Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Titanic Love Affair - Ice Cream Funeral tape (1988)

Now this is something special (sound familiar)?  In all sincerity this seven song demo from one of my favorite Midwest aggregation, Titanic Love Affair was a very sweet find, considering it predates their first album by a good three years AND offers six songs that never appeared on official releases. We're talking half an albums worth of TLA goodness that few fans knew existed, let alone heard, yours truly included.   The obliquely titled tape, Ice Cream Funeral, offers but one preview of their 1991 debut, "Only in the Past," and while it would have been great to experience early incarnations of say, "Planet Strange" or "Happy," I'm hardly complaining - especially considering that every tune on here is a keeper. 
Exceptional audio quality for a nearly 25 year old artifact I might add.

For many people, TLA are recognized not so much for their records, but for the fact that their lineup included the late Jay Bennett, who would eventually be a driving force in Wilco.  At the time of this recording, TLA were merely a trio - Jay on guitar and vocals, Ken Hartz on bass and mic, and drummer Mike Hazelrigg, who parted ways by the time the group signed to Charisma Records.  As you might expect, the material on Ice Cream Funeral is of a rawer persuasion than what their proper records would offer, but not by much.  And of those "proper" records, I'm hosting two of them - the No Charisma ep that surfaced in 1992, and their 1996 parting shot Their Titanic Majesties Request.  In closing I should mention that shortly before Bennett's passing it was rumored that an archival compilation of unreleased Titanic Love Affair recordings was being assembled, but my understanding is that those plans were shelved. 

01. Feels Bad
02. Only in the Past
03. Somehow
04. Maybe
05. Everything
06. Nothing
07. With Your Memories


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Facecrime (pre-TPOH!) - Sex and Revolution ep + 2 (1984, Dog Into Plasma)

Now this is something special.  It's common knowledge to The Pursuit of Happiness die hards that they weren't the first band Moe Burg fronted.  There were the Modern Minds who released a 1980 single (eventually reissued and bonus-ized considerably, which you can check out here) and a little later came Facecrime.  I bought their one and only ep on Ebay recently, however there was a slight snag.  The record was supposed to come with an insert, alas mine did not, which means I'm severely limited on band details.  As was the case with the Modern Minds, Moe and his Facecrime cohorts were indigenous to Edmonton, Alberta.  Geographic locales aside, the beauty of this record was that it was only three years apart from the first TPOH ep, 1987's I'm an Adult NowSex and Revolution was very much in the pop realm, and Facecrime were thoroughly logical precursors to TPOH, cementing the Rundgren-esque building blocks carefully into place, piece by piece.  "Cable TV," "She Will," and "Mystery to Me" are about as tell-tale as one could hopefully expect - the harmonies, alone are a dead giveaway as to what Moe Burg had in store for the masses a little bit in the offing.  I've augmented this mini treasure trove with two Facecrime songs that appeared on a 1983 Edmonton compilation, It Came From Innerspace, which can be had in it's entirety from Punkanada blog.   

01. Walking
02. Cable TV
03. She Will
04. Mystery to Me

plus: "Did I Hear You Right" & "I Know Some People" from It Came From Innerspace compilation.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Six of One Half Summers - This Years Version of These Chords (1999, Liberty Park)

This one has been kicking around in my collection long before I started Wilfully Obscure.  I remember appreciating This Years Version... at the time I obtained it, but was never quite over the moon about it.  My stance on this disk is essentially unchanged today.  A roughewn punk pop quartet who peppered their music with tinges of emo, Six of One Half Summers had gobs of potential, though they demonstrated it inconsistently.  "Tell Me What to Call This," "Look at That Left Coast," and "Five Hundred Dollars" exude the tuneful prowess of Superchunk and the strenuous thrust of Texas is the Reason.  Elsewhere, This Years Version... is occasionally appealing (if not tolerable), but had Six of One Half Summers stuck it out and honed their craft for a few more years, a quantum leap may have been in the cards. 

