Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Questions - "Work 'n' Play" 7" (1982, Respond)

Three boys from Edinburgh, Scotland dole out this rousing slice of funk-upped dance pop, recalling the work of contemporaries APB and Gang of Four circa Songs of the Free.  In fact, The Questions modus operandi as it applies to "Work 'n' Play was downright plagiaristic, but as evidenced by some of the other selections available for streaming on their Myspace page, this track was the exception to an otherwise streamlined forte, that if anything else affirmed their blatant Top 40 ambitions.  There were other Questions singles, but from the looks of it no full lengths.  Such a ubiquitous moniker makes researching their discography a considerable challenge.  As you might surmise, the flip "Work 'n' Play pt 2" is merely a remix.  Enjoy (or not).

A. Work 'n' Play
B. Work 'n' Play pt 2


Monday, October 29, 2012

The Demilos - Naked Brunch (1988, Chunk)

Some Massachusetts action for you on this stormy Monday night, courtesy of the co-ed, female fronted Demilos, a quartet that's managed to slip from the grasp of the wiry worldwide web.  A 1988 copyright date would explain that I suppose.  I'm picking up traces of everyone from Salem 66 to Vomit Launch, OH-OK, and Pylon, but in all likelihood these similarities could be coincidental.  Not blatantly post-punk, wave, etc, The Demilos nonetheless rub elbows with that tricky lot, only without the posturing and something resembling a DIY ethic.  The best Naked Brunch has to offer is the rhythmically strident "Misogyny" and just about anything occupying side two (tracks 5 thru 7).

01. Suntan Man
02. Fool's Paradise
03. Misogyny
04. Los Alamos
05. Drop Me a Line
06. Red Convertible
07. Pieces


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Revellaires - Pop of Ages (1990, Top)

For whatever the reason, I've been hoarding this one for a rainy day, and now that a thoroughly rainy day is upon us, here goes.  There was nothing particularly fancy about the mannerisms of The Revellaires, a D.C. area four piece whose guitar-pop fixation of choice gravitated in the direction of The Semantics and Gin Blossoms.  Indeed, they played the goes-down-easy card deftly and satisfactory to a T, dealing clean, lean aces like "Time Enough For Someday" and "Marlene."  Their toast to Buddy Love, and an unlisted reading of Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" employ an unmistakable pub rock stride, as well they should.  Per drummer Bill Kalish, Pop of Ages is "Twangy, crunchy, poppy, all the stuff you need."  And there you have it. 

01. Time Enough For Someday
02. Goodbye My Baby
03. Roll Down Betty
04. Calling All Nations
05. Faking It
06. Blind Side
07. I Really Didn't Mean It!
08. Buddy Love
09. Marlene
10. Come As You Are
11. Arbor Day
12. God and Everybody
13. Little Sister (unlisted)


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Matt Allison 7" (1989, Bus Stop)

A shame this jewel didn't appear on my radar 23 years ago when it was initially issued, but I still have the rest of my life, right?  Simply put, what I had been missing out on over the intervening decades were two prime cuts of the most resplendent jangle pop that I'm convinced I'll ever hear.  While I have precious few details to offer on Matt Allison himself, the a-side "Hard Look at Perfect" finds the man in question aided and abetted by none other than two gentleman who've put more than a sizable stamp on the genre, Paul Chastain and Rik Menck of Velvet Crush renown.  "Hard Look..." is carried aloft on the wings of tingly, hard-strummed chords (most likely emanating from a Rickenbacker) slamming head-on into a delirious wall of melody.  Though "Hard Look..." is the superior cut here, the more subdued "Heyday" mines a vein that's not greatly removed, only Matt is all by his lonesome on this one.  For what it's worth, this probably ranks as one of the best fifty singles in my collection.  Another great call from the Bus Stop label.  

A. Hard Look at Perfect
B. Heyday


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Parallel 5th ep (1984)

This strikingly clean-cut Ocean State quartet proved to be more left of center than I expected - and all the better.  Parallel 5th's somewhat irreverent spin on "new wave" tinkers with Devo's satirical ethos (minus the esoteric schtick), occasionally taking advantage of such accoutrements as saxophone...and harp (wtf?).  Furthermore, mouthpiece James McGrath possesses an alternating sung/spoken timbre that slots in the vicinity of Buddy Holly and Ric Ocasek.  Tongue in cheek, slice-of-life motifs populate the likes of "Snowbirds," and my favorite "The Vacation," which bears a succulent chorus hook that helps channel it's dystopian context into something truly memorable.  There are some surprisingly gentile ballad-esque pieces here to boot, namely "Foamy" and "Our Lady of the Half Shell," while "Rhode Island" is a heavy-handed ode to their home state.  A nice, crisp recording I might add, and the band is tighter than a ducks ass.  As a bonus, I've tacked on "Carrots and Peas," Parallel 5th's contribution to the Living Room compilation album. 

