Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Findells - The Radiators Are Bleeding (1983)

When I purchased this almost three decade old record just last year, I never would have imagined that Staunton, Virginia's Findells were still active and performing live.  Granted, band members have come and gone that kind of longevity is no small feat.  As for myself, my only familiarity with the band is this cleverly titled LP that finds the quartet playing a warm strain of post-punk, merging the stylings of The Feelies and Mission of Burma.  Though I don't regard The Radiators Are Bleeding as crucial as the canon of those fawned over demi-gods, it's still an interesting and often engaging listen. In addition to the group's website linked above, there's a Findells blog page with a decent backgrounder.

The link that follows is a restored version of Radiators, that was passed along to me shortly after I shared my dust-clogged, noisy vinyl rip 

01. Sweet Darlin' Comfort Me
02. Penumbra Nine
03. Alien Dream
04. Hiroshima/Hiroshima
05. Lightning
06. Breaking Into People's Cars
07. Bicycle Thief
08. Dandelions/Parking Meters
09. Part Time Love
10. No Fingerprints
11. Surfers Are Dumb
12. Man on a Ladder


Friday, February 25, 2011

Emperors of Ice Cream - Imperialism ep (1992)

Perhaps due to a relatively conventional tact, Chapel Hill, NC's Emperors of Ice Cream apparently didn't make too many ripples when the Imperialism ep was dropped in '92, despite their home town's gonzo, indie rock gold rush.  Still, the Emperors buoyantly conveyed guitar pop, which dabbled in everything from XTC (though quite vaguely) to '90s Meat Puppets, occasionally hit the spot, with "Tearing Up the Floor" finding the trio at their utmost catchiest.  'Stop 23" comes in at a close second.  I should also mention that the customer who shared his review of this disk is way off base by referring to them as a shoegazer band in the mold of Ride (though the Smithereens comparison is more accurate). 

01. Landslide
02. Tearing Up the Floor
03. Stop 23
04. Land of the Liel
05. Sister
06. Gone Fishin'


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Singles Going Single #164 - Three Hits 7" (Hib-Tone, 1985)

Yes, believe it or not, Atlanta, GA's Hib-Tone Records was responsible for more than just a particular REM 45.  Like so many unsung bands that populate this chunk of cyberspace,  I didn't catch wind of Three Hits until a good two decades after the fact.   Part and parcel of the North Carolina "Comboland" scene, circa the mid to late '80s, this female-fronted quartet delivers jangle-pop nirvana in the form of this singles stunning a-side, "Pressure Dome."  The opposite side of the coin, "Numbers" ponders the wonderful, debt-inducing racket that some of us like to refer to as 'higher education.'  Produced by Don Dixon and recorded at Mitch Easter's Drive-in Studio I might add.

With a revised lineup, Three Hits issued a 1989 ep titled Fire in the House, that I believe you'll also find to your liking.  I'm pretty sure another single followed this one as well.

A. Pressure Dome
B. Numbers


Dissonant Blue - Three in the Throat tape (1991, XOXONE)

What I found so alluring in the rather oblique sleeve of this demo cassette is something I'm still trying to figure out, but at any rate, it compelled me to purchase it.  Turns out my instincts regarding this long faded Minneapolis four-piece, fronted by one Melissa Ritter were fairly spot on.  The sitar laced, Middle Eastern-endowed opening instrumental "Prasna" is deceptive of what's to follow on Three in the Throat, but that's just fine, as Ritter commandeers Dissonant Blue in four intoxicating slices of lightly ethereal Anglo-rock, channeling the likes of the Sundays and Siouxsie and the Banshees, often within the same song.  Melding equal parts mystique and substance, Dissonant Blue had concocted a fine recipe, but given an absolute dearth of background info, at least Internet-wise, this tape may have been their one and only serving. 

