Friday, December 31, 2010

Taboo Zoo - s/t ep (1983, Taboo)

It may not be a particularly fitting way to nightcap 2010 with an ep from a rather random mid-80s band, but I'll probably give you my brief assessment of the year in music later this weekend.  As with the last couple of entries, search engines, portals and such don't lend much in the way of relevent info regarding Taboo Zoo, a saucy power-pop outfit, ostensibly hailing from the environs of Hollywood.  Aesthetically in the same ballpark as Tommy Tutone and Donnie Iris, Taboo Zoo had some serious AOR crossover potential, brandishing a bevy of sturdy power chords amidst the prominent vocal presence of Glenn Doty.  Yes, there's some saxophones kicking around on here, but as luck would have it, they don't mar one iota of this fleeting ep, with "My Town" and "I'm Alive" commanding the most of my attention, and hopefully yours as well.

01. My Town
02. All I Can Say
03. She Remembers
04. I'm Alive


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beyond Zebra - on tape (1989, Sludge Train)

When I was doing my homework on this seemingly arcane Minneapolis export, I learned that Beyond Zebra not only had a discography beyond this demo, but a little known album on the grandaddy of all Mpls/St. Paul record labels, the one and only Twin/Tone.  The music occupying the grooves on that album, Gone Today, Here Tomorrow, bears little resemblance to the three tracks here, which are more than a little steeped in a cloak of Paisley Underground, psyche-pop mystique, not to mention a dab of REM's late '80s songcraft.  Nothing here is overly derivative I might add, but judging by this sharp trifecta of tunes, Beyond Zebra were in fact beyond the demo stage of their career.  By the time they inked that aforementioned contract with Twin/Tone, the band had undergone a pronounced lineup change, retaining only bassist and mouthpiece Greg Ebel.  You can peruse some footnotes on the band via this meager Facebook page, and be sure to check out this glowing critique of Gone Today.

01. Wake Her Again
02. Life Cannot Reverse Itself
03. I Laugh


Singles Going Single #156 - Lusting After Mary 7" (1992, Biffco)

We have a real mystery band on our hands here.  Piano-driven rock with the sway and verve of vintage Dramarama, at least as far as the a-side “Talk Radio” is concerned, which is actually quite a treat.  “Icecapades” is considerably more tender.  I’m not sure if the model gracing the sleeve is in the band or not, but a bloke named Christopher Bains sings.  No pertinent details are to be found regarding Lusting After Mary, but they appeared to call Austin, TX home, and for all we know this could have been they’re only publicly issued recording.

A. Talk Radio
B. Icecapades


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eight or Nine Feet - Resolution (1989, Reverie)

I was pretty jazzed to stumble on this album a few months ago for a couple of reasons.  First, Jamie Hoover from power pop demigods the Spongetones produced about half of this disk, and secondly Eight or Nine Feet hailed from the very fertile North Carolina indie rock scene of their era, that being the late '80s.  On many levels, Resolution didn't disappoint, but when the rubber met the road I realized my expectations were a bit high.  A Raleigh-based quartet, Eight of Nine Feet were too linear to be lumped in with the “New South” crop, rather they tilted vaguely in the direction of the Connells and Miracle Legion. At their most inviting, “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” plays like the second cousin to REM’s “Harborcoat,” but even that selection didn't quite bear the edginess I had been holding out for on the album as a whole.  The swift and twangy as-all-get-out hoedown, “Lake Tahoe” closes Resolution out on a decidedly different tip than it’s ten preceding cuts.

As often is the case, Trouser Press has their say on this artifact, and reveals that the band had a tape out prior to this wax dubbed Flint, which I would imagine is pretty impossible to come by at this stage in the game.  As a side note, guitarist Bo Taylor parlayed his talents to a pair of regional outfits in the early '90s, Dish and Motocaster, who I've delved into previously on these pages, to one extent or another.

01. Step Into the Light
02. Laugh Within You
03. Lesser of Evils
04. Revlolving Door
05. Opry
06. Home
07. Sway (Time Away)
08. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
09. Another Night (Are You Sure)
10. Rescue
11. Lake Tahoe


Monday, December 27, 2010

Gravel Truck (Let's Active) 10/31/08 @ The City Tap, Pittsboro, NC

Apparently the batch of Let's Active demos I posted on Christmas Eve was a big hit with a lot of people, so I thought I'd share this live curio from Halloween 2008, where an intimate outdoor gathering featured Mitch Easter and friends performing a set of LA songs, billed under the moniker of Gravel Truck.  Two thirds of the original LA trio, Faye Hunter and Sara Romweber are absent, as are just about all the players for the band's final two albums, Big Plans for Everybody and Every Dog Has It's Day.  So who exactly is present and accounted for in this lineup?  Tim Lee of Windbreakers renown among others, as well as Easter's wife and longtime musical coconspirator Shalini Chatterjee. Charlotte local yocal Chris Garges mans the drumkit, and Tim Lee's wife Susan Bauer Lee contributes vocals as well.

