Monday, September 30, 2013

You rolled right by on your way back from shock therapy...

From 1993.  A should've been punk-pop classic of immense proportions from true masters of the form.

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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

VA - Lessons From Little Hits, Part 1

It was more than a simple appreciation of subrosa sounds that served as the foundation for going public with Wilfully Obscure in 2007.  The other part of the equation was a number of other music "sharity" blogs which came before mine that I deeply admired, and first and foremost was a shining beacon called Little Hits.  Curated by Jon Harrison, it was a true music blog in the respect that his original goal was to stick to a song-a-day format (which he succeeded in doing during the mid '00s).  It wasn't the prolific nature of LH, so much as what he was making available through his site - impossibly scarce singles from '80s indie and post-punk acts.  I'm not talking about the likes of the Connells and the Godfathers, or for that matter most of what populated 120 Minutes' playlists, rather overlooked gems from bands whose releases were relegated to local, micro-indie imprints, and private pressings.  Accompanying each glorious blast wave on the Little Hits servers was a depiction of the record sleeve and a brief but informative essay about the music in question.  Gee, I wonder where I got that idea from... 

Theoretically, I never intended for Wilfully Obscure to be modeled after Little Hits, yet so many of the enlightening discoveries I made on there led me to search out the actual records for myself, many of which I've passed on to you in their entirety, as opposed to LH's less legally susceptible "one song" per record policy.  How's that for a run on sentence?  Anyway, those daily revelations really stimulated a record buying habit that continues unabated to this day...and the results have been unveiled here ever since. During LH's 2005-09 run, I managed to purloin 300+ tracks from his Mr. Harrison's hallowed servers.  Many of which were from artists I had never encountered previously, and have yet to feature on these pages.  Today is the first of three collections of left-of-the-dial Nuggets that Little Hits brought to my attention.  The Little Hits website is still intact, but hardly browsable, and furthermore all the MP3 links have been removed.  If you're curious about any of the music in this setlist, my best advice would be to do a Google query with "Little Hits" and the band name in quotes, and you should promptly reach the page you so desire.  To read a little more about the closure of LH, may I point you to The Pitch.

Alter Boys - Piles
Bored Games - Bridesmaid
Circles - Opening Up
Cowboy Mouth - Long Hot Ride
Downy Mildew - Purple Parlor
Idiot Savant - Throw It Away
Mad Turks From IstanbulLooking Forward To Destroy
Monkey 101French Feelings
The Moss Poles - One Summer
NNB - Slack
The Pencils - Watching The Tears
Snips - 9 O'clock
Speed The Plough - River Street
The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience - Shadows
The Pearly Gatecrashers - Age Of Innocence


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Suburbans - The Pop Life (1980, Isleford)

The Suburbans were a nervy strum and drang trio, presumably from the NYC area.  Hard to believe this came out all the way back in 1980, given that just about every logic comparison I seem to draw is past the Carter-era, namely The Feelies, Misison of Burma, and even the Figgs.  In fact, singer guy/guitarist Jamie Rosenthal's vocal timbre falls roughly in the range of Burma's Roger Miller and the Figgs Mike Gent.  There’s a little backtracking in a Velvets kinda way, not to mention the Suburban's occasional knack for pulling off slight Brit Invasion maneuvers, but these similarities are dim and likely coincidental.  The band's DIY recording setup is devoid of effects and studio trickery, lending a minimalist stride to The Pop Life.

The frenetic chord-wrangling that grips “No Use to Cry” suggests the Suburbans may have gotten some face time at CB’s or Maxwells during their run.  "Saturday Night Blues (Going to a Party)" is a sprite rave-up that's equally fun.  Other highlights abound ("Suburban Rock" and "I Don't Undertand"), and unfortunately a few clunkers (you're forgiven if you pass on the parodic disco funk of "I'm a Good Dancer").  If anyone can shed a few further details on the Suburbans, please chime in, because there isn't squat to be had about these dudes online.

01. No Use to Cry
02. Saturday Night Blues (Going to a Party)
03. The Way I Look at You
04. I Don't Understand
05. You Don't Know My Name
06. No Love Song
07. I'm a Good Dancer
08. Nobody Told Me How It Would Be
09. Words and Wants
10. Suburban Rock


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Re-up: White Flag - Thru the Trash Darkly 1982/1992 (Munster), R.I.P. Bill Bartell (aka Pat Fear).

