Donner Party tunes I put up as one of my Mystery Monday features a few weeks ago. Truly in a class by themselves, this mid-fi, Bay Area indie trio may ultimately be remembered as a footnote to the career of frontman Sam Coomes, who would eventually helm a considerably more popular band, Quasi. If that wasn't enough, Coomes also played bass with Portland's Heatmiser, who themselves featured a rising star in Elliott Smith, but I digress.
Out of all his ventures, The Donner Party fascinates me the most, not only by virtue of their small but excellent body of work, but by their strikingly casual and humble tact. A tact, I might add, which was perfectly conveyed by Coomes fey croon, one that was apt to impart a bevy of wives tale motifs, morbid scenarios, character vignettes, and several benign, offhand references to Satan. Frequently accompanied on backing vocals by drummer Melanie Clarin, the Donner Party had an endearing chemistry that sinks in the moment their records first grace your ear.
Sonically the band meshes well with early Camper Van Beethoven - a band who-not-so coincidentally released the Donner's second album on their in-house Pitch-a-Tent label. You can throw in Let's Active for comparison's sake as well, and when D/P really get crankin' (i.e. "John Wilkes Booth") they even forecast the likes of Superchunk. In fact, a lot of territory is covered ranging from punk ("Sickness," "Treepig"), folk ("The Owl of Minerva"), a Sesame Street cover ("Up and Down") and even a dazzling foray into full-tilt bluegrass ("Halo"). And it all works, courtesy of Commes relentless whimsy, wherein mercurial gestures evenly split the difference with the macabre and misanthropic.
to your right. Below is a breakdown where everything is sourced from. Enjoy.
1-15. first album (Cryptovision Records, 1987)
16-28. second album (Pitch-a-Tent Records, 1988)
1-4. second album continued
5-17. unreleased third album
18-25. live 2/2/89 at Berkeley Square
Disk One: https://www104.zippyshare.com/v/iolxDMAm/file.html
Disk Two: https://www104.zippyshare.com/v/E5bguhxP/file.html