01-Look at That Left Coast
02-Everything's Not Fine
03-Tell Me What to Call This
04-Ninety Percent
06-Steps to Staying Home
07-The Second Half of Sacramento
08-Five Hundred Dollars
09-Passenger Side


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Milo - demo (1993)

Throughout the '90s, it seemed like every time I reached for the mailbox awaiting me would be an update of new music releases carried by Parasol Records, an indie label in Urbana, IL that also coupled as a distro for zillions of other labels.  On many of these mailings I would see a listing for the band Milo.  At the time I had no familiarity with them, so I was accustom to skimming over their name, but upon belatedly hearing this five song tape by nearly two decades, I regret not having investigated this Champaign trio.  Milo subscribed to a scraggly, indie guitar-punk ethos, recalling at times Titanic Love Affair, the Magnolias, Finger, Liquor Giants, and by virtue indirectly, the Replacements.  Nothing fancy, but effective, and judging how they poised themselves among this nascent batch of rollicking tunes they deserved way more attention than they were likely to have ever received...but we haven't heard that woeful rock and roll tale before, have we?

01. Empty 'em
02. King of the City
03. Ribbons and Bows
04. The Best Part
05. I Get Burned


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Iodine Raincoats - I Wonder ep (1988)

The Iodine Raincoats?  With a curious and imaginative moniker like that how could I possibly resist?  I was expecting something akin to early Primal Scream or Close Lobsters, but this Detroit outfit where hardly the C86 castaways I was anticipating.  I/R actually skewed firmly between the left and center of the dial, and would have slotted in well amidst the "edgier" contingent of the AOR neighborhood.  I Wonder isn't far removed from the work of their hometown contemporaries The Rhythm Corps, and to a lesser degree The Alarm (sans the anthemic bravado thankfully).  Four more I/R songs are available here.

01. I Wonder
02. Everyman
03. Hope of the Future
04. Yesterday's Dream


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Church - Sum of the Parts - Starfish interview LP w/ acoustic tracks (1988)

This one is pretty self-explanatory for a change.  Sum of the Parts was put to together by Arista Records in conjunction with The Church’s 1988 breakthrough album, Starfish, ostensibly for radio promotion.  Side one features individual interviews with all four band members, including the now elusive Richard Ploog who would depart the group after the Church’s follow-up to Starfish, Gold Afternoon Fix, released in 1990.  Commercially speaking, it was all downhill from here, but GFA proved to be the stronger of the two records.  While not terribly revealing, the boys are nonetheless candid with the two Gavin Report interviews assigned to the case.  Side two features three acoustic Starfish songs, including the forever played-to-death “Under the Milky Way,” which might as well be “Stairway to Heaven” or “Imagine” at this point if you ask my calloused eardrums.  I’m fairly certain these same takes also appeared on the double CD reissue of Starfish, but my rip is straight from the vinyl.  

01. intro/Steve Kilbey
02. Peter Koppes
03. Richard Ploog
04. Marty Willson-Piper/outro

05. Under the Milky Way
06. Antenna
07. Spark 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

cuppa joe - Tunnel Trees (2012, Dromedary) - a brief overview

A highly intermittent entity gestated in the early '90s, the New Jersey duo known as cuppa joe consisting of Doug Larkin and Steve Spatucci dropped a new album last week, their first since 1999.   Tunnel Trees is the title, and just so happened to be my introduction to this not-so-gruesome twosome, who commence this disk with the chiming post-punk inflected, "A Couple Whiles," which smacks of For Against circa their soothing and oft overlooked Shelf Life album.  Yeah, I know that comparison doesn't exactly shed much of a light on things for the bulk of you.  At any rate, I was hoping the remainder of Tunnel Trees would follow suit, but cuppa joe had an alternate brew on tap for this pair of ears. 

