Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tsunami - Cow Arcade tape (1991, Simple Machines)

Now this is my idea of wish fulfillment.  A couple years ago I compiled and published a list of hopelessly rare records (and even a few tapes) that I had been keeping my feelers out for, for years.  One of those super scarce reels was a demo cassette by one of my most cherished '90s favorites, Tsunami.  I knew only of it's title, Cow Arcade.  Much to my amazement, and deep gratitude, a fellow that frequents Wilfully Obscure was on the same wavelength as me, and he had procured an original copy of Cow Arcade for himself.  I would have been utterly jealous of his discovery were it not for his sheer generosity in sharing MP3s of said tape in it's entirety, not to mention copying the tape sleeve for me as well!

I had a couple of misconceptions going into Cow Arcade prior to my newfound tangibility of it.  First, I was expecting a traditional demo length release - three to five songs.  Not.  Instead, I would be treated to no less than an album's worth of material.  Additionally, I was operating on the false assumption that the songs contained within were exclusive to the tape.  Hardly.  In fact, the majority of these prototypes would be re-cut for a myriad of Tsunami singles.   And "prototypes" they are to a fault.  Arcade's ten tracks were cut fast, loose, and live in one five hour stretch to four-track in 1991.  As such, the audio quality is a little choppy and the performances a tad hasty, but the key ingredients were already baked into the cake.  From the get go, they had the formula down - jagged, jittery guitar mannerisms, Jenny Toomey's headstrong vocal panache, and Tsunami's overarching rhythms that swayed and undulated like...well, a small-scale tsunami.  For the unacquainted, Cow Arcade might not be where to jump aboard, as the more representative "finished" versions of many of these songs have conveniently been compiled on the 1995 singles anthology, World Tour and Other Destinations (that and their debut LP Deep End).  Otherwise if you've been sailing the S.S. Tsunami as long as I have, may I introduce you to this long lost port of call.  Enjoy.  A huge debt of gratitude goes out to Josh for setting me up with everything.

01. Answerman
02. Flameproof Suit
03. Kickball Babe
04. Breakdown
05. Ski Trip
06. World Tour
07. Jonathan (She Cracked)
08. Writing Letters
09. Andrew #1
10. Candyman


Monday, January 27, 2014

Every power lunch has a Goldcard lining. I'm the Karl Marx of dining.

From 1994.  The decidedly more streamlined follow-up to a classic debut I've mentioned recently.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fluf - Songs 6 ep (2000, Cold Steel Facts)

For me, fluf more or less peaked by the time their first proper full length (Home Improvements aka Whitey on the Moon) hit in 1994.  With that in mind, Otis and his revolving cast of companions were still a pop-punk powerhouse, and dutifully carried on until the early '00s.  The Songs 6 ep was their last genuinely good record, but even this was half as satisfactory as their 1992 six-songer, Wasting Seed (later compiled on the Mangravy disk), which introduced fluf to me and my hipster pals.  Songs 6 is a bit of a misnomer, considering that it actually contained seven compositions (actually over twenty if you count that the entire Waikiki album was included as hidden bonus tracks),  Anyway, I'm offering just the ep songs here.  I'd be remiss if I failed to point out that most of fluf's back catalog can be purchased at Bandcamp

01. I Know I'm Nobody
02. Shit Talker
03. Stand in Your Line
04. 5 Years
05. Hey/U-Haul
06. Thick as a Brick
07. Girlfriend in a Coma


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pipe - 20th Century Masters: The Singles Collection (1992-96)

Pipe were never a top-tier favorite of mine, yet I would dutifully purchase anything with their named affixed to it.  Such was life in the '90s when a single was three dollars, post-paid.  That being said, I did enjoy them, and still pull out their plastic now and again.  They hailed from Chapel Hill, NC, at the height of that town's notoriety as a musical hotbed, in fact.  Surprisingly, that coveted locale didn't really factor into their ramshackle punk fervor, which fell somewhere on the spectrum between the Dead Boys and the Dwarves.  To be more specific, Pipe's scuzzy sonic aplomb was more aligned with second rung out-of-towners like the Derelicts, Fumes and the Putters (pardon the lack of name recognition there).  Pipe front-guy Ron Liberti possessed a ballsy punk sneer, uncontrived at that, while his backing mates, who so often threatened to teeter off the rails in their ferocity, always pulled the songs off. 

