
02. Bring Back Dad - Cars
03. Treadmill - Shock the Monkey
04. Scared of Chaka - Land of the Lost


Monday, January 5, 2009

Barely Pink - Starduster ep (1995, Full Scale)

Once upon a time, a grand indie power pop label (Big Deal Records) released a stupendous album (Number One Fan) by one Barely Pink in 1997. I'll try to avoid anymore superlatives and parentheses from here on in. Evoking the best of likeminded acts, including but not limited to Velvet Crush, Teenage Fanclub, and Big Star, Barely Pink also injected a mild southern vibe into an already winsome recipe. Number One Fan, (also known written as a single word Numbeonefan) linear and straightforward as it was, helped cultivate a small following for BP, but as luck would have it, after Big Deal folded the band's subsequent releases did not enjoy anything resembling wide-scale distribution. Admittedly, this Orange State quartet fell off my radar too, despite two follow-up albums, Elli's Suitcase and Last Day of Summer that never made it into my CD player. The Starduster ep was a precursor to ...Fan, featuring a smattering of tracks that made it into the album and one or two that didn't. It also boasts three unlisted cuts, including a Big Star remake.

01. Baby A.M.
02. Dot-to-Dot Elvis
03. Face Down
04. It's Okay
05. Never Wrong


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Singles Going Single # 95 - The Joel Plaskett Emergency "Clueless Wonder" 7" (2000, Multiball)

In the mid-to-late '90s, I immensely enjoyed following the progression of a Halifax, Nova Scotia band called Thrush Hermit, and perhaps more specifically their vocalist and guitarist Joel Plaskett. Starting out as motley crue of indie-guitar rawkers who eventually honed their craft into something a little more refined, and a lot more endearing, I was saddened to learn of their split after their second album, 1998's Clayton Park. I was in luck however, thanks to Plaskett forging ahead with a new combo, The Joel Plaskett Emergency. Having released a previous solo album, the somewhat cobbled together In Need of Medical Attention in the final throes of Hermit, it was clear that Plaskett had truly emerged as a mature singer/songwriter with TJPE's 2000 stunner, Down at the Khyber, bearing all the evidence anyone could possibly need.

A relatively hard to find import single was released in conjunction with Khyber, featuring the lucidly soaring and empathetically beautiful "Clueless Wonder." Love the Jimmy Page-style guitar bend in the chorus on this one. The flip-side featured two non-lp goodies, a bratty kiss-off, "Please Don't Return," as well as an unlikely cover of R&B crooner Irma Thompson's "The Hurt's All Gone." Nice and even more nicely done.
A. Clueless Wonder
B1. Please Don't Return
B2. The Hurt's All Gone

Singles Going Single # 94 - Alien Crime Syndicate 7" (1999, American Pop Project) + s/t ep (1999, Collective Fruit)

The Seattle-docked Alien Crime Syndicate was the brainchild of Joe Reineke, former frontman for gnarly San Fran pop-punks, The Meices. ACS found Reineke propelling the new project into a decidedly less encumbered stratosphere, giving him more breathing room and a larger canvas to launch a bevy of new-found sophisticated ideas and textures. The approach on their 1999 debut single for American Pop Project Records was more subtle than the lager-than-life dabblings that were to arrive on several forthcoming ACS albums. In fact, "Supernatural" was a veritable ballad held side-to-side with the bulk of raucous songs that comprised ACS full-lengths including From the Word Go, and XL From Coast to Coast. The B-side, "Really Got a "C" is a bit grittier and in my opinion the more preferable cut here. Not sure what compelled them to cop an ELO album cover for the sleeve.

Around the time of this single's release, a five-cut cd ep was quietly issued, featuring an early incarnation of "Trippin' Up to the Clouds," that would be re-recorded for From the Word Go. The disc closes out with a loopy rendition of Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso." 
A. Supernatural
B. Really Got a "C" 
s/t ep
01. Trippin' Up to the Clouds
02. Here With You
03. You Found
04. When I Get Home
05. Pablo Picasso 
7": Hear
ep: Hear

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Newkeys - Acts of Love (1985, Ruby)

What better way to kick a new year off with a band with "new" in it's name. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the Newkeys (all one word), a Maryland quintet who boast in their lineup one Tom Lofgren, brother of the more renown Nils Lofgren. Tom, Newkeys lead mouthpiece, is equipped with a set of pipes that aren't completely removed from his brother, but the band's modus operandi veers more to the mid-80s alt/college rock side of the fence, albeit a little AOR in spots. Highlights here are the tunes that kick off sides A and B, "Acts of Love" and "Matchstick Mansion," respectively, both suggesting mainstream sounding pop/rock acts of the era, Off Broadway and Hawks. Solid stuff overall, with few if any traces of the annoying poseur maneuvers of their '80s contemporaries.

Acts of Love was issued on Ruby Records, but from the limited info provided on the jacket, I don't think this was the same Ruby Records that released The Misfits classic, Walk Among Us. According to this site, Newkeys released a second album in 1989, Everything Goes, and Nils is now playing in Paper Umbrella, who also feature in thier lineup Dave Egelhofer, former lead guitarist for JohnWicks and the Records.

01. Acts of Love
02. Where I Fit In
03. Secret Hearts
04. Traitors Last Friend
05. Give Me the Ring
06. Matchstick Men
07. Permanent Wave
08. Holy War
09. I Will See You Again