Monday, April 30, 2012

The Blisters - Storch 7" (1997)

Another great, albeit posthumous find.  Gotta love the dollar bins folks.  My initial assumption was that Storch was a debut release, but through the miracle of Facebook, I have since learned that New Jersey-ites The Blisters, had an array of other releases under their belt, some dating back to 1987.  In fact, this three song jewel was to be the group's last recorded foray, which is sort of tragic given the tunes are so utterly, um...blistering.  "Teenage Flower" is par excellence bar-rock-cum-punk gold, and the two flips by and large follow suit.  The Blisters adhere to the same beer-battered recipe as The Figgs, Magnolias, Junk Monkeys (them again?) and The Leonards, but at the end of the day all roads lead to Minneapolis, or more specifically Paul Westerberg and Co.  I hope I have the chance to hear more of where this came from.  A tell-all bio can be read here at your leisure.  

01. Teenage Flower
02. Laughing At You
03. Five to Nine


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Motocaster - Stay Loaded (1994, Interscope)

Don't have much time for a write-up tonight, but this one was requested on the heals of my share of a vintage Motocaster single from a few weeks ago.  Changing their name from the ill-advised moniker of Motorolla, this ever so economic power trio weren't your average Chapel, NC denizens.  Yes, they brought the rawk big time, but they weren't vying for college radio airplay or a slot at SXSW, so much as they wanted to blaring out of car stereos in 7-ll parking lots.  Stay Loaded was one of the most unaffected major label releases of its era, consistently cranked up to a rolling boil, and grizzled to perfection.  Good times.

01. The Buddha
02. The Habit
03. Straightfaced
04. Farah
05. Broken Eyes
06. Pull the Plug
07. Uranus
08. Dual-Active
09. Truth
10. Motorolla Blues
11. Sweet Pearl


Friday, April 27, 2012

Serious Young Insects - Housebreaking (1982, Epic Aus.)

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I became acquainted with this Melbourne, Aussie lot - some three full decades after the fact.  Talk about arriving to the dinner table late.  Despite a major label pedigree (restricted to Oz anyway) Serious Young Insects didn't seem to make a huge dent in their homeland, and you can write off the States entirely.  After checking out the video for "Be Patient" (featured below) a feature track on Housebreaking, I became an instant convert, falling prey to it's plush, power-pop by way of tasteful new wave maneuvers...and a devastating hook that most bands would sacrifice a collective left nut for.  As for the video, "Be Patient" would have been quintessential MTV fodder of it's era, slotting in perfectly amidst a myriad of genius one-hit-wonders, but again, the album and single failed to make it stateside.  My theory?  Things might have gone in the Insects favor had Epic not been flexing all of it's marketing muscle behind Men at Work, but I digress

The trio's Myspace bio stresses that with it's über-slick production, Housebreaking failed to serve SYI justice stacked up against their live performances, which from the sound of it were plenty potent.  Sonically, the record's rich, state-of-the-art sound is still a pleasure to listen to, and perhaps even edgier that I'm leading on, but the songwriting is woefully deficient.  Despite receiving lyrical input from all three Insects, many, if not a full half of the cuts dotting Housebreaking's landscape are demonstrably underwritten and/or laden with half baked ideas that had yet to fully gestate.  One egregious example is "I Want Cake," which for most lesser bands wouldn't even qualify as a b-side.  In it's entirety, Housebreaking is still an impressive listen, just a bit frustrating in the lyrical department.  To my knowledge there are at least three SYI singles floating around out there (which I'd love to hear along with any unreleased studio material), and the group's Myspace page has five additional cuts (some live) that can be streamed.  If anyone cares to chime in about the Insects, comment as you see fit.  A big shout out goes to George for sending me these files.

01. Faraway Places
02. Things
03. I Want Cake
04. Parents Go Mental
05. I Don't Know
06. Be Patient
07. Safe
08. Housebreaking
09. Sad
10. Why Can't I Control My Body
11. Nerve


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hippodrome - dogbunny (1989) + Junk Monkeys show announcement

One of my readers tipped me off about an upcoming one-off reunion gig involving one of the more oft mentioned subjects of these pages, Detroit's Junk Monkeys (see the flyer below for details).  The same gracious informant also alerted me that his own band, Hippodrome will be reuniting for an opening slot at this show as well, and he was kind of enough to pass along their 1989 CD dogbunny.  Having been contemporaries with the Junk Monkeys, Hippodrome were also of a similar post-Replacements stripe, aesthetically cross-pollinating with the likes of Material Issue, Smithereens, The Magnolias, and even left-of-the-dial obscuros Weird Summer.  Judging by the consistency of this album, Hippodrome had the songs and the talent to find a place within the same ranks.  Amidst the twelve originals is a fervent reading of the Velvets "Foggy Notion."  Singer and plucker Chris Richards went onto another combo in the '90s dubbed the Phenomenal Cats, and launched a variety of other endeavors including Chris Richards and the Subtractions. whose Sad Sounds of the Summer album saw a 2009 release.  In addition, I'd also recommend the Pathetic History compilation which selectively highlights Richards 1990s pursuits.

