Sunday, November 30, 2014

I'm coming clean, and it's a mess.

From 2006.  The third and said to be final album from a challenging, idiosyncratic pop/rock conglomerate with themes ranging from wrenching angst to the relatively lighthearted.  An acquired taste, but once the hooks set in...  As a bonus, you're also getting a Posies cover which appeared on their previous LP.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fluid - Clear Black Paper/Freak Magnet demos (1987)

Before Denver's finest created their sludgy, bass-heavy 1989 masterstroke, Roadmouth, The Fluid's punk 'n roll alchemy was predicated on a simpler and more streamlined tact, a la the Stooges, Dolls, and to a lesser extent the Dead Boys.  Their self-released, 1986 debut platter, Punch 'n Judy was chockablock with noble ambitions and wet-behind-the-ears charm, but things didn't really congeal for the band until a year later when they started shopping a new batch of songs around.  Submitted for your approval is a seven song prototype of what the Fluid had planned to unfurl next, Clear Black Paper, an album which would come with a Sub Pop records logo affixed to it.   Based on these demos alone, The Fluid's development was damn near astonishing - strikingly more muscular and assured, boasting doubly adept songwriting to boot.  "Hall of Mirrors," "Don't Wanna Play" and "It's My Time" possessed the nervy "punch," that Punch 'n Judy often lacked.  Attitude baby, attitude.   Perhaps these tracks weren't as steamrolling as subsequent Fluid missives, but the boys were on a very rockin' trajectory.  Technically, some of these songs wound up on a separate import ep, Freak Magnet, that was unleashed at roughly the same time CBP hit the market.  You can check out the contents of both disks here, and the mighty Roadmouth from the link above.  More Fluid rarities to follow in '15. Check out their FB page as well for ephemera of all sorts

01. Tell Me Things
02. It's My Time
03. I'm Not Gonna Do It (Cuz You Want Me To)
04. Just Another Day
05. Hall of Mirrors
06. Your Kinda Thing
07. Don't Wanna Play


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Truly - Leslie's Coughing Up Blood ep (1993, Sub Pop)

Looking back on it, too much was made of Truly's grunge pedigree.  True, this Seattle threesome boasted alumni of Soundgarden (bassist Hiro Yamamoto) not to mention Screaming Trees (drummer Mark Pickerel), and yes, they meandered down a similar sonic path, but they wielded something of an indigenous stripe to speak of as well.  Chalk much of that up to Truly's comparative outsider of a frontman, Robert Roth, who steers this ménage à trois towards an array of scuzzy psych environs to droney ethereal vistas.  The stomping and strangely addictive title cut proved to be Truly's signature moment, also occupying a slot on their debut LP, Fast Stories From Kid Coma.  "Virtually" wallows in a demonstrably more downcast murk, mellower and far less anthemic than "Leslie..." The remainder of this four songer doesn't stray too far from the aesthetic I've illustrated thus far, and by record's end you sense that Truly are more in tandem with old school Dino J and lower rung Sub Pop roster mates Rein Sanction then their aforementioned precursors.

01. Leslie's Coughig Up Blood
02. Virtually
03. I Hit Ignition (single vers)
04. Queen of the Girls (demo)


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Live it 'til it hurts.

Today it's a CD reissue of an EP, an album, and then some spanning 1985-88.  An indispensable part of my angsty, adolescent soundtrack.  Gritty.  Gripping.  Grungy.  The members of the group would spin off into far more prestigious endeavors, but none would quite eclipse the harrowing and cathartic highs created herein. Nice Bowie and Dead Boys covers too.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Phantom Tollbooth - demo (1985)

I can't profess to having much firsthand knowledge on Phantom Tollbooth, a noisome indie-rock export from Long Island (presumably) who made something of a name for themselves by way of a volley of releases on Homestead Records in the '80s.  Though probably not one-of-a-kind this cassette is nonetheless a scarcity.  Per a little research on Discogs, it appears the seven tracks contained within may have been demos or rehearsals for the band's first ep, issued in 1986.  In a nutshell, what's presented is a roughshod, albeit noble regurgitation of what SST Records was doling out in the first half of the Reagan-era, touching on everyone from the Minutemen to the first Meat Puppets album, not to mention copious servings of early Husker Du.  Oddly enough, the opening "Jack of All Phobias" predicts the ruckus Drive Like Jehu would unfurl about a decade later.  If art-damaged punk rife with frantic guitar squalls, invariably on the verge of careening off the rails is your cup of tea. you just might be a fan in waiting of Phantom Tollbooth. 

01. Jack of All Phobias
02. Ohm on the Range (version)
03. Saturday Afternoon
04. More Paranoia
05. More People
06. Good Luck
07. The Fuck


Friday, November 21, 2014

Get Smart - Words Move 7" ep (1981, Syntax)

Words Move isn't the first item I've offered from Get Smart! (I posted their Action Reaction full length last July) though it's considerably less common.  I remarked then that this co-ed trio bore discernible post-punk traits, and that goes double for the four cuts presented here.  Still based in Lawrence, KS at the time of this recording (prior to their hop to Chicago) Get Smart!'s penchant was decidedly chilly and curt but still approachable.  Portions of the aforementioned Action Reaction album suggested that the band had been exposed to the likes of Pylon, but "Eat, Sleep, a Go-go," culled from side two of this wax all but apes those Athens, GA legends lock, stock and barrel.  Nothing to really gripe about I suppose.  Enjoy.