The nine numbers succeeding the aforementioned "A Couple Whiles" are comparatively homespun organic guitar pop, occasionally whimsical and brimming with a potpourri of variations of the well-worn genre.   There's a bit of a kiwi vibe infiltrating "Giving Up the Day" and "Some Might Call Us Happy," with both songs hinting at what Chris Knox/Tall Dwarfs were so blithely trying to convey a quarter century or so ago.  "In the Shade of Tunnel Trees" and "Blue Sky Moon" flaunt a more robust sonic palette, while another key album highlight, "Forty" is a brisk, minute and a half burst of campfire pop, packing an infectious harmony.  In short, even though I wasn't treated to the new For Against album I had initially anticipated, I got something just as rewarding, and you just might as well.  cuppa joe have a healthy discography under their belts, just about all of which can be streamed under the "music" header of their webpage.  You can obtain a hard copy of the album from Dromedary Records, as well as digital available from your vendor of choice.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Singles Going Single #199 - Indian Rope Burn "End of the Line" 7" (1991, GGE)

Shame for me for being so completely oblivious to Kent, OH's Indian Rope Burn when they were still roaming the land some twenty years ago.  This three-songer is my first, and thus far only encounter with IRB, who were a trio at the time of this release.  Slightly askew, but driving pop/rock, informed by gobs of college radio dispatches circa the late '80s.  The vocals are largely monotone, but then again so were Nico's and we loved her, right?  In addition to this wax there were three IRB cds, and from what little I was able to glean online, they took more of an industrial tack later in the career, but I can't say those inclinations crop up here.  Enjoy (or not). 

A. End of the LLine (XYZ)
B1. Mirrors
B2. Diedre


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Grip Weeds - See You Through 7" ep (1992, Ground Up)

Upon rediscovering power pop in the mid-90s, The Grip Weeds were a staple on my stereo, particularly their 1998 sophomore platter, The Sound Is In You, which I consider to be their utmost achievement.  Much had been made of the Weeds' psyche-pop proclivities, but unlike their Californian revivalist counterparts from a decade prior, this sublime New Jersey quartet was decked out in all things Merseybeat, not paisley.  If that notion is evident anywhere in their generally excellent catalog, you can bet it's front and center on these three beauties.  It's as if the British Invasion came back with a screaming vengeance on See You Through, which in all honesty derives just as much Ricken-kissed bliss from Roger McGuinn as across-the-pond pioneers the Hollies and Zombies.  When the band's first proper full length House of Vibes was reissued in 2007, this ep would have functioned as perfectly logical bonus track fodder, but a hodgepodge of demos and live material were favored instead.  Fear not, for I have the entire thing digitized for you below, taken straight from an original vinyl copy (though I've borrowed the sleeve scans from The Grip Weeds website).

A. Used to Play
B1. Gone From the Day
B2. Hard to Take


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Heartbeats - Pulsator (1981, Vertigo)

Given their moniker of choice, I figured The Heartbeats were a no-brainer to tie in with Valentine's Day.  Too bad I don't have much in the way of background details to offer, or for that matter an original copy of the disk.  I've had it on my hard drive for almost three years, but don't have the foggiest idea of where I snatched it from (a defunct blog or Soulseek perhaps)?  This mop-topped trio, ostensibly hailing from the UK, are imbued with traces of Badfinger, The Records, Flamin' Groovies, Eddie & the Hot Rods, not to mention Beatles homage in spades with a singer who often smacks of Paul McCartney.  Plenty of straight-up power pop here, most capably exemplified by "Look at the Eyes" and "Thinking of You"  Pulsator gets even more cracklin' with "Stuck on You," three perfecto minutes of infectious Fab Four inspiration, by way of a Flamin' Groovies-esque delivery system.  Elsewhere, faint but discernible pub rock maneuvers crop up, as does the occasional flashy guitar solo.  I'm stupefied that a record of this caliber has gone so utterly overlooked, given that big swaths of Pulsator exude the type of acumen and timeless aplomb of the lost classic that it's frequently tantamount to.

