Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gnome - Fiberglass (1993, C/Z)

I recently had a request for this, and given the group in question I'm happy to oblige.  Of all the unsung Seattle bands that managed to protrude ever so slightly out of the Pacific Northwest spotlight in the early '90s, Gnome remain one of the nearest and dearest to my heart.  C/Z Records was their humble home for this album, and their 1992 debut Six-Hi Surprise Tower, but despite decent national distribution they were lost on the public in general.  Go figure - it's not as if there was anything else going on in Seattle to distract folks at the time.  That record was a slow grower, but over the years (and frankly decades) I came to revere the modest, roughhewn charm of Six-Hi...but Fiberglass was a quantum leap in Gnome's development, in which the quartet brought plump, Nirvana sized hooks to the table, not to mention a far bolder sonic aptitude.  In short, Fiberglass is either a colossally heavy power pop album or a wimpy stab at grunge.  The album proved to be their coda, but they capped it off with one of the most compelling songs of their brief tenure, "Hey Phoobie." Any Gnome fan worth their salt knows that mouthpiece Loren Evans possessed one of the most unique timbres in indie rock, but from what I can glean online it appears he's retired from the rock and roll rigmarole.  For shame, because Gnome were onto something special.  BTW, Loren cut his teeth in another little known Seattle outfit called The Treeclimbers, whose music (well, a couple songs anyway) can be heard here.

01. Pictures
02. F
03. Superstar
04. Seed Pod
05. Crush
06. Popcorn
07. Premium Blend
08. DDA
09. Scoot
10. Hey Phoobie


Monday, May 30, 2011

Singles Going Single #174 - Engine (88) 7" (1994, No Life)

San Fran's Engine 88 were initially known simply as Engine before they scored a deal with Caroline Records in the mid-90s.  Under the truncated version of their moniker came this 45 on L.A.'s short lived indie imprint No Life Records.  The A-side "20," is loud, proud, and sinewy indie rawk, subscribing to the nosier sonic attributes of Superchunk.  The flip, "She Breaks a Bottle" would be rechristened "Bottle" for Engine 88's debut LP, Clean Your Room.  Leadman Tom Barnes' sung/spoken technique (be it deliberate or not) is somewhat akin to Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and Lifter/Puller.  Merely a casual observation on my part.

A. 20
B. She Breaks a Bottle


Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Posies - Broadcasts, Vol. 6

Six down, one to go, and I can definitely say I'm feeling more enthusiastic about this installment than Vol. 5 from a few weeks ago.  Things kick off with a Black Sessions performance in March of 1994, in support of the Frosting on the Beater platter.  Audio recording is analog sourced, and a bit dodgy at that, but the song selection is par excellence, with some vintage covers included at the end.  The remaining four tracks are culled from a 1996 appearance on CBC Radio in Vancouver, where the Posies happened to be sharing the studio with Thom Yorke (Radiohead, duh).  There's an impromptu run through Oasis' "Wonderwall." and Yorke contributes guest vocals on "Blow Out." Yoy can read the folder notes for the skinny on this rather unique set.  

Black Session, Paris, March 1, 1994

01. Definite Door
02. When Mute Tongues Can Speak
03. I Am the Cosmos
04. Love Letter Boxes
05. Flavor of the Month
06. Earlier Than Expected
07. Solar Sister
08. Dream All Day
09. Any Other Way
10. Burn and Shine
11. How She Lied By Living
12. Coming Right Along
13. Lights Out
14. Wiggly World (Devo cover)
15. Song of the Baker (Small Faces cover)
16. Black Night (Deep Purple cover)

CBC Radio, Vancouver 1996

17. Wonderwall
18. Blow Out
19. Ontario
20. Throwaway


Friday, May 27, 2011

Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip (2011, Sonic Unyon) - a brief evaluation