01. Prasna
02. The River
03. Practical Harmony
04. Carry Me
05. 3-2-3 Bridge


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Guitars & Drums (feat. Michael Guthrie) - Believe it or Not ep (1983, EAR)

Prior to recording the excellent 1981 cult-classic power-pop platter Direct Hits, Michael Guthrie of the band that band bore his namesake was cranking out beat pop in Germany in the mid-60s with his brother Herb in this little known combo.  According to the handy accompanying bio, Guitars and Drums didn't get serious about hitting the studio until the next decade, and by the time the '80s rolled around they were drumming to a different beat than the British Invasion.  Believe It or Not isn't an overt stab at any genre in particular - punk, power-pop, new wave or otherwise, though the record would have still been a trifle left of center for the likes of Top-40 radio.  "Nightclubland" boasts some faint ska maneuvers a la early Police, but Guthrie doesn't make as nearly an effective case as Sting and Co.  Something similar permeates the song "Guitars and Drums," this time usurping a quotient of Gang of Four's jerky funk mechanizations, sans the choppy six-string bite needed to put this sucker over the top.  Perhaps the most notable selection here is the closing title track, that despite weighing in at over eight minutes possesses the record's strongest hook.

01. Nightclubland
02. Walking in the Darkness
03. Truth From Lies
04. Guitars and Drums
05. Erotic TV
06. Believe it or Not


Monday, February 21, 2011

Well Well Well ...And Rise (1988, Big Store)

I'm having a difficult time acknowledging that this rather arcane quartet, who sound like they were born and bred in the American Midwest, were actually a German export.  The biographical details I have pertaining to Well Well Well are largely confined to the back sleeve of this album, but the scorching opener, "Not Arrivin'," provides ample evidence that they absorbed their share of Minneapolis indie punk like a thirsty sponge.  There's definitely a mid-80s, heartland aesthetic coursing through ...And Rise, with arrows pointing to Athens, GA as well on occasion.  I can't say they pull it off as well as the Yanks they take such enthusiastic inspiration from, but the albums a good 'un and not to be passed over.

01. Not Arrivin'
02. Stella
03. Under the Spell of Mr. Moto
04. Breakfast Massacre
05. For the Love of
06. Dog Days
07. Colour Blind
08. Krüesh
09. Rise
10. Injustice + Boredom


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Radar Mercury - Thank you, goodnight ep (2000, Doghouse) & demo (1999)

They may have been a blip on the radar (pun intended) but this New Jersey quintet bowled me the hell over with their lone official release, the all too fleeting Thank you, goodnight ep.  Taking obvious cues from such Northeast corridor favorites as Texas is the Reason and the Juliana Theory, the Radar Mercury's synthesis of sturdy musicianship, penetrating hooks and riveting power was par excellence for their chosen genre, which for better or worse, was the trend du jour.  "Million Dollar Messenger Boy" is the barreling fireball that gets things going, and the remainder of Thank you... is just as gripping and potent (then again, with only four tracks there's not much space for things to go off the rails).  Too bad they didn't stick around long enough to grace us with a full length, because their potential here was absolutely staggering. 

Of course, there was an obligatory demo tape that made the rounds, and I feel fortunate to have procured one when I saw the Radar Mercury open for Discount in 2000 (or was it '99)?  Like the aforementioned ep, the cassette also featured four songs, with only one, "Nothing's Wrong, Nothing's New" overlapping.  My main beef with it is the excruciatingly poor production (or perhaps a botched digital to analog transfer) and the inordinate tape hiss, which is impossible to ignore.  Better than nothing I suppose, considering this entry includes what would appear to be the Mercury's entire oeuvre. 

Thank you, goodnight ep
01. Million Dollar Messenger Boy
02. Tenth Grade
03. Nothing's Wrong, Nothing's New
04. Danny Gomez?

01. Two Hour Town
02. The Simple Mind
03. Nothing's Wrong, Nothing's New
04. Fast Cars and Fast Women

Thank you, goodnight ep: Hear

Shift - The Get Rich Quick Scheme ep (1998)