As for the performance itself, is the 'magic' still intact?  There's only one way to find out, and by now, you know what ya'll need to do on your end.  BTW, the notes in the folder are not mine, rather I'm assuming the taper.

01 Easy Does
02 Every Word Means No
03 Ornamental
04 -tuning break-
05 Horizon
06 Badger
07 Every Dog Has His Day
08 Still Dark Out
09 Reflecting Pool
10 -tuning break-
11 Bad Machinery
12 Fell
13 In Little Ways
14 - crowd noise > encore-
15 Talking To Myself


Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Active - Demos 1983-85

Call it Easter on Christmas, call it Big Plans for those of you who still have Afoot hold on one of the brightest guitar-pop beacons of the 1980s - or why don't we just call it my holiday gift to you?  This collection of vintage  Let's Active demos is my annual BFD holiday upload to all you aficionados of Wilfully Obscure.  Believe it or not, I've been sitting on these for a couple of years now, just waiting for the appropriate moment to unleash them, and what better time than now?  If you have the original albums, you'll want to lay your ears on these (although the variations between the demos and the finished product are occasionally minimal, esp when it comes to some of the Cypress and Big Plans... tracks).  For those unacquainted with Mitch Easter and Co., these collections aren't a bad jumping off point.  There's more where these came from as well, predating the Afoot ep, and perhaps even more Cypress-era material that I may get around to sharing later.  Back in the mid-'00s there was brief talk of a Let's Active box set, but sadly nothing came of it.

I separated these demos chronologically by album.  Let's Active bowed with Afoot in 1983, then came their full length debut Cypress a year later, with Big Plans for Everybody hitting the shelves in 1986.  By far and away this was the cream of LA's proverbial crop, and it's some of finest music of their era, period.  Bon appetit.

Room With a View/Make Up With Me/Co-star/Counting Down/Leader of Men/In Between

Cypress demos:
Ring True/Flags for Everything/Prey/Easy Does/Gravel Truck/Whispered News/Lowdown/Counting Down/Ornamental/Grey Scale/Co-star/Waters Part/Blue Line

Big Plans Left Behind (Big Plans for Everybody) demos:
Still Dark Out/Last Chance Town/Writing the Book of Last Pages/Horizon/Won't Go Wrong/Reflecting Pool/Talking to Myself/I Feel Funny/Horizon/Writing the Book of Last Pages/Premonition/Reflecting Pool/Invisible Hills/Fell (inst)/Talking to Myself (inst)/Whispered News (inst)/Fell/Whispered News/Proposal (inst)/Explain (inst)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hidden Charms - History (1986, Volume)

The Hidden Charms were a Swedish band on a Spanish label who ultimately wound up sounding like a bunch of yanks.  And what yanks in particular you might ask?  Maybe a little bit of Beauty and Sadness-era Smithereens, with a healthy dollop of Nuggets style pizazz for good measure.  At least that's how the first side of History plays out.  The other side of this wax commences with a slick but sturdy rendering of the Ramones "I Just Want to Have Something to Do," that doesn't particularly detract from or flatter the original.  The remainder of History is predominantly seeped in ballads, but respectable ones at that.  I wasn't able to unearth anything relevant to the Hidden Charms, other than the fact that there's at least one other outfit that have since usurped the band's moniker. 

01. (We Can't) Stand It
02. Why Worry 'Bout Tomorrow
03. History
04. Crying Heart
05. The 1986 So What Blues
06. I Just Want to Have Something to Do
07. We Got it All Wrong
08. Paradise
09. Moonlight Night
10. The P.S. Waltz


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Various - GBGBV (Guided by Guided by Voices) (2010, Wild Animal Kingdom)

Earlier this year when Pitchfork mentioned in a GBV related article that the cassette label Wild Animal Kingdom was releasing a tribute compilation to Robert Pollard & Co that was to be limited to a paltry 100 copies, I headed over to their webpage and snagged myself one just in the nick of time.   WAK sold out of GBGBV months ago, and even though the tape consists of contributions from totally unknown quantities (most situated in Washington state and New Jersey for some inexplicable reason) it's always a treat to hear GBV interpretations regardless of whose hands are molding the clay.  The full track list is below.  Despite a serious deficiency of name recognition there are some brilliant songs covered here like "Chicken Blows," "A Salty Salute," and "As We Go Up We Go Down" that were not taken to task on the two GBV tribute collections I've shared previously, Scalping the Guru and Blatant Doom Trip (that first one also being cassette only).  GBGBV is a pretty lo-fi affair, and quite fitting when you think about it.  Enjoy (or not).