Word went out late last night that White Flag frontman Bill Bartell (more commonly referred to as Pat Fear) had made his way into the choir invisible.  The band gestated in the early '80s as a loose parody of the Los Angeles hardcore punk/skate scene.  In the process, White Flag developed a solid body of work of their own, that at moments paralleled the finest material of their So. Cal antecedents.  The 34-track Thru the Trash Darkly, which I originally posted in 2007, focuses on their early and most revered material.  Bill and White Flag continued on in various permutations throughout the remainder of the '90s and well into this century in fact, often collaborating with the Posies Ken Stringfellow.  Please read my earlier White Flag write-up for a few further details and a complete tracklist which I don't feel like repeating here.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lifeboys - The Living Class ep (1987)

I made a blind purchase on this one a few months back, and am still weighing whether my decision was a smart one.  A Windy City triple-threat, with something of an identity crisis I might add, (the) Lifeboys initially impressed me with this disk's opening salvo, "Acts," boasting a sonic penchant not far removed from the likes of Rhythm Corps (Method) and Frōzen Ghōst, throwing in a dab of social consciousness as well.  Quite a hook on this one too.  This is followed by the considerably less serious "Rebel Rock/Noble Roll" which bears a shouted, '80s rawk chorus that would be downright cheesy if the remainder of the tune didn't compensate (fortunately it does).  "Talking With People From France" closes things out on a sardonic note, wrapping itself around a fun little hoe-down riff.  You be the judge.  

01. Acts
02. Rebel Rock/Noble Roll
03. One of the New Ones
04. Talking With People From France


Monday, September 23, 2013

By the time fear takes over we will still be rolling...

Another great debut, this one from 2001.  Soothing, with a subtly surreal undercurrent.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Medicine - Her Highness (1995) Brad Laner mix

I'm short on time for a write-up, but I think this mix is a big improvement over the original.  Plus it contains a few more tracks.  BTW, Medicine have a new album out, To the Happy Few, and it's up there with Shot Forth and The Buried Life.

01. Black Cherry Water/I Feel Nothing at All
02. All Good Things
03. Father Down
04. Her Highness
05. Wash Me out
06. A Fractured Smile
07. Aarhus
08. Candy Candy
09. The Tunnel/Seen the Light Alone
10. Heads
11. Thanks giving
12. Wash
13. Father Dub


Friday, September 20, 2013

Nostalgist & Widlhoney (2013, Nostalgium) a brief overview

I've got a couple of new singles to tell you about, both coming courtesy of the Nostalgium Directive, Seattle-based label, who are just starting to make waves in the propagation of dream/drone-pop in the twentieth-first century.

My Bloody Valentine are to shoegazer as The Beatles are to pop music - an inescapable touchstone of which their respective genres are rooted in, and remain a pervasive influence to this day.  Nostalgist's sonic template is not immune to it's share of Loveless-esque ebbs and flows - almost to a fault on "Illusory," but the band offers a rather indigenous facet in frontman Asa Eisenhardt, whose atypically deep and slow vocal panache is downright attention grabbing.  While the remainder of his crew surges along at a usual dream-pop clip, Asa's vox approximate a 45 rpm record being spun at 33.  Perhaps a bit of an exaggeration that, but it does make for one of the most unique permutations this genre has ever produced...and best of all, it practically demands repeat listens.  If the noir hue of "Illusory" wasn't dark enough for you, the even chillier and pounding flip,"Twisting Slowly (Cleansing Doubt)" blacks out the light entirely, treading into similar territory as Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.  Just the kind of blissful bludgeoning I like.

In contrast, Baltimore's co-ed Wildhoney aren't tethered as closely to the Kevin Shields/Belinda Butcher formula, so much as the American read of it that The Lilys and Swirlies perfected in the '90s.  Nonetheless, "Like Me" boasts a wonderfully woozy lilt, tossing in a smidgen of neo-girl band persuasion a la Best Coast.  Elsewhere, "My Disguise" emanates a chiming guitar lead before launching into more traditional 'gazer maneuvers with instantly gratifying results.  Well played.

You can order physical copies of  both records through Nostalgium Directives store, or if you prefer to go the digital route, Bandcamp has you covered.    

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

John's Black Dirt - Perpetual Optimism Is a Force Multiplier (1994, Grass)

Throughout the '80s and '90s, Minneapolis/St. Paul was the collective gift that kept on giving, seemingly producing more bands than California and New York combined.  Not an entirely accurate analogy but it sure felt like it, and John's Black Dirt were part of the Twin Cities mix.  Snatched up in the Grass Records signing frenzy of '94, JBD played a relatively traditional stripe of indie rock that was way more Chapel Hill than Seattle.  I could easily envision these three lads sharing a bill with Polvo and/or Archers of Loaf.  Heavy goes it on the dynamics too, adopting a similar modus operandi to Seam.  Unfortunately, JBD weren't quite as consistent as their aforementioned contemps, but Perpetual's good 'uns shine like a zillion bucks, with the tuneful soft/loud surge of "Lights Flashing," and "Buicks" bittersweet tinge floating my boat just fine.  Props to "Pugilist" as well. Per a couple of blurbs on Amazon's page for this disk, an unreleased follow-up to Perpetual... is sitting in a vault or closet somewhere. 