My love affair with the Big Apple's Shift stemmed from an excellent 1994 ep titled Pathos, that only seems to satisfy more with age.  Treading not so lightly in the footsteps of Quicksand, Shift took a slightly milder tact, gently sanding down the more serrated edges of those local post-hardcore stalwarts without blunting the impact.  The band's Spacesuit album followed a year later on Equal Vision Records, and was eventually re-released in identical form for their new homestead, Columbia.  As is most often the case, punk/indie/alt bands that sign to a major label undergo something of an "overhaul," or in this instance, a "shift" (he he).  Enter 1998's Get In, a slightly more commercial venture that didn't lure in the swarms they had hoped for (but I'm sure weren't counting on either), particularly given that Sony's promotion staff was seemingly out to lunch or too busy pushing Oasis albums.  Taken at face value, Get In's emphasis track "I Want to Be Rich," cries out for the type of admiration most big label contenders are pining for, but given Shift's relatively cerebral bent I have to wonder if it's refrain: "I want to be rich beyond my wildest dreams, and I want everyone to love me," was actually spoken of in jest, or at the very least, half irony.  In any case, this promo CD features the song in question, as well as four songs unavailable on Get In, some of which are pretty damn good.  This ep was also issued as a 10" ep if I recall.

01. I Want to Be Rich
02. Passionfruit
03. Crying for You
04. The Distance Machine
05. Smile


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Singles Going Single #163 - Sideshow 7" (1993, Caulfield)

The Midwest proved to be a fertile breeding ground for post-hardcore/emo bands in the mid '90s, and Lincoln, NE's Sideshow were no small exception...except for the fact that they kept a relatively small profile.  Nonetheless, they were one of the flagship bands for local Caulfield Records, who from what I learned at the always informative Built on a Weak Spot blog were actually run by members of Sideshow.  For my money, Sideshow didn't peak until the release of their 1995 signature piece, Lip Read Confusion, but this 7" served as a reasonably enticing appetizer, featuring an early incarnation of "Rust."  Legendary Dischord Records luminaries Rites of Spring and Hoover were a pervasive influence on Sideshow, as both cuts here are saturated with the same constructive catharsis that the aforementioned made their calling cards.  I'm also hearing a little Garden Variety too, coincidental as the case may be.

A. Rust
B. Face Foot Ladder


Singles Going Single #162 - Sidecar - Swingset 7" (1995, What Else)

It takes all kinds of music to make it onto the rarefied pages of Wilfully Obscure, including the scrappy pop-punk of Ohio's Sidecar.  An intermittently active quartet from Mentor, Ohio, Sidecar dole out these four numbers at a dizzying hardcore pace, but do so without riding roughshod over some spirited harmonies.  Yeah, there's an amateurish bent to this 45, but since this was apparently the first time they committed their songs to vinyl we can surely forgive them.  Great fun though.  Two albums followed the Swingset 7," namely Three Wheel Heroes in '96, and All Those Opposed just prior to the turn of the millennium.  If you enjoyed the priceless Self album I shared last year, this is most certainly for you, not to mention '90s indie punk connoisseurs in general.

01. Sanity
02. Allright
03. Lame
04. Can't Stop


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

J Church - Whorehouse: Songs and Stories (1996, Damaged Goods)

Upon playing just about any given J Church record or CD, it doesn't take long (say, 15 seconds) to remind myself of how remarkably substantive and engaging Lance Hahn and his invariably rotating cast of band-mates were in their prime.  With a sonic aesthetic slightly surpassing lo-fi, heart-on-sleeve lyrical moxie, and plenty of tuneful persuasion, J Church prolifically slugged it out for the better part of two decades on a cornucopia of independent labels before Hahn passed away at the age of 40 in 2007.  Showcasing some of J Church's most concise and visceral moments, Whorehouse... functions more like a compilation than a proper album (see the notes below for the full skinny), but even so, is conveyed with such staggering intelligence and wit that it puts the majority of their '90s punk/hardcore contemporaries to absolute shame. "New Year," "Simple Gesture," and "Accentuated Nothing" are not merely quintessential J Church songs, but the work of a singular, and in my opinion, indispensable talent.  What follows are some notes culled from the discography portion of J Church's website regarding some of the songs contained within:

This was a 'clear out the studio' collection - old songs from all sorts of places gathered together on one album. Three tracks - Guitar Center, Nothing Worth Knowing and The Overwhelming Smell - had already appeared on various compilations. Simple Gesture was also released in the same year on the 'proper' album The Drama Of Alienation, with a slightly different title, but it sounds exactly the same recording so it's confusing as to why it's on both. Asshole is a Beck song, from his K album, and was released as a single a year or two before, while Lance was playing guitar for him on tour. However, the album version is possibly an alternate (new?) take.

