Sunday, June 30, 2013

V/A - Scared to Get Happy - An Addendum (aka "the sixth disc").

Just as a quick disclaimer, I am not sharing any part of the newly released Scared to Get Happy compilation box set on Cherry Red Records.  Onto the text. 

When it rains, it pours, and this is the type of torrential onslaught that only comes once every ten years or so.  In 2005 the honors went to Rhino Records Children of Nuggets four disc box, which focused on the creme de la creme of (mostly) American bands with psyche/garage tendencies, primarily taking root in the '80s and thus updating the template accordingly.  For the last eight years I've deemed Children of Nuggets to be the most delightful various artists box set to sink it's teeth into the market...but this month it just got bested.  Not by another Nuggets compilation, rather Scared to Get Happy, a mondo five CD extravaganza, strictly dedicated to obscurish indie UK guitar pop hopefuls spanning 1980-89.  134 of them to be exact!  If you've already caught wind of this six hour long collection, chances are you were already familiar with some of the heavy hitters: Primal Scream, House of Love, Mighty Lemon Drops, Jesus and Mary Chain, Dentists, Primitves, etc...  However in putting this together, Cherry Red dug waaaaay deeper stretching it's reissue-happy tentacles into the realms of labels like Sarah, Midnight, Postcard, not to mention a myriad of DIY imprints.  The roster is as impressive to look as listen to.   Scared... harkens back to the Smiths era of Britpop, when romantic ruminations, nervous energy and homespun moxie were spun into chiming, two-and-a-half minute surges of heart and soul.

So what's the deal with this post?  With a compilation that's exhaustive enough to include the likes of the Siddeleys and the Suede Crocodiles you'd think Cherry Red had all the bases covered...and to great extent they do.  But hypothetically, what if I were to construct a sixth CD of equal worthiness?  Here is my meager attempt at stringing together a "companion" album to an already bustling box set.  Though I can't say there were a terrific number of glaring omissions, there were at least three I couldn't quite rationalize, specifically the Field Mice, Candy Skins, and the Outskirts.  For the Field Mice I opted to go with a demo take of a song that later wound up on the band's Skywriting compilation.   I thought the Outskirts insidiously catchy "Blue Line" (later covered by Let's Active) would have also made for an apt fit, as would the Candy Skin's "She Blew Me Away," sounding like the sweetest thing Tommy Keene never busted out.  That leaves another nineteen StGH worthy nuggets including longtime favorite tracks of mine by James Dean Driving Experience, Church Grims, North of Cornwallis, Hey Paulette, Stray Trolleys (incognito Martin Newell of Cleaners From Venus), the Visitors, among a bevy of other unknown quantities from the British Isles.  If you like what you hear, don't deprive yourself of obtaining the smashing box set that inspired this mix!  Amazon UK has the best deal of all the retailers I investigated, and it's an absolute must have.  The addendum track list is as follows:

01. Visitors - Goldmining
02. Moss Poles - Go Down
03. Remember Fun - Train Journeys
04. Field Mice - I Thought Wrong (Run away) (demo)
05. The Church Grims - Plaster Saint
06. Candy Skins - She Blew Me Away
07. Outskirts - Blue Line
08. Various Artists (the band) - Original Mixed Up Kid
09. North of Cornwallis - Billy Liar
10. Hellfire Sermons - Rachel Clean
11. Potting Sheds - Happy Again
12. The Perfect Disaster - Call it a Day
13. Hey Paulette - I Really Do Love Penelope
14. Jane From Occupied Europe - Ocean Run Dry
15. James Dean Driving Experience - Drop Dead Darling
16. The Rose Of Avalanche - Always There
17. Power of Dreams - The Jokes On Me (demo)
18. Palisades - Knight in Gale
19. This Scarlet Train - Picture Frame
20. St. Christopher - Even The Sky Seems Blue
21. Stray Trolleys - Secret Dreams Of A Kitchen Porter
22. extra special mystery bonus track


Friday, June 28, 2013

Big View "August Grass" 7" (1982, Point)

In case you're wondering, it was the sleeve that sold me on this one, nondescript as it might appear to the average beholder.  If England's Big View have any claim to fame, it would be the inclusion of two expatriates from the Thompson Twins, Peter Dodd and John Roog to be specific.  While they're credited with "instruments" it's female mouthpiece T. who rules the Big View roost, but she does so casually.  The results total up to two slices of polite yet edgy wave-pop conveyed via a delivery system that strikes me as a tad too economical for the genre.  I love the tunes, but the above might explain why the TT/Duran set failed to gravitate in the direction of this trio.