01. Snowbirds
02. Foamy
03. Rhode Island
04. The Vacation
05. Our Lady on the Half Shell
06. The Vacation (dance remix)
plus: Carrots and Peas


Sunday, October 21, 2012

White Animals - In the Last Days (1987, Dread Beat)

The fittingly titled parting shot for Nashville mainstays the White Animals, didn't find them going out on a crescendo, but by the mid '80s their returns were gradually diminishing anyway.  In the Last Days is perhaps the least essential album in their catalog, but not without saving graces in the from of ringing guitar pop tuneage like "You Bring the Best Out in Me," and "She's Gonna Break It."  White Animals subscribed to the most linear variant of power pop, and even that categorization was loose to begin with, but they long resisted the temptation to indulge in the souped-up studio gloss and tricky of the era.  The only exceptions to this rule might be on Last Days two covers, namely David Essex's "Rock On" and Marley's "Could You Be Loved," both of which suffer from uncharacteristic "embellishment" to put it politely.  Nothing intolerable mind you, with the latter being kinda enjoyable in modest doses.  You can check out my previous writings on 1984 Ecstasy and their penultimate self-titled disk which arrived two years later. 

01. Don't Treat Me Like a Dog
02. You Bring the Best Out in Me
03. Last Five Years
04. You Don't Know
05. Rock On
06. Lonely View
07. She's Gonna Break It
08. Could You Be Loved
09. I Thought That
10. A Prison Song


Friday, October 19, 2012

Sheriff Jack - Let's Be Nonchalant ep (1986, Midnight)

This is one of the more interesting UK retro discoveries I've come across in the past few months.  Sheriff Jack was the brainchild of Lewis Taylor, who eventually parlayed his avant-leaning proclivities into a solo career in the '90s and '00s.  The Let's Be Nonchalant ep, however isn't particularly madcap, and in fact it's wondrous opening salvo “Buy Everybody a Cake” bursts out of the starting gate, fusing the best parts of the Soft Boys and the Records into a dazzling jangle-rock melange.  From what I've been able to discern in my online findings, Taylor has frequently been likened to Robyn Hitchcock.  "We're Gonna Be in Love" is far less overwhelming, but of the three remaining tracks here, it's the closest in ethos to "Cake."  The trumped-up trumpets that dominate "Whatcha Gonna Do?" is anathema to my brass-phobic ears, but "Buttered Slice of Democracy" compensates with a rhythmic aplomb that faintly touches on what Gang of Four and APB were trying to accomplish just a few years prior.  Two albums followed Nonchalant, Laugh Yourself Awake in 1986, and a year later, the facetiously dubbed What Lovely Melodies!   Evidently, Laugh Yourself... offers a rendition of Big Star's "Back of a Car."  Both albums are available from Amazon downloads, Emusic, and one would assume iTunes.  

01. Buy Everybody a Cake
02. We're Gonna Be in Love
03. Whatcha Gonna Do?
04. Buttered Slice of Democracy


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Screaming Believers - Communist Mutants From Space (1985, Greasy Pop)

I had heard of the The Screaming Believers for probably a good two decades or so, but was afraid to take the plunge until this platter came in my direction at a price I couldn't refuse.  Purported to be nothing more than cult figures, even in their native Australia, the Believers nonetheless stuck around for about ten years, even managing to release this title in the US (in slightly expanded form).  The punky thrust of "Don't Talk of Love" and "Slack Social Worker" suggest they could have torn it up with home-country brethren the Lime Spiders and Happy Hate Me Nots, but moderation is the name of the game for the bulk of Communist Mutants... an album offering several more examples of taut, edgy rock 'n roll.  Don't let the gratuitously frivolous title scare you away.  Incidentally, drummer Craig Rodda divided his time between the Believers and another Aussie cult fave, Exploding White Mice.  