01. GBGBVOLY - intro
02. Invisible Hand - Non Absorbing
03. Chromium Bitch - Tractor Rape Chain
04. No Demons Here - Wondering Boy Poet/Game of Pricks
05. Martin Courtney IV - Kicker of Elves/As We Go Up We Go Down
06. Andrew Cedermark - A Good Flying Bird
07. Air Waves - Back to the Lake
08. Big Troubles - A Big Fan of the Pigpen
09. Alex Bleeker and Evan Brody - Motor Away
10. Eternal Summers - A Salty Salute
11. Pill Wonder - My Valuable Hunting Knife
12. Hallelujah the Hills - Chicken Blows
13. FZ - I Am a Scientist
14. Harpoon Forever - Awful Bliss
15. Citymouth and Chromium Bitch - They're Not Witches
16. Fluffy Lumbers - Club Molluska
17. Dana Jewell - 14 Cheerleader Coldfront


Friday, December 17, 2010

Singles Going Single #154 - Drill Kitty 7" (1994, Sonic Blue)

Here's a dandy 7" ep from a not oft spoken of Cleveland-area band that went by the moniker of Drill Kitty.  If I recall, these guys made it onto my radar by a record review, or perhaps an ad in Maximum Rock n Roll, though they were barely the MRR types.  Drill Kitty's lo-fi, punk-pop panache touched on many of their contemporaries due southeast in Chapel Hill, NC, and coincidentally or not, they also seemed to be channeling the warm, homegrown persuasion of Eric's Trip.  Aside from this and a few compilation appearances, I'm not sure what else the band unleashed on the world.

01. Blaster Caster
02. My Ringing Ears
03. When the Money Runs Out
04. Used Screen


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fluid Waffle - s/t ep (1987, Amok)

I picked this one up a good ten years or so ago in the vinyl basement of CD Cat in Toronto (the one on Queen Street W. that actually had a cat roaming the store.  Pity that place is gone, but I digress).  It was a $1 bin find, and by and large I treated it as such.  Listened to it once and was somewhat indifferent to it, so on the shelf it sat for a decade.  Pulled it out of retirement for this entry, and although I still find it a tad non-descript, it made a better impression on me the second spin around.  Fluid Waffle were a ramshackle, Ottawa-based college rock aggregation with loose psych-pop tendencies (check out the Farfisa organ proliferating "Odd Man Out").  Overall, vaguely reminiscent of Camper Van Beethoven, albeit bearing a fraction of the irony.  The sweet jangle treatment bestowed upon "Very Big Races" is as inviting as the record gets, and in itself is worth downloading.

Discovered a couple things when I was doing my research on these guys.  The majority of the lineup went onto to comprise the much more renown Furnaceface in the '90s.  In fact, this Furnaceface fanpage lists F/W's rather brief discography.  Secondly, Fluid Waffle reunited in 2007 for an old school, Ottawa punk revival gig which you can read about here.

01. Don't Let Me Be Caught
02. Dirty Little War
03. Odd Man Out
04. Every Twist and Turn
05. Very Big Races
06. Cease to Breath


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Electric Blood - Electric Easter (1984/1994, EST Tapes/reissue Beehive Rebellion)

This recording will be of some interest to you if you count yourself as a fan of New Zealand's indie pop godsends The Bats (who by the way are still in business).  While Electric Blood aren't the Bats per se, they were a notable precursor given Robert Scott's involvement.  Scott of course is the mouthpiece for the Bats, and fills the same roll on Electric Easter, trading vocal duties with his brother Andrew Scott on a couple of numbers. 

Electric Blood kick started their career in 1977 in Dunedin, NZ.  A number of homegrown cassette albums were released during the '80s, including this one in 1984.  It was reissued ten years later on CD on the small American imprint, Beehive Rebellion.  If the liner notes are to be taken at face value, Electric Easter was knocked off in the span of just one day in April '84, tracked live in a rehearsal room.  Easter is demonstrably tone-deaf, lo-fi noise pop, but proves to be increasingly melodic as it progresses.  Dare I say "Help Me" and “Boot Your Car” are genuinely catchy?  No out-and-out revelations here, but there's nothing to dissuade fans of the Bats or for that matter, Kiwi rock aficionados in general.

01. Earwig
02. Windowsill
03. Bumble Bee
04. Draper
05. Even In The Colour Of Her Hair
06. Bog Man
07. Match
08. Boot Your Car
09. Go So Far
10. Your Keeper
11. Help Me
12. Bounder

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Complete Capitol Punishment 1980-84: A History of Nebraska Punk book and CD compilation (2009) - A brief overview

The long standing misconception that American punk rock and it's subsequent offshoot genres only took hold in the vastest of metropolitan centers, i.e. New York, Chicago, L.A, San Fran, etc, is an understandable but ultimately lazy notion.  The fact is, just about any small or mid-sized city in the US circa the early-80s could likely lay claim to dozens of subrosa rock acts, thus resulting in a "scene."  Unfortunately, many were under or inadequately documented, thus making it all the more challenging for future generations to partake in the music and ephemera that was produced at that time.  One unlikely locale would be Nebraska, or more specifically the city of Lincoln, which during the Reagan-era boasted a population of approximately 172,000. Though not a prominent musical hotbed (at least not nationally) Lincoln was actually something of a microcosm of several post-punk genres including hardcore, coldwave, avant-garde and more.  One such document of "Star City's" home-grown music movement was a local fanzine, Capitol Punishment, that over the course of four years produced twelve issues charting the evolution of the Lincoln music scene...and beyond.  The book painstakingly reproduces every page of those dozen, self-published chunks of tree pulp, leading things off with a thorough timeline of pertinent bands, events and record releases.