A. August Grass
B. Confess


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Jet Black Berries - Sundown on Venus w/ bonus album side (1984, Pink Dust/Enigma)

Much like the New York State capitol, Albany (four hours due east) Rochester can't boast much in the way of musically renown acts.  Back in the '80s however the Flower City gave rise to a combo called New Math, a noir punk/alt act who put out the classic KBD single "Die Trying," along with a pair of bloody great eps, They Walk Among You and Gardens, both of which were sizably buttressed by Mark Schwartz's whirring organ lines.

Creatively, New Math developed a change of heart, one that pulsed in the direction of Americana rock, or more bluntly, cowpunk.  With the original lineup intact the group settled into a new moniker, Jet Black Berries, and by 1984 were snatched up by national indie imprint Pink Dust (technically a division of Enigma - don't get me started as to who some of the Berries labelmates were).  Under the newly christened name the quintet issued Sundown on Venus, a record steeped in spaghetti western motifs coupled with an interstellar bent, a healthy dose of charm, and outright catchiness at moments.  At least that's how the first half pans out.  Side two tamps down on the twang almost entirely, mining a thematically similar, albeit pessimistic vein, with Schwartz's docile organs once again permeating the background.  The initial pressing of Sundown... came bundled with a third album side, featuring six additional songs wherein the Berries occasionally deviate a bit from their usual schtick.  Side three caps off with reworkings of two New Math staples, "The Restless Kind," and "They Walk Among You." 

Two more JBB album's would follow, Desperate Fires in 1986, and Animal Necessity two years later.  In the late '00s the Berries regrouped with the same lineup, minus singer Kevin Patrick.  In his place came young gun Johnny Cummings, who lent his voice to the fourth JBB album, 2010's Post Modern Ghosts.  Ironically, much of it was comprised of new readings of vintage New Math songs, which by the way translate perfectly well some thirty years later. 

01. Bad Hombre
02. Macumba Love
03. Sundown on Venus
04. Double Cross
05. Masked Astronaut
06. Bluebirds
07. Noon in Cairo
08. Ring of Steel
09. Johnsonville
10. Go Devils
11. Shakin' All Over

bonus record:

12. Shadowdrive
13. Articles
14. All is Lost
15. Cara Lin
16. The Restless Kind
17. They Walk Among You

Sundown on Bandcamp

Monday, June 24, 2013

Like a sailing ship without a mast, it’s a window pane without glass.

Just in time for the season.  A two-fer CD for this Mystery Monday.  You jangle-heads don't want to pass this up. 

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wire - rehearsals for 154 (1978)

It's summer.  The living should be easy.  So what am I doing with a batch of murky at best sounding prototypes for a difficult album by an even more difficult band?  The hell if I know, but it dawned on me yesterday that in the past six years I've been doing this I have yet to dedicate a megabyte of space to Wire.  If anything else, we can chalk that up to the wide availability of the Newman/Lewis/Gotobed/Gilbert back catalog.  Perhaps subconsciously, I also assumed that my plethora of live Wire material would be lost on those of you who were unfamiliar with their repertoire, and a rehash for you die-hards who've imbibed enough concerts by them already.  And speaking of Wire die-hards, many aficionados of the group's initial volley of 1977-79 albums (Pink Flag/Chairs Missing/154) regard the latter to be an oblique masterpiece.  154, with it's chilly tenor, idiosyncratic instrumental gestures, and abundant themes of alienation, is quite bluntly not for everybody.  Furthermore, it's not the best place to delve into for the uninitiated.  On the other hand, those of you with a sincere appreciation for said record might be stimulated by this bootleg, featuring nascent attempts at nine songs that would eventually occupy it, not to mention an additional song (track 1) that ostensibly never made it past the rehearsal stage.  The fidelity is weak and some of the lyrics aren't completely together yet, but personally, my only pet peeve is that we aren't treated to a run-through of my fave 154 cut, "Map Ref. 41°N 93°W."