01. Age of Uncertainty
02. Don't Talk of Love
03. Faith
04. Slack Social Worker
05. Parting Among Parties
06. M-16
07. Anytime
08. It's a Party
09. Baby No More
10. Age of Uncertainty


Monday, October 15, 2012

11th Hour 7" ep (1985, Shag)

Ever wonder what Barrett Jones was up to before he produced the first Foo Fighters album?  Good, neither did I, but I'm going to share this with you anyway.   My understanding is that this is the first of two 7"'s from Barrett's mid-80s crew, based in the environs of the nations capitol.  Noticeably different than the racket Grohl was conjuring up with his band Dain Bramage from the same era, 11th Hour were cut from collegiate indie-rock cloth, bringing pensive ideas to the table on all four numbers.  Said motifs skew slightly to the melancholic, but it's the skittish guitar ruptures, intermittently peppering "Inside Movements" and "Haunted" that afford this record with just about as much the sleeve it's housed in.  Okay, it's really not that bland, just a bit routine.  "Carpet Place" is this disk's most tuneful reprieve, and is alone worth the trouble of downloading.  Enjoy (or not).  Thanks to the kind chap who supplied me with these files.  You know who you are.

01. Carpet Place
02. Ask Me
03. Inside Movements
04. Haunted


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lost Luggage - demo (1990)

This is a follow up to an entry I did for Lost Luggage this spring, specifically their 1991 Chateau Relaxeau CD.  The tape I'm presenting today bears a copyright date of one year prior, and precisely foreshadows what they had coming down the pike.  Much akin to the last band featured on these pages (Baxters), L/L fall short of pioneer status, but get by just fine with both luster and grit.  Think Toad the Wet Sprocket or even Crowded House if either of them managed to eke out a steady volley of power chords.  "Rollercoaster" and "A Different View" would eventually materialize on Chateau.  Overall, an almost-all-the-way-there thumbs up.

01. In Spite of the Rain
02. A Different View
03. The Great Wall
04. Rollercoaster
05. Here She Comes
06. Letter From Uncle


Friday, October 12, 2012

Baxters - Era Buffet (1986, Press)

What can you say about an obscure, long-defunct group that have a Myspace page without a shred of biographical data?  In the case of New York's Baxters, not terribly much, as that's the only corner of cyberspace that appears to reference them. A tad non-descript and anti-climactic for their own good, Baxters' stripe of power pop bears a pedestrian tilt.  Era Buffet succeeds however on the strength of competent, appealing songs with "Cliches," "I Won't Bite," and "We All Need Sleep" slowly but surely winning me over on repeat run-throughs.  If anyone can shed a little more light on this quartet, please do.

01. World's Too Small
02. Long Way Home
03. Generation
04. Bend in the River
05. I Won't Bite
06. Lifetime
07. Tears Come Down
08. Beer Theme
09. Cliches
10. Bare Burden
11. We All Need Sleep
12. Goin' Nowhere Fast  


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kent State - Behind Closed Doors ep (2012, Rok Lok) - An overview

I wanted to give everybody a heads up on the extremely limited cassette release of the latest Kent State (as in the band, not the university) product, the Behind Closed Doors ep, the physical version of which is limited to a mere fifty copies.  Rok Lok Records is selling it here, but act fast! 

The centerpiece (title cut, duh) is a bruising, raunchy maelstrom drizzled in big chunky glops of scuzz guitar, with one foot firmly in the garage, the other fixing to bolt to the shoegazer dystopia of your wildest fever dream.  Up next, the punkish thrust of "Disconnected" is aided and abetted via the collaborative efforts of Airlooms.  And if you ask me, it's a real bitch that "Formaldehyde" and the uber-woozy "Time Crimes II" clock in at just over a minute apiece, given that each of these fleeting experiments are equally as engaging as "Behind Closed Doors."  I've likened Kent State to Swervedriver in at least one past critique, and that band's gauzier, bendier elements infiltrate the proceedings here, but this crew also rip a few threads from the decidedly rawer sonic tapestry of contemporaries Waaves and Cloud Nothings.  But don't take my word for it - check out the video for "Closed Doors" below, and if tapes aren't your deal, head over to Bandcamp for your digital fix.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tugboat Annie - Superfriends (1995, Sonic Bubblegum)

My share of the WBNY Alive on Air compilation from a few nights ago had me reminiscing about many of the bands on there, not the least of which, Tugboat Annie.  Nationally, the Goo Goo Dolls may have been epitomized as the band Buffalo, NY laid claim to, but for the locals who had first-hand knowledge and exposure to the talent bubbling under in the Queen City, Tugboat Annie were usually at the top of everybody's list.  They were perched upon mine at any rate.  Kickstarting their career in the early '90s, TA's fuzzy, buzzy guitar crunch negotiated a vigorous balance between pop and punk over the course of several demos and a handful of singles, including a split 7" with brothers-in-arms milf that I offered up several moons ago.