The latter half of the title, A History of Nebraska Punk is a slight misnomer, given that so many of it's pages are dedicated to national and international acts, at least by virtue of well over a hundred record reviews.  Additionally, a lot of out-of-towners were willing to spill their guts to Capitol Punishment proprietor Jim Jones, and many of their names you'll recognize - Husker Du, The Embarrassment, Black Flag, TSOL and REM among others.  True, much of the book emphasizes the endeavors of Lincoln bands (some specific ones I'll discuss shortly), but this tome also functions as a punk/alt-rock reference book for the extremely fertile span of time it covers.

Capitol Punishment, like many fanzines of it's day was a D.I.Y. proposition to the hilt, laden with visibly typewritten (and in many cases handwritten) pages, typos galore, plus gobs of amateurish cut-and-paste layouts (and I'm not talking about the Photoshop variety folks).  Jones and his crack team usually didn't delve too far into politics, though they did occasionally express some disdain for their home turf, which at one point was met with *gulp* a low-level death threat (see pg. 217)!  Not only were bands profiled in the zine, but so were local establishments like Drastic Plastic Records and punk/wave-friendly nightclubs the Drumstick and the Brickyard.  Warts and all, Capitol Punishment fanzine did a commendable job of portraying the Lincoln, NE indie scene to the outside world, while incorporating much of said world within it's pages at the same time.

When initially published, issues 9-12 were accompanied with compilation cassettes of local bands.  Separate from the book (but inextricably tied-in with it) the The Capitol Punishment Compilation, Vol. 1 CD features 29 selections from those tapes, leading off with the jittery funk-punk of The Click who were helmed by vocalist Sara Kovanda.  Anthologized by six songs here (doubly outdoing their other roster-mates) and written about extensively in the book, I envision The Click as being one of the beacons in the Lincoln scene, and they had some considerable songs under their belt to back that assumption up.  Those seeking straight-up hardcore punk would do well with Rapid Vapid, Twisted Justice, and K-Bad.  The icy, keyboard saturated strains of coldwave enthusiasts Pogrom stick out like a sore thumb here, as do the art-damaged rantings of Sacred Cows

To me (and some of you I would assume) the city of Lincoln, Nebraska will always be dutifully represented by For Against, a long-running post-punk trio, who's signature strain of melodically austere indie rock has consistently tugged on the right heartstrings.  Prior to adopting that ironic moniker, the band was dubbed D.B.L. and soon thereafter Four Against One, which is the name(s) their two selections here are credited to.   Prior to For Against, frontman Jeffrey Runnings played guitars and keyboards in Hymn to Joy, who occupy two tracks here as well.  Capitol Punishment features another branch of the For Against family tree by way of Cartoon Pupils, who included in their lineup intermittent F/A guitarist Harry Dingman III.  The link below is for a three track sampler from the album.  If you like what you hear and care to hear/read more, visit Capitol Punishment Zine onlineAmazon is good too. 

Cartoon Pupils - Anthem of Autumn
DBL (Four Against One) - Change It
The Click - Just to Realize


Singles Going Single #153 - Phil Neal "Standard Questions" 7" (1980, Invicta)

Would you believe that this single racked up a roughly $200 final auction price on Ebay?  Strangely enough, these two Phil Neal sides of deftly crafted, classicist power pop are almost worth the costly price of admission.   Both "Standard Question," and "Crossfire" could have held their own against just about any given selection on those essential Yellow Pills or Rhino Records DIY power pop compilations from so many years ago.  The Records and Joe Jackson are a couple of the more blatant influences here, but there are certainly others that are escaping me at the moment.  Word on the net has it that a video exists for "Standard Question," and furthermore, the single was a radio hit in Phil Neal's native Kansas City.  I'd love to hear more where this came from, but I'm not holding my breath.  Phil currently participates in a rock troupe called The Rockhills

A. Standard Question
B. Crossfire


Friday, December 10, 2010

The Next - s/t (1982, Four/Four)

With a name as ubiquitous as this Arizona quintet's chosen moniker, a typical web query yields nothing of relevance, even when I included the names of some of The Next's roster.  Oh well.  For better or worse, this rekid ain't nothing to die for, but somewhat rewarding for those of you who don't mind a little AOR meshing with vaguely wave-ish synth rock.  The Next pass themselves off as fairly state-of-the-art, but the band's often frivolous, suburbanite concerns undercut the very integrity they're seemingly striving for. The arenas, and for that matter the world at large, would have no part of The Next, but luckily you can by hitting the hyperlink below.  BTW, I'm including an extra large scan of the back cover for purposes of reading the lyrics. 