The genre of choice for this Austin outfit has been termed everything from, shoegazer to dream pop, to the cryptically nonsensical slab of nomenclature "The scene that celebrates itself."  Frankly, that so-called scene has valid reason to rejoice over the first domestically released full length from Ringo Deathstarr (actually broken out as Ringo Death Starr on the CD case).  For all their My Bloody Valentine indebted derivativeness (borrowing from Isn't Anything almost as much as Loveless) Ringo Deathstarr put a dazzling twenty-first century spin on Colour Trip, sparing listeners no sonic expense as they sublimely ratchet up a bevy of deliriously sophisticated arrangements.  As much as they employ their requisite pedal effects and disorienting tremolo, this Central Texas triple threat are through-and-through Anglophiles at heart.  The bouncy stride of "So High" smacks distinctly of The Primitives, while the dueling fuzz-fests, "Tambourine Girl" and "You Don't Listen" are the unmistakable byproducts of an acute Jesus and Mary Chain fixation.  Some considerably more obscure touchstones, namely the Nightblooms and Medicine appear to inform the proceedings of this blissed-out half hour of power, but for anyone who can't get their fill of more recent buzz bin entries like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Daysleepers, Colour Trip strikes all the right distortion-ridden chords.  Ringo Deathstarr have done their homework and are putting in for extra credit big time.  There are some astonishingly grand moments here.  Colour Trip is available from Amazon and Sonic Unyon.

Farewell Continental - ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers! (2011, Paper + Plastick) - a brief evaluation

For someone like myself who can attest to being a tremendous fan of Motion City Soundtrack (their first three albums all made it into the top 50 of my '00s album chart) I almost missed the boat on frontman Justin Pierre's new-ish side-project, Farewell Continental.  Maybe it's all the time I spent updating this damn blog that allowed me to get distracted from the fact that F/C issued their first ep a full two years ago, and put out a lengthier and doubly rewarding second ep in December of last year.  Furthermore, were it not for a link on a Myspace page, I just might have missed out on seeing this Minneapolis quintet live in the flesh at a skatepark just up the street from me last week.  All personal concerns aside, Farewell Continental who feature Justin on co-lead vox/guitars, and newcomer Kari Gray on co-lead windpipes and keys are quite a find, and just as substantial an entity as MCS. 

This is going to strike most of you as a pretty esoteric analogy, but Farewell Continental are to Motion City Soundtrack what Joey Cape's Bad Astronaut project is to his more renown band, Lagwagon.  For Justin Pierre, F/C functions as a parallel outlet to his much more solvent meal-ticket (MCS), incorporating a warmer and sonically textured ethos strewn across a relatively familiar canvas.  Am I making sense to anybody?  Here's hoping I am.  Case in point would be the melody-endowed vocals, who Pierre and Gray trade virtually anywhere the needle drops on ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers!  The transitions not only dovetail seamlessly, they're downright logical given the consoling, 'I've-got-your-back' tenor of "The Greatest of All Time (How You Feelin' Now?)" and "Capybara."  For those familiar with Justin's often barbed and acerbic pen, this will come as quite an innovation, but if I'm suggesting that our man has gone soft on Pioneers!, Pierre unfurls his trademarked, unhinged tendencies on "Mad Operator" and "Who's the Boss?"

Despite the absence of wonky, hyper-drive synths that have gone such a long way in filling out Motion City Soundtrack's signature sound, that fallback isn't necessary for Farewell Continental, who are succeeding (at least artistically) purely on their own merits.  The hidden charm of ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers! is that you need not have an appreciation or familiarity of the antecedent band I've mentioned ad nauseum in this critique to enjoy it.  BTW, I've read of Superchunk and Get Up Kids comparisons to F/C, but I'm not buying in.  Buy ¡Hey, Hey Pioneers! directly from Paper + Plastic, or from your digital vendor of choice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Singles Going Single #173 - Araby 7" ep (1994, Red Dawg)

If this Clayton, CA crew didn't have at least a couple Dischord Records titles within arms reach then I don't know what to tell ya.  As was the case with likeminded Cali predecessors Fuel, Araby retooled some of that Embrace/Rites of Spring logic and let it gestate under the hard boiled West Coast sun.  The result is three slices of competant and satisfactory, if not terribly exceptional post-hardcore punk with some well worn influences.  Pump those emo fists in the air and rock out to Araby.

A1. Bled Dry
A2. To Blame Myself
B. The Angry Moon


Singles Going Single #172 - Ff "Ending Song" 7" (1994, Redd)

This is a quick follow-up to my entry last night for Ff's Lady Shoe album.  From what I'm able to gather online, this single was apparently released in 1994, though there's nothing to confirm that on the sleeve or the record label itself.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "Ending Song" beats anything on that album, incorporating an extra heaping dollop of melody, reminiscent of say, Overwhelming Colorfast.  Always a splendid thing.  The musuclar flip, "Diseased" isn't as immediate, but things turn around for the better by the two and a half minute mark.  Dense and punchy power punk in the mold of Bullet LaVolta.  And to think, the closest thing we currently have to these bands is Fucked Up, but I digress.