Amidst three riveting albums and a downright flooring ep (1992's Ball Peen) came a trifecta of singles that were equally as essential, and they're yours for the taking here.  Together, they comprise an apt introduction of what Pipe was capable of intoning in kinetic, two-minute surges.  Amongst six originals are Replacements and Joy Division covers, which I'll let you determine which is which on your own.  Pipe had two split singles to their credit, one with locals Small 23, who drummer Chuck Garrison had ties to (and for that matter, Superchunk).  And speaking of Superchunk, two of these singles were Merge Records titles, which might still be available.  Merge was also responsible for issuing the last Pipe full length, 1997's Slowboy.  Their earlier albums, 6 Days Till Bellus and Intl. Cement can be purchased on CD or digitally

01. Yr. Soaking In It
02. I'm In Trouble
03. Ashtray
04. Warsaw
05. Human Gutterball
06. Figure 8
07. Submariner
08. Raceway Park

1 & 2 from Amish Records 7" (1994)
3 & 4 from Merge Records 7" (1993)
5 & 6 Merge Records 7" (1994)
7 from split 7" w/ Small 23 (1992, Matt Label)
8 from split 7" w/ Rubbermaid (1996, Amish)


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Third Rail - End It (1990, Caffeine Machine)

Third Rail mouthpiece Sperry wants to be Henry Rollins bad.  Desperately in fact.  So much so that End It might as well have been titled Hard Volume pt. 2.  Indeed, Sperry is/was a slavish imitator, meticulously approximating every moan, howl and sweaty pore of Hank.  But what exactly was the impetus behind this derivative-as-hell Berkeley, CA quartet?  Unfortunately, I'm merely limited to what the vinyl and sleeve have to say, and my conclusion comes down to this.  If you enjoy the hard-ass intensity, cathartic angst and tough-love empowerment of the Rollins Band, latter era Black Flag, and for that matter, even Flag copycats Bl'ast! End It is like discovering long lost tapes.  The kicker?  Third Rail often devise songs more hardcore and compelling than Mr. 2.13.61 himself (check out the barreling "Climbing the Walls" and "Here I Am" for starters).  And much in keeping with the Rollins tradition, Sperry & Co. close things out with a torturous, slow-burning jam (the title track), that I just can't commit myself to endure in it's 14+ minute entirety.  Interesting, but consider yourselves warned.

01. Climbing the Walls
02. Cold Inside
03. You Wouldn't Understand
04. Ashes
05. Losing It
06. Hot & Bothered
07. Here I Am
08. Bullet
09. End It


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Crain 7" (1993, Compulsiv/Automatic)

Crain weren't unlike many of their Louisville, KY contemporaries when it came to raising an unholy raucous, however they weren't content with delving into the math rock thing, which to large extent put their hometown on the map in the early '90s.  They brought plenty of technical finesse to the proceedings, but the emphasis for this crew was on primal rancor, of which they looked to the Touch & Go/Amphetamine Reptile contingents for copious inspiration.  Also resembling the frantic outbursts of Drive Like Jehu, faint melodic glints managed to pierce through Crain’s overarching sonic schisms.  Shortly after this 45 dropped so did a new full length, Heater, which was cut from the same breathless cloth.  Preceding both of these was their 1992 debut, Speed, which was re-released in 2005 via Temporary Residence.  Crain bassist Jon Cook (and also of Rodan) passed away last year.

A1. Crackhouse
A2. Bricks
B. Hey Cops!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Check it out, I'm like a buzz bomb.

Here's a bit of a 180 for ya'll, not just in terms of Mystery Monday fare, but in general.  This music comes from a quartet who have been operating in their original incarnation for over two decades.  Something of an institution now in certain circles, but I find their earlier missives to be a lot more fun than their latest and supposedly greatest.  Drill sergeant vocals, pulverizing lockstep riffs (some of the meanest you'll ever hear), and a metronome-tight rhythm section comprise the key ingredients.

This 1993 full length is admittedly inconsistent, with righteously brilliant highs, and regrettably, some downright embarrassing plunges.  To compensate, I've included their concussive, and frankly crucial, debut ep from 1991 as well.  To those brave souls who opt to indulge, let us all blossom as hubcaps...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shelf Life 7" (1995/96, Cassiel)

I present to you a not-so-golden (but still quite satisfactory) single from the golden age of indie-rock.  This one came down the Pike (ostensibly the Massachusetts one) sometime in the mid-90s.  I have nary any background morsels to offer on Shelf Life, and I'm furthermore stumped if their discography extended beyond this 45.

Mingling nimble major and minor chords, Shelf Life's take on the left-of-the-dial thing wasn't particularly distinctive, but these two selections emanate a kind of warmth and bittersweet moxie that we don't hear enough of in this newfangled millennium of ours.  RIYL Pavement, Gem, and Edsel.  