UPDATE: May 2nd - one of the Hippodrome guys just posted a bonus-sized version of dogbunny which you can check out on their Bandcamp page.  It supersedes my version by almost twice the number of tunes!

01. She's Raining On Me
02. Henry
03. Brenda Lee
04. I'm in Love With Everything
05. Under the Tree
06. Her Hair Was Way-cool to Me
07. Call
08. Hope She Didn't Hear Me Say
09. Village Idiot
10. Sunshine Girl
11. Caroline
12. Foggy Notion
13. Crumble

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Watch: The Aminals At Night "One Down, One to Go"

The Animals at Night are hardly a name brand commodity, but for those of you who frequent these pages you might be familiar with the group's chief architect Graig Markel, who fronted the distorto, indie-punk trio New Sweet Breath, who I've spieled about on a number of occasions.  Not unlike an octopus, Markel is a man of many tentacles, and one of those appendages has unfurled the engaging electro-pop unit that is the subject of this entry.  Below, please check out the video for "One Down, One to Go," which we're premiering today!   Behold it's sheik, neo-cosmopolitan vibe, accompanied by images of unraveling movie reels on an expansive waterfront vista.  Chill.

If you like what you hear, "One Down..." is available on iTunes, Amazon and other digital merchants, with proceeds going to benefit PAWS, a Seattle non-profit that rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, shelters homeless cats and dogs, and educates to make a better world for animals and people. Donations will be made in the name of Henry, a wonderful little dude who came from this shelter years ago, and passed away around the release of this single. 

Graig's 2012 solo release, Graig Markel was written up here.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Stevens - s/t ep (2012)

The Stevens may be a fresh faced export from Melbourne, Australia, but when listing to this disk, I can't help but conjure up the treasure trove unfurled by mid-90s noise-pop acts like Eric's Trip, The Spinanes, Papillomas, and Transistor Sound & Lighting Co.  Given that three of those aforementioned combos were from Canada, it would be a stretch to make any sort of parallel with a quartet hailing from the opposite corner of the globe, but in my mind it works.  Truth be told, the Stevens more readily admit to aligning themselves with the vintage Flying Nun Records roster, and given their penchant for sweet, clangy chords, and warm, tuneful delivery I suppose it's hard to counter that argument.  Toss in a modicum of post-punk awareness, à la Wire and you've generally distilled the Stevens unpretentious indie pop brew, almost to a fault in fact.  The songs within may ring a tad lo-fi to the Pitchfork and Coachella set, but well let that be their loss.  You can purchase a CD directly from the band by clicking here, and for the time being, I've been given clearance to make the whole thing available below.  Furthermore, if you like what you hear you can also check out a PBS broadcast from a few weeks ago, featuring a full set by the Stevens (roughly 30 mins in).

01. Alone
02. I Look Back
03. Million Miles
04. Weaving a Basket
05. Living Out of a Bag
06. Fast Cars

Now available on Bandcamp.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Sonnets - Deep Forest Gold ep (1988)

Lacking a shred of web presence, the most I can tell you is that The Sonnets cut these half-a-dozen tracks at Dancing Dog Studios in Oakland, CA, leading me to assume they were situated in the Bay Area.  Mellow guitar pop, with faint wave inflections loosely sums up this duo's overall schtick.  Sharply produced, Deep Forest Green's apex materializes in the form of "Vivian," a chiming, up-tempo stunner that recalls the Candy Skins brief halcyon period.  As for the Zombies redo, the Sonnets don't butcher "Time of the Season" so much as mildly abuse it, unnecessarily glazing it with a lite '80s whitewash.  Thankfully the remainder of side deux is a little more redeeming.  Enjoy (or not).