A. Ending Song
B. Diseased


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ff - Lady Shoe (1995, Double Deuce)

Still trying to figure out why the Ffuck someone would dub their band Ff, but it happened and there ain't a goddamn thing any of us can do about it (though I suppose you could scroll down to the next entry, but in all seriousness, this is worth your time).  Brooklyn, NY is the place Ff called home, and something tells me they failed to garner adequate attention even on their home turf, which is a shame considering they had the chops to corner the power-punk market of their day.  I really commend them for successfully dodging either extremes of the "pop" and "aggro" spectrum of their genre of choice, though this album's decidedly dainty title belies it's rather vigorous paces.  The blistering opening salvo, "Horse Head" recalls the grunge-punk rawk of Lawrence, KS natives Paw (remember them?), but shades of New Day Rising-era Husker Du crop up on much of the remainder of Lady Shoe.  Ff were heavy hitters indeed, but not without some tuneful saving graces.  BTW, the track listing on the tray card omits "songs" 13-16, and justifiably so one could argue, as they amount to fragmentary afterthoughts that deviate entirely from the meat and potatoes of the rest of the album.  One Base on an Overthrow had a few words to expel on Lady Shoe a few years ago, albeit the song links have expired.

01. Horse Head
02. Please
03. Killing Me
04. New Song
05. Fog Head
06. Endless Confusion
07. Coattails
08. No Explanation
09. Disconsolate
10. Lost Hope
11. Brain
12. Today (Make Up Your Mind)
13. Plan B
14. Shirk Circus
15. Suck
16. Jerry


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mystery Girls (pre-Junk Monkeys) - Bagged ep (1986, SOS)

I've dedicated no small amout of space to the Junk Monkeys on this blog, a Detroit-area powerhouse that took my eardrums by storm in 1991 with their third album, Five Star Fling.  A fourth and final record, Bliss, would follow a couple years later, but splitsville was on the horizon.  After the divorce, there would be no more going forward for the Junk Monkeys, so my only option for getting my junk fix on was to explore their back catalog, primarily consisting of two indie LPs, Firehouse and Kick Out the Jelly.  That excavation took place in the mid-90s, but a friend would soon enlighten me of a rather elusive missing piece of the "Monkey Puzzle," so to speak.  It turns out that the Monkey's originally began life as the Mystery Girls, and they recorded a seven-song ep, Bagged, under that moniker.  Problem was, it was more of a challenge locating a copy of it than finding Firehouse and Jelly, yet persistence paid off and my friend shelled out $40 or so for one making the rounds on Ebay.  While I've had MP3s of Bagged for what seems like eons at this point, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finally scored my own copy, and I'm sharing the brown paper bagged record in all it's illustrious glory.

Ostensibly, the Monkeys hadn't gotten their mitts on any Replacements albums prior to committing this to tape.  The Mystery Girls lineup was identical to the Junk Monkeys, yet a different aesthetic prevails here, one seeped in glammy bar rock with punk and blues inflections.  Bagged is a solid and invigorating set of searing rock and roll, but isn't quite as essential as any piece of the Monkey's canon.  It's still an intriguing artifact, not to mention quite a treat if you're a fan.  BTW, tracks 5 through 7 are live.

01. Smack Me
02. You've Got It All Wrong
03. Run My Life
04. Shakedown
05. I Can't Compete
06. Last Train Home
07. L.P.C. Blues


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Singles Going Single #171 - Reaction Formation 7" (1986, GO2)

Wow.  Now this is pretty damn excellent, ain't it?  Champaign, IL's Reaction Formation served up the same jangly strain of power pop anthologized on so many of those crucial Teenline compilation disks.  If the vaguely lamentable "Galesburg Bound" strikes you as a bit precious, that's probably because it is, but I say as such in the most flattering way possible.  Dare I say this is what Modern English could've come up with had they resided on my side of the pond (than again, Modern English weren't too big on saxophones, were they)?  Just short of classic. The sprite "Breakway" churns along at a more vivacious pace, yielding another slice of pop bliss.  Records like this are the cornerstone of my Singles Going Singles series.  You can check out some more invaluable text on Reaction Formation over at Go Johnny Go.