Wade plays drums on Guitar Center (unless it's a re-recording) and Reed is on all the other songs. The album title was 'borrowed' and adapted from Hüsker Dü.

01. New Year
02. Simple Gesture
03. San Francisco Thespians Part 2
04. Over Compensation
05. Best Served Cold
06. Thirty Second Song
07. Guitar Center
08. Asshole
09. Nothing Worth Knowing
10. Accentuated Nothing
11. The Overwhelming Smell
12. My Lie


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Bongos - demos (1985-ish)

I received this curious collection of unreleased Bongos recordings on a BitTorrent platform last year, and even though the archiver who posted them claim they originate from 1981 (right around the time the band was tracking all those scrumptious singles and so forth that would later comprise the Drums Along the Hudson album), I think otherwise.  In fact the first ten cuts here even include a song that would wind up as the title track to their 1983 Numbers With Wings ep.  Furthermore, this trio of Hoboken, NJ pop-meisters were working on an album in the mid-80s that would ultimately be abandoned, the working title of which was Phantom Train.  Curiously enough there's a song amidst these demos with the same title, leading me to believe that at least some of these tracks comprise said abandoned album. 

Perhaps the only thing certain about these songs is that they come from multiple recording sessions, with the noticeable fluctuations in audio quality being a dead giveaway.  Most of these demos are considerably more polished, and I hasten to add commercially ambitious, than the quirkier panache of all those early indie sides like "In the Congo," "Hunting," and "The Bulrushes."  The original curator of this collection did indicate that the last two selections "Once in a Blue Moon" and "My Wildest Dream" actually originate from a WNEW FM broadcast, but could pass for demos from these same sessions.  Hmmm.  Wonder if anyone out there can I shed a light on these rather catchy nuggets.  In the meantime, for those of you who aren't terribly familiar with the Richard Barone-helmed Bongos, you would do well to boogie on over to Wiki and a post over at Lost Bands... blog, and while you're at it, grab the reissue of the damn near-seminal Drums Along the Hudson as well.  

01. Run to the Wild
02. One Bold Stroke
03. Tangled in Your Web
04. Town of One
05. River to River
06. Phantom Train
07. Sunshine Superman
08. Number With Wings
09. Barbarella
10. Not So Sure
11. Once in a Blue Moon*
12. My Wildest Dream*

* from WNEW radio broadcast

I'm not 100% on this, but I think these recordings were released as Phantom Train in 2013.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Smart Opera - Beauty on the Interstate (1985, Cycle)

Another mystery band, this time hailing from the dusty sands and hills of lovely Palm Desert, CA. Smart Opera were relatively straight-up AOR with mild power pop leanings, and some occasionally "edgy" maneuvers, thanks to an undercurrent of synths.  Some pensive lyrics and a modicum of tension doesn't hurt either, as evidenced on "Burn the Ice."  Nothing particularly revelatory here, but I think you'll enjoy the bulk of Beauty on the Interstate nonetheless.  Sorry for those rather pronounced pops on "Marionette." If any of ya'll have the goods on these guys, comment away.

01. Beauty on the Interstate
02. When She Lets Go
03. If Life Was a Dream
04. When I Sleep
05. Marionette
06. Come Into My Life
07. Burn the Ice
08. I'll Come Knockin'
09. Tomorrow or Today
10. With the Night as My Bride


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Flying Saucers - Startime ep (1993, Unclean) & s/t ep (1995, Propeller)

I'm sure that many outfits past, and perhaps even present, have usurped the rather ubiquitous term Flying Saucers for their moniker, so if these recordings were made by a different Flying Saucers than you had anticipated, I'm afraid all I have to offer are my utmost apologies...and some enjoyable music to boot.  It's safe to say that these Saucers did not emanate from a different galaxy, rather Austin, TX - at least that's a safe assumption based on the label addresses for both disks. 

On Startime (the one with the Prozac on the sleeve) the quartet delivers lean, polished pop, with some fuzzy guitar effects to keep things interesting.  Sharing a similar airspace with contemporaries the Belltower, School of Fish, and to a lesser extent Fudge, the Saucers exude no shortage of winsome hooks, even if their execution isn't particularly innovative.

