Saturday, December 31, 2011

Various - 'Oly Cow! - the letter "O" folder mix

Well, it looks like you'll have to wait another day for me to get off my lazy duff and compile my best-ofs album list for 2011.  In the meantime I hope this self-curated mix will tide you over.  Adhering to the same theme as my "H" and "P" folder mixes from a few months back, this sixteen song collection of disparate artists have only one thing in common - the first letter of their respective monikers.  For almost every complete album I have by an artist on my hard drive, I store just as many random one-off songs by artists I don't have a dedicated folder to.  These random one-offs have been corralled into "letter folders" A through Z.  As was the case with the two previous entries I'm not going to publish the track list, but I will give away a few spoilers. 

Often the letter folders are heavy on cover versions, and there are no less six in this set, including okgo's live take on Elvis Costello's "Oliver's Army," an acoustic rendition of Weezer's cult classic "Across the Sea" by Ozma, and the Ohio State University Marching Band tackling "The Final Countdown."  There are Love and Beach Boys covers in there as well, but I shan't give away who does those.  You'll also find my favorite Optiganally Yours tune, a rarity from ON (Ken Andrews post-Failure project), a keeper from jangly, post-punk revivalists The Oranges Band, Sloan incognito (you guess the song!), and even a vintage 1982 interview with Ozzy Osbourne, circa the "bat" incident.  Enjoy (or not).


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ruggedy Annes - Jagged Thoughts ep (1985, Tabb)

Had a very recent request for this one.  The Ruggedy Annes were a fearsome, femme four-piece from Winnipeg, Manitoba whose slash and burn punk rumblings were likely to conjure up fairly obvious comparisons to their predecessors due south, The Avengers and X.   The Annes packed an extra heavy wallop IMO, exhibiting the thrust and musculature of the Zero Boys among other American hardcore-leaning punksters.  Jagged Thoughts goes a little slack on "Dead & Gone," but the remaining five titles (including all of side one) are thoroughly bracing, packing maximum rock and roll firepower into their respective two-minute lifespans.  Fairly wordy lyrics to boot.

01. Jagged Thoughts
02. Autumn
03. G.I. Joe
04. Dead & Gone
05. Casual Design
06. Hollow Heros


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I-Rails - Valentino Says tape (1986)

This is the fourth and final leg in our tour of I-Rails cassette albums, with the last stop culminating with Valentino Says, which is actually their first release (ironic, but not when you consider I've been presenting them in reverse order).  I've already dedicated space to the three full lengths that followed-up Valentino Says (1987's Unfocused, '89s Nine Songs From Nowhere, and their 1990 parting shot Panharmonium).  Being that the case, if you've already absorbed Unfocused, you might recognize two songs which actually debuted in different incarnations on Valentino, specifically "There Goes Another" and "Mercury Don't Understand."

My original expectation was that as I went backwards with the I-Rails discography, I would encounter a rawer, more savage aesthetic that the band would eventually curtail and fine tune on each subsequent release.  If anything it was the opposite way around, with Valentino striking me as the most approachable of their four mini reel-to-reels.  In fact, the bulk of this one inadvertently fortels the mid-tempo power pop tack that the Gin Blossoms would corner the market with in the early nineties.  Song for song Valentino Says cuts the mustard, but the I-Rails would tilt in a grittier direction on their next three albums (and a 1988 7") to even more satisfying effect.  Unfortunately I have no artwork to offer for this one, although from what I understand original copies did have a cassette sleeve.  The audio quality on a couple tracks is slightly dodgy, but tolerable.

For a (slightly) more thorough backgrounder on the I-Rails, point your cursor to the hyperlinks in this article. A very hearty thanks to the gentlemen who digitized these tracks and sent them in my direction!

01. Trust
02. There Goes Another
03. Mercury Don't Understand
04. Oh God
05. The Man I Gave a Ride
06. Poets Wear Black
07. Waiting for the Sun
08. Let Me Go
09. I Thought You Were My Friend
10. Adventures in the Rain


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Creeper Lagoon - live and rare, 1998 and beyond

It only took me about half a decade to get around to dedicating an entry to Creeper Lagoon, so I thought I'd make it count.  For whatever the reason, their first album, I Become Small and Go has beckoned of late, and as utterly compelling as that record is, I'm not one to turn down the invitation.  At all stages of their tenure, Creeper, or more specifically ringleader Ian Sefchick invited a certain curiosity, but none more so than their early endeavors. 

Preceded by a series of lo-fi, sub rosa cassettes bearing titles such as Shasta Complex and Slabco, 1998's I Become Small... was a quantum leap, even by the standards of a well financed ep that dropped one year prior.   Bountiful in it's unfolding textures, wherein woozy flanged guitar lines dovetailed with a bevy of surreal keyboard treatments and incidental accouterments, I Become... nonetheless hinged on Sefchick's subtle melodies and those of his co-conspirator Sharky Laguana.  Luckily, those hooks were not in short supply.  That album is the most ideal jumping off point for those who have yet to make their acquaintance with C/L, but assuming you've already taken the plunge, I submit to you a live soundboard document from the same era.  There is a twist however.  The band didn't select the set list, rather Matt Gentling from Archers of Loaf whom Creeper were opening for that October 29, 1998 evening in Boise, ID.  By and large, the choicest morsels from I Become... are nicely represented...with the exception of my favorite, "Tracy."  Some more words on that song in just a moment.