01. title unknown
02. Underwater Experiences (aborted)
03. Underwater Experiences
04. Single K.O.
05. Two People In A Room (aborted)
06. Two People In A Room
07. Blessed State
08. Once Is Enough
09. A Touching Display
10. The 15th (aborted)
11. The 15th
12. Question Of Degree
13. 40 Versions


Thursday, June 20, 2013

14 Iced Bears - In the Beginning (2001, Slumberland)

14 Iced Bears association with Sarah Records may have spanned the arc of one 1988 single, but the band's catalog (particularly the early portion) suggests their involvement with that coveted British imprint should have been a lot more enduring.  With a sonic aptitude that bridged the not-so-gaping divide between nascent Primal Scream and the Wedding Present, the band (Sarah Records or not) manged to pump out more than half a dozen singles and two albums between 1986-91.  The currently out of print In the Beginning compilation reprises the first three of the Bears 45s, which many longtime fans regard as their halcyon recordings.  As if those ten ditties weren't sufficient, ...Beginning is fleshed out with two stellar Peel Sessions, a pair of not-so-hot live cuts, and just as many demos originating from 1985.  Not as consistently saccharine as their C86 brethren, 14 Iced Bears weren't shy about upping the dissonance ante, especially on their premier single, "Inside."  As mentioned, in addition to short form vinyl releases, the group is survived by a couple of albums, a 1988 self-titled effort, and 1991's Wonder, both of which are available for purchase on iTunes and Emusic.   

01. Inside
02. Blue Suit
03. Cut
04. Balloon Song
05. Train Song
06. Like a Dolphin
07. Lie to Choose
08. Come Get Me
09. Sure to See
10. Unhappy Day
11. Balloon Song
12. Shy (-) Like You
13. Train Song
14. Cut
15. Miles Away
16. Spangle
17. Hay Fever
18. If I Said
19. Jumped in a Puddle
20. Gave You My Overcoat
21. Ring the Far Bell
22. I Don't Know Why

01-10: singles 1986-88
11-14: Peel Session 11/26/86
15-18: Peel Session 7/27/87
19-20: live at The Enterprise, London 1986
21-22: demos 1985


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Harlows - tape (1995)

Posthumous as my approval was, I applauded Minneapolis' Harlows last year for a 1996 cassette release, that tuned out to be a better-late-than-never delight.  Dare I say this 1995 "prequel" was even more gratifying?  Truth is, I can't make an apples to apples comparison when this incarnation of the Harlows was only a trio, as opposed to the future quartet commandeered by chanteuse Rachel.  Without her in the picture, the "1995" Harlows sounded like an entirely different beast, with Charlton Metcalf leading the charge in a notably more "mid-fi" context.  On most occasions here, the Harlows propulsive indie rock rubs elbows with one post-punk variant or another, and coincidentally or not they seem to be the following the same trajectory as one of their obscuro contemporaries, Boston's Flying Nuns.  Both the Nuns and Harlows siphon off plenty of inspiration from Mission of Burma, bearing no shortage of clangy guitar lines and lovingly meager harmonies, albeit in the case of Metcalf and Co. there's a significant pop angle that MOB only hinted at.  I realize the brunt of you reading this are apt to pass up on a mere "tape" of a totally unknown quantity, but this is genuinely inspired stuff and worth your while.

BTW, in addition to the two tapes I'm featuring on W/O, the band minted two more cassette albums during their Clinton-era tenure, all four of which were compiled onto a two CD set that I eventually hope to get my hands on.

01. Catch a Wave
02. February
03. 4 Leaf Clover
04. Cowards Sunday Drive
05. Lookout
06. Deminers
07. Hemingway
08. For Rent
09. untitled


Monday, June 17, 2013

I am in no condition to become your new magician.

A sweet power pop delight from Minnetonka's finest. 