01. Nothing to Lose
02. Vivian
03. Stay
04. Time of the Season
05. Wrecking Ball
06. Underground


Friday, April 20, 2012

Love Battery - Straight Freak Ticket (1995)

Though they were never an overwhelming favorite of mine, I enjoyed Love Battery's body of work for Sub Pop, especially 1993's Far Gone.  Two years later when Straight Freak Ticket dropped, on a major label no less, I was less than freaked out in terms of my adoration for it.  Love Battery were still plenty wiry and had even retained an air of their dense arrangements, but the psych-punk inclinations that had reverberated through Dayglo and nascent singles had been smoothed over a little too much for my palette.  After revisiting SFT a decade and a half later, I've concluded that my judgement in my junior year of higher education may have been a bit hasty.  Indeed, there were some spirited standout moments lurking on here after all including, "Red Onion," "Perfect Light," and "Harold's Pink Room."  For the novice, I would still recommend getting your LB indoctrination from their 1989-93 Sub Pop heyday (all in print via the usual trifecta of paid digital conglomerates).  And btw, they don't sound a stitch like the Buzzcocks.  

01. Fuzz Factory
02. If It Wasn't Me
03. Harold's Pink Room
04. Brazil
05. Nehru Jacket
06. Perfect Light
07. Red Onion
08. Sunny Jim
09. Straight Freak Ticket
10. Angelhead
11. Waylaid
12. Drowning Sun
13. Silent Treatment


Thursday, April 19, 2012

A moment or two with Shark Tape

Ostensibly named after a device for dispensing tape to bandage athletic injuries, this Philly three-piece bear a sophisticated sonic wallop that thoroughly belies their arcane moniker of choice.  Before I took my cue to check out their Bandcamp page, I anticipated Shark Tape to be a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears youngsters, fixin' for some freewheeling, power-chord revelry.  Instead of finding them in warm-up mode, I was heartened to reveal a band that had fully and unmistakably arrived, utilizing every ounce of potential they could muster.   If the fluid, echoing chords and inviting harmony that introduces the bristling "Ambitions of a Lifetime" aren't enough to cast you under the Shark Tape spell it's safe to say nothing will, at least in this day and age.

The four songs within explore the same gleaming textures that Interpol have made their calling card, sans that group's stiff pomposity.  Dare I say the '90s would have been a lot more interesting (and tolerable) if U2, post-Achtung Baby, had explored a similar vein to Shark Tape?  Luckily, ST have their own regal flair to boast, one with brains and a heart.  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I'm also hearing echoes of such sweeping UK guitar acts of yore as Adorable and Power of Dreams.  "Put Those Things Away" is just as wide-eyed and alluring as "Ambition," while "Eyes of Mercy" floats a brisk, naggingly-jagged rhythm into the mix.  By all means, keep an eye on these guys.  Shark Tape's ep is FREE (for now) on Bandcamp (linked above), and can also be had at iTunes and Amazon.  You can even like them on Facebook for good measure.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mrs. Svenson - Rocktopuusy (1997, unreleased)

First things first - try to get past the rather cheesy makeshift album sleeve to your right that my buddy Oxy slapped together.  In all sincerity and actuality, this is a work that should not be gauged by it's cover.  As for the band in question, late last spring I introduced you to a demo tape from a gaggle of reformed metalheads out of Regina, SK called Mrs. Svenson.  I provided a few juicy details, such as how I heard that a proper full length was said to have been released in 1995, but little did I know at the time that wasn't quite the case.  I soon came to find out that Mrs. Svenson recorded a handful of albums during their tenure, but besides this tape, precious little saw the light of day.  Fortunately for us, one of our readers who happened to be part of Sevenson's coveted inner circle had access to some of this material, including finished versions of songs from the aforementioned demo and then some, that were to have comprised their debut album, Flood.  Technically, Flood was first made available to the world at large on these very pages on January 11th.  Even better, there was a whole 'nother album tracked in 1997 that I was given clearance to post.  Enter: Rocktopussy.

If Flood was borderline punk-pop, Rocktopussy nibbled loosely at the fringes of power pop.  As a whole, this record suggests what an intermingling of the Gin Blossoms and Crush-era Doughboys would culminate in.  As mentioned in previous Mrs. Svenson, the vocals (belonging to Jarrod Kurlock, carrying over from the Flood lineup) often smack of Doughboys/All Systems Go mouthpiece John Kastner.  Despite it's debaucheristic title, Rocktopussy is lean, clean...but not particularly mean.  There's still plenty of crunchy riffs but it all goes down a little easier than the rawer bent of Flood.  Kurlock's soaring, melodic leads ensure "The Natural," "Diamond Ring," and "The Sleep," earn their rightful spot in the Svenson time capsule.  As "bonus tracks" of sorts, this collection winds down with an excellent (and comparatively unruly) rehearsal cut, "Pennies," that really should have been banged into shape as a contender for a full fledged album track.  And BTW, the live Phil Collins cover is immensely ill advised.  A big, huge thanks and round of applause goes out to Oxy for hooking me up with everything I'm able to present you with in this entry.  