As a great Creeper fansite makes mention of in their thorough discography, the band has a number of unreleased recordings and demos, many of which were four-tracked by Sefchick.  I've been able to cobble together a dozen such tracks including compilation appearances like "Garden" from a 2002 Noise Pop commemorative disk, and "The Fountain" which originally saw the light of day on the Emusic Care for Kosovo album.  Amidst those two numbers are demos and early incarnations of "Dear Deadly" and the aforementioned pop jewel "Tracy."  More demo madness ensues, including Creeper's take on the Beatles "Because," and a somewhat unorthodox tweaking of My Bloody Valentine's "Lose My Breath."  I won't give away anything else about the remainder, but per the discography on the fansite, if anyone has any of the long lost C/L songs being hosted on the old site please give me a shout out.

Since the band dissolution in the mid-00s, Ian Sefchick has moved onto Ghost Baby.  Captain Killjoy said that it was true...

Live, Boise, ID 10/29/98
01) Claustrophobia
02) Dreaming Again
03) Wonderful Love
04) Empty Ships
05) Drop Your Head
06) Black Hole
07) Dear Deadly
08) Instrumental Jam (?)
09) Another Day
10) Centipede Eyes
11) Keep From Moving 

Because (demo)
Centipede Eyes (demo)
Chain Smoker (orig demo)
Dear Deadly (original)
Don't Forget Me (Ghost Baby demo)
Keep From Moving (coda) + Dear Deadly (live)
Lose My Breath
The Fountain
There's a New Girl (credited to We Never Landed on the Moon)
Tracy (original)
untitled demo

Live, Boise 10/29/98: Hear
rarities: Hear

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hüsker Dü - Zen Arcade - demos, outtakes, rehearsals (1983) & Psychepowerpopapunk live (1985)

Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.  Now that I've covered all the bases, time to present you with my end of year, BFD upload, with 2011's entry coming in the form of a three disk boot of Hüsker Dü's seminal, 1984 tour-de-force, double LP, Zen Arcade....and a bootleg live CD.  Save for a couple of tribute albums, I've featured next to no Hüsker material on Wilfully Obscure, due in part to SST and WB for keeping their catalog in print, and to a handful of bloggers who've assembled b-sides compilations.  Nonetheless, I firmly believe that music fans could do no better in the '80s than this storied Minneapolis power trio, who fused riff-roaring punk with some of the finest and most innovative melodic structures ever.  I hold the opinion that Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton's halcyon era commenced in earnest with the release of 1983's Metal Circus ep.  Back then, as the case is still largely today, it takes a full fledged album to really reign in ears en masse.  Though Hüsker Dü's first proper studio album, Everything Falls Apart dropped in 1982, Zen Arcade was the record that jettisoned the band into the limelight, for lack of a better word. 

There is no universal agreement as to which Hüsker record is the most representative, or for that matter, timeless, but the trio's most ambitious recordings ever committed to vinyl fall squarely in the realm of this auspicious concept album.  Those "concepts," which are somewhat malleable in interpretation, involves a pained childhood, teen angst, and runaway scenarios among other related themes.  What sprang out in that angst-laden aftermath was some of Hüsker Dü's most sophisticated and cathartic song arrangements, setting up something of a template for Zen Arcade's successor albums, particularly New Day Rising, and to a lesser extent Flip Your Wig.  Many, many Hüsker classics reside among Zen's four hallowed sides: "Chartered Trips," "What's Going On," "Pink Turns to Blue," "Turn on the News," and "Something I Learned Today" to roll call a few. 

The collection of 57 tracks I'm offering today consist of alternate versions of just about every song on the album, including rough mixes, demos, and even a handful of rehearsal recordings that were recorded via an idling stylus in the studio.  You'll find several instrumental takes here too, including a vocal-less version of "Eight Miles High," a rather incendiary rendition of the Byrds classic that eventually found it's way onto a single that same year.  As for any obvious revelations, it might be wise to temper your expectations, since the variances between these versions and the finished products are slight in some cases.  One particular number that stood out for me was the fourteen minute plus "Reoccurring Dreams" which leads off disk two in expansive and howling fashion.  For a complete breakdown of which tracks are "rough mixes" vs "demos" etc, the info file found in the folder for disk one does a good job of differentiating and cataloging everything.  Special thanks to the generous and anonymous individual who arranged and digitized this collection, made available as a bit torrent last year.  I'll consider offering a flac (lossless) version of this should there be enough interest expressed.

To sweeten the holiday pot, we've also got a silver disk live bootleg, bearing the title Psychepowerpopapunk.  Eighteen cuts from a 1985 performance in Minneapolis (the actual date is not revealed in the CD booklet).  It's quite possible that the entire show is not represented here, but from what my ears are able to discern, this is a soundboard recording, which by the way features a Buddy Holly cover, "You're So Square" sung by Mr. Hart.  Track ten, listed as "Sons of Bitches" on the CD tray card is actually "Celebrated Summer."  The booklet includes an interview wih Bob, which I've scanned in for your reading leisure.  Bon appetit.

Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 1

Something I Learned Today/Broken Home, Broken Heart/Chartered Trips/Hare Krsna/Indecision Time/I’ll Never Forget You/Beyond the Threshold/The Biggest Lie/Pride/What’s Going On/Masochism World/Standing By the Sea/Somewhere/Pink Turns to Blue/Dozen Beats Eleven/Turn on the News/Newest Industry/Whatever/Eight Miles High/The Tooth Fairy and the Princess

Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 2

Reoccurring Dreams/Chartered Trips/Hare Krsna/One Step at a Time/Monday Will Never Be the Same/untitled (aka Granted)/ Never Talking to You Again/Somewhere/One Step at a Time/Punk Turns to Blue/Newest Industry/Monday Will Never Be the Same/Whatever/Something I Learned Today/Broken Home, Broken Heart/Chartered Trips/Indecision Time/I’ll Never Forget You/Beyond the Threshold/The Biggest Lie/Pride