A. Galesburg Bound
B. Break Away


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Various - This Ain't the Plimsouls (It's Just a Matter of Time) (1991, Zero Hour)

Due to time constraints this isn't going to be a terribly elaborate write-up, but given that it's a tribute album, I suppose things are kind of self explanatory to begin with.  The 21-song This Ain't the Plimsouls pays homage to the band in question, and although I can't say it's uniformly excellent, the good news is that your favorite Plimsouls song is almost certain to be adapted here (most likely by a group you've never heard of).  Zero Hour Records was/is based in Australia, and as such there are plenty of Oz participants making an appearance here, but there's plenty of Yankee blood to be relished as well, including a couple of my personal faves, Head Candy and the Dangtrippers.  Many tracks are interspersed with clips from a Plimsouls radio interview, wherein the Peter Case and Co. were in a particularly wise-ass mood.

Australia's co-ed Fear of Falling were bestowed the honor of giving the Plim's signature song, "A Million Miles Away" a fresh coat of paint.  Not to knock them, but I know of another rendition of that song that I find to be far more satisfactory, and I've included it as a bonus (which I've opted not to list below).  Hope ya like.

01-Chopper - Hush Hush
02-The Wishniaks - Now
03-The Mandrakes - Everywhere At Once
04-The Sick Rose - Shakey City
05-Fear Of Falling - A Million Miles Away
06-Los Valendas - I Want What You Got
07-The Diehards - In This Town
08-The Chevelles - Zero Hour
09-The Crusaders - Magic Touch
10-The Slaters - Oldest Story In The World
11-The 27 Various - Great Big World
12-Head Candy - Lost Time
13-The Dangtrippers - Inch By Inch
14-The Pyramidiacs - Everyday Things
15-Lonely Hearts - Play The Breaks
16-The Barbarellas - How Long Will It Take
17-The Plunderers - I'll Get Lucky
18-Slep & The Redhouse - Hypnotized
19-The Clockwatchers - Nickles And Dimes
20-The Kryptonics - I Want You Back
21-The Droogs - Hobo
22-interview snippit


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Lotions - s/t ep (1981, Stork)

It's hard to believe this record is 30 friggin years old, but the real irony is that a band from deep in the heart of Texas (Austin) had such a pronounced ska/bossa nova-lite bent to them.  That's The Lotions for you, who were helmed by one Alan Monsarrat, who continues to perform in a present day country/roots rock/reggae conglomerate, Stop the Truck.  A cover of the Seeds Nuggets-era classic, "Pushin' Too Hard" is an unlikely one for the Rasta-steeped Lotions, yet little is lost in the translation.  The three originals that round out this ep (with the naggingly catchy "Just Like a King" being the cream of the crop) strike me as a bit pedestrian. Then again, this could have been relatively innovative in it's day. 

01. Pushin' Too Hard
02. Groovin' Song
03. Get Up (Don't Get Down)
04. Just Like a King


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Catching up with Slumberland Records: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Gold-Bears, and Terry Malts

Chances are I don't need to extol on the virtues of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's sophomore long-player, Belong, what with the album crash-landing in the Billboard Top-100 album chart, an imminent international headlining tour, top billing at SXSW, and coveted slots at this years Coachella and upcoming Lollapalooza festivals.  What next?  Is the crew of Behind the Music chasing the Pains tour van yet?  Well, no, I'm not quite confident on that front, but all matters of success aside, Brooklyn's boys (and girl) done good have developed significantly from that initial volley of singles, and '09s eponymous debut.  Distancing themselves from the clamorous jangle that made those records as visceral and engaging as they were, POBPAH are actually bringing a bigger noise to the Flood-produced Belong, fleshing out every nook and cranny with huge swells of keyboards, and moreover demonstrating a quantum leap in terms of sonic aptitude.  If it's sensuous melodies you're seeking, the hooks don't come quite more saccharine than "Heart In Your Heartbreak" and "Beyond," both of which have been culled as singles.  Despite Beyond's robust modus operandi, Kip Berman and Co's arrangements have never glistened as lucidly as they do here.

Onto Gold-Bears, who've surfaced from Atlanta, GA, but you're more likely to guess Leeds, England given this group's frequent propensity to immerse themselves in the brisk, clangy post-punk of the Wedding Present circa Seamonsters.  The most prominent asset in Gold's lineup is Jeremy Underwood, ex-magistrate of the Plastic Mastery, who's vocal timbre can mimic the Weddos David Gedge to surprising effect.  Although Gold-Bears have more diversity than one prime influence    
to offer, Are You Falling In Love? to a certain extent flows like the Wedding Present's career, beginning with a vibrant, propulsive takeoff on "Record Store" and "All Those Years," while coming in for a quiet landing with the significantly more hushed "Yeah, Tonight."  The harmonies are a plus, and a little more development will surely yield a more indigenous sound, but for now ...Falling In Love is a blast.