01. Don't Leave Me Tonight
02. Don't Do It
03. Well Well Well
04. Look at the Eyes
05. In the Name of Love
06. Mean to Me
07. Stuck On You
08. Into the Night
09. Thinking of You
10. Long Time
11. Out of My Way
12. I'll Be True


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Jet Black - Escape Measures (2011) - A brief overview

Perhaps I was too hasty in assembling my top albums list for 2011 this past New Years day.  It never ceases to amaze me that I find some of my favorite albums of any given year, the January of February after, and I'm more than happy to have Quebec's Jet Black fill that belated void this time.   The amped-out swath cut out by this co-ed quartet isn't wholly innovative, but is startlingly visceral at times.  

Austere, but not brooding, and slyly angular without alienating, Jet Black's debut Escape Measures packs some serious musculature.  Muscle I might add, that's carefully allocated to mesh with the bittersweet melodicism of the scintillating opener "6 AM" and a little further in "Daydreamer" and "Archives."  Coincidentally or not, much of this album exudes the finer aptitudes and facets of so many of my personal favorite '90s underdogs including Sprinkler, Skiploader, Monsterland and Failure.  In fact, I never thought I'd see the day where I could use even one of the aforementioned as a comparison, let alone all four in one fell swoop, but this is the kind of indulgence Escape Measures delivers, yet Jet Black's aesthetic strikes me as far too advanced to be deemed as a mere throwback. 

Between all the gritty and gauzy guitar grandeur, the record offers some quieter respites in the form of "Engine Up" and "Elevator," but in toto, Escape... is a sparks-flying corker, blistering and beautiful.  Many happy returns.  A limited vinyl edition run is available through Jet Black's website, but if you're looking for more instant gratification, iTunes, Emusic and Amazon have you covered. 

Singles Going Single #198 - Tanger "Landmine" 7" (1996, Springbox)

Residing on the aggro end of the post-hardcore continuum, Colorado's Tanger undeniably put the "power" in power trio, with roiling, barreling delivery bearing all the subtlety of a steamroller.  These guys owed a huge sonic debt to the likes Hoover, Thumbnail, Helmet, and to a lesser extent Jawbox.  By and large the two numbers on this wax speak for themselves, but there's a bona fide technical finesse to them that shouldn't be overlooked either.  The back cover lists three songs: A. Landmine, B. Gary, AZ & C. Balance, but only the latter two occupy this record, with "Landmine" functioning as the single's encompassing title.  Confused the hell out of me at first.  In 2000 Tanger released a self-titled album on Owned & Operated Records. 

B. Gary, AZ
C. Balance


Friday, February 10, 2012

Bender - tape (1993)

Thought this would be a fitting follow-up to Pollen.  Bender were from Toronto.  They had some singles and a full length, Funny Kar, out on Ringing Ear Records, but this preceded those releases from what I can recount.  Chunky, no frills riff-pop along the lines of their more famous neighbors to the east, the Doughboys, but Bender had some jammy inclinations too.  Two thirds of these catchy cuts would be rerecorded for their one and only album (to my knowledge), the previously mentioned Funny Kar.  These guys were almost indispensable to me back in the day, but in retrospect they strike me as merely satisfactory.  Not that I'm complaining.  Enjoy (or not). 

01. Certain Circles
02. Spend Some Time
03. Go-Kart
04. Don't Say No
05. Slumber Party
06. Stooched


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pollen - Bluette (1994, Grass)

With more than a wink and a nod to renown pop-punks All, Pollen unleashed their debut, Bluette onto an unsuspecting, and a seemingly indifferent public in 1994.  The profile of this Pennsylvania five-piece (who later in their career migrated to Tempe, AZ) would improve in years to come, but not by leaps and bounds.  Bluette (evidently a play on the word "brunette") is a commendable start with some fairly stimulating flashes of brilliance: "Couch," "Scared Kid," and "Paper."  The momentum trails off as the album wears on, but not enough to blunt it's overarching effect.  Speaking of All, the Pollen crew would have the honor with working with the dream team of  Stephen Egerton and Bill Stevenson on their next two records, 1995's Crescent and the thoroughly excellent, Peach Tree from 1997, the latter of which I shared several years ago and is still available by accessing the above hyperlink.  I'd also recommend Pollen for fans of early Gameface and G-Whiz.  BTW, if anyone wants to hear the Pollen split CD with Co-Ed make yourself heard in the comments.