Zen Arcade sessions, Disk 3

What’s Going On/Masochism World/Standing By the Sea/Somewhere/One Step at a Time/Pink Turns to Blue/Some Kind of Fun/Turn on the News/Newest Industry/Monday Will Never Be the Same/Whatever/Eight Miles High
Rehearsals: Whatever/Indecision Time/Somewhere/Dozen Beats Eleven

Psychepowerpopapunk (live Minneapolis 1985)

The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill/Every Everything/Makes No Sense at All/Don’t Want to Know/I Don’t Know For Sure/Terms of Psychic Warfare/Hardly Getting Over It/Sorry Somehow/You Are So Square/Celebrated Summer/Green Eyes/Divide and Conquer/All Work and No Play/Powerline/Books About UFOs/Flip Your Wig/I Apologize/If I Told You

Zen Arcade sessions - all three disks now in one file: Hear
Psychepowerpopapunk live 1985: Hear

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Five Gears in Reverse - Merry X-mas Distant Planet tape (1997, Montesano) + new Active Set Christmas song

Two months ago I introduced you to Bellingham, WA's Five Gears in Reverse, a staggeringly talented guitar pop aggregation that neither recalled the Elvis Costello song they usurped their namesake from, or for that matter were content to imbibe the trail of crumbs laid out by their hometown's boys done good, The Posies.  In my article I mentioned that in addition to the Trailer cassette ep that I was featuring, I also had an original copy of a six-song Christmas tape that was released one year prior in 1997.  Voila.  I actually played Merry X-mas Distant Planet for the first time last week, and was pleased with what I heard for a variety of reasons: a) there were no overtly religious overtones in the lyrics, b) the songs were all original 5GR compositions, and c) the quality of said songs were worthy of sharing, even bragging about no less.

The title track serves as the opening salvo, and features a dialog concerning a parallel universe of sorts where the birthday of a Jesus-like figure (Zogen) is observed in much the same light that Christmas is celebrated on our own Terra firma.  This silly little motif doesn't carry over into any of the subsequent tracks however, and that's perfectly alright with me considering that "On Every Christmas Day" harkens back to Teenage Fanclub's Big Star homage, circa 1992.  Elsewhere, "Happy Birthday Jesus Christ" and "Underneath the Mistletoe" are squarely in league with their criminally overlooked contemporaries to the north, Zumpano.  And once again, these are original songs, unlike She and Him's insipid plundering of moldy, done-to-death carols.  Speaking of which, wtf is up with shit?  As usual, I digress...

While I'm in the holiday frame of mind, remember that review I did of the Active Set's new album 11?  Turns out they've penned a Yule-tune of their own, "Making Out (Is the Best Part of Christmas)" which is the kind of sentiment I could go for year round.  Check it out via YouTube.

01. Merry X-mas Distant Planet
02. Happy Birthday Jesus Christ
03. Underneath the Mistletoe
04. On Every Christmas Day
05. Tannenbaum and Holly Leaves
06. Silver Sheets


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tall Tales & True - "Hold On" 12" (1989, rooArt) & Superstition Highway ep (1990, rooArt)

Considering that one of the most ardent fans of this blog was nice enough to send me not one, not two, but FIVE Tall Tales & True 12" records for me as a Christmas gift, I probably should have shared all of them a full year after the fact, but I'm a bit of a procrastinator.  Since I'm right at the one year mark of receiving that extremely generous present, I submit to you the last two records in my series of TT&T eps. "Hold On" is a less than vigorous ballad-cum-rocker culled from this Aussie rock trio's first legit full length, Shiver.  If that song isn't particularly representative in of itself, it's two b-sides lag even further behind.  "Dark Messenger" is a stark acoustic piece with some cocktail piano arriving by songs end, and sadly, I'm unmoved.  The second b-side, "Lullaby #1" is all ivories, featuring guest vocalist Jane Bryant.  Pretty much Tall Tales & True in name only, so needless to say this maxi single is hardly the band's finest showing.

Boasting an expanded roster on the 1990 Superstition Highway ep, TT&T not only get things moving in the proper direction, adjunct guitarist SGR McComb lends a heftier tack to the Tales rootsy fervor.  The title track and "Nothing Without You" tilt loosely in the direction of some of INXS' better mid-80s ideas, minus the posturing, front-man maneuvers.  The remaining tunes aren't half bad either.  Along with Shiver (linked above) you can feast on Tall Tale's 1986 debut ep here, and two additional short form records here

Hold On ep
A. Hold On
B1. Dark Messenger
B2. Lullaby #1

Superstition Highway ep
01. Superstition Highway
02. 3 Tired Words
03. Blackwood
04. Nothing Without You
05. untitled

Get both and two others here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Singles Going Single #193 - Bring Back Dad 7" (Science Project, 1994)

In doing my research on Albuquerque's assumably long put to pasture Bring Back Dad, I was reminded that I already covered them, via their contribution to a 7" covers comp called Been There, Done That, minted on the same label that released this wax.  Judging by their originals, Bring Back Dad brought the rawk big time, possessing the crooked, bludgeon-pop assault of contemps Archers of Loaf and New Sweet Breath.  Plump, hernia-inducing power chords and ear bleeding harmonies are full tilt go on "Al Capone," and are all the more ferocious on the aptly titled "Upset."  Regarding Science Project Records, the label also released a split single with Scared of Chaka and Flake Music, the latter of those two bands rechristened themselves as The Shins and enjoyed modest success shortly thereafter. 