Terry Malts I'm Neurotic 7" ep delivers three fuzzy and buzzy distorto-rawk numbers that fall into the realm of Jesus and Mary Chain, Wavves, and the Cloud Nothings. The dizzying "Where is the Weekend?" can vouch for the most punk points, so to speak, but Malts melodic prowess reaches it's zenith on the title track featuring a decent quotient of oohs and ahhs.  I'm ready for seconds and thirds. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Customers - Green Bottle Thursday (1996, Vapor)

Perhaps had The Customers released Green Bottle Thursday a few years deeper into the advent of the World Wide Web, I might have more to offer on them, but I'm afraid the music alone will have to suffice, search engines be damned.  So as far as I can tell this quartet called Los Angeles home, but they didn't bare much Southern Cali chic, as it were, which was perfectly fine with me.  In "Shipwreck" they proclaim to have "no time for the Rolling Stones," yet leadman Ryan Sexton and axe-wrangler Sloke possess a smoldering swagger not terribly removed from Keith Richards.  Actually the Stones-y maneuvers laid out by Bash and Pop (Tommy Stinson's post Replacements meal ticket) a couple years earlier would be a better approximation of what the Customers were approaching.  I'm also picking up glimmers of Dillon Fence herewhich is more likely than not a pure coincidence.  Green Bottle... is probably the most straight-up rock and roll album I've presented in awhile, but I like it, like it...

01. All Your Money
02. Drinkin' Again
03. Change of Heart
04. Bleed
05. Bastard Before Me
06. Lost Alibi
07. Warned About You
08. Hero in '42
09. Shipwreck
10. Tonight
11. Woman With a Heart of Stone


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chopper - 4Play ep (1989, CCC/Animal Five)

I don't think I realized it at the time when I purchased this ep from Lost Weekend Records in Columbus, but vocalist and guitarist "Stevo" listed on the back cover was actually Steven Deal, who also served as frontman for Bleached Black. I've delved into their discogrpahy twice before on these pages, including quite recently.  Stevo's next act, Chopper followed quickly on the heals of B/B debuting with the 4Play ep in 1989, a zippy set of riveting, three-chord power pop, boasting a pair of perfect-tens in the guise of "Caitlin Cries" and "Bloodspill."  All four songs would later appear on Chopper's self-titled debut, which initially saw the light of day on Zero Hour Records, and later on Big Deal Records.  Two more Chopper disks would surface on Big Deal, Slogans and Jingles in '93, and Madhouse on Castle Street in '95, the latter of which I don't ever recall seeing.  They also pulled off covering the Nerves legendary ep in it's entirety.  That's what I call, ummm... nervy.

Update 2/13:  Frontman Steve Deal passed away earlier this month, taken from us way too early.  Chopper self-titled debut has recently been reissued, upgraded, and is available for purchase here.

01. You're Tearing Me Up
02. Caitlin Cries
03. Bloodspill
04. Nice Girls (Don't Explode)


I-Rails - Panharmonium (1990, Primal)

This is a follow-up to my initial I-Rails 7" post from a couple months ago.   That record featured two superlative tracks, "Same Old Me" and "Everyone's in Love" that any band of their ilk would give a collective right arm for.  Well, today I'm offering six times that serving in the form of the I-Rails Panharmonium cassette album, the last in a series of four (Valentino Says, Unfocused and Nine Songs from Nowhere preceded it).  I made a point of mentioning that leadman Chris O'Conners would go onto commercial success in the mid-90s with the highly dissimilar Primitive Radio Gods, and moreover that the I-Rails were another barrel of fish entirely.  And what would that barrel entail you might ask?  If the likes of Dramarama, Gin Blossoms, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Superstar Carwash-era Goo Goo Dolls are at all enticing to you, chances are you've stumbled onto a gleaming nugget of gold here.  The aforementioned single, particularly the b-side "Everyone's in Love" packed more grit than many of these songs combined, but the  side of the coin, "Same Old Me" but "Disconnected" and "Behold" are pretty damn propulsive in their own right.  Why the I-Rails didn't skyrocket in the same manner PRG did is beyond, because everything was perfectly in place on Panharmonium.  If anyone has any leads on the other three I-Rails tapes, there are some more than willing ears in these parts.