01. Steal the Show
02. The One Nighter
03. Game
04. One More Square
05. Oops! (Wrong Planet)
06. Dine 'n' Dash
07. Science Fiction Movies
08. Gotta Be a Reason
09. Don't Know What You Want
10. Let's Be More Than Friends


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Singles Going Single #152 - Birdskin 7" (1991, Kelt)

Here's a relatively unknown single from a Dutch trio with a serious jones for Mission of Burma.   Ostensibly, the only details to be revealed about Birdskin arrive by virtue of their Myspace page, which seems to emphasize music from an album dubbed Basement that came much later in their 20-year career.  As for this wax, Birdskin let off some serious post-punk steam occupying the same dense airspace as not only the aforementioned Beantown legends, but to a lesser degree Husker Du and New York's long defunct Flower (the pre-Versus band).  Both tracks make a compelling argument for the band with "Home" bearing a slightly stronger hook than it's flipside.  A Birdskin discography can be found here.

A. Home
B. She Builds


Monday, December 6, 2010

Punchbuggy - Grand Opening Going Out of Business Sale (1996, Shake)

I haven't dedicated much space to Ottawa's Punchbuggy, save for a split single with Treble Charger, but that's about to change starting right  Grand Opening... was the 1996 follow-up to a tremendously promising debut, '94s All Nite Christian Rollerskate, that I couldn't get enough of when it passed into my hands from the music director of the college radio station I was spinning for at the time.  GOGOOBS wasn't quite as flooring as that first album, nonetheless it was clear Punchbuggy hadn't blown their collective wad yet - not by a long shot, with such buzzing, incessantly hooky nuggets as "Yoda", "On the CBC," and "Five and Ten of the Other." Fellow country-mates the Doughboys and Killjoys were apparent inspirations to these excellent punk-pop purveyors, and if you ask me that's some damn fine company to be in.  Definitely in the same league as Big Drill Car and Armchair Martian too.  Punchbuggy were something really phenomenal. 

That aforementioned debut, All Nite Christian Rollerskate and the band's 2002 parting shot, The Great Divide, are available on iTunes, but strangely enough this one isn't (though cds are fairly cheap thru Amazon), nor is their third record, My Norwegian Cousin.

01. Five and Ten of the Other
02. Yoda
03. Dressed for Success
04. Brownie and a Coke
05. Pretty Good Disaster
06. Topsy Turvy
07. Cletus
08. Hank Spur
09. Allison's Slipping
10. Smart
11. Now We're Through
12. Summer Season
13. On the CBC
14. Add the Area Code
15. 37
16. Corduroy


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Polvo - demos (1991-92?)

Okay, this was completely random find.  A few months ago, I was searching for something on Ebay non-Polvo related, but one click led to another and I stumbled on a pre-recorded mix tape of sorts that included these seven demos from Chapel Hill legendary, oddly-tuned tunesmiths.  No track list was provided nor were any other pertinent background details including the year they were committed to tape.  By my deduction, this material originates from the era of Polvo's uber-innovative debut album, Cor-Crane Secret which dropped in '92.  In fact three songs from that album ("Vibracobra," "Sense of It," and "Bend or Break") appear here in the form of earlier versions or alternate mixes. "Double Scorpio" so far as I'm aware did not see release in any form save for a 1993 Peel session, and this version differs tremendously.  Their reading of Wall of Voodoo's '80s classic "Mexican Radio" sounds as though it may have appeared in the same incaranation on the Freedom of Choice new wave covers compilation which they contributed it to back in 1993.  The only song on here that has me scratching my noggin is the second track in, which I simply can't identify.  If any of you are up to the challenge, please leave a comment.

Some two years ago I shared the first Polvo ep, specifically the cd reissue thereof, which is still up for grabs, while Sunshine Smile Factory blog has compiled Polvo's various radio sessions, including the 1993 John Peel set I noted above.

01. Vibracobra
02. Channel Changer
03. The Drill
04. Bend or Break
05. Double Scorpio
06. Sense of It
07. Mexican Radio


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Singles Going Single #151 - Harvest Theory - From the Back 7" (1994, Springman/Take a Day)

Thought this would be a fitting follow-up to the Garden Variety album I offered up yesterday. Harvest Theory were a quartet of former Cali punks dabbling with the soft/loud/soft post-hardcore formula. This concise little blurb I plucked from a cobwebbed chunk of cyberspace will give you some insight into their origins:

...From the ashes of Monsula, and after some false starts with Dave E.C. (Winona Riders, Filth, Pot Valiant, Vagrants), Richie Bucher (Sweet Baby Jesus, Winona Riders), Joe Bansuelo (7 Seconds--and owner of the loudest SVT on the planet), and Dan O'Mahoney (411, No For an Answer, Carry Nation), Harvest Theory formed in 1993 and played for about three years.

Thanks to Justin Snider's money from the army, and the fact that he didn't seem to have anything better to do with it, Springbox records is born and Harvest Theory releases a two song 7" (Springbox #4) and a full length c.d. (Springbox #7). One too many onstage explosions and the move to Indiana hasten the 1996 breakup.

The band sounds like a fairly accurate cross between Monsula and Fugazi (think Repeater-era). I have the album they mention above, and might see fit to share it at a later date. For now, enjoy (or not).