Friday, January 17, 2014

The Killing Field - Courage tape (1988)

Upon receiving this 26-year ol' relic just a few months ago, I assumed finding any pertinent info on this Portland, OR quartet would be a lost cause.  Not quite, thankfully.  At the very least, it would seem that The Killing Field made waves in their hometown, circa the late '80s when this demo made it's way into the slipstream.  Atlantic Records flirted with the band, but ultimately reneged on releasing anything by them.

Garnering comparisons to U2 and Tears For Fears, The Killing Field bore a similar sonic penchant that was actually more relative to The Alarm and mid-80s Simple Minds, paired with a lukewarm socially conscious slant, much in line with the aforementioned.  Thing is though, the songs were pretty damn good, not to mention deftly performed.  A independent full length album followed several years later, which you can investigate at Amazon and iTunes

01. Down With You
02. Strength
03. Ian's Song
04. Postcard from Holland


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fun w/ Atoms - Main Street (1985, Boat)

Proving Green Bay, WI has more to offer than the Packers and ubiquitous "Cheeseheads," Fun w/ Atoms were/are a potent power trio that slotted in perfectly with '80s contemps the Red Rockers, and Boat Records stablemates Fire Town.  The Atoms' ringing guitar rock was occasionally punctuated with faint spaghetti western inclinations, but despite their album cover poise they were not rockabilly in the least.  And like any Wisconsin act from this era worth their salt, this threesome had ties to Butch Vig, who was responsible for recording and mixing this project.  Primo standouts residing on Main Street include, but are hardly limited to, "Titletown" and "Last Cigarette."  Highly recommended.

In deference to the band, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that a) they're still active and have a 2010 LP to show for it called Smart, and b) Main Street has been reissued digitally via CD Baby.  So why am I throwing this on the blog?  Well, I ripped this from a crackly piece of vinyl, and given it's fresh availability I'm only going to be keeping the link live for a few days.  If you enjoy what you hear, please consider upgrading by visiting the CD Baby link, and of course, you'll be supporting the band.

01. Warning
02. Alaska
03. I'll Be There
04. National Geographic Girl
05. Last Cigarette
06. Titletown
07. Ice and Snow
08. Summer
09. Killing You
10. Another Bend


Monday, January 13, 2014

A miscellanious affair, over-congested crazy hair.

Dashing power pop with a faint Merseybeat inflection.  Recorded between 1997-2000, but not released in it's entirety until 2002.  A good 'un.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Coachella 2014 - My way or the highway.

Even if flying out to Indio, CA this April was a viable financial option for me, I doubt if I'd really get my money's worth.  That is unless I could massage the lineup to my every whim and fancy.  And now you/I/we can, thanks to which affords you the option of mixing things up, at least in ones and zeroes to your hearts content.  Take a gander at my results to your left, a veritable who's who of much of the Wilfully Obscure canon .  A man can dream...and dream I did this afternoon.  This little time-killer is the best widget going.  Have at it

Friday, January 10, 2014

Vim 7" ep (1995, Dry Hump)

Though this wasn't particularly the draw so to speak, Vim was the side project of the Geraldine Fibber's Kevin Fitzgerald.  I'm not a Fibb's fan in the slightest, but luckily Vim was a completely different beast, exuding a lo-fi aesthetic similarly employed by the likes of Polvo, further, early Sebadoh, and heck even vintage Dino Jr. at times.  It's all here gang - raw riffs, winsome wails, and crooked chords all over the goddamn place, bandaged together with telltale indie sensibilities.  I'd sure like to know if there's more where this came from.  If Fitzgerald is anything like Barlow or Bob Pollard he might have reels of this kind of stuff lying around, but I suppose it's useless to speculate.  My apologies for some of the extraneous vinyl choppiness, which perhaps I'll be able to rectify in some small way at a later date. 

01. carny
02. delbert
03. oyster
04. spin-off


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Love Camp 7 - s/t ep (1989, Bowlmor)

Love Camp 7 were a little known NYC export who issued a couple of albums in the '90, but this five-cut ep is where it all started.  "Take Love Where You Can Find It" is a dichotomy of feeble Beatles-esque harmonies clothes-pinned to dissonant instrumentation that only a slacker would applaud.  Their approach is not dissimilar to that of some of the more oddball SST Records bands like Painted Willie.  In fact, this wax doesn't really hit it's proverbial stride until "Janice in a Green Light" kicks, proving that LC7 can project a serious hook when they make the effort.  Ditto for the equally tuneful "Under the Sign of Saturn," bearing lite post-punk textures.  Indie rock, baby. 