A. Al Capone
B. Upset


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Half String - A Fascination With Heights (1996, Independent Project)

It's a wonder I didn't latch onto Half String when they were still going in the '90s, but then again a lot of stuff was vying for my attention during that bustling era of music and such.  Inspired into action by woozy, across-the-pond exports Ride and Lush, this Tempe, AZ unit opted for a less-drowsy formula that was more in tune with Springhouse, and proto-shoegazers Pale Saints.  A Fascination With Heights boasts a wide array of glistening, echoey guitar fills with some faint downer sensibilities, perfect for when you're craving a 'sad soundtrack' that doesn't skimp on sophistication and musicianship.  This album was preceded by a collection of eps, Eclipse * Oval * Hue, which is available for the taking here, along with a healthy dose of text relating to Half String.

01. shell life
02. backstroke
03. hurrah?
04. ...
05. departures
06. a fascination with heights
07. momentum
08. lolligag
09. the apathy parade
10. numbers and fingers

Now available on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Big Troubles - Romantic Comedy & Sea Lions Everything You Ever Wanted to Know... (2011, Slumberland) - The reviews are in!

Retro as this little ol' blog may be, I'm still wont to inform ya'll of worthy new releases coming down the pike, and late this year Slumberland Records gave me all the motivation I needed with the arrival of Big Troubles and Sea Lions latest records.

For the handful of you who are acquainted with Big Troubles via 2010's incendiary debut, Worry, Romantic Comedy isn't quite a 180, but a relatively radical departure, considering the group (originally a duo, now a quartet) graduated from a four-track machine to Mitch Easter as production guru for their latest.  While they were at it, they eschewed just about all of the distortion-saturated, effects-heavy electro rock of Worry favoring a demonstrably more lucid modus operandi lending way more breathing room to Alex Craig's and Ian Drennan's fully realized pop songs.  Comedy exudes a breezy, nonchalant stride, and as for the general "aesthetic" of this disk is concerned, try Hawthorne by the way of Silver Lake.   "Make It Worse" is strummy and sublime guitar pop indulgence (without an iota of guilt), "Time Bomb" amps up the ante a couple notches into Stoned and Dethroned-era J&MC terrain, while the would-be emphasis track, "Sad Girls" marries a relentless hook to semi-hushed vocals, yielding a special pizazz all it's own.  In case you were wondering, the producer had a not-so-heavy hand in the construction of this ten-song set.  In fact, you'd never guess Mitch was even occupying the same room.

As for Oxnard, Cali's Sea Lions, they must have spent their collective lunch money and then some on scads of British imports, the kind with Creation and Postcard Records logos adorning the back sleeves.  Lunging a very outstretched arm to the C86 days of yore (can you say Primal Scream circa Crystal Crescent?) they're also ostensibly enamored with one of their antecedent Slumblerland labelmates, Black Tambourine.  Even more of a throwback to DIY Anglophile jangle pop than Pains of Being Pure at Heart were Close Lobsters protégés, Sea Lions are endowed with a retro-fitted sonic motif that's hard to come by in 2011, though I'm sure many of their contemporaries have attempted a similar feat with less than sterling results.  I'm also picking up traces of Beat Happening, likely due in part to Adrian Pillado's pipes, which infrequently alternate in pitch, though I say that in the most flattering way possible.  Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sea Lions But Were Afraid to Ask is a wisp of an LP, with the average song length dipping just shy of the two minute mark.  Nonetheless, there's ample texture amidst these fifteen numbers, and the galloping rhythms and chiming leads taking up residence in "Rainfall" and "A Cloud" sound like a template for future Sea Lions bliss.  This is nothing short of a major find. 

For your vinyl and CD fix, head over to Slumberland's store, and if digital is your bag, iTunes should be able to accomodate you, as well as Emusic and Amazon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

100 Flowers - 21st Guessing (1989, DTK)

It would probably be smart to eliminate any confusion by mentioning up front that this is not the same 100 Flowers that were the spinoff of minimalist, L.A. punks The Urinals who recorded for Happy Squid Records.   Heck, that explanation took quicker than I anticipated, but as usual, I digress.  No, these 100 Flowers blossomed in Canada, possibly from Nova Scotia, yet they utterly ooze the aura of Midwest American indie combos like The Libertines, The Embarrassment, The Service, and by default, I guess it would be apt to point a finger at the Replacements too (though frontman Stephen Moore doesn't have a thing on Westerberg in the vocals department).  21st Guessing's most impressive moments, including "Roof tops" and "Pam" make a solid case for 100 Flowers being a lost artifact from the American heartland circa the late '80s, but this five-piece hailed from environs north, difficult as that may be to believe upon listening. 

There's little to nothing web-wise to unearth on this intriguing bouquet, but videos for "Pam" and "Haunted" are available on YouTube.  Since I have been unable to obtain an affordable vinyl copy of 21st Guessing, this rip was taken straight from an original cassette.  BTW, can anybody confirm if this came out on CD?  If anyone in/associated with the Flowers sees this, feel free to drop a line. 

01. Coming Up for Air
02. Pam
03. He and She
04. Nothing is Hard
05. Roof tops
06. The Best Status Symbol
07. Haunted
08. 21st Guessing
09. Darkness
10. The Naught
11. We're Waiting


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sprinkler - "Marble" 7" (1992, Tim Kerr) & "Peerless" 7" (1993, Sub Pop)

Of all the '90s Portland, OR bands that never quite "made it" - Heatmiser, Pond, Hazel, Skiploader, and Crackerbash, I always thought the case of Sprinkler was the most unfortunate.  Not because anyone in the group died tragically or anything, rather when I consider that overlooked vanguard, Sprinkler had the leanest discography to show for it, and even sadder, the most potential.  Fans of this Oregonian quartet are immensely hard to come by.  In fact, in almost twenty years of admiration of Sprinkler I have yet to meet anyone with an affinity, or for that matter just plain familiarization with their name and/or music.   In addition to these singles, they cut a phenomenal album for Sub Pop Records in 1992, More Boy, Less Friend.  What that record lacked in terms of a desperately needed lyric sheet, it made up for in pummeling riffs, brooding melancholia, and songs to die for.  Accept no imitations.  As for the singles presented here, "Marble" b/w a pre-More Boy incarnation of "Landlord" saw the light of day on Tim Kerr Records, shortly before the album.  Love the swooping guitar line running through "Landlord," and "Marble" is even more melodic and vital.  Before splitting up, they cut one last record for Sub Pop, tracks three and four listed below.  That 45 was also available as a European import with two extra tracks though I have yet to come across a copy.  If you like what you're about to hear, More Boy, Less Friend is still relatively findable, digitally and otherwise.

