Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The Stems - 1984-1987 - under review
I think this is only the second book review I've offered on Wilfully Obscure, so here goes. In the '80s, there were more than a few decent garage/psych revivalists to emanate from the land down under. For my money, two that really stood out were the Lime Spiders and The Stems. While the Spiders' collective legs seemed to web their way around the world for their proverbial fifteen minutes, the geographic challenge was more daunting for Perth's Stems, whom I don't believe made any inroads in North America save for a cut on the Young Einstein soundtrack (embarrassing times, I know). Yet the Stems, helmed by demigod-in-the-making Dom Mariani, were responsible for some of the most pristine and quintessentially definitive garage rock songs ever produced from that era, deliberately retro as they may have been. You see, while the Lime Spiders resided on the trashy, punk side of the continuum, Mariani and Co, were steeped in all things beat, Mersey and mod.
Accompanying the book is a CD of live Stems material, culled from multiple concerts, some of which were heavy on covers, and fitting ones at that - The Stones, Count V, Easybeats, Blues Magoos, and even the Plimsouls all get the Stems makeover. In the link below, I've set you up with two tracks from the disk, plus a pair of Stems classic studio sides, that were anthologized on Citadel Records Buds anthology. You'll also be treated to one song apiece from Dom Mariani's excellent power pop act The Someloves (who ran concurrently with the Stems) and his even more prolific '90s outfit, DM3. I've even tossed in a few page spreads of the book to whet your appetite. The Stems 1984-87 is available from High Voltage books in Australia.
Tears Me in Two
Psychotic Reaction (live)
Zero Hour (live)
Someloves - Back on Side With You
DM3 - 1x2x Devastated
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Crocodile Shop - Head ep (1987, Susstones)
01. April Reigns
03. Along For the Ride
04. Think of Things
05. Eyes Getting Louder
Monday, April 28, 2014
Springtide will lift me, take me across...
Sunday, April 27, 2014
The Bon Mots - Best Revenge (2013) - A brief overview
Boasting an array of rich, alluring hooks couched in a vague power-pop subtext, The Bon Mots suggest what Cotton Mather might have conjured up had they been in the same company as Rhett Miller and Ted Leo. You know that cliched "sweet spot" we've heard so much about over the ages? Well, not only does it exist, it's actually satiated on multiple occasions on Best Revenge. "All The Way (Down)" commences things on an assertive note, in di regueur Bon Mots fashion, not over or underplaying anything one iota. A bit further in, "Galahad" embraces a sprite, bouncy lilt, while the demonstrably looser "Rome's Burning" toys with half a Stones-y lick or two, maneuvering as smoothly as say, The Figgs. Better yet, the empathetically sobering "All Your Horses" and "Granted" harbor a semblance of uplift, in the manner that Sloan executed so deftly on Twice Removed. In a nutshell, the Mots nail it for the third LP in a row.
You can hear (and preferably purchase) all of the aforementioned on Bandcamp, not to mention the Bon Mots brief back catalog. Best Revenge is available exclusively as a download for the time being, with a physical release to hopefully follow this year.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Tribeca - Incident at the Metropolis (2006, Granada)
Until I have a chance to rip some more wax, I thought I'd share this with you. A little bit off the beaten path for W/O, Tribeca were a one-LP wonder who made their debut (and to my chagrin) their departure with Incident at the Metropolis in 2006. Challenging orchestral pop with some downright sublime moments. Check out my critique for a venerable indie rock publication, contemporary to Incident's release below.
Tribaca’s debut, Incident at the Metropolis is not only one of the swankiest and most well manicured pop albums to come down the pike in a dog’s age, it’s also one of the most curiously enjoyable as well. I say “curiously” in the most charitable sense possible, in that an initial listen to pretty much anything here is likely to conjure up instant comparisons to ‘70s/’80s soft-pop. I suppose it doesn’t help dodging that comparison when you commence your album with a pair of tracks that smack distinctly of Gaucho-era Steely Dan. There’s no debating it. The better half of Incident basks in a sheik, cocktail lounge-endowed glow, but with posh arrangements a la orch-popsters The Heavy Blinkers, and some occasional Rundgren-esque inclinations, this L.A. quartet, whom would likely have been passed off as merely “conventional,” say 20 years ago, is anything but – so long as you’re willing to invest the time to let these nine sumptuous songs sink in.