Things got a little more adventurous on their 1995 self-titled ep, due in part to more robust arrangements and a reshuffled lineup.  They may have dropped a few dream-pop hints on Startime, but take those inclinations to a loftier atmosphere on "Winning Wash" and "Starball Contribution," where the flange enjoys a little bit of a workout.  Song for song, the first ep beats this one, but both are worth investigating.

Startime ep
01. Wait & See
02. Amphetamine
03. Insensitive
04. Melt

The Flying Saucers ep
01. Fitting (Come in For a)
02. Starball Contribution
03. Egg
04. Winning Wash
05. One More Try

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heliotroupe - Anything Under the Sun (1987, X-Factor)

I don't have much of a back story to offer on Olympia, WA's Heliotroupe.  Sorta bought this one on a whim based on the paisley-esque sleeve art.   Too short to warrant classification as an album, but lengthier than a typical ep, Anything Under the Sun beams with bright, if a bit non-descript collegiate rock with varying degrees of sophistication.  Amidst it's eight selections we're treated to the fairly commendable trifecta of "Won't Walk Away," "Live Today," and "Round 'n' Round."  One might guess Don Dixon or Mitch Easter had enshrined their fingerprints on the aforementioned, but neither had any part of Heliotroupe's foray into the vinyl world.  From what few details I'm able to glean, this disk may very likely have been self-released.

01. Color in the Dark
02. Won't Walk Away
03. Live Today
04. Time and Changes
05. The Other Side
06. Blue Moon
07. Round 'n' Round
08. Lexicon


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Archers of Loaf - live reunion! 1/15/11, Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC

Strike up the band, turn off the random, calling out the A & R...

The indie rock gods must have been smiling a wide-eyed, toothy grin on the evening of January 15th, when Chapel Hill, NC's self-appointed White Trash Heroes, Archers of Loaf took to the stage at the Cat's Cradle to play a surprise reunion gigVideos of the completely unannounced (at least from what I understand) show have been floating around on YouTube and a myriad of blogs, etc, but little do most folks know the entire set was also captured to audio by a thoughtful attendee (ok, so maybe that taper had an inkling of what was about to ensue, but who knows).  All those details aside, Eric Bachmann and Co. (who were actually opening for locals The Love Language) plowed through a twelve-song, dream setlist, leaving unsuspecting fans with well more than their moneys worth.  It was their first performance in thirteen years, and from what my ears could tell, it was as if the George W. Bush presidential candidacy hadn't even been imagined yet, let alone fully realized (too bad it didn't stay that way, but I digress).  Truly bitchin'.  Dare I suggest that lighting might strike twice at SXSW next month?

Here's the whole shebang, and if there's enough interest, I can even share this in glorious, lossless FLAC without much inconvenience. 

01. Audiowhore
02. Harnessed In Slums
03. Revenge
04. Nostalgia
05. Lowest Part Is Free!
06. Freezing Point
07. Greatest Of All Time
08. You And Me
09. Might
10. Web In Front
11. Wrong
12. Slow Worm


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Timco - Friction Tape (1994, Basura!/Priority)

If you already have some familiarity with Timco frontman Kevin Thomson's previous endeavor, that being New York, late '80s noise-mongers Nice Strong Arm, it's to your advantage before delving into Friction Tape, but not particularly essential either.  Adhering to a relatively lucid modus operandi, Timco eschew much of NSA's wailing maelstroms, instead reveling in emotive, and sometimes highly dynamic downer rock, conveyed with splendid indie panache.  Friction Tape is a quieter and more contemplative catharsis if you will, that sonically resembles contemporaries Versus.  Might I also add that Timco inadvertently predated the often tense and conflicted lyrical yearnings of The National, though in a more secluded context.  The trio followed up Friction Tape with the lengthier but less textured Gentlemen Jim in '96.  Timco also had some 7" material that shall be the subject of a future post.  In the meantime you can check out a great Nice Strong Arm platter, Stress City, right here.