Post-Sprinkler, singer Chris Slusarenko went on to front the similarly unheard of but satisfying Svelt.  More recently, Chris has dabbled in music journalism, and has been a longtime collaborator with Robert Pollard, involved in such post-GBV projects as Boston Spaceships and the Takeovers. 

01. Marble
02. Landlord
03. Peerless
04. Kent

1 & 2 from Tim Kerr 7"
3 & 4 from Sub Pop 7"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Breaking Circus - The Ice Machine (1986) & Smokers' Paradise ep (1987) + bonus 7" in FLAC

Last week I was inspired by the request of another blogger to rip Breaking Circus' 1985 ep The Very Long Fuse to the lossless FLAC format as opposed to my usual MP3s.  Today I present submit to you the remainder of the B/C oeuvre, starting with their only bona fide full length, The Ice Machine, a Homestead Records product dating back a quarter century ago.  Pound for pound, I regard The Very Long Fuse as their strongest record, but Ice Machine comes in at a very, very close second, featuring some of their most pummeling selections, namely "Took a Hammering" and "Swept Blood," both of which are profoundly induced with a solid dose of Big Black.  Something tells me that Steve Björklund and Co. had a few collective go arounds with Atomizer before tracking this baby. 

The Circus' third and final 12" Smokers' Paradise trails it's two predecessors by a good distance, but is markedly more diverse, with prominent keyboard presence on the title cut, and pop flirtations elsewhere.  I have to concede that "Eat Lead" and "Emperor Calvin" are as hard boiled as anything in their catalog.
I'm a bit confused regarding Breaking Circus' final salvo, a 1989 45 which is essentially a Björklund solo venture featuring electro-pop renderings of Naked Raygun's "Home of the Brave," and a UK Subs song, "Warhead" on the b-side.  My confusion lies in the fact that supposedly it came bundled with a fanzine with no picture sleeve, but my copy has an accompanying sleeve, a bright yellow one at that (depicted below).  Was my version only available separately from the zine?  No bigee.  I got mine, and that's what counts.  Anyway, enjoy the "hammer" records in glorious, FLAC-o-phonic sound.'

The Ice Machine
01. Song of the South
02. Ancient Axes
03. Daylight
04. Caskets & Clocks
05. Deadly China Doll
06. Laid so Low
07. Took a Hammering
08. Walter
09. Swept Blood
10. Where
11. Gun Shy
12. Evil Last Night

Smokers' Paradise ep
01. Smokers Paradise
02. Three Cool Cats
03. ShockHammer Thirteen
04. Emperor Calvin
05. Medicine Lake
06. Eat Lead

1989 7"
A. Home of the Brave
B. Warhead

The Ice Machine - Hear
Smokers' Paradise ep & 7" - Hear

The Active Set - 11 (2011, Chisel Pixel) - A brief overview

Right out of 11's starting gate, "Let the Games Begin" exudes the type of warm syncopation and dexterous, instrumental reciprocity that goes a long way in defining the overarching tenor of The Active Set's seemingly auspicious debut album.  Oh yeah, I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that these gentlemen know a thing or two about fusing such agile playing with rock solid hooks, the kind that yield a startling, visceral response as evidenced on "Gas Wars" and "Famous for Dying." From a purely musical standpoint, the Active Set originate from the same savvy terrain as Brendan Benson, Rogue Wave, and to a lesser extent Phantom Planet and Creeper Lagoon.  Putting aside their plush, arpeggio-happy arrangements for a moment, what helps usher them into a field of their own is frontman/songsmith Matthew Stolarz, a budding popmeister whose wry takes on romance, sex, ambition, and even the open road are relatable, if not amusing.  In fact, I have to wonder how Stolarz would employ the Occupy Movement as songwriting fodder, but I digress. "Counting Out Your Life" and "Best Summer Ever" are as lyrically considered as they are sonically intoxicating, and so goes much of the remainder of the album, enabling it to stimulate as consistently as it does.  Not exactly one louder, 11 is still pretty golden, but don't be surprised if the Active Set surpass it in years to come.  Buy 11 in it's entirety here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Singles Going Single #192 - The Marnies 7" (1989)

Australia's Marnies didn't leave much of a discography, or moreover a footprint.  That's a shame, because back in the late '80s, while most of their home-country contemporaries had one foot in the garage, this quartet were taking cues from one of Oz's grandest anomalies of the era, The Church.  "Electric Wires" bristles with robust reverb, clangy fretwork, and a driving hook, wasting not one of it's precious 150 seconds.  Platinum grade indie pop if there ever was such a thing.  The flip, "Watch the Clock" features a different vocalist, slotting well within the ballad realm.  No info on the group is to be had save for the record label itself, listing the Marnies roster, recording details, and a North Fitzroy correspondence address.  The lineup includes Patrick McArdle on guitar and vocals, Terrance Vella also on guitar, Anthony Camm singing and plucking the fat strings, and Damien Tesoriero gently applying repeated blows to the percussion.  Should any of you care to unravel this mysterious outfit, comment as you see fit.