A. Louder Than Words
B. Stale-mate

Friday, December 3, 2010

Garden Variety - Knocking the Skill Level (1994, Headhunter/Cargo)

I've long resisted sharing this beauty, as it's already been made available for the taking on a couple other blogs, but no more.  I relent.  This one is too crucial to keep to myself, not to mention the 90 some-odd percent of you that have yet to be familiarized with it.  The '90s produced no shortage of worthy post-hardcore and "paleo"-emocore conglomerations, but for my money, my ears, and just about everything else I could call my own at the time, no one impressed me more than Garden Variety.  Starting with their Hedge 7" ep in 1991, three unsuspecting gents from Valley Stream, Long Island, NY created the most gnarly noise ever to emanate from the famous sandbar they called home.  In addition to the aforementioned Hedge, Knocking the Skill Level was also preceded by a flabergastingly excellent self-titled album on Gern Blandsten Records, that's still available in one configuration or another.    

Tastefully groomed on the likes of Jawbox, Drive Like Jehu and Superchunk, Garden Variety came equipped with a wily sense of dynamics, which they brilliantly filtered through a godhead galvanization of dissonance, desperation, and amazingly enough, a healthy dose of melody.  The band roster featured Anthony Roman on the mic and bass, Anthony Rizzo on guitar, and Joe Gorelick on the skins.  Between Roman's scathing, shredded wail, Rizzo's caustic fretboard runs, and a stupendously propulsive backbone in drummer Gorelick, I have yet to find another outfit capable of outdoing Garden Variety's roaring sonic aesthetic.

On Knocking.., the boys cut a cathartic, amped-out swath through anguished, distortion-ridden landscapes, touching upon any raw, exposed nerves in their restless path.  Bear in mind, nothing on this disk come close to approaching something as disgraceful as say, "scream-o," but to this day I'm still stupefied that a power trio who easily approximated the sound of a lineup twice that size could stir up such an unholy raucous.  Yes, the lyrics are oblique and somewhat unintelligible, but the sentiments raised on these songs alone were far more advanced than the work of their peers, not to mention the finely executed song arrangements.  Knocking the Skill Level must be experienced to be believed, and luckily, now you can.  Anthony Roman would go onto far greater renown in Radio 4, who were something of an update on Gang of Four's funk-informed post-punk, and Joe Gorelick would man the drum kit for Retisonic, who also featured ex-Bluetip frontman Jason Farrell.

If it's more Garden Variety you crave, I'm happy to point you at To Live and Die on Long Island blog, who have made available a band-curated collection of outtakes and rarities, but be forewarned, it's designed for the devoutly faithful only.

01. In All Respects
02. Harbored
03. Stickler
04. Soft on the Name
05. Parker
06. Chatroom Walkout
07. Room 183
08. Nine Behind You
09. Settling
10. untitled
11. Captain (cleverly titled "Tennille" on vinyl)


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Playground - pair 'o singles (1993-94)

This is a follow up to my entry from about a month ago for Playground's Bent, Lost or Broken album.  A long put-to-pasture trio from the college town of Davis, CA, Playground were prodigiously inspired by Husker Du and Sugar, and as far as I'm concerned adopted a similar tact to Overwhelming Colorfast, Big Drill Car, and the Moving Targets as well.  In a phrase, their music was humble yet poignantly riveting at the same time.  Whether you grabbed the Bent, Lost or Broken CD or not, lay your ears on these four tracks, all culled from two flawless 45s.  So great.  For shame there are so few bands of Playground's caliber around today.  If anyone in the band is scrolling over these pithy words, by all means post a comment!

01. Slide
02. When Everything is Said and Done
03. If You Were Me
04. Anything

1 & 2 from Take a Day Records 7" (1993)
3 & 4 from Habit Records/Pop Kids Records 7" (1994)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blue Trapeze - Mask & Marquee ep (1986, Fullspeak)

What little I've been able to glean about this jangly Fullerton, CA trio are a number of references indicating that Blue Trapeze were lumped into the Christian rock realm, though you'd be hard pressed to make that case upon listening to the vast majority of this 1986 ep.  Mask & Marquee reveals itself as a rather secular record, wherein the group seems way more intent on churning out vaguely noir alt-rock, summoning inspiration not from the heavens, but instead the likes of Peter Buck, and arguably some of the darker Paisley Underground champions of the era (e.g. Rain Parade).  The sum total of Mask & Marquee falls slightly short of a revelation (no pun intended), but nonetheless it's evocative of the melancholic, yet fertile left-of-the-dial environment of its day.

01. Mask & Marquee
02. Afraid of Real
03. A Reason
04. See Them Turn
05. The Old Home
06. Midnight Sun


Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghost Shirt - Domestique (2010, Anyway) - a brief evaluation

As ponderous as I find the lofty, orchestral-lite formula wunderkinds du jour The Arcade Fire have taken to the bank (also qualifying, but to a lesser extent Broken Social Scene) their artsy angle isn’t entirely unappealing in itself, rather I’ve never been one for style over substance. Columbus, Ohio’s Ghost Shirt (who like the Arcade Fire also happen to be a co-ed proposition) miraculously meet my criteria, as it were, for equivalent quotients of both of those ever so tricky but all too crucial facets - much in the way a mid-size sedan (say a Camry or a Malibu) comfortably accommodates a family of four. Um, sure. If only a truly substantive indie rock could be likened to sedan, but for those of you who have made it this far into my synopsis, I think you get my drift.  In a nutshell, had the Arcades taken a more modest tact, they just might be on the same wavelength as Ghost Shirt.