By the time album numero uno, Superfriends dropped in 1995, local followers had been long acquainted with the material within by virtue of dozens of live gigs, often transpiring at Tugboat Annie's live-in loft/practice space in downtown Buffalo.  Moreover, by this time the quartet had shaken off their wet-behind-the-ears mire, adopting a demonstrably more mature and earnest modus operandi with significant attention paid to texture and dynamics - plenty of the latter I might stress, a la Nirvana and the Pixies.  Though I'm certain it wasn't their intention, Superfriends didn't do Tugboat quite as much justice as their live performances.  That being said the most gratifying selections here are nothing short of stunning, with "Only," "You Want it to Be Bad" and "Adaptor" standing out in particular.  What was TA's secret weapon you might ask?  The long and short of it comes down to frontman Mike Bethmann whose mildly raspy pipes emitted hooks to die for.  The best part?  As promising as Superfriends often is/was, it hardly hints at the sonic quantum leap Tugboat Annie would make after bringing guitarist Jay Celeste aboard (and relocating to Boston) for three vastly improved and invigorating releases - Wake up and Disappear, Separation Songs, and The Space Around You, all of which were minted for Big Top Records and well worth checking out.

01. Jack-knife
02. Circus
03. League of Nations
04. Landlock Swim
05. Adaptor
06. untitled
07. Satellite
08. You Want it to be Bad
09. Only
10. Butterlamb
11. Flood Light
12. Landlock Swim (reprise)

Hear or here

Sunday, October 7, 2012

V/A - 91.3 FM WBNY Alive On-Air (1995)

For approximately five years during the Clinton-era, I dedicated three hours a week to hosting a radio show (in prime-time I might add) on an FM college station in Buffalo, NY peddling much of the same music I share on Wilfully Obscure right in the here and now (although my collection is far more endowed these days).  The left-of-the-dial outpost in question, 91.3 FM WBNY, is still going strong, and in fact, celebrated it's 30th anniversary this weekend.  While several prior obligations kept me from participating in the festivities, the three-decades-in-the-making achievement was not lost on me, and no shortage of memories were conjured up.

Wednesday night was the local artists thing, where "emerging" Western New York acts would come in for an obligatory interview and live-to-air performance.  Bands would usually set up in the sticker saturated-lobby of the station as the actual studios were inordinately small for ensembles.  Recordings of these "Glorified Rehearsals" (this would eventually be the moniker festooned to the local show) were a given, and a few months worth in early 1995 became the grist for this compilation CD.

I've championed a couple of the participants here quite fervently in the past, specifically m**f and Tugboat Annie, both of the melodic, indie-guitar genus.  The likeminded, shoegazer-flirting Linus Box had mounds of potential, but few recordings to their credit (might have a tape somewhere).  Girlpope's "Single Girl" was a goes-down-easy slice of power pop that logged gobs of air time on WBNY, so a live incarnation was a no brainer for inclusion here.  Equally appealing were the doleful romantic strains of Tremendo's "Creepy Girl," while the unkempt noise-punk of Lollipop and the Rainbow Girls garnered these dissonant combos a modicum of national attention at the time.  Lotsa strummy acoustic stuff here as well, exemplified by Michel Weber and Ansley Court, and I would be remiss if I failed to tout the virtues of Desert Hum who came to the party bearing a breezy, 10,000 Maniacs-indebted lilt that didn't do much for me back then, but considerably more now.   The bands showcased within have long been put to pasture, and many, many more have come and gone in the past seventeen years, but Alive On-Air remains an accurate and often rewarding curio of the era, and something of a microcosm given it's diversity.  A live stream of WBNY is available at your disposal here.  Happy birthday, and here's to another thirty years!

01. Ansley Court - Ewe
02. Plaster Sandles - In the Sand
03. Desert Hum - The Memory Song
04. Snufflufugus - Christ Inc.
05. Jive Injection - I'll Be Allright
06. Michel Weber - Jealous
07. m**f - Apples
08. Linus Box - The Smile Song
09. Tremendo - Creepy Girl
10. Rainbow Girls - Save Me
11. A Potter's Field - So Tight
12. Girlpope - Single Girl
13. Lollipop - Crinolyn
14. The Tails - Misery Girl
15. Tugboat Annie - Circus


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Spiral Jetty - Art's Sand Bar (1987, Incas)

Another fine Spiral Jetty album courtesy of Incas Records - the label that never put out an unsatisfactory release (at least the stuff I've heard anyway).  A couple of years ago I dedicated some space to their first full length, Tour of Homes, wherein I mentioned that SJ's jittery jangle was none-too-dissimilar to Garden State homies the Feelies.  Art's Sand Bar virtually doubles down on that pleasing aesthetic, while blending in some subtler maneuvers hinting this New Brunswick trio's approach was also predicated in the proto-punk of CBGBs luminaries Television, and to a lesser extent the Talking Heads.  Furthermore, the chugging "Suburban Optimism" features staccato-laden fretwork that would do the Minutemen proud, and "Little By Little" milks an infectiously jagged power chord for all it's worth.  So far as I'm concerned, Art's Sand Bar is an 18 karat bar of indie-pop gold. 