01. The Sleep
02. Diamond Ring
03. Weary
04. Anywhere
05. Underneath Your Skin
06. The Natural
07. Q
08. Raining Ashes
09. Broken Promise
10. The Natural (2)
11. untitled
12. Fenn (mono bonus track) 
13. Downpour (mono bonus track)
14. Pennies (bonus taped rehearsal)
15. Against All Odds (live bonus)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Watch: Drowner's "Written"

Word went out yesterday from Saint Marie Records HQ that we've been given the go-ahead to host Drowner's video for "Written," a choice nu-gazey nugget from their expanded, self-titled ep.  This shimmering dream-pop pearl with a hook to die for will hit the spot for anyone who hasn't gotten the Cocteau Twins or Medicine out of their consciousness.  The clip is below, as is a brief review of Drowner I penned for issue 70 of Big Takeover magazine, available soon!

Either this co-ed Houston quartet are right on time for the umpteenth dream-pop revival, or staggeringly late for the genre’s late ‘80s inception.  Take your pick I suppose!  Drowner’s prime mover Anna Bouchard is so completely evocative of Elizabeth Fraser, you might mistake this disk for a Cocteau Twins reunion record.  If anything else Drowner are ethereal and pristine to a fault – so much so that when their shoegazy latticework ascends to perilously delicate heights, the effect occasionally backfires into a thin, languid malaise.  Still, heftier pieces, like “Written” and “Here,” elicit enough firepower to compensate for some of these lulls. Overall, Drowner are a solid thumbs up.

Monday, April 16, 2012

War on the Saints ep (1988, Positive Force)

If I'm not mistaken, Positive Force Records was a label owned and operated by Kevin Seconds (of 7 Seconds).  The Rockford, IL-based War on the Saints partook in something approaching hardcore, though they didn't sound a thing like 7 Seconds, nor did they embody the "posi-core" ethos those Nevada titans made a halfway decent career out of.  Instead, this quartet strike me as not being at war with much of anything at all, and in fact, if any genuine struggle was afoot, it was for these guys to pin down an identity for themselves.  "So Full of Self" is buoyed by a spicy skate metal riff, and goes from there in convincing fashion (relatively speaking), but elsewhere this ep is bogged down in aimless, slow-simmering ennui, that if anything else is tolerable in the brief doses it's dispensed in.  Maybe there's something on War on the Saints that just isn't sinking in with me.  Eye of the beholder I suppose.  Enjoy (or not).

01. So Full of Self
02. Rut Head to Gut
03. Group Think
04. Thought Shine Bright
05. Rainy Day
06. Reason Unknown


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bring Home the Lobsters - tape (1986, Horse Latitudes)

For the three or four of you reading this who have any firsthand familiarity with Bring Home the Lobsters, I'd politely suggest you not get your hopes up.  To what pre-tell do you owe this caveat?  While my source tape is a 100%, bona fide original copy, it's either been played to death or naturally deteriorated over the course of it's 26 years.  I'll delve a little further into said fidelity deficiencies in a few moments.

As I'm wont to do, I was browsing a seller's list on Ebay at some point last year and stumbled across this curiously named cassette.  Did a quick Google query and learned BHtL were a mid-80s hardcore outfit from Eau Claire, WI, and with the few pertinent matches I was able to conjure up, they were sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Husker Du, Breaking Circus and Big Trouble House.  Nice.  Naturally intrigued, I placed my bid and won, but didn't get to listening to it until this past week, nor did I take a closer inspection of the liner notes beforehand.  It turns out that this affair was engineered by Steve Björklund of Breaking Circus renown.  The plot thickens.  Lead Lobster Phil Harder would join Björklund and Co. for their Smokers Paradise ep in 1987, not long after this tape was recorded. 

BHtL weren't cookie-cutter punks, but some of the more "routine" songs in their repertoire ("Violet Actions," "Tar and Feather," "Northern Colony," etc) certainly bordered that periphery.  Fortunately they compensated with a generous amount of diversity among quite a few of the remaining numbers, most startlingly in the shape of the relatively ambient instrumental "Desert Song."  The quartet saves their aces for the second half of the show, with two particular standouts.  "Poetry" exhibits serious power pop flirtations a la a rawer, more muscular Mitch Easter production.  It gets better.  "What I Believe" is this tape's crown jewel, bearing a classic Bob Mould-inspired guitar workout, nearly passing for a primo Metal Circus or Zen Arcade outtake.  Brilliant.  Luckily. these two numbers appear on side two (tracks 7-12), which sounds demonstrably more lucid than this tape's preceding first half which is far too muffled and bassy.  I tried to play around with the equalization, but all the tweaking in the world won't substitute for a cleaner tape.  There's yet another snag, and a fairly significant one at that.  When the reel on side two ends, so does the last tune ("When Mommy Comes Home Drunk") midstream.  Even so, you get a good ninety seconds of it. 