01. Around the World
02. Disconnected
03. Lucifer, Paul & John
04. Willingness
05. Two Feet in Front of Me
06. The Light of the Sun
07. Real Time
08. Fallen
09. Behold
10. In the End
11. Where I Am/Courage
12. Anything in Space


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ups and Downs - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection (1986-91)

From my vantage point, the Ups and Downs weren't even close to being a household name in their native Australia, let alone the world at large, but it strikes me that just about anyone that encounters their music develops an almost immediate affinity with these unsung, indie guitar-pop heroes from Brisbane.  The meat and potatoes of their discography consists of two proper albums, 1986' Sleepless, and Underneath the Watchful Eye arriving two years later, both of which you can listen to by clicking those oh so convenient hyperlinks.  On top of those long players were singles - and a healthy stack of them.  This entry doesn't encompass the Ups and Downs entire catalog of 45s, rather it's limited to the five that I personally own.  Presented in chronological order, they trace the band's evolution from edgy, post-punks with a penchant for ringing licks and vigorous delivery, to the distinctly leaner and more refined group that would craft the mellower but thoroughly sublime "Safer" by career's end.

For the most part, the A-sides made it to the albums, while the flips were far more inconsistent, ranging from the chilly "Painted Sad" that could pass for an early For Against outtake, to rank throwaways like "Househunting" and the backwards tape experiment "Traeh."  I hesitated to include the Up's final single "Untie Ian"/"Safer," as the same versions appear on the Rash ep , which I shared all the way back in 2007.  Both songs are pretty phenomenal though, so I suppose they belong with this singles collection as well.  By the way, the scan of the silver mylar sleeve for the "In the Shadows" 7" didn't translate very well with my scanner, as you'll no doubt see when you unzip everything.  Enjoy (or not).

01. The Perfect Crime
02. Neverending
03. The Living Kind
04. Painted Sad
05. In the Shadows
06. I Wonder
07. Treah
08. Lit By the Fuse
09. Househunting
10. Untie Ian
11. Safer (remix)

1 & 2 from The Perfect Crime 7" (Waterfront 1986)
3 & 4 from The Living Kind 7" (True Tone, 1986)
5-7 from In the Shadows 7" (What Goes On, 1986)
8 & 9 from Lit by the Fuse 7" (1988, Mushroom)
10 & 11 from Untie Ian 7" (Violation/BMG, 1991)


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Third Floor Strangers - Last Chance (1981, Trelaine)

Here you go, sharp as a tack power pop from the Queen City, Buffalo, NY.  If you discovered the Third Floor Strangers as woefully after the fact as I did, it was likely due to the inclusion of this album's title track (an instrumental no less) on the Teen Line Vol 3. (Hyped to Death) compilation.  While the liner notes point to similarities to Big Star (true that) it was evident that TFS were a product of their own era as well, lending Last Chance to listeners with an ear for contemporaries like Shoes and Fools Face.  "Don't Blame It All on Me" and "Lorraine" (the latter also released as a single) are model examples of the Strangers genre of choice, and even if Last Chance isn't a wall-to-wall goldmine it's still a beaut.

01. Last Chance
02. The Long Letter
03. Liar
04. Don't Blame It All on Me
05. Model
06. Angelina
07. You Said That to Me
08. Lorraine
09. Back to See You Again


Friday, May 6, 2011

Smug Brothers - Fortune Rumors (2011) - a brief evaluation

They're not smug (at least not conveying so on record) and as far as I can tell none of the five members are blood relatives, let alone siblings.  Dayton's Smug Brothers do however specialize in songs with an average span of a mere ninety seconds to two minutes, frequently bearing absurd but amusingly titled nuggets as "Superior Jitter Case" and "Westward Triangle Revival."  They also happen to have one Don Thrasher in their roster, former skin pounder for Guided By Voices who jumped ship just before Robert Pollard and Co. would hit pay dirt.  If you have a hunch as to where I'm going with all of this, not so fast.  Despite the staggering brevity of their compositions, not to mention the mid-fidelity aesthetic this quintet is seemingly tethered to, the Smug Brothers have a mind of their own.  Their most recent offering, the digital-only Fortune Rumors is no Bee Thousand, or for that matter Earthquake Glue, yet GBV and the Brothers stem from the same root, without the latter being too derivative of the former.  In fact, nothing particularly surreal or whimsical surfaces on ...Rumors (then again, nothing whimsical has imbued any of Pollard's more recent recorded ventures, but I digress).  The Smug Brothers antecedents could have just as logically been Spoon or Centro-matic...or how about no one in particular at all?  This is a band that's gradually charting their own inspired course, and like any soldier that marches to beat of their own drummer, they beg to be experienced firsthand.  Visit their Bandcamp page and make a donation to purchase Fortune Rumors NOW!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Marky and the Unexplained Stains - s/t (1989, Carlyle)