01. Disillusion
02. Where Did This Week Go?
03. Eat, Sleep, a Go-go
04. This is Style

Now available on Bandcamp.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

VA - 415 Music (1980, 415 Records)

Where do I begin with this one?  My first observation is that for a compilation this common, I'm surprised it hasn't been digitized elsewhere in the blogosphere.  At any rate, just about of all the songs here are of a brief era when AOR/power-pop/new wave could successfully intermingle with virtually no clear cut demarcations.  Yes, this is that 415 Records, the San Francisco imprint that would eventually hop into bed with CBS Records (i.e. Sony) and release full lengths by "serious" nationally known acts like Wire Train and Translator in the mid-80s.  I regard those two examples as "serious," in comparison to the considerably more lighthearted and occasionally frivolous roster showcased on 415 Music.  Several of the young hopefuls here would fit in like a glove on Hyped to Death's Teenline anthologies - Times 5, Jo Allen and the Shapes, and The Donuts all delivering peppy, melodious, and most importantly, substantive tunes that really warranted exposure beyond this disk.  The Offs, Mutants, and my favorites, SVT (whose "Heart of Stone" is a must hear) would record singles for 415 Records as well, some preceding the release of 415 Music.  Elsewhere, Sudden Fun offer a slice of Pezband/Romantics-esque slice of pop, The Symptoms vaguely mimic the Dickies template, while an undercurrent of minimalist synths informs The VIP's "She's a Put On."

01. The Readymades - 415 Music 
02. Times 5 - Is Your Radio-active?
03. The Mutants - Baby's No Good
04. 391 - Searching for a Thrill
05. Sudden Fun - (I Can't Wait For The) Weekend Show
06. The Donuts (feat. Lisa Bosch) - Johnny, Johnny
07. SVT - Always Come Back for More
08. The Symptoms - Simple Sabotage
09. The VIPs - She's a Put On
10. Jo Allen And The Shapes - Shimmy, Shimmy
11. The Offs - I've Got the Handle


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Said you don't know nothin' after 23 years...

The 1985 debut from a Milwaukee guitar-pop quintet, whose subsequent two albums were featured here a few years ago.  This originally made the rounds on cassette, but was reissued on CD in '07.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Crocodile - Echo and the Bunnymen tribute w/ Spiral Stairs of Pavement and Kelley Stoltz - live 10/25/03, NYC.

Well here's something you don't see everyday.  An Echo and the Bunnymen tribute band, taking on not merely a mish-mash of Ian and Will's greatest hits, but more specifically the group's lauded debut, Crocodiles from beginning to end.  Crocodile (the band) was ostensibly a one-off affair featuring Spiral Stairs (Scott Kannberg) of Pavement and Preston School of Industry renown on guitars and singer/songwriter Kelley Stoltz on the mic.  Rounded out with future Fresh and Onlys bass slinger Shayde Sartin and Mother Hips drummer Jon Hofer, Crocodile faithfully execute said album on a late night performance at Arlene's Grocery in New York during the 2003 CMJ festival.
      Stoltz slips into McCulloch mode from second one, adopting a Manchester accent that's most evident via the inter-song banter, while Kannberg does a wholly capable Will Sergeant impersonation.  Crocodile bear a slightly strummy lilt, a la the Feelies, but otherwise this gig was much akin to witnessing the genuine article, with a stage set, from what I understand, that entailed generous plumes of dry ice and such.  I should note that it wouldn't be until 2010 that the long-running reformed E&TBM lineup were playing Crocodiles in it's entirety for themselves.  Funny that a hip, Yank pick-up band beat them to it, no?  You can hear the results for yourself in lossless FLAC or MP3. 

1. intro
2. Going Up
3. Stars Are Stars
4. Pride
5. Monkeys
6. Crocodiles
7. Rescue
8. Villiers Terrace
9. Read it in Books
10. Pictures on My Wall
11. All That Jazz
12. Happy Death Men
13. Do It Clean

MP3  or  FLAC

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Catapult - The Architecture of a Year (1998, Blackbean & Placenta)

From my recollection, Catapult originated from New York's Capitol District, though I'm not sure if they were ever really ingratiated into the local "scene" as it were.  Genre-ly speaking, I always saw this trio as suffering from a bit of an identity crisis, encapsulated demonstrably within the confines of this diskSome of Architecture's opening salvos, particularly "August 15th" exude sad-core nuances, that to the band's credit were more enticing than what Seam and Codeine had to offer during the Clinton-era.  Elsewhere, Catapult indulge in mildly math-rawk textures, and by album's end there's some lightweight ambient/dub dabbling to boot.  What falls in between however is the most rewarding, namely two truly great slices of tremolo kissed noise-pop, "Next Door" and "Birthday," both of which angle in the vicinity of the Lilys and Swirlies.  In fact, Catapult's drummer would eventually collaborate with the latter of those two aforementioned dream-popsters.  "Sunday Sank at 11:00" slots into a similar realm, but sonically, offers an even more intricate latticework to dissect.  Alongside Architecture of a Year, Catapult were responsible for a handful of singles and an ep before parting ways. 

