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



Oxy said...

"...the brunt of you are apt to pass..."

Is this Wilfully Obscure or not? People come (and come back) to this site to hear decent sounds they missed hearing the first time around.

You do some of the best write-ups of semi-unknowns and outer fringe bands to be found, period. The bands generally sound exactly as you described. Sometimes, even better. You don't sugarcoat or oversell the bands, either. Give yourself and your followers a little bit of credit. There's a reason all of us keep coming back for more. In other words, thanks for all you do. It doesn't go unnoticed. Trust me on that one.

Oxy said...

Just got through listening to this. These guys are great! You're right about one thing, though. These songs really do need to be remastered and put on CD. I'll be looking for that, myself.

I literally burst out laughing listening to the song, "Cowards Sunday Drive." Just great lyrics that I'm not about to give away, here. Thanks again for another excellent post!

spavid said...

Thanks Oxy. You wouldn't have any way of knowing this, but proper LPs and CDs get about three times more downloads than tapes, especially a relative "no name" group like this one. That was my reason for qualifying it in my write up.

I'm with you there on the lyrics, but "4 Leaf Clover" is the one that makes me go for the repeat button. Keep your fingers crossed that there's more where this came from.

Bryan said...

It's true. I don't always take everything posted. And the news that something has come from a tape does color my impression somewhat. But you overcome that with what you say about it. I loved that other Harlows tape, so obviously you convinced me then and have again, despite the drastic difference in this earlier incarnation.

Oxy said...

Nobody snags everything posted, especially on a blog like this, where obscurity is the key word. Your write-ups are usually right on the money, so if you say a band sounds like something I don't much care for, I pass on it. It does surprise me that people are passing on good tunes just because they're sourced from cassette. Makes no sense to me, as it's the sound, not the source that matters, but then again, I know guys who will only DL posts with a bit rate of 320. 256 is not good enough! They must all have the ears of a Vulcan.

As for The Harlows, both tapes are great, even though it really does sound like two completely different bands. I did see the earlier comment from one of the band members, so my fingers are definitely crossed.

Bryan said...

Yes. It's the sound. Please don't pretend the sound from a cassette doesn't sound different than some other source. This one came out OK. But not all of them do. And just like someone doesn't download something because it's of a genre they aren't ever going to listen to, I don't download something I will never listen to because there's too much hissing. Whether or not the band underneath it is otherwise something I would.