A. Electric Wires
B. Watch the Clock


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Attachments - s/t ep (1983, Art & Economix)

Is it just me or does the jacket of this disk conjure up a pack of cigarettes?  Just checking.  Attachments were a female fronted six-piece from Seattle, whose seductive, new-wavey exploits often packed an unabashed dance floor-savvy punch.   A through-and-through product of their era, there isn't an abundant amount of innovation afoot in these grooves, though I should note that Sally Schlosstein's pipes crack some ungodly high registers on "Why Don't You Come Back & See Me."  Make of Attachments what you will.

01. Why Don't You Come Back & See Me
02. All I Need From You
03. Red Lines
04. Had to Bridge a Gap


Monday, December 5, 2011

Billy James - Sixes and Sevens (1988, Twilight)

Billy James was no solo act, rather a co-ed four piece from Athens, GA.  Produced by REM's Mike Mills, Sixes and Sevens is a jangly affair, delving the listener into a myriad of tempos and moods, with fervent harmonies running throughout.  The breezy lilt of "Withering" and "Stormy Weather" bring to mind the warm, but immensely robust guitar pop of an unrelated group that would arise in the '90s, called The Rooks that I would heartily suggest if you Sixes to your liking.  There's not much info to be unearthed on Billy James, so don't be a stranger if you have any pertinent details to share.

01. Blind
02. Dead Mans Hand
03. Cold and Crazy
04. See Thru Shades
05. Withering
06. Circular Motion
07. Honeymoon
08. Stormy Weather


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Breaking Circus - The Very Long Fuse + 1 (1985, Homestead) in FLAC!

The cry went out roughly a week ago when one of our fellow music bloggers requested some difficult-ish to locate vinyl from a handful of Midwest-corridor, indie castaways from the '80s, one of whom was none other than Breaking Circus.  I've long owned copies of their catalog: The Very Long Fuse, Smokers' Paradise, and their only legitimate full length, The Ice Machine, but other net scribes had pretty much beaten me to the punch in making these available.  Going back to that request I initially mentioned, it was brought to my attention that heretofore Breaking Circus had only been accorded the MP3 treatment, and given that their records never saw the light of day on CD (and are likely to stay that way) someone with relatively clean vinyl copies might be compelled to provide the world at large with lossless (aka: FLAC) versions of said back catalog.  I'm happy to announce that I'm here to fill that void, starting with their 1985 debut, The Very Long Fuse.

For a band who never made it into the digital era, Breaking Circus' vital stats have been crunched on several websites and blogs.  The short story is that ex-hardcore guy Steve Björklund, formally of Strike Under and the even lesser noted Terminal Beach, branched out into the post-punk arena with the Circus, garnering a modicum of notoriety before the curtain closed in the late 1980s.  Taking root in Chicago, before eventually transplanting to Minneapolis, Breaking Circus indigenous forte combined Björklund's deadpan vox with offbeat topical material, and driving, metronome-perfect delivery (due in no small part to a trusty drum machine).  Their could've/should've been "signature" song was a no brainer - "Driving the Dynamite Truck," but it doesn't materialize on any of their proper albums, rather a 1986 compilation that is going to remain unnamed, at least on these pages.  So marvelous is that song, I'm including it as a bonus here, and although Björklund doesn't sing so much as talk, "...Dynamite Truck" features a deliriously drony yet melodic guitar lead that is likely to make a lifelong impact, if you're as lucky as me that is.  Remember, this rip is in FLAC, so the files sizes are about three/four times the size of the 256 kbps MP3s I normally share, but they should work with most audio playback applications.  More Breaking Circus to follow... 

01. Precision
02. (Knife in the) Marathon
03. Lady in the Lake
04. Soul of Japan
05. The Imperial Clawmaster's Theme
06. Monsters Sanctuary
07. Christian Soldiers
08. Morning
plus: Driving the Dynamite Truck


Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Remedy Session - s/t (2002, Redemption)

I thought I'd use the review I did for Big Takeover magazine (I wanna say in 2002/03) as my write up for Remedy Session's lone album.  For some reason I seem to sound much more eloquent back then than I possibly could today if I were to start from scratch.  This co-ed Florida trio has been defunct for several years.  Too bad, because evidenced by these ten songs they had talent to burn.  Was looking forward to seeing them in Buffalo around the time of this disk's release but the gig was canceled.  More text can be read in a lengthy feature article archived at the Broward/Palm Beach New Times website.  On to the review:

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to dismiss Ft. Lauderdale’s Remedy Session as the logical offspring of the ever-expanding crop of current emo/pop-punk aggregations, some of whom have already graduated to household-name status.  It’s also pretty much indisputable that the Session haven’t been immune to the cross-pollination of these two genres, particularly acts like Hey Mercedes, Anniversary, and the now defunct Jejune.  In fact this trio can also claim male and female vocalists suspiciously similar to the Anniversary’s set-up. So what makes The Remedy Session just as effective if not more so?  Chalk this up to a subtly cerebral bent with a keen awareness of post-hardcore originators like Jawbox and Friction.  A-plus harmonies, and a roiling mid-tempo thrust splendidly propel cuts like “The Final Failure” and “All Circuits Down“ to a higher plateau than the more pedantic output of their contemporaries.  Simply put, The Remedy Session stand out.

01. The Final Failure
02. April 25th
03. Rescue
04. Starting Over
05. Shotgun
06. Recovery
07. All Circuits Down
08. Instrument
09. Seven Year Divide
10. Over-rated


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pivot - Oscillator 7" ep (1993, Eating Blur)

I picked this bad boy up during my Maximum Rock n Roll days circa the mid-90s.  I have no significant background info to offer on Pivot, other than the correspondence address on the inner sleeve which points to Vacaville, CA, a town in between San Francisco and Sacramento.  Post-hardcore punk was their speciality, the stripe that hadn't intermingled with emo, at least not on these four tracks.  Some faint socio/political themes crop up intermittently, but truthfully, you won't feel a thing.  The commencing "Drain" churns out a sturdy, Helmet-like grind.  Gots to love those taught, lockstep riffs.  Pivoting to side two (sorry, couldn't resist), the Oscillator ep hits a more tuneful, not to mention speedier stride on "Pawn to Shell" and "She."  Enjoy (or not).