01. My Dead Friends
02. A Pill
03. Love Locked
04. July
05. Franny
06. Bastard
07. Walking Papers
08. Screw You


Friday, February 4, 2011

Singles Going Single #161 - Tsunami "Poodle" 7" (1997, Simple Machines)

Thought I'd take a moment to fulfill a request.  Although I listened to Tsunami's first two albums, Deep End and The Heart's Tremolo rather incessantly during my college years in the mid-90s, I gave short shift to their 1997 parting shot, Brilliant Mistake, if anything else due to it's lack of immediacy.  After giving this 7" an overdue spin this week, I'm encouraged to reevaluate that record.  While the a-side "Poodle" was culled from the album (and one of it's stronger numbers from what I recall), the flip, "Old City" is exclusive to this wax, and fortunately bears the staying power and resiliency of just about any of their earlier offerings.  For the uninitiated, you can learn more about the co-ed Arlington, VA quartet at Old Fart at Play blog, which includes a thorough discography.  Their back catalog is still available through Dischord, and likely through the usual array of digital retailers. BTW, does anyone have the Cow Arcade tape?

A. Poodle
B. Old City


Singles Going Single #160 - Sunday Puncher 7" (1997, Turnbuckle)

Sunday Puncher were a none-too-celebrated New York by way of Connecticut indie combo who's crooked chords and choppy arrangements put them squarely in league with Polvo and the like, though on this particular 45 Mission of Burma can also be singled out as a notable inspiration.  At the time, S/P garnered a few Bailter Space comparisons, which was convenient considering they were also part of the Turnbuckle Records stable.  Nonetheless the two barely resembled one another.  Ultimately, I'd argue that Sunday Puncher upped the dissonance ante too much for their own good, thus stifling much of their potential charisma.  If this wax does it for you, be content in the knowledge that while they've long since parted S/P are survived by two albums, The Livid Eye in 1997, and For Your Ever Changing World a year later, both available cheap on Amazon, and digitally over on Emusic.  For a quick recap on their career, may I direct you to this brief bio.

a. do-over
b. jury duty


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Monsterland - Smile tape (1990)

As one music critic cited, Monsterland were a love at first listen proposition.  Too bad so few had their ears perked when Danbury, CT's finest took their big collective dive with the woefully overlooked Destroy What You Love album, which all but sank without a trace in 1993, save for college radio.  A lot of young hopefuls during Monsterland's era (specifically the early '90s) were serving up a similar scalding cocktail of crunchy, feedback-ridden guitar squalls with a keen melodic awareness, but not many brought it together quite as powerfully as they did. That album, a pair of just-as-convincing eps, and a clutch of singles bearing such classic sides as "Peanut Butter Karma," largely flesh out Monsterlands recorded legacy (outlined in thorough detail on this superb fanpage), but one piece of the puzzle that even many completists I'm sure are lacking is this rather scarce, cassette-only release.  As the testimonial goes on the aforementioned Monsterland site, pretty much the only place to obtain this sweet miniature reel-to-reel was through Trash American Style (aka TPOS) in Danbury, a store that was featured front and center in the 2010 record store die-off documentary, I Need That Record!, but per usual, I digress.  In any event, I was in luck, because Trash was kind enough to offer mailorder. 

By no means the centerpiece of Monsterland's catalog (which, yes, I celebrate in it's entirety), Smile gives us a sneak peak into the trio's latent potential, that would blossom into some true moments of genius not far in the offing.  And when I say trio, I'm speaking in terms of the none-too-dissimilar Husker Du and Dino Jr.  Smile boasts a roughhewn, lo-fi aesthetic that frequently recalls Superdrag's early, indie attempts, such as The Fabulous 8-Track Sound of...  I should note that the tape featured an array of in-between song samples of corny TV and movie dialogues.  I decided to cut them out as they served no relevance to the music, nor would it have made my editing job any simpler.  In short, if you've already heard Smile, that's why they're absent from my rip, and if you haven't, trust me when I say you aren't missing a damn thing.  Incidentally, the write up on that Monsterland fanpage I mentioned indicates that Smile was apparently recorded at the wrong speed, and therein I suppose lies much of the magic.

01. Get Out of My Head
02. Crash
03. She Has a Gun
04. Hole
05. Twice at the End
06. I'm Telling You
07. jam
08. Schizophrenic