01. Take Love Where You Can Find It
02. Father Serra's Children
03. Janice in a Green Light
04. Under the Sign of Saturn
05. Myra Breckenridge


Monday, January 6, 2014

In a flash I'll change the universe, or at least the world I knew...

In 1999 this band surprised their Warped Tour-going minions with a decidedly introspective and forlorn fourth LP.  Turned out to be my favorite, albeit it was a long acquired taste.  I'm also including the bonus ep that accompanied certain versions of the album.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 - My playlist, of sorts.

A few days late, but not a dollar short.  Over the past couple years, coming up with a list of my top 20 to 25 new releases has been a struggle.  Not terribly agonizing, but still a challenge.  The truth is, there are easily that many new albums coming out in any given year that I'm capable of latching onto.  My problem is that I'm not being exposed to them, or more accurately I don't have the time or money to pursue such an endeavor.  So for the year past, instead of tearing my hair out, I've opted to share with you a list of what's logged the most time on my stereo or in my MP3 player.  It's about a 50/50 split between 2013 titles, and those from yesteryear, most of which I listened to for the first time or was fully able to digest in the last twelve months. The following 25 items are ranked based on frequency of listening, roughly anyway.  Many of the selections will surprise you, so I request you keep an open ear.  I've put together a folder of fifteen tracks based on my playlist from some of the lesser known listees, but will not reveal any track info in this text.  Here goes.

01. Lowest of the Low - Shakespeare My Butt (1991) - One of my best Johnny come lately discoveries ever.  Why I dismissed this for over two decades I really don't know.   John K. Sampson of the Weakerthans puts it's together than I ever could:  A relentlessly brimming collection of songs that somehow contain all the desire, anger, camaraderie, politics and humor of being alive

02. Austra - Feel it Break (2011) - Sleek, aerodynamic techno-pop with a sumptuous dance floor pulse, that turned out to be way more addictive than I could have ever anticipated.  You'd swear this was the product of European engineering, but would you believe Toronto?  Ironically, Austra's 2013 album, Olympia was a considerable disappointment held up to the standard of this enthralling debut.

03. Deftones - Koi No Yokan (2012) - Yes, their following is predominantly culled from the heavy metal rank and file, but by this stage in the game, the Deftones have smoked their nu-metal roots to a crisp.  Showing an affinity for the likes of Failure and the Cure's Disintegration, the boys deliver a gloomy, harrowing masterpiece that's drearily uplifting. 

04. Saves the Day - s/t (2013) - Album #8 offers a sweet synthesis of everything Chris Conley & Co. have been attempting for the past decade or so, and contains many a song that would befit a perfect Saves the Day mix tape.

05. Cheatahs  - Extended Plays (2013).  Early Swervedriver by way of '90s American indie rock?  I'm in!  As it's title would suggest, Extended Plays is comprised of 2012 eps.  An album is set to drop in '14. 

06. Young Light - Great White Arc ep (2013)  The offspring of Amusement Parks on Fire and Giant Drag alumni, Young Light's melancholic spin on ethereal mood-rock was a must-have, day-to-day listen for me last year.  Sonic gratification overload.

07. Motion City Soundtrack - Making Moves single (2012) - Available as part of the Making Moves 7" compilation box set or separate digitally.  Two poignant as hell originals, and as a bonus with the digital version, a chilly reading of Rilo Kiley's "Pictures of Success."

08. Funeral Advantage - demo (2013) - Four hushed and gracefully melancholic originals steeped in a lite, gaze-pop glow, brimming with the fertile promise of Pains of Being Pure at Heart...and they even tack on a Cure cover to boot. 

09. The Crush - Here is Where I Cross My Fingers (2002).  Like Jawbreaker never went away.  Wish I had known about them at time so I could have taken in a live gig.  For further details inquire here

10. Adam Marsland - The Owl and the Full Moon (2013) - A new Adam Marsland album only drops abut every three years, and luckily our man makes it worth the wait.  Taking cues from '70s AM radio pop, Pet Sounds and then some for another endearing platter.  Well played.

11. Soundboard prank calls on YouTube - Yes, they're that entertaining!  I'm partial to the Deputy Martin, Bail Bondsman and Springfield Pervert calls.  Enjoy responsibly, and don't try this at home unless you know your way around a soundboard.