01. August 15th
02. Convert to Metric
03. Birthday
04. Sound of Night
05. Next Door
06. The Ink Truck
07. A Number One
08. Sunday Sank at 11:00
09. Supersurreal
10. Hit The Random Button


Monday, November 10, 2014

The weather, the leather...

From 1979.  Regarded as something of a Brit post-punk classic, albeit a haphazard one at that.  This is the 1991 reissue which adds eight bonus tracks, most of which didn't carry over to a future reissue of the album in 2004.  Confused?  You should be.  Enjoy.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ten Bright Spikes - three eps (1991, New Red Archives)

Let's see, what can I tell you about Ten Bright Spikes?  Not much beyond the fairly exhaustive bio on New Red Archives' website, but I'll try to give you a thumbnail sketch.  TBS were a San Fran by way of Britain quintet, featuring most notably in their lineup Jason Honea, former mouthpiece for the Bay Area hardcore combo Social Unrest, and UK Subs guitarist Nicky Garratt. The aforementioned bio explains the group's transcontinental origins, but what's most notable is that both Honea and Garratt eschewed their respective hardcore/punk modus operandis in favor of a radically divergent and diverse sonic pallet upon hooking up in Ten Bright Spikes.  While I have an appreciation of both Social Unrest and the Subs, the chemistry and creativeness TBS employed was on a completely different level. 

In 1991 the band recorded and issued three eps (simultaneously I'm assuming) each on green transparent, 10" vinyl.  The recordings in question (which I'm presenting here in their entirety) were not merely the efforts of a bunch of ex-hardcore dudes dabbling in the more refined indie realm, rather they're genuinely challenging songs that graze the surface (and then some) of post-punk, ambient, and back to more conventional three-chord rock.  Honea and friends mix things up even more by intermittently pitching jazzy and mildly avant textures into the pot, and in the case of Vertical Brando's "Ode to Pharaoh" you might even pick up on some world music seasoning as well.  Nonetheless, if it's taught, driving riff rock your jonesing for, "La Mancha Candidate" (from the ep of the same name) is 165 seconds of bliss, not to mention one of the most gratifying tunes of the '90s that I've ever come across.  The flip of that ep features an almost equally devastating slice of noise-pop, "Spleen."  "King of Sweden" and "General Electric" both plucked from Der Ferngesteuerteschlafanzug featuring some startling juxtapositions, and "Vertical Brando" (also from the ep of it's own moniker) is a moody, dissonant swirl sounding like the coolest thing Mission of Burma never got around to recording.  Some of the more enticing moments from all three of these records were distilled onto TBS' 1992 debut LP, Astro Stukas, which was also interspersed with new material.  Stukas is still available via Amazon and iTunes, so if you enjoy what you hear please consider floating the band a few dollars.  BTW, the Spikes had a second album, Blueland, which dropped in 1993, and a third, Crime Map, was unfortunately shelved.  Ten Bright Spikes were something special.

Vertical Brando ep
01. Vertical Brando
02. A Ghost Shirt (Ode to Pharoah)
03. Ten Bright Spikes
04. Ode to Pharoah

The La Mancha Candidate ep
01. The La Mancha Candidate
02. A Sung Song
03. Prayer for Night
04. Spleen

Der Ferngesteuerteschlafanzug ep
01. Dogstar
02. General Electric
03. King of Sweden
04. Disclaimer

Get all three here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

fig. 4 (Tobin Sprout) - s/t + extra CD (1986-97)

Recently had a request for this.  I had assumed this was already available on iTunes and the like, but was proven wrong.  This isn't my first entry on fig. 4, an uber-obscure trio fronted by Tobin Sprout, simultaneous to the earliest incarnation(s) of a band he would eventually operate full time in, Guided By Voices.  Tethered to a similar lo-fi aesthetic as GBV, fig 4. fixed their collective gaze due south to Athens, GA.  Tobin & Cos. absorption of early REM is prevalent among these grooves, though not overplayed.   Our man wouldn't reach his creative apex until the next decade upon perfecting his mercurial muse alongside Robert Pollard, but what's here is commendable, if not above-average indie rock of the era.  BTW, Pollard was already a collaborator with Sprout at the time, and provides backing vocals on approximately half the album.

fig. 4 was originally available in a scant 300 copy vinyl pressing in 1987, and saw a significantly more widespread reissue about ten years later.  The CD contains five bonus cuts, and the source info has been provided below.

01. Way Way Gone
02. Train Brain
03. A Hard Place
04. Strangler
05. At Bay
06. Fishin'
07. She Loves Her Gown
08. Score
09. Naola
10. Contra Koo
11. Jump Now

12. Dig the Catacombs
13. Sadder Than You
14. Busy Bodies
15. Bottle of the Ghost of Time
16. I'll Buy You Everything You Own

1-10 - from self