PS: I'm also tacking on three demos that were offered on the band's now defunct website.
02. North American Laundromat
03. Valuable Feelings
04. Monument Today
05. 2 Days After
06. People Need to Know
07. Start From Nothing
09. Popular Summer
Monday, April 21, 2014
Let the speakers crackle and burn...
Friday, April 18, 2014
Versus - demos 1990-91
Ostensibly recorded when the band was still a trio (brothers Richard and Ed Baluyut alongside Fontaine Toups) these sixteen songs zoom in on Versus as they were just settling into what would become their signature sound. Most of these tracks failed to carry over to any commercial release, and by and large that was a smart decision. Why? While this is a decent enough listen (especially from a diehard's perspective) Versus' best work was still a few years in the offing. Though fleeting, we catch a few glimpses into their halcyon era by way of early versions of "Blade of Grass" and "Reveille." Per the tracklist below, you'll notice most of the selections are untitled, and unfortunately I'm not privy to what they are, but if anyone sitting at home wants to fill me in, by all means leave a comment. Enjoy. BTW, I also shared an ep by Ed Baluyut's pre-Versus outfit, Flower which you can dig into here.
1 & 2. titles unknown
4-11. titles unknown
12. Blade of Grass
15. title unknown
16. I'll Be You
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Geek (Jenny Toomey, pre-Tsunami) - Herasure tape (1988, Simple Machines)
However, before Hammer came Herasure, yet another cassette-only release, this one dating from 1988. Equally as DIY as it's follow-up, Herasure benefits from surprisingly better fidelity, creativity, and hook-savvy charm. The short of it all is that Hammer sounds more like a debut, but all comparisons aside this six song artifact houses some really stunning tunes and bears a sophisticated prowess than it's nascent copyright date might otherwise suggest. In fact, Toomey coveys some of the most affecting melodies of her career on "Anthem (of Sleeping Mama)" and the unsettling title cut. Derek Denckla's chiming guitar fills are no slouch either.
Incidentally, I posted a cassette rip of Tsunami's '91 demo, Cow Arcade about three months ago, which is still available here.
04. anthem (of sleeping mama)
05. polly breedlove
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
New Noise - Saint Marie Records first quarter wrap-up: Spotlight Kid, Blackstone Rngrs and more.
Spotlight Kid's 2012, sophomore disk Disaster Tourist was a devastating TKO to my eardrums, looming latticeworks of My Bloody Valentine-informed magnificence. Ten Thousand Hours bellys up to the same woozy watering hole as the aforementioned, but despite no lineup alterations, guitarist Rob McCleary is virtually mum on the mic for this go around, living the brunt of vocal duties up to Katty Heath. Standout selections "A Minor Character" and "Can't Let Go" exact the same engulfing toll that Disaster Tourist's finest moments did, but SK toss us a curious curve-ball in the guise of "Budge Up," a rereading of Dinosaur Jr's "Budge" boasting partially improvised lyrics.
Next on the list is another co-ed conglomeration, "synthgaze" trio Blackstone Rngrs, who hereby give 'the scene that celebrates itself' one more reason to celebrate via their second ep, Descendant. BSR garner significant mileage by means of layering their heady sonic quilt, not merely with dizzying washes of tremolo, but beats and chimey guitar hooks. Aficionados of such disparate acts as The Drums and Slowdive will find plenty to latch onto amidst Descendant's six alluring grooves.
On the more ambient tip, Children of the Stones is the product of Mark Van Hoen (formally of Seefeel and Locust among others) and Martin Maeers. Lacing just about every nook and cranny of The Stars and the Silence in a sedate digital glaze, CotS mix things up with glitchy maneuvers and a loose pop subtext that intermittently brings to mind Ultra Vivid Scene, and even more so Steve Kilbey's extracurricular activities outside The Church. The effect is that of an Rx-strength sedative without the groggy contraindications. Nice.