Robust, but unencumbered, opulent, yet economical, Ghost Shirt’s Domestique doesn’t merely strike the proper “balance,” it downright charms, woos, and dazzles anyone within earshot who possesses an affection for bright, lucid guitar pop tethered to briskly pulsating tempos. Operating as a quartet without extraneous accompaniment, pretentious overtones and baroque eccentricities aren’t even a consideration here. Samantha Kim’s sweeping violin fills, featured prominently on several tracks, embellish the arrangements without overpowering them. In fact, the strings are merely a winsome backdrop, as are the swarming synths that occupy “Sleep,” a number which rings reminiscent of Julian Casablanca’s recent solo dabbling. Ghost Shirt’s most intoxicating and buoyant selections play out during the first half of Domestique, with the overall tenor of the album easing into a comparatively serene home stretch. Though not consistently fervent, Domestique is consistently palatable. There’s plenty more where this came from, with G/S releasing a “single” per week online for an entire year. At last count they were up to 26.

Domestique is available from Insound, Amazon, and more digital retailers than you can shake a stick at. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Snatches of Pink - Send in the Clowns (1988, Dog Gone)

Personally, I don't think this Chapel Hill trio quite came into their own until their sophomore effort, Dead Men, which I featured on here many moons ago, but their premiere, Send in the Clowns is nonetheless a shitload of fun.  The gussied up hairdos Snatches of Pink sport on the album jacket belie some raucous dust-ups and punk-tinged hoe downs ensconced within the album itself.  There's oodles o' southern-fryed drawl etched into the grooves as well, fortunately for us not the cantankerous, old fogey variety.  Unlike the vaguely likeminded Georgia Satellites, the Snatches kick any potential "boogie" indescretions clear to the curb, and good on them for that.  I'll take the twangy rockers ("Lazy Suzan" and "Weathervain") over the lazy bar-stool ballad "Time Done Gone," any day, but by and large Send all good.

After the aforementioned Dead Men LP, the Snatches would carry on as Clarissa throughout the '90s, but would return to their former namesake by the next decade, and cut a bevy of new albums.

01. Lazy Suzan
02. Cry Wolf
03. Weathervain
04. Travis
05. Time Done Gone
06. Up on the Mountain
07. Rodeo Clown
08. Thing of the Past
09. Cowboys & Indians
10. Clementine
11. Ones With the Black


Friday, November 26, 2010

Wool - Your Choice Live Series (1995, YCLS)

By request, here is Wool's entry to the '90s Your Choice Live album series.  This is a blatant and pandering follow-up to my Wool singles collection from last month.  If you will recall, Wool were an L.A. based grunge/alt-metal/punk delicacy that had their origins in the D.C. hardcore band Scream.  After the band dissolved, largely in poor response to their Box Set album (1994), guitarist Franz Stahl would soon transform himself into a Foo Fighter, but like Wool, his tenure with Dave Grohl and Co. was relatively fleeting.  As for this live disk, derived from two live European shows from the spring of 1995, it contains virtually every song you could hope to hear from the rather voracious quartet at the very apex of their game.  A downright blistering way to go out if you ask me.  A far more thorough history of Wool can be read on their Myspace site linked above.

01. S.O.S.
02. Kill the Crow
03. Soundcheck Song
04. Car Crash
05. Clear My Head
06. Eden
07. B-350
08. Eat Some Ziti
09. Blackeye
10. Coalinga
11. Superman is Dead
12. Medication
13. Wait
14. Eff
15. Sister Song


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Didjits - Backstage Passout (1990)

If you're a longtime Didjits fan, you're likely acquainted with this punishing live bootleg of their performance at London's Kilburn National from September 1990.  As one of Champaign, IL's most valuable exports, the Rick Sims-helmed, four-on-the-floor power punkers, produced some truly bitchin' barnburners in their time, including such scorching platters as Hey Judester, Hornet Pinata, and Full Nelson Reilly.  I'd argue that Backstage Passout is as crucial as their studio output, being the utterly potent, white-hot live document that it is.  This particular gig was in support of their then recently released Hornet Pinata LP, so naturally much of the setlist draws from it (and yes, it includes "Killboy Powerhead," the track the Offspring covered for a certain multi-million selling album in the mid-90s, earning Sims more than a few martinis and a chaise lounge on the beach).  Aside from the absence of "Sweet Sweet Satan," there's nothing to complain about here, and in fact, Passout ain't a bad place for newbies to get their first taste.  Plenty of hotwired "car songs" here as well, so with that in mind, eat their dust!