Something about these recordings fascinate me to no end, and I'm still trying to put my finger on it.  If anyone can shed any light on the Lobsters, and/or provide me with an upgrade of these songs, don't be a stranger.

01. Everybody's Gonna Die
02. Multiphasic Personality
03. Desert Song (instrumental)
04. Violent Actions
05. Mc Punks
06. Not Waiting
07. Northern Colony
08. Poetry
09. Tar and Feather
10. What I Believe
11. Elijah
12. When Mommy Comes Home Drunk (cuts)


Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Meanies - two singles from 1993

Had I the option to document music online in the early '90s, or more accurately given the era, were I to have published a fanzine, Melbourne's Meanies would have been a top shelf priority.  For us few Yanks who were fortunate to have encountered their only stateside long-form release, 1993's Televolution hodge-podge CD on eMpTy Records, we fell under the spell of this motley Australian cabal in a heartbeat.  The Oz edition of Rolling Stone summarized the band's mission statement to a T:

The Meanies songs, "will all be short, between two and three minutes every time. Each burst of savage punk/pop noise will also be a potential anthem; an unclean riff with a beating heart of pure melody."

Quite frankly, the Meanies wouldn't have sounded like the Meanies without the existence of a certain quartet of "brothers" hailing from Queens, NY.  By the time these singles came out at the dawn of the Clinton-era,  they were outdoing Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee in colossal fashion, all while those three gents were still walking the Earth.   In fact, some of the Meanies compositions rivaled the heaviness of the Ramones circa Leave Home.  At one point during their '90s tenure, the Meanies featured two guitarists, which might account for their barreling, sonic blitzkrieg.  Mouthpiece Link Meanie is the heart and soul of the group, possessing just the right set of lungs for punk rock this visceral and voracious.  Sadly, in 2008 the Meanies tale was becoming shrouded in tragedy, with the separate passings of guitarists Tas and DD.

The Meanies discography is likely to intimidate even the staunchest of completists, myself included.  Not so much in the way of albums, but an overflow of singles and compilation appearances.  The two 45s presented here may not seem like a lot, but they're a decent starting point, with ninety second (or thereabouts) salvos like "Operator" and "Dark Side of My Mind" representing quintessential Meanies.  Surely other music scribes have written and/or shared music by them, but further mis(adventures) may appear on Wilfully Obscure in the months to come.  A brief synopsis of the band's career to date is available on Wikipedia

Rhyming Logic 7" (Merge)
01. Rhyming Logic
02. Operator
03. Dark Side of My Mind

Just What You Need 7" (Get Hip)
04. Just What You Need
05. Best Feel Good Movie
06. Play the Slay Bells (live JJJ, Big Day Out 1-24-93)


Friday, April 13, 2012

Lovejunk - All We Have to Do is Stay Together 7" & Dare To Be Wrong ep (1991)

Roughly ten years ago I belatedly discovered an uber-obscure '80s Brit punk act, Perfect Daze, by virtue of an anthology type retrospective, Five Year Scratch issued by the ever thoughtful Boss Tuneage label.  So impressed was I by their low-fi acumen, sprawling energy, and melodic aplomb I sought out original copies of their two eps, Bubblegum and Regular Jailbreak, which I shared in full back in the waning days of 2009.  Splendid stuff, but I really hadn't given them a second thought since I made said entry.  A few days ago however, one of my most astute followers from across the pond informed me that six-stringer Scruff Myers and bassist Wolfie Retard (no relation to Jay) eventually founded the band Lovejunk once Daze were decommissioned.  Some MP3s were exchanged, my stringent eardrums were satisfied, and the result is his post featuring their first two EPs.  LJ subscribed to a similar ethic as their antecedents, albeit taking advantage of superior studio gear.  They can best be summed up as a merger between Mega City Four and the Replacements, occasionally inviting the Senseless Things to a round of drinks.