01. Gumdrop
02. Scared Kid
03. Crest
04. Pocket
05. Couch
06. Duster
07. Bait
08. Paper
09. Paint Some Size
10. Back to Nothing
11. Brass
12. Nope


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Here Kitty Kitty - Kiss Me You Fool ep (1994, Iteration/Dutch East India)

Speaking in terms of the '90s "popcore" circuit, for my time, effort and money, I really don't think I could have done much better than The Wynona Riders, a visionary San Francisco treat that concocted some of the smartest and most substantive pop-punk of their era, and who for all intents and purposes really have no obvious parallel in 2012.  I shared some singles a couple years ago, and even delved into a pair of WR spinoff bands, Toyboat and Latter Day Saints, and today I'm hereby offering the final piece of the equation (that I know of anyway).  Here Kitty Kitty featured Riders frontman Skip and bassist Richie Bucher, along with drummer Krieg.  Eschewing much of the Riders nervy angst and slicing power chords, Here Kitty Kitty opted for a demonstrably more subtle tack, offering bittersweet and lamentable sentiments that were fortunately devoid of navel-gazing ennui.  The six-song Kiss Me You Fool is a grower, but is ultimately as engaging as anything Skip did with Riders, and that's saying a lot.  It also represents the entirety of Kitty's released output, which according to the Wynona Riders Wikipedia page the trio toured behind in 1994.  BTW, sorry about that damn hole punch adorning the cover.

01. Secret Goldfish
02. N Judah
03. Empty Gestures
04. Hold
05. Sleeping Dogs
06. Rain Formula


Monday, February 6, 2012

Otis and the Elevators - Cross the Bridge (1989, Smoking Munchkin)

I'm pretty certain I received an email request for this disk after I posted Otis and the Elevators first album, Some Career last summer.  If I didn't seem overly enthusiastic about that record, you can just about triple my reticence for Cross the Bridge, an album which kicks things off spaghetti western style with a brisk hoedown of sorts "The President Stumbled."  For better or worse, Otis and the Elevators' Americana bent ebbs and flows for the remainder of side one.  The flipside offers the reggae-lite morsel "Dominate," reprised from the first album in almost identical form and intonation.  "Hole in the Jungle" is CSN&Y by way of Dream Syndicate, and "One Woman One Man" throbs with a certain fervor that ideally would have cropped up elsewhere, but Cross the Bridge is far from a total loss. 

01. The President Stumbled
02. To Touch the Sky
03. I Got What I Deserve
04. Escape
05. Hole in the Jungle
06. One Woman One Man
07. Dominate
08. Desperation and Chains


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stew and the Negro Problem - Making It (2012) - A brief overview

It's been ten years since we've seen an album bearing The Negro Problem moniker and for good reason I suppose, considering prime movers Stew (aka Mark Stewart) and seemingly permanent collaborator Heidi Rodewald wrapped themselves up in all things Broadway for a sizable chunk of the '00s, by virtue of Stew's semi-autobiographical Passing Strange rock musical (which btw earned a Tony).  Much like that less than ballyhooed stage production, TNP/Stew have yet to approach anything resembling a household name, and quite frankly that's to the loss of an unarguably fickle music industry and it's wilfully slavish patrons.  I guess that means more for us, and Making It is a welcome return.  It's a record that sounds as if it was constructed in a new era, because quite frankly it's the product of a new era. 