By any chance, do any of you remember an early 90's 4AD Records combo by the name of Swallow? Whether you do or not, that Brit dream pop duo of Mike Mason and Louise Trehy stuck around for only one LP, 1992's ethereal and acclaimed, Cocteau Twins-inspired Blow. As luck would have it, some two decades on Trehy returns with a fresh-faced band, Strata Florida, who not only pick up where Swallow stalled, but up the ante considerably by doubling down on the guitars and venturing into louder, amped-out vistas. As if the oodles of gauzy tremolo and feedback swells weren't enough, Strata pitch in some electronic trickery to the robust proceedings. "By the Way," "Sleeper" and the title track are worth their weight in shoegazing gold. Many happy returns!
All four of these disks are available direct from Saint Marie, not to mention your physical/digital retailer of choice. I've provided a few Bandcamp links below so you can try before you buy.
Children of the Stones
Monday, April 14, 2014
The city has no real need to be nervous...
Saturday, April 12, 2014
1-800-BAND - Diver Blue ep (2014, Almost Ready) - a brief overview
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Sister Ray - No Way to Express (1989, Resonance)
The overall effect isn’t too dissimilar from psyched-up contemporaries Love Battery and Lime Spiders, and when things really get cooking Sister Ray approach a similar sonic aesthetic to the Wipers, though that's probably a sheer coincidence. Their oft rudimentary, low-brow prose was redeemed by considerably rich performances and arrangements. Perfect case in points would be the melodic guitar lines that vividly fill out “I Don’t Want Your Sex,” and “No Escape.”
The first seventeen tracks comprise the No Way to Express album proper, with the remaining selections being plucked from 1987’s Random Violence LP. A big thanks to my friend's FB post from earlier today that inspired this post.
Friday, April 4, 2014
All this momentum is doing me in...
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Gentleman Jesse & His Men – Singles & Rarities (2010, Burger)
The 45s this collection is partially derived from are noticeably more lo-fi than the band's two proper albums, 2008's Introducing... and '12s Leaving Atlanta. As such, the rawer context makes for a more visceral experience, even if the formula gets a little samey after awhile. It would behoove fans of the Exploding Hearts, (and even stretching back to halcyon era Buzzcocks and Undertones) to immerse themselves in this gleeful half-hour-of-power. With any luck, Singles... will earn the vinyl/digital reissue it should have received in the first place.
01. I Don't Wanna Know (Where You Been Tonight)
02. Going Outta My Mind
03. No Rest (For The Wicked)
04. If I Can See You (You're Too Close To Me)
05. X-Mas Hangover
06. Rest of My Days (live)
08. Romford Girls
09. Going Into Town
10. Can't Hardly Take It
11. I Want What's Mine (And You're Mine)
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
X-Teens - s/t (1983, Dolphin)
Tarheel denizens the X-Teens weren't one of the most recognizable names on the Don Dixon/Mitch Easter production roster, but sonically they were one of the most indigenous. The simple jangle and strum formula wouldn't quite suffice for this co-ed quartet, who instead opted for a kitschy spin on conventional new wave, substituting white-bread synths with a Wurlitzer organ (or at the very least a convincing imitation thereof). The band further filled out their charm offensive with a neurotic vocal approach, sardonically bordering on the maudlin when they saw fit. From there it's all threaded together with a string of nimble, challenging arrangements, reconfiguring tidbits of XTC, B-52s, and occasionally even incorporating some of Devo's more wonky maneuvers along the way. Side one predominately sticks to a relatively traditional pop premise, housing such jewels as "In Droves" and "Heaven in Your Eyes," while the Teens play it faster and much looser on side two of this affair. More from the X-Teens to follow...
02. In Droves
03. Tonight Tonight
04. Anyone Can
05. Baby John
06. Heaven in Your Eyes
07. Romper Rheumatism
09. Hard is a Love Departing
10. Nothing Left to Say
12. Happy Again
13. Shift and Rotate
14. Cold War