At their most convincing, particularly evidenced by "Paperboy," "Death By Smiling," and "We Can Win," Lovejunk didn't supersede the lofty comparisons I mentioned, but were still highly gratifying.  Both of these ep's conclude with spare acoustic numbers, winding things out in significant contrast to the more rigorous slammers I just made note of.  Another ep followed, Vodatumour Blues, which I might attend to later, and so did two full lengths that I could really use some help locating.

A big thanks goes out to Duncan for setting me up with these files.  Enjoy.

All We Have to Do is Stay Together ep
01. All We Have to Do is Stay Together
02. We Can Win
03. You Know Nothing

Dare To Be Wrong ep
01. Death By Smiling
02. Woodsmoke
03. Paperboy
04. Truest Friend

All We Have to Do... Hear
Dare to Be WrongHear

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hangtime - Plug In (2010) - a brief overview

I guess you can't blame me for approaching a pop-punk album with a certain amount of trepidation, what with so many clones, reruns, and Warped Tour wannabes running amok.  True, there is a small contingent who are taking their cues from thoroughly respectable innovators like the Buzzcocks, Descendents, and of course the Ramones, but when it comes to "popcore" revivalism, we don't see many current bands offering a grateful wink and a nod to the likes of the Doughboys, Punchbuggy and Big Drill Car.  Be it a deliberate gesture on their part or not, Toronto's Hangtime strike me as four gents catering to that very niche I speak of - and they sound like they're having a flabbergastingly great time at it to boot.  On Plug In, this exemplary quartet pummel through thirteen saccharine avalanches of overwhelming, power-chord splendor, infusing more melody into any given song than lesser bands can hope to eek out over the course of an entire album.  If I had to sweat it down to one suspect whom Hangtime sound like they should be spending spending some serious "hangtime" with (couldn't resist, sorry) I'd put my money on All Systems Go! a now defunct spinoff band featuring all-stars from the aforementioned Doughboys and Big Drill Car.  Inspirational inclinations aside, Plug In is a barreling powder keg of fun, sincerity and guts, of which you can sample "Sycamore St." and "Locomotion" below.  It's available digitally through the usual suspects: iTunes, Emusic, and Amazon, and you can get the CD from Interpunk.   

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Hangtime's Warren and Rick are alumni of Shortfall, a likeminded precursor that I've featured in a previous entry.  Check their long out of print Hooray for Everything disk here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Motocaster - "The Buddha" 7" (1993, Blast-o-Platter)

What would possess a promising, upstart rock band, circa the early '90s who happened to hail from the indie hotbed of North Carolina to swipe their moniker from perhaps the most recognizable telecommunications manufacturer of their era?  A great deal of gumption and freewheeling bravado would be my guess, but life for Raleigh's Motorolla would be fairly short lived, at least under that guise.  Rechristening themselves as Motocaster for utterly self explanatory reasons, the trio would rack up a couple singles and an ep before being scooped up by Interscope, for whom they recorded their sole full length, Stay Loaded.  You might say for every Nirvana there were twenty Motocasters, and this trio's lack of a solid promotional arm imminently spelled bargain bin.  For shame, because sonically speaking, that woefully under-promoted album cranked.  "The Buddha" (also appearing on Loaded) packs an angular, but addictively saucy riff, leading into a noisy, power-chord ridden maelstrom that would do anyone from Blue Cheer to Sonic Youth proud.  Sizzling stuff.  The other side of this coin reveals a faithful cover of the Lemon Piper's 1968 psych hit "Green Tambourine."  The second b-side, "Motorolla Greens" is an improv jam, and largely a throwaway, that ultimately isn't much to Motocaster's detriment.  BTW the pic of the dog gracing the sleeve of this wax is actually in 3D, though my scanner has difficulty negotiating images of that sort.

I'm hardly expecting any of you to remember this, but in 2008 I shared a three-way split LP, Fish Hips & Turkey Lips, with Motorlla, Small (23) and Finger which is still available.  Motocaster fulcrum Bo Taylor was also involved with the slightly more demure Dish, who I also dedicated some Wilfully Obscure space to many moons ago. Last but not least, Bo was the guitarist for Eight or Nine Feet who were responsible for this record.