01. Congliptious
02. Saltines
03. Movements
04. Buick
05. Fog
06. Happy Apple
07. White Sale
08. Crazy Goddamn Mad
09. Pugilist
10. Falling
11. Wide Load
12. Cloud in Pants
13. Lights Flashing
14. Who Wears the Jerk Hat?

Now on Amazon, or on ltd ed. vinyl courtesy of Bandcamp.

Dot Dash - Half-Remembered Dream (2013, TBM) - a brief overview

Three albums in three years?  What is this, the 1970s?  I suppose when you're not signed to a label that doesn't require you to tour nine months out of the year anything is possible.  As I've mentioned in previous features for their Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash and Winter Garden Light albums, this Terry Banks-led D.C. quartet are not about full fledged Wire worship, as their moniker might suggest.  There are vague parallels (coincidentally in the vocal department) but as evidenced on the bulk of Half-Remembered Dream, Dot Dash are downplaying some of their chillier post-punk inclinations for a slightly more streamlined guitar-pop bent.  Even when they're tamping down demons of yore on "Here's to the Ghosts of the Past" and decrying character flaws in "Shopworn Excuse," the actual delivery of these songs is fairly strident.  Elsewhere, "Bloom/Decay" and "Do Re Mi" travel a similar sonic motif, simultaneously offering some of Dot Dash's boldest melodies to date.  Half-Remembered's real corker would have to be the penultimate "A Light in the Distance," an incisive, power-chord driven slammer that propels the band into Superchunk-esque punk environs.  The concluding "The Sound in Shells" brings things back down to Earth for a smooth touchdown.  Perhaps not as dazzling as last year's Winter Garden Light, HRD makes the case that's it still a great time to be a Dot Dash fan.

Half Remembered Dream is available digitally through Bandcamp, iTunes, and Amazon, and physical CDs can be purchased through The Beautiful Music. A two song taster is available by way of Soundcloud, here and here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Summer goes on, and then dies quick without much warning...

Pretty much my favorite debut album of 2000.

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.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Difference Engine - Breadmaker (1993, La-Di-Da), "And Never Pull" 7" (1992, Swirling Worlds)

Once upon a time, bands from Ithaca, NY ruled the WORLD.  Well, ok maybe, try not in the least.  Whatever the case, that's where Difference Engine's origins emanated from, and at the very least they deserved something resembling a national audience.

Approaching their records with a distortion-saturated ethereal sonic tact, it was convenient to deem D/E as dream pop, shoegazer, et al, but by my estimation they were one step ahead or behind that tricky curve.  The co-ed quartet's first single, "And Never Pull," certainly evidenced parallels to My Bloody Valentine's gauzy latticework, but D/E pitched a curveball on that song, namely a petite burst of static that appeared at two-second intervals, just like the emissions of an aging cassette in a creaky tape deck.  This was the product of effects, something few of their contemporaries could be bothered with.  It's that sort of damaged beauty that made D/E's catalog a little more unique, particularly for an American enterprise.  "And Never Pull" reemerged on their 1993 mini LP, Breadmaker, but with much of that aforementioned static tamped down a notch or two.  Other tracks resembled For Against, and I certainly had no complaints with that.  A harder to locate followup album was released in 1997, titled Calidad. It would appear that prior to the release of Breadmaker the band had moved shop to Rhode Island.

So, you might be asking why I've sat on this pair for so long.  In 2009 I was informed that a reissue of Breadmaker was literally imminent, via legit download and on CD with a bonus track.  Thus far I have seen evidence of neither, so in the meantime I thought I'd put them up for public consumption.  Enjoy (you will).  

1992 single
A. And Never Pull
B. Sea Change


01. 5 Listens
02. Simon's Day
03. And Never Pull
04. Tsunami
05. Flat
06. Bugpowder
07. Epiphany

Bandcamp and here

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Nines - 1994 demo tape

Ok.  So a little bird has been whispering in my ear lately about a new album coming down the pike from The Nines, who are something of a cult power-pop favorite from north of the border.  September 16 is the street date for both the physical and digital versions which you can learn a little bit more about here.