01. Cutting Carol
02. Joliet
03. Killboy Powerhead
04. Gold Eldorado
05. Evel Knievel
06. Max Wedge
07. Stingray
08. Long Lone Ranger
09. Plate in My Head
10. Captain Ahab
11. Ax Handle
12. Goodbye Mr. Policeman

Singles Going SIngle #150 - Kustomized 7" (1994, Matador)

To know anything about Kustomized is to know a thing or two about ringleader Peter Prescott, a bloke who was one of the driving forces behind seminal Boston post-punkers Mission of Burma, and later a figurehead for the Volcano Suns.  For a band on Matador Records, Kustomized (who also feature Bullet LaVolta alum Yukki Gipe, appearing here under the name Kurt Davis) revel in the noisenik tantrums of many a Homestead Records or Touch & Go conglomerate.  Released as a precursor to the first proper Kustomized album, The Battle For Space, the A-side of this single, "The Day I Had Some Fun" raises an unholy racket, with frankly unappealing least on the initial spin.  The real reason I came here was for two key B-sides, both covers.  First up is Wire's Pink Flag-era morsel, "Surgeon's Girl," immediately followed up by "Stranded," a sheer punk classic originating from Australia's pioneering Saints.  As one might suspect, Kustomized don't outdo the real McCoy, but nonetheless do some seriously wailing and ragged justice to them.

A. The Day I Had Some Fun
B1. Surgeon's Girl
B2. Stranded


Monday, November 22, 2010

Walt Mink - Listen, Little Man! & The Poll Riders Win Again! (1990/91)

In the early '90s Minnesota's Walt Mink were adopted by a lot of ear-to-the-ground, indie pop geeks, though the band were hardly ones to be hemmed into three simple chords and bright choruses.  My personal familiarity with the band extends only to their 1996 El Producto platter, an admirable disk but a colossal major label debut flop.  Before Producto came Miss Happiness in 1992, and Bareback Ride a year thereafter, both issued on one of the choicest indie imprints of the day, Caroline Records.  But even prior to those albums a few early adopters of Walt Mink were enlightened enough to procure two nascent cassette releases, Listen, Little Man in 1990, and The Poll Riders Win Again!  Last year I purchased what appeared to be a band sanctioned CD-R reissue of the those two cassette a thrift store for a mere $1.00.  I shit you not.

For those of you that happen to fly the Walt Mink flag, you'll notice that a bevy of the songs enshrined on this disk also appeared on Miss Happiness, albeit in are re-corded incarnations.  Even though Listen... and Poll Riders were unleashed within a year of each other, the two albums chart some measurable musical development.  Starting with the first of those two titles, the lovingly lo-fi Listen, Little Man! is chockablock with classic rock homage, and sometimes embarrassingly wanky, fretboard squalls that reveal the boys have been adeptly schooled by Hendrix, and a then burgeoning Billy Coragan.  Pure riffola doesn't come much chunkier than it does here, and if anything else, Listen... is air-guitar cotton candy wrapped on a drum stick.

Reportedly recorded in a living room, The Poll Riders Win Again! is a trifle more subdued and significantly more melodic, lending a more apt canvas for the deftly crafted "Twinkle and Shine," and the buzzing "Everything Worthwhile."  An unconventionally electrified reading of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" is surprisingly right on the money.  It along with "Twinkle and Shine" would later be recut for Miss Happiness.  Walt Mink were on the cusp of something greatly encouraging here, and luckily they would soon break to a modest national audience.

Listen, Little Man!
01. Fragile
02. All-Nite Grocery
03. Love You Better
04. Hummous Overload
05. Chowder Town
06. Factory
07. Zero Day
08. Croton-Harmon
09. Swifty
10. Up + Out

The Poll Riders Win Again!
11. Everything Worthwhile
12. Miss Happiness
13. New Life
14. Pink Moon
15. Disappear
16. Pop Song
17. Quiet Time
18. Smoothing the Ride
19. Twinkle & Shine
20. Erasable You
21. 9 O'Clock World
22. Turn of the Religious
23. Sugartop


Friday, November 19, 2010

Lucas - The Last Taboo ep (1984, Signature)

The moniker of this Oakland, CA four-piece is ostensibly derived from the surnames of drummer Martin Lucas and fret-manipulator Betsy Lucas. Both are credited as singers here, (as well as bassist David Ziegner) but on many selections it’s hard to tell who’s on the mic, lending an occasionally androgynous, but inoffensive mystique to the music.

If the bright title track doesn’t lure you in with it’s, soothing Steely Dan-stride, it’s safe to say that nothing on this ep will. Lucas are what the dBs might have sounded like had they really milked the blue-eyed soul angle they tended to exhibit on occasion.  With perhaps the exception of "Wasn't Expecting Much" (which is largely what it's title lives up to), The Last Taboo is aglow with smart, lucid guitar pop, that tacks slightly left of center without careening off the deep end. 

Betsy Lucas has since struck out on her as a solo act, and  you can sample some of her fine post-Last Taboo music here.

01. Last Taboo
02. I'll Change That
03. Wasn't Expecting Much
04. Build It Up
05. Love Taught Me
06. Leather Book