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one.  Marky and the Unexplained Stains came to light in 1989, though had this one arrived in 2009 it would still sound just as fresh.  This quartet, who's coordinates were somewhat unknown, at times deliver the kind of art-damaged cacophonies that would do the Swell Maps and Robyn Hitchcock proud, but elsewhere opt for more conventional tactics, momentarily touching on everyone from the Replacements to the Screaming Blue Messiahs, and even John Spencer.  Dissonant, garage-ridden post-punk was the name of their game, and the further you delve into this album the stranger and more idiosyncratic the proceedings get.  It's a wisp of a record too, clocking in at just under 26 minutes.  There's some grainy visual evidence on Marky and the Unexplained Stains floating around on YouTube which you may view at your leisure.

01. Junkie City
02. My Dear
03. Lift the Cup
04. UnsAlvageable
05. Pleasure Island
06. R.A.D. Revolution
07. Brainwash
08. SeeIng You
09. Dunce Cap
10. Keep That Shit Away


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Lemonheads - The Astoria, London 4/5/91

Now this is special.  In spite of being a relatively average audience recording (sub-par for many in fact, even by the standards of Lemonheads enthusiasts), there are few recorded documents from the Lovey-era floating around, but this one is right in the very thick of it!  I guess I should reveal that Lovey (The 'heads fourth album), was my introduction to the music, wit, and occasionally wisdom of Evan Dando and his ever-rotating cast of bandmates.  Lovey has even further sentimental value to me, as a cassette copy was the first album that ever entered the well of the tape deck in my first car, a lousy, invariably un-reliable Plymouth Reliant. passed down to me by my Mother when I was in high school.  To this day, upon purchasing replacement vehicles (always pre-owned I might add), or simply swapping out my cars audio system, Lovely is the first album to penetrate any virgin in-dash (alright, that analogy was a little too over the top, but nonetheless right on the money).   It's a Shame About Ray may have represented the Lemonheads creative watershed, but Lovey brandished a good bit of the punk bravado and crushing power chords that made their three platters for Taang! Records such a kick.  The best of many worlds, and so many utterly great songs made the roster - "Stove," "Ride With Me," "Left for Dead," all of which are represented in this set, along with many other deep album cuts that haven't been performed live in nearly two decades, nor have been personally witnessed by these eyes and ears.  I desperately wish I could have attended this gig!

Along with a killer set list (which I'll refer to again in a moment) the Lemonheads on this particular night sounded positively on fire, playing for an audience that was likely more grateful and stoked than any outside of the trio's homebase of Boston, not to mention patient enough to indulge Dando in a bevy of covers.  It's common knowledge to longtime Lemonhead's fans that Evan is a ravenous aficionado of both Big Star, and alt-country pioneer Gram Parsons. On this occasion our man whips out choice selections by both, ("Nightime" and "A Song For You" respectively) that from what I can tell from having heard a decent stash of Lemonheads shows, neither are common fare.  In addition to those, he breathes unique life into Patty Loveless' "Night's Too Long" and Linda Ronstadt's "Different Drum," the latter of which has cropped up on several better documented live recordings.

In summation, along with the recording quality being what it is, there are some genuine flaws here, namely some very annoying speed fluctuations on "A Song For You" and "Hate Your Friends," and the opening number, "Sad Girl" inexplicably being spliced into separate tracks.  I made no attempts at correcting these, but if you have the time and resources by all means work your magic. 

01/02. Sad Girl
03. Left For Dead
04. Come Back D.A.
05. Glad I Don't Know
06. Come Downstairs
07. A Circle of One
08. Year of the Cat
09. Paint
10. Half the Time
11. A Song For You
12. Hate Your Friends
13. Mallo Cup
14. Ballarat
15. Out
16. Ride With Me
17. Stove
18. Die Right Now
19. Nightime
20. Night's Too Long
21. Different Drum
22. Rabbit