01. Drain
02. 60 Clicks
03. Pawn to Shell
04. She


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Various - Vehicle 7" (1995, Shute)

Given my affinity for half of the bands occupying this wax (Edsel and Trusty) it's a wonder I didn't share this comp ep ages ago, which features four not-so-prominent D.C. area indie hopefuls.  Whoever at Shute Records sequenced this record had the right idea, pairing the more abrasive Holy Rollers and Corm on one side, and the aforementioned much more palatable duo on the other.   I never had much of an inclination to the Rollers and that goes double for their contribution, "Sunshine" a botched grunge experiment so to speak.  Corm are pretty unremarkable as well - think Unwound by way of some of the lower rung AmRep acts of the period.  I've had no shortage of praise to heap on Edsel over the years, and "Suits Me Fine" is cause for even more - a hazy, tremolo-kissed pop nugget that bears all the idiosyncratic trademarks, evidenced on their Everlasting Belt Co. album from two years prior.  Trusty close things out with one of their finest moments.  "Bus Stop" isn't the Hollies song of the same name, rather a deftly crafted punk-pop composition of their own creation, bearing a sly juxtaposition or two.  Listening back to my rip of side two, I'm hearing some excessive vinyl noise that I might be able to correct should I ever get the motivation to re-digitize Vehicle at some point. 

01. Holy Rollers - Sunshine
02. Corm - Seven Days
03. Edsel - Suits Me Fine
04. Trusty - Bus Stop


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Defenestration ep (1984, Slow Iguana)

It was almost two years ago that I did an entry on Defenestration's proper full length, Dali Does Windows, so I suppose it's about time that I dedicate some space to their self-titled ep, which preceded Dali by a good three years.  Even if the group's prime mover Tyson Meade didn't go onto to greater success with his subsequent outfit, the Chainsaw Kittens, it would still be worth the namecheck, as his singular vocal pastiche goes much further in defining Defenestration's overall shtick than his backing mates do.  While still plenty left of center, the band hadn't quite achieved the heftier velocity that would inform the proceedings of Dali Does Windows, and furthermore the Kittens, but they were getting there.  "Lovers Grow in the Park" and "Feminism on Television" exude some really sweet jangly moments, and in spite of the violent sleeve art, it's strangely comforting to know that Meade is a pop-smith at heart.  A much more thorough, song by song dissertation of the record can be absorbed here

01. Cut Your Soul in Half
02. Nothing Lasts
03. Feminism on Television
04. Slaughterville
05. Lovers Grow in the Park
06. Heart-throb
07. Happy Cadillacs


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shy Mirrors - Sailed Blanks (2011, Big School) - a brief overview

Though I've never broached the topic of them on these pages, Champaign, IL's Wolfie were a perennial favorite of mine circa the late '90s.  Frontman Joel Ziemba and co-vocalist/keyboard pumper Amanda Lyons comprised the nuclei of that quartet, but it was guitarist Mike Downey that provided the "crunch" needed to offset the group's twee overtones, heavy handed as they sometimes were.  Mike departed in 2000 with Wolfie folding not long after that, leaving him to pursue his predominantly solo endeavor, The National SplitsShy Mirrors is his latest, and IMO greatest post-Wolfie pursuit. 

Furthermore, Sailed Blanks is perhaps the finest LP of 2011's late-breaking releases.  That being said, it's an album that won't present itself as a sonic revelation to anyone that was weened on Superchunk's No Pocky for Kitty and On the Mouth, but for listeners possessing an appreciation of that indie-punk caliber will nonetheless relish the unremitting, power chord maelstrom of uber medodic stunners like "Face Paint" and "Lake Placid Flyer."  Things get even fiercer on "I'm Not Around" which recalls the barreling firepower brought on by the likes of the Marked Men and Exploding Hearts.  In general, Sailed Blanks suggests what Weezer would have emerged with on the Blue Album had Rivers & Co. been given the option to commit it to four-track.  I'd be remiss if I failed to note that that a fresh-outta-the garage, lo-fi aesthetic dominates the eleven songs housed within, lending a whole lot of charm to this affair as well.  Two minute songs, a total blast, and an out-an-out winner.  Now that you're ready to lay down some coin, you can do so either through Big School Records for the gnarly transparent vinyl edition, or digitally at Bandcamp

Friday, November 25, 2011

Brilliant Orange - Happy Man ep (1985, Zulu)

Recently had a request for Brilliant Orange which I'm more than happy to fulfill.   The work of a Vancouverite quartet, the Happy Man ep appears to be the group's one and only vinyl missive, supposedly issued a scant four months following their 1985 gestation.  While not terribly distinguishable from the myriad of hard-strummed, indie guitar conglomerations of their era, a bevy of astute pop chops no doubt behooved Brilliant Orange.  The concluding "Shotguns, Cacti and Vengeance," a sharp, cowpunk send-up, caught me slightly off guard.  The video for the title song can be viewed below following the tracklist.