A. The Buddha
B1. Green Tambourine
B2. Motorolla Greens


Monday, April 9, 2012

Theory on Blondes - Better Things tape (1990)

A theory on blondes you say?  Can't help you there, but I've got one on redheads.  We'll save that for another time perhaps.  Aside from the copy on the cassette sleeve, there is nil info to be had on Theory On Blondes, a co-ed quartet from Evanston, IL, helmed by one Hilary SchroederBetter Things offers three riff-happy, pop rockin' originals, and two not-so-obvious remakes.  When I say "Vapors cover" you'd be perfectly in your right mind to assume "Turning Japanese," but guess what?  TOB delve a little further into New Clear Days and resuscitate one of that album's deeper cuts, "Trains," doing more than enough justice to it if you ask me.  The Vapors homage is quickly followed up by their spin on Angel City's "The Moment."  In regards to the songs Theory penned by themselves, the title track is this tape's easy winner.  A tad wet behind the ears, TOB were nonetheless demonstrably rewarding, delivering plenty of fun minus the frivolities.  I've got another tape from this bunch ready to go, if any of ya'll are interested that is.

01. Keep Your Knees Together
02. Better Things
03. Trains
04. The Moment
05. The Nightmare Song


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Rubber Bush - s/t (1988, Scorpio)

I'm a sucker for sleeve art, and this disk promised to be a treat as soon as I laid eyes on it.  Upon closer inspection, the back cover revealed the Rubber Bush roster, comprised of what would appear to be assumed monikers like Raine Davies, Buzzsaw Collins and Puggy Divan, the latter two of whom are the purported frontman.  As I made my way to the turntable, the inner label caught my eye, particularly the name Tom Marolda who is credited as the author of these songs.  Could this be the Tom Marolda of The Toms fame? Probably way too much of a coincidence not to be methinks, but web-wise, I was unable to confirm this.  For the unacquainted, Marolda was The Toms, who released a handful of privately pressed albums in the late '70s and beyond, his most lauded accomplishment being the Tom's self-titled debut, circa 1979, which was reissued twice by Not Lame Records (RIP).  Thing is, the mouthpiece for Rubber Bush, doesn't sound a thing like Mr. Marolda, and therein lies the mystery.  Whomever is gracing the mic does however exude the timbre of Waterboys/World Party's Karl Wallinger, with a faint Dylan-esque drawl tossed in for good measure (trust me, hearing is believing).

One thing I can say about Rubber Bush is they don't take themselves too seriously.  They bear a flippant stripe a la Talking Heads, coupled with the perturbed, romantically frustrated ethos of Donnie Iris, Tuff Darts, The A's, and to a lesser extent The Tubes.  Sonically, they're coming from the same place as that bunch and the arrangements on this platter are smart, and dare I say even sophisticated, though RB's teasing melodies aren't consistently brought to the fore.  Rubber Bush falls a few notches short of a classic, but hardy deserves it's utterly obscure fate.  If anyone can enlighten me on this record, or Rubber Bush in general, comment away.  BTW, sorry for the aggravating pops and snaps on "The Expert."  Should I come across a cleaner copy thy shall be re-ripped.

01. Martinet
02. Bark Ave.
03. Have a Nice Life
04. Girls Who Don't Come With Instructions
05. Dancing With the Lion
06. Get Real
07. Punching the Pilot
08. The Expert
09. Mates in a Car
10. Void Where Prohibited
11. Every Eunuch Can
12. Another Brush With the Chance of Realizing Fame


Friday, April 6, 2012

Salem 66 - 1983-1987, Your Soul is Mine, Fork it Over (1987, Homestead)

It was the early '90s when I happened upon Salem 66's Frequency and Urgency album in a dollar cassette rack at Camelot Records.  Impressed by their Homestead Records pedigree (and an endearing album title) I thought, how could I go wrong?  After all, they shared the same hallowed imprint as Naked Raygun, Big Black and Squirrel Bait.  Well, when tape met tape deck, I was unmoved, due in large part to my general indifference at the time with female singers, of which Salem boasted two, Judy Grunwald and Beth Kaplan

Fast forward roughly twenty years to 2011, which is when I had the opportunity to reevaluate Salem 66 at a price I couldn't refuse - free.  Your Soul is Mine, Fork It Over is a summation of the band's first four years of operation, and it proved to be a more impressive introduction than my random tape grab of Frequency..., when at that time what I was really hankering for was the next Dinosaur Jr. or Nirvana.  For whatever the reason it took a good two decades of left-of-the-dial schooling for me to truly appreciate Grunwald and Kaplan's sweet, clangy fretboard runs and lovingly awkward vocal interplay.  Blending the Feelies subtle reverb with a more modest variation on REM's early aesthetic, Salem 66 weren't innovators, but luckily the worst I can say about these Massachusetts denizens was that their schtick tended to be too unidimensional for their own good.  Culling together eighteen songs from their first ep, a single ("Across the Sea") and a generous swath of A Ripping Spin and the aforementioned Frequency LPs, the long out of print Your Soul is Mine... is your only ticket for hearing these tracks in a digital, surface noise-free realm.  The brunt of this hardly knocks me dead, but Salem 66 deserved far more than the cursory listen I accorded them before I wised up.