You snooze you lose.  Having difficulty accessing the file?  Please try again a little later.  Too many people hammering the link simultaneously is apparently giving Netkup's servers a headache.  With this in mind, I'll leave this up for a few hours past the usual twenty-four, k?  You're welcome to comment, just don't give away anything obvious.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

VA - Give Me the Cure - 18 D.C. bands interpret The Cure (1994, Radiopaque/Corduroy)

The header to this entry largely tells you all you need to know.  This was an AIDS benefit compilation involving a bevy of significant D.C. luminaries including Chisel (Ted Leo), Jawbox, Shudder to Think, The Ropers, Dismemberment Plant, Eggs, Candy Machine, and Tuscadero.  Try not to get too excited, because the renditions by virtually everyone participating are fairly unorthodox, and as you might guess never quite hold a candle to Robert Smith and Co.'s original configurations.  An interesting listen at any rate.  I'm frankly too lazy to type out the tracklisting, so just click on the scan of the tray card below to read the full lineup.  Enjoy (or not).


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Meices - Greatest Bible Stories Ever Told (1993, eMpTy)

Recently had a request for the first Meices album, so here it is.  It's hardly the first time I've dedicated space to them on Wilfully Obscure, and it probably won't be the last either, considering there's a few more nuggets in the vault to plunder.  The two platters that followed Greatest Bible Stories... 1994's Tastes Like Chicken, and Dirty Bird which landed two years later, were superior to the debut, but even from the get go the Meices managed to hit the ground running, in extremely consistent fashion at that.  A rumbling pop-punk undercurrent reverberates through unholy yet tuneful rackets like "Don't Let the Soap Run Out," "Pissin' in the Sink," and "Near Ya," all of which hold up splendidly two decades after the fact.  The Meices always had a wailing, Replacements-y swagger to 'em, yet Joe Reineke and company imbued their compositions with a little extra tartness and unpredictability that few groups have ever been able to duplicate.  You can check out a batch of singles contemporary to this album here, two split singles, as well as Joe's pre and post Meices endeavors. 

01. Alex Put Something in His Pocket
02. La La Land
03. Push You Down
04. Don't Let the Soap Run Out
05. Near Ya
06. This Way
07. Pissin' in the Sink
08. Didn't Wanna
09. Number One
10. Hey Little Punker
11. 40 Miles
12. We're Freezing (hidden track)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Overflow - The Worm 7" ep (1995, Goodwill)

This was a very pleasant surprise, from a Croatian group no less.  Purely based on the cosmetics of the lowbrow sleeve artwork, I anticipated Overflow would mine a similar punk-pop vein to the Descendents and/or Hagfish.  Not quite.  Instead, Overflow tacked in the direction of the Bollweevils, early Supersuckers and Scared of Chaka, and sounded thoroughly American in the process.  Spunky and inspired as any of their Stateside ilk, this co-ed trio had razor sharp tunes to boot.  Totally reminds me of the records I ordered out of Maximum Rock and Roll from this period.  Could use a second helping, Michelin Man!

01. Friend
02. Savage
03. Out There
04. Let Me In (!?)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Indicators - 12 Ton ep (1996, VML)

The sticker adorning the album jacket proclaims that The Indicators are comprised of alumni from such old school Chicago punk stalwarts as the Effigies and Bhopal Stiffs along with a member of D.C. hardcore legends Government Issue.  This information no doubt helped to lure me in (and the sale price didn't hurt either).  I was relieved these guys didn't subscribe to the cookie-cutter EpiFat sound that was all the rage when this record dropped, nor did I encounter any deliberate throwback maneuvers to their collective lineage.  On the other hand, one or the other actually might have propped up 12 Ton a tad, because even on numerous repeat listens The Indicators aren't terribly indicative of much of anything, save for an overabundance of pedestrian concerns.  Maybe it's the relatively gruff vocals, or their apparent disinterest in melody that's rubbing me the wrong way.  I don't really know.  However, based on the Indicators pedigree alone, I thought this was worth throwing out there.  Although you can't really discern from my inadequate photo, the record sleeve isn't a pure black background. This was released on Joey Vindictive's VML imprint. 

01. Forever Just Remains
02. Headcleaner
03. Along the Edge
04. Not Miles
05. One of Those Days
06. Empty-V


Monday, June 10, 2013

Like your favorite Heatmiser song goes, "it's just like being alone."

Presenting an album's worth of unreleased/under-released tunes from a quartet who have a new album in the shops this week (and no, it's not Black Sabbath...or Heatmiser).