12. The Hobbes Fanclub - "Your Doubting Heart" 7" & s/t ep (2012) - A co-ed trio from Bradford, England stoking the C-86 fires for a new generation.  Fingers crossed for an album this year.

13. Red Delicious - The First Cassette By... (2011) - A resplendent five-song set of hooky, four-chord power pop by a Rhode Island by way of Buffalo bunch that I need to hear move of pronto! 

14. Microdisney - The Clock Comes Down the Stairs (1984, reissue 2013)  From the bowels of the UK indie underground came the surprisingly plush and polished Microdisney.  Think the Smiths with a baritone on the mic, with a repertoire that was often as engaging as anything in Mozz's catalog.  This is their masterful sophomore LP, reissued for the second time and will hopefully remain in print for awhile.

15. Medicine - To the Happy Few (2013) - Dare I say this damn-near picks up where The Buried Life left off?  No squandered reunion here. 

16. Nostalgist - Monochromatic 7" (2013) - This doomy Seattle dream-pop outfit sound doubly ominous thanks to singer Asa Eisenhardt's whose pipes sound like they're pitched at 33, while his MBV-induced comrades move along at 45 rpm clip.  Odd combination, but it works.

17. StarTropics - "By My Side" 7" (2013) & demo (2012) - Chicago's chiming, post-punk wunderkinds, inspired by Sarah Records and contemporary revisionists The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.  Awesome.

18. Atlas Genius - When It Was Now (2013) - Souped-up keyboard pop, gleaming like a newly minted BMW.  Slick as all-get-out, but a blast to listen to when cruising at 80 mph down the interstate.

19. Turin Brakes - The Optimist LP (2001) If you thought Ether Sound was the shit, do yourself a favor an re(visit) Turin Brakes debut for some lightweight, cosmic enlightening that's sure to clear your head in the best way possible.

20. Lees of Memory 7" - Nu-gaze gold from Superdrag's Johnathan Davis and Brandon Fischer.  best thing these guys have put their name on in years.

21. Choo Choo Train - Hey Wimpus -The Early Recordings of Paul Chastain and Ric Menck (1998; rec. 1980s) - Ok, so maybe I didn't encounter this for the first time in 2013, but I played the hell out of it.  One of the ten-finest jangle-pop albums ever conceived, by two giants of the form no less.  I'd take this over Velvet Crush 90% of the time.   

22. Part Time - PDA (2013) - Arresting electro-pop from budding genius, David Speck, who's ripped up the new-romantic palette and retooled it for Millennials.  Love the clangy, Bernard Sumner guitar inflections that populate so much of this album.

23. Shy Mirrors - Negative Collector - fuzzed to the hilt punk pop, from former Wolfie guitarist  Mike Downey.  So what if every songs sounds the same?

24. Twitch - Medicine Ball ep & unreleased second album (199?) - Not exactly sure how this would go over with the bulk of you.  Check out the song I supplied in the mix, and maybe I'll give it the Mystery Monday treatment.  Righteously heavy (and icy) guitar-rawk suitable for the deadest of winter nights.

25.  The Replacements - Songs for Slim ep (2013) - If not for the cause, if not even for the songs that comprise the record, Westerberg and Stinson deserve mucho props for reconvening and playing three much-in-demand concerts, fulfilling the collective wish of tens of thousands of us.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Yazoo Beach - The Solace and the Blaze (1988, N-Beat)

Athens, GA was unarguably the mecca for where-it-was-at when it came to "new music" in the Deep South, 80s-wise, but nearby Alabama offered visceral guitar-rock delights like the Primitons and Carnival Season, and Mississippi was home to some fine local fare as well, including Yazoo BeachThe Solace and the Breeze, presumably the debut outing from this Jackson quartet, frequently skews in the vicinity of Let's Active and Buzz of Delight-era Matthew Sweet, particularly on swift, forward thinking numbers like "In a Bright Light," "Waiting for the Woods" and "Chasing the Light."  Peter Buck inspired arpeggios sweeten the pot on these and a couple of other like-minded cuts.  Elsewhere, Solace adopts a considerably more contemplative singer/songwriter tact, and side two is home to an oblique two-song suite ("Missing Ring" & "They Tried So Hard") which doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the record.  Nonetheless Solace's sizable quantity of highlights are not to be missed. 

01. Chasing the HEart
02. In a Bright
03. Images
04. A Rose From Emily
05. Chameleon
06. Who Lives on the Inside
07. Low Cotton
08. Waiting for Woods
09. Big Green Eyes
10. Missing Ring
11. They Tried So Hard
12. Humanity
13. Running Away
14. The Solace and the Blaze