01. Sleep on Flowers
02. Pony Song
03. Lemon Rind
04. Across the Sea
05. Playground
06. Ancient Eyes
07. Chinchilla
08. The Well
09. Postcard
10. Holiday
11. Bad News
12. Grunezella Daze
13. Wanderlust
14. Broken Bottles
15. People Express
16. Blue
17. Desk Clerk
18. Widow's Walk

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

If there's nothing here, then it's probably mine.

Late on Sunday I suffered a computer emergency which put me out of commission for a few days.  Luckily, no data was lost, but I just got up and running again a few hours ago.  That being said, I still need a little time to decompress.  Will hopefully have things back to normal by Friday.   If any of you have requested anything in recent weeks, don't worry, it's coming.  In the meantime, if you're truly bored out of your collective gourd, may I recommend the Jimmy Dore Show podcast.  The world has never needed him more.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Primitons - Don't Go Away: Collected Recordings - A brief overview + 1983 tape

A lot has been made of the fabled "new south sound," both on these pages and elsewhere.  I'm generally speaking of the often telltale stripe of left-of-the-dial, Rickenbacker-wielding pop provocateurs from such 1980s locales such as Athens, Georgia or North Carolina, who armed with a small bevy of songs and a modicum of aspiration would gravitate to the counsel and coveted production capabilities of one Mitch Easter.  During the mid-80s there would seem to be a ton of bands befitting said stereotypes, most of whom aside from the big fish (i.e. REM, dB's, Matthew Sweet) faded into long distant memories...and are now the province of music bloggers and archivists such as myself.

After teasing us die-hards for a few years, Arena Rock Recordings have finally seen it fit to shine a light on one such departed Dixie conglomeration, Birmingham, AL's Primitons whose small but powerful discography is enshrined on the chronological, eighteen-track Don't Go Away, compiling their '85 self-titled mini album for Throbbing Lobster Records, the Don't Go Away ep (1986) and their 1987 parting shot, Happy All the Time.  The Primitons lineup, sometimes a trio, and at one point a quartet, involved a constant nucleus of guitar/keyboard toting frontman Mats Roden and percussionist Leif Bondarenko.  The group boasted an advanced sound beyond sweet minor chords and tingly arpeggios, one that's hard to properly distill in the written word.  The initial seven-song salvo that comprises Don't Go Away was tracked under the auspices of Mitch Easter, and whether by osmosis or whatever you choose to peg it, Let's Active had profoundly rubbed off on Roden and Co.  Nonetheless the early Primitons material boasts an indigenous sonic strain of it's own, sparked by an uncanny chemistry interwoven between it's three architects, resulting in fluid, jittery jangle-pop with no shortage of idiosyncratic overtones.  From Alabama you say?

That aesthetic carried over to the three song ep this compilation shares it's namesake with.  In addition to the title cut which became a fan favorite, the record also included the Primitons faithful reading of The Left Banke's "Something On My Mind."  By the time they got around to recording their second and final album, Happy All the Time, Roden's six-string wrangling was buttressed with considerably more musculature, but that extra buzzsaw grit didn't diminish the Primitons rich, resonant arrangements and melodic moxie (although per the liner notes, many fans had a preference to the first record over Happy). A dozen-and-a-half song oeuvre is slim no matter how you slice it, but the band make every moment count, and so far as these ears are concerned, they could throw down with the best of what their like-minded contemporaries Tommy Keene and The Plimsouls had to give.  The Primitons body of work is that considerable and praiseworthy.

A funny thing precipitated the release of Don't Go Away.  On Ebay, I recently found what appeared to be a homemade Primitons demo tape, dating back to 1983, two years before they had a record out.  It was in fact a genuine Prim's artifact, however the four songs on the cassette weren't "demos," so much as rough mixes of four tracks that would appear on the Easter produced mini-LP for Throbbing Lobster.  The variances are slight, with the most prominent difference being the allotment of bass guitar in the mix.  "Five Lines" has a slightly different ending than the finished product.  In any case, instead of sharing a song or two from the CD, I'm giving you the tape to whet your appetite.  If you like what you hear, you will love the top-notch mastering job on the reissue, which is available physically/digitally from Amazon, and also through iTunes and Emusic (though if you buy the CD you also get a download code to eleven unreleased songs!).  No April Fools joke people.  The track list and link to the cassette follows below.

01. You'll Never Know
02. Stars
03. Five Lines
04. She Sleeps