01. Big Downhill Racing
02. Giants
03. Keep It Alive
04. Bad Thoughts
05. Where the Sun Is
06. Hey Joe
07. Suburban Optimism
08. Exactly How She Feels
09. Little By Little
10. Pigs Alley
11. Familiar Streets
12. The Beat Goes On


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Sneetches - Sunnyside Down 7" (1993, Elefant)

It's a pity The Sneetches didn't turn enough heads during their tenure from the late '80s to the mid-90s, and doubly unfortunate they're not revered by many in hindsight.  An abject shame in my book, especially when they handed out such deftly crafted power pop beauts as "...and I'm Thinking," which could go head-to-head with crème de la crème Posies and Velvet Crush any day.  The suave, chilled-out "Try and Make It All Work," (which I believe is exclusive to this single) oozes shades of the Zombies, and the Guess Who's "Undun."  Why this 45 is dubbed Sunnyside Down, and doesn't include a song of the same name is beyond me, but I digress.  I wish I had more time to extoll on the Sneetches, but if it's more info you seek may I point you to Wikipedia and Trouser Press.  Better yet, you can get a few more earfuls on these very pages, including 1988's Sometimes That's All We Have LP and two subsequent eps

A. ...and I'm thinking
B. Try and Make It All Work


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Living Dolls - Emotional Parade ep (1986, Fine Line)

We have another cold case on our hands, this one coming from Seattle as it would appear.  The Anglo-worshiping Living Dolls just barely make the leap to the left end of the dial, but if you can look past the "crossover potential," that ostensibly failed to materialize, this record showcases four highly satisfying tunes.  The pumped-up synths permeating "Bury the Bottle" lend a new romantic vibe to what is probably the catchiest thing on here, while the remainder of Parade takes on a more organic essence.  Pretty much anywhere the needle drops on Emotional Parade has me jonesing for the likes of Wire Train, Then Jerico, Ups and Downs, Railway Children, even the Ocean Blue at moments.  Indeed, this is that kind of record and the Living Dolls are that kind of band - and you're likely to either love 'em or hate 'em.  Hopefully there's a lot more of the former among you.

01. Cost of Confusion
02. Bury the Bottle
03. Emotional Parade
04. Vietnam


Monday, October 1, 2012

Alter Boys - Piles 7" (1986, One Eye) + demo tape

Last summer one of my readers suggested an album by New York's Alter Boys dubbed, Soul Desire.  I did a little homework on the Boys and subsequently mailordered a reasonably priced used copy of Desire, and later shared it on these pages (linked above).  While I patiently awaited it 's arrival, I discovered that I already had a song from an earlier A/B single sitting on my hard drive, specifically the scintillating A-side to the wax I'm posting today.  Utterly stupefied.   Love at first listen.  "Piles'" raw, unremitting surge of jangly, screaming guitars could have been misplaced as the outtake of my dreams dreams from the Replacements Let It Be - that or U2 gone very weirdIn fact, I'd bet Bob Stinson himself could have whipped up a sonic cocktail of this magnitude circa '84 (though frontman J.D, Barrell was a far cry from Paul Westerberg).  Dazzling as the energy exuding from "Piles" was, it's angsty, misanthropic motif would have sounded downright clumsy had it been read straight off the piece of paper it was likely penned on, but in the context of the song the prose works just fine. The two flip-sides (one being an instrumental) were a different story entirely, though the bratty "Gimme What I Want" foreshadowed the more linear tact the Alter Boys would make as the rule, not the exception on Soul Desire. Whether "Piles" was a happy accident or not, I'm more than grateful to have this anomaly grace my ears whenever I hear it. 

Not long after excavating said song and the Soul Desire LP, I came into possession of an undated, A/B demo tape, which might as well have been a one in a million find, because among it's four tracks was an early incarnation of, you guessed it, "Piles."  The single version is superior, though the lyrics are more discernible on the demo.  The remaining tracks on the tape don't outshine the "centerpiece," but in toto are more consistent than the single.  Perhaps I'll have more Alter Boys to share in the offing...

Piles 7"
A. Piles
B1. Buk's Song
B2. Gimme What I Want

01. backwards tape intro
02. Piles
03. Train
04. Love You
05. Lady Speedstick