TNP's initial salvos, namely 1997's Post Minstrel Syndrome and Joys & Concerns, which followed two years later, were wondrous troves of pocket symphony and slyly baroque power pop.  While those are still the records to start with for folks not acquainted with Stew's universe, Making It is many times over sonically advanced.  Boasting a lucid, I-can-hear-a-pin-drop fidelity and bright, streamlined execution, this is a record that sounds like the logical halfway point between TNP's nascent ethos and Stew's increasingly refined solo ventures. 

There are few concurrent threads needling their way through Making It, rather we're treated to a pastiche of styles and themes, starting with the cacophonous instrumental opener bearing the same title as the album.  This eventually leads into carefully measured, ballad-esque pieces like "Curse" and "Leave Believe" the latter of this pair bearing a particularly confessional tone with a recently split up Stew and Heidi trading verses.  If it's Stew's colorful couplets and witty wordplay that you've come to know and revere, "Black Men Ski" fits the bill to a fault, while the methamphetamine concerned "Speed" escalates to a robust quasi-anthem by song's end, incorporating shades of his late '90s orchestral leanings that endeared me over a decade ago.  And on the lusciously tuneful "Therapy Only Works When You Tell the Truth," our man is posed the question as to when he first noticed his relationship was on the rocks.  In typical fashion, Stew responds "When she left."  Making It is available from Amazon and the usual digital retailers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Singles Going Single #197 - Gleaming Spires 7" (1982, Posh Boy)

Meeting somewhere at the nexus of Todd Rundgren and The Tubes, Los Angeles' Gleaming Spires featured two guys who were moonlight from their gig as the rhythm section of the much more celebrated Sparks.  And speaking of all things celebratory, their 1983 platter, Walk on Well Lighted Streets, possessed a jubilant air to it that shook my usually austere foundations (case in point, the rousing "A Christian Girl's Problems.").  I thought I'd do a little backtracking with this 1982 single when I happened upon it for a song on Ebay last year.  "How to Get Girls..." (which also appeared on their '80 debut LP, Songs of the Spires) is vaguely tongue-in-cheek synth pop with a strong singer/songwriter bent, and a vocal performance by Leslie Bohem that approaches Freddie Mercury at points.  "Walk Right," an exclusive b-side offering an equally acerbic, but an even more sophisticated arrangement, that probably would have been better without the offbeat little juxtaposition towards the end.

A. How To Get Girls Thru Hypnotism
B. Walk Right


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Trypes - demos (198?)

Word on the streets has it that Acute Records is in the process of assembling an anthology release of sorts from The Trypes under the tentative title, Music For Neighbors.  The Trypes were a mid '80s New Jersey start up that featured The Feelies Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, but weren't actually founded by that pair.  In fact, the Trypes primary period of activity was situated during the six year layover between the Feelies Crazy Rhythms and The Good Earth albums.  As fate would have it, Glenn and Bill would absorb two members of the Trypes, Brenda Sauter and Stan Demeski for the long belated second Feelies LP, The Good Earth.  The Trypes lineup, generally speaking, mutated into the group Speed the Plough by the late '80s, with a string of albums (including two recent ones) to show for themselves.  The Trypes have caught the reunion bug, performing in 2011, but in their initial lifespan they only issued one record, the four song Explorer's Hold ep in 1984, which can be read about here.

As for the nine hissy demos comprising this collection I'm offering, I am unaware if they will make any appearance at all on the forthcoming Trypes reissue (though the entirety of Explorer's Hold  will).  The Trypes aren't far removed from the Feelies, but with a decidedly more pronounced psychedelic inflection, and a tendency to noodle around with woodwinds and other sundry noises when it struck their fancy.  A cover of the Beatles "The Inner Light" provides a reasonable indication of where they were coming from.  These songs may only be available here temporarily, so don't sleep.  I'm missing song titles for three of them, btw. 

1. A Plan Revised
2. The Inner Light (Beatles)
3. ?
4. Return to Zion
5. Eternal Ice
6. ?
7. ?
8. The Obedient Atom
9. When Company Comes