01. Happy Man
02. I'll Walk Away
03. Secure
04. Shotguns, Cacti and Vengeance


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Clay Idols - Falling Down Backwards (1990, Genius)

This artifact isn't exactly in keeping with the theme of Thanksgiving...but what are you gonna do about it?   From the looks of their Myspace page, the Clay Idols called Los Angeles home, and at one time featured future Bad Religion drummer Bobby Schayer in their lineup.  In fact, Bobby's brother Steven fronted the Idols, yet they couldn't be further removed from that aforementioned hardcore juggernaut.  Nope, this quartet's flavor of choice was acoustic-laden alterna-pop, all contemplative and such.  Falling Down Backwards exudes a certain weariness hinting that the band were wont to pluck a page or two from Bob Mould's Workbook, without resorting to anything totally derivative. Coincidentally, Steven Schayer's timbre bears a strong resemblance to Lotion's Tony Zajkowski, but only would someone with a lot of time to listen to obscure indie rock would draw that parallel.  Falling... was available on CD, but this rip was taken from wax.

01. This House's River
02. Flower Thief
03. Bells Are Ringing
04. It Can Only Get Colder
05. Speechless
06. Another Bad Day
07. Straight Line to a Clear Head
08. Best Part of Bad Weather
09. Fortune In a Wishing Well
10. Freedom Bridge
11. outro


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Sugarplastic - Primitive Plastic: Demos and B-sides (2001, Air Mail)

At first blush, my deduction of Sugarplastic's wide-scale release, 1996's Bang, The Earth is Round, was that a trio of prodigiously smart Los Angeles wunderkinds were operating on the same bandwidth as XTC, albeit with more fey and esoteric inflections.  In fact, I thought it was a bit absurd that a major label (Geffen) would wrap one of their tentacles around a project so devoid of typical, mainstream pop-star trappings.  After becoming acquainted with the rest of the 'Plastics catalog, especially their debut Radio Jejune, I realized there was much more than abject Andy Partridge/Colin Moulding-homage afoot.  Boasting their own eccentric songwriting duo of Ben Eshbach and Kiara Geller, Sugarplastic's indigenous sense of whimsy encompassed more than
off-kilter pop tunes, but also wry allegorical themes, and sonically speaking, infectiously jagged rhythms. 

The Japanese-only Primitive Plastic: Demos and B-sides is precisely what it's title purports it to be, with Eshbach imparting in the album's liner notes, "We were just kids, here are some of our baby pictures."  Four of the fifteen selections technically saw the light of day prior to Primitive Plastic's release, albeit in exceedingly limited quantities in some instances.  Case in point would be "Superball," which was derived from a DIY single limited to a scant 200 copies.  There's also "Dover," culled from a the Ottawa Bonesaw 7" box set, "All Way Down" from the Closet Pop Freak compilation, and the ever so quintessential "Liar Over Winchester," originally featured on a Minty Fresh Records 45.  As for the demos quotient, most of the selections are keepers, including "Euripides the Jaguar," which is noted as the very first song the Sugarplastic took to task upon gracing a recording studio.  At the time of this release it was said that the band had over fifty unreleased tracks under their belt, but whether we'll ever have the chance to indulge in them is anyone's guess.  A very thorough discography can be referenced here.

01. Liar Over Winchester
02. Dover
03. All Way Down
04. Ode to Home
05. Set Me Up Eleven
06. Pineapple Lilly
07. Abigail
08. Superball
09. Stephanie
10. Marsha
11. Euripides the Jaguar
12. Wundergeisel
13. untitled demo
14. Where Have You Been?
15. Mumbletypeg

Now on Bandcamp

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rain Parade - 6/28/86, Vic Theater, Chicago, IL

Why a random Rain Parade live set from 1986?  Why not?  It's only been three and a half  years since I last dedicated an entry to L.A.'s unwitting princes of the Paisley Strip.  This is an audience tape of a Chicago stop when Rain Parade were touring behind their Crashing Dream album.  According to the brief notes that accompanied this recording, Plasticland were the openers.  Fitting.  Also fitting is the fact that the set is heavily derived from said Crashing Dream, which as fate would have turned out to be the quartet's studio finale.  Their first and far more lauded LP, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip isn't particularly represented at this gig, however 80% of the 1984 Explosions in the Glass Palace ep is.  The encore features two covers, Cream's classic rock standard "White Room," and the far less common "Cheap Wine" originally done by Green On Red."  Track 12 "Only Business" is omitted due to a recording/digital transfer mishap of some sort, and the beginning of "Home" is cut off, most likely due to a cassette flip by the taper.  If it's more (and better intact) live Rain Parade you're hankering for, Big Plans for Everybody blog has got you covered.

01 No Easy Way Down
02 This Can't Be Today
03 Don't Feel Bad
04 Prisoners
05 Shoot Down The Railroad Man
06 Blue
07 Depending On You
08 Gone West
09 Remember
10 You Are My Friend
11 Home
13 White Room
14 Cheap Wine


Friday, November 18, 2011

Singles Going Single #191 - Swizzle 7" (199?, Cassiel)

Got some more mystery indie rock goodness to share with you.  Purchased this single many, many moons ago, and upon bringing it home discovered that it was sans an inner sleeve, and for that matter an insert with any useful information regarding the record in question.  I'm afraid all I have to go by is a Cambridge, MA address on the rear of the sleeve - not even the year of release on the physical record labels or nuthin.'  Highly inconvenient on my end of the stick, because with such a ubiquitous moniker as Swizzle, a search engine query yields zilch in terms of pertinent details.  That means we're left with *gulp* just the music itself.  Luckily Swizzle's fuzzy strain of left-of-the-dial guitar pop is of sizable, not to mention winsome merit.  Side A delivers a pair of buoyant, rhythmically conscious jewels, doled out with seemingly effortless agility.  The lone B-side composition, "Tricycle" is considerably more subdued and pensive, before peaking to a dissonant crescendo roughly half-way in.  I'm not going to draw any comparisons here.  For a change, I think I'll leave that up to you.

A1. Bliss
A2. Who's That Lady
B. Tricycle