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Various - D-sides: The Letter "D" folder mix

Feels like it's been ages since I shared one of my letter folder mix comps, so here's to the fourth one in the alphabet.  Adhering to the same theme as my preceding "H" "O" "P" "B" and "G" folder mixes, this robust, 25 song compendium of totally random artists have only one thing in common - the first letter of their respective monikers.  In fact, no consideration has been given to genre.  For almost every complete album I have by an artist on my hard drive, I store just as many random one-off songs by artists I don't have a dedicated folder to.  These random one-offs have been corralled into "letter folders" A through Z.  As was the case with the previous entries I'm not going to publish the track list, but I'm about to drop several hints to give you an idea of what's awaiting 110 megs or so of your hard drive space.

I'm sharing a rarely heard Diodes cut, live Discount, a super early Del Amitri single side (yes, before they sold out), and demos from the Datura Seeds and Drowners.  There's acoustic Death Cab, live Dreams So Real, and a radio session track from Dramarama.  And I suppose it wouldn't be a "letter" comp without some thoughtful covers, this installment courtesy of the Dangtrippers and Dipsomaniacs.  The fabulous Dion McGregor spins a surreal narrative in his sleep, and if that wasn't enough, you're sure to get your punk on with drugMoney and The Drips.  With that, I shall let the other half of this mix remain a total surprise. 


Friday, June 7, 2013

Big Dipper - Impossible Things promo ep (1990)

Ok, nothing particularly revelatory here, even for Big Dipper fans, if only because this four-cut promotional disk doesn't contain any original non-LP material.  Nope, instead these indie turned major label rawkers throw their lucky recipients three hastily recorded covers - all live from the sound of it.  The tracklist says all you need to know.  "Impossible Things" is culled from 1990's Slam LP, hard copies of which are awaiting you in your local bargain bin, or you could do the considerate thing and support the band via iTunes or Amazon downloads.  I'd be remiss if I failed to meant that Big Dipper reunited recently and equipped us with a new album in 2012, Crashes on the Platinum Planet.  If you're up for more fun, check out Merge Records handy reissue of Big Dipper's Homestead Records catalog. 

01. Impossible Things
02. She Loves You
03. Rockin' in the Free World
04. Stranded in the Jungle


Thursday, June 6, 2013

File under Windbreakers: Howard and Tim's Paid Vacation - I Never Met A Girl I Didn't Like mLP (1985, Midnight)

This seven song platter was a one-off collaboration between Tim Lee of Windbreakers renown, and Howard Wuelfing, a music journalist and alumni of the D.C. based Slickee Boys and Nurses.  From what few online critiques I've conjured up, I Never Met a Girl... is regarded as unremarkable, but it's very much to my liking.  Three songs here function as demos for future Windbreakers album tracks, and the overarching gist of the Lee/Wuelfing pairing is in keeping with that combo's strummy, mid-tempo modus operandi.  A cover of the Alex Chilton/Tommy Hoehn penned "She Might Look My Way" doesn't hurt in sweetening the power pop pot.  As is so frequently the case, Trouser Press nails this disk better than yours truly could:

The low-budget Paid Vacation LP Lee cut in 1985 with Howard Wuelfing (an ex-Slickee Boy bassist who led the Washington-area Nurses in the late '70s and then worked with Half Japanese) offers sketchy previews of three Windbreakers' songs: "Run" (from Run) and "Fit In" and "Forget Again" (from A Different Sort). Besides a cover (Tommy Hoehn and Alex Chilton's "She Might Look My Way"), the LP also contains Wuelfing singing his own originals, one of which ("The Week You Were Mine") is quite lovely. Unfortunately, muffled sound and indifferent performances limit the value of this seven-song artifact.

A couple more brief assessments can be located here.  Special thanks to the folks at the sadly long-defunct Feelin' Kinda Froggy blog for originally ripping this record.

01. Fit In
02. Better Come Clean
03. Run
04. The Week You Were Mine (Pt. II)
05. She Might Look My Way
06. Forget Again
07. That Won't Make You Love Me


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Raymond Loewy designed the logo for the Canada Dry...

A day late but not an album short.  This is one of my favorite Can-indie albums of the '90s, boasting oodles of pop goodness.

Having difficulty accessing the file?  Please try again a little later.  Too many people hammering the link simultaneously is apparently giving Netkup's servers a headache.  With this in mind, I'll leave this up for a few hours past the usual twenty-four, k?  You're welcome to comment, just don't give away anything obvious.