My introduction to Steve Eggers and Co. was their contribution, "Ghost Town Sunday," to the Pop Can compilation from 1997.  I quickly followed up that mesmerizing slice of XTC-inflected goodness with the band's Wonderworld of Colourful albumThe Nines absorption of the Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding catalog couldn't be understated in the least, however the deeper I delved into Wonderworld... there was more than simple XTC homage to be had.  The Nines sublime pop craftsmanship offered a wink and a nod to the likes of Jellyfish and Marshall Crenshaw as well, but it was apparent they were quietly putting their own spin on things to boot.  Unfortunately, given the glut of new releases that were coming out in the late '90s, I kinda lost track of the Nines, despite the fact that they were churning out new material.  I still have a lot of catching up to do, but in the meantime, I thought I would share this curio with you.  A ten song demo from 1994, featuring prototypes of several songs that would occupy the aforementioned Wonderworld... and many others that failed to carry over.  If you're new to The Nines, this cassette isn't a bad intro, but treat yourself to Wonderworld... at CD Baby, not to mention the rest of their back catalog - and of course the new platter coming out this Monday.

01. What Can I Do
02. Here it Comes Again
03. Morning I Wake
04. Jennifer Smiles
05. Orange & Blue
06. "Jules Maxi"
07. Going So Far
08. Days and Days
09. Overblown (King's Crossing)
10. Free of it All


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Millions (NE) - M is for Millions 2013 reissue! A brief overview.

When I originally shared The Millions (NE) long out of print M is For Millions album back in 2009, I didn't give a second (or for that matter a first) thought to it ever being reissued.  When you come right down to it, that's what motivates me to share such arcane delights, but I digress.  Before we get to the subject at hand, it would be a good idea if I got some/most of you up to speed.  The Millions were a top-shelf modern rock entity based in the unlikely locale of Lincoln, NE (hence the slight appendage to their name) to distinguish from other "Millions" running amok.  By sheer coincidence, the Millions shared members from the only other Lincoln band I had familiarized myself with called For Against.  Drummer Greg Hill comprised half of that cross-pollination, but more notably it was guitarist Harry Dingman III who embellished both groups with chiming, echo-laden leads that went a long way in defining their respective sonic palates.  But the For Against dudes were only half of what the Millions had to offer.  The other part of the equation was largely filled out by Lori Allison, a startlingly powerful and melodic front-woman, whose operatic pipes seemed to resonate into the stratosphere.

Commercially, MifM didn't enjoy the best fate when it was issued in 1991, but those who encountered album were no doubt taken aback by Allison's penetrating vocal panache, and Dingman's ringing chords.  The quality of this unmistakably immense pairing is evidenced on "Smiling and Shaking" and "Sometimes," both worth the band's namesake in currency, as well as selections like "Riga (Freedom)," "Breathe," and "Ordinary Men," that fall just shy of the perfect ten threshold.  A written description can only do so much justice to songs of this caliber.  Luckily the world at large now has the opportunity to discover or re-discover the Millions by virtue of a new double disk reissue.  Before the Millions inked themselves to a major label contract, they self-released an early version of MifM, which featured different mixes of seven tracks that made the migration over, and three more tunes that didn't.  The reissue is designed as such to preserve the running order of the original incarnation of MifM on disk one, with the second disk carrying all the other songs produced in the sessions, about half of which have heretofore been unreleased, including the scintillating "Kisses Without Sugar" and "Something for Nothing."  In short this isn't your typical reissue.  As much as I've become endeared to the PolyGram Records iteration of MifM, I enjoy the true-to-the-original reconfiguration just as much.

And of if this humdinger of a reissue wasn't enough, it was preceded by another one, fittingly the unreleased, 1989 precursor to MifM, Poison Fish, which comes courtesy of the same label, Randy's Alternative Music.

Get it on Bandcamp (please).

Monday, September 9, 2013

A frivolous intercourse, crawling up your inside, splinters of your new remorse.

Instead of going with just one full length this week, how about three EPs?  All from different artists, different years, (and at least slightly) different genres.  Two of the three artists have never been featured on Wilfully Obscure until today.  Thirteen tracks between all of them.  The only clue I'll forfeit is that one of them contains a Rilo Kiley cover, that in my opinion smokes the original.  Enjoy (or not).

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Just Water - The Riff (1977, Branded)

It's long been said that man cannot live on bread alone...but how about water?  Just Water.  I had seen this one advertised in more than one place with the coveted "power-pop" tag attached, and since I was a bit intrigued by the cover I finally opted to take the plunge a few months ago.

With roots in Binghamton, NY and having made a full fledged migration to New York City by the late seventies, Just Water were able to ingratiate themselves onto numerous bills at iconic venues like Max's Kansas City and CBGBs, at a very pivotal point in music history.  Thing was, they were hardly a punk outfit - at least as far as the The Riff plays out.  In fact, the proceedings commence with a couple of characterless hard rock tunes.  Things turn on a dime when "They Live by Night" kicks in, which boasts a snarling guitar lick and a genuinely smokin' hook.  The melodies keep rolling in on side two, particularly on beauts like "Play it Loud" and "Wayward Boys."  Before I let the needle hit the groove, I was itching for Just Water to move me in the same manner as Big Star and the Raspberries.  I got a tad of the latter, but the most accurate comparison I was able to take away was The Who - not so much in the performance department, but more so the song arrangements.  Mitchell Danick ain't no Daltry, and six-string slinger Danny Rubin doesn't exactly encroach into Townsend territory either, but give The Riff a spin and you'll get my drift...or should I say "riff." 

Shortly after ripping this wax, I became aware that the entire album had been reissued, both on CD and via legit download.  I should mention that the collection it appears on, Downtown and Brooklyn, is three disks long and contains four times as much music. You'd do well to buy Downtown..., not only out of deference to the band, but because it's bound to be a vast improvement of my static-ridden MP3s.

01. Mean and Rotten
02. The Devil Women
03. They Live by Night
04. The Riff
05. Wayward Boys
06. Drastic Change
07. Play it loud
08. King Kong
09. Down in the Riverboat

Purchase info on the reissue here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Jef Left - s/t ep (1981, Aye & Emm)

It would appear that Jef 'Left' his short-lived music industry perch promptly after this ep was released, cos' so far as I can tell, there wasn't hide nor hair of him evidenced again (at least not according to many a search engine).  Kind of a shame on A&M's part, because the naggingly catchy "Street Survivor" could have been marketed as "power pop," at least in that Rick Springfield sort of manner.  Ditto for the mellower "Girls in Cars."  "No Security" could pass for a slightly more mainstreamed Devo, and "The Beat's" rasta tones make for some very obvious reggae plundering.  And from the 'obvious' we shift to the painfully 'gratuitous,' specifically the tank-top shot of the man in question gracing the back cover.  Of course, you'll have to swallow a morsel of your pride in the name of downloading this to examine for yourself.

01. Street Survivor
02. The Beat
03. Wound Too Tight
04. No Security
05. Girls in Cars


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Bogarts - Huh? tape - (1991, Grasshopper)

Like many bands hailing from the deep south, you might reckon that the Auburn, AL based Bogarts spiced up their rock and roll with some southern fried gusto - and spice it up they did, kicking up a plume of dust a la the Georgia Satellites and Tom Petty at moments.  However, some of the janglier gems adorning this tape, specifically "Now or Never" and "What Were You Thinking," suggest the band was tuned into the likes of R.E.M., The Reivers, and even Dixie-mates the Primitons.  Huh? isn't particularly groundbreaking, but still a treat. 

01. Sad, Sad Sunday
02. To the Sun
03. Now or Never
04. Grass is Always Greener
05. The Reactor
06. You Don't Know
07. What Were You Thinking


Monday, September 2, 2013

I want an emerald green Jaguar and an Irish wolf hound...

'89 debut from one of Dallas' best. 

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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Treble Charger - Maybe it's Me (1997)

Much like the end of summer itself, Treble Charger's third and most accomplished jewel in their crown is lovingly bittersweet.  The Ontario quartet's power pop stunner Maybe It's Me arrived after a pair of merely okay albums, NC17 and Treble Charger that I would loosely compare to Sloan's SmearedMaybe, on the other hand, was tremendously robust and sonically layered, each song chockablock with a self-contained tackle box worth of hooks to call it's own.  The songwriting was considerably more developed and thoughtful as well.  Though it does brandish notable studio luster (and a walloping, big fat '90s rawk sound), Maybe It's Me is something of a major label miracle in that the quality control is really on the up and up, parallel to records of the same era like the Doughboy's Crush and Summercamp's Pure Juice.  The Treble's decision to tap Lou Giordino as producer didn't hurt either.  Two more T/C albums followed, 2001's respectable Wide Awake Bored, and Detox in '03, the latter of which I thought catered a little to closely to a demographic that was frankly beneath them.  At any rate, they had all their ducks in a row on this one. 

01. Friend of Mine
02. How She Died
03. Stupid Thing to Say
04. Lareen
05. Red
06. Fade
07. Ever She Flows
08. Forever Knowing
09. Mercury Smile
10. Christ is on the Lawn
11. Scatterbrain
12. Takes Me Down
13. Left Feeling Odd

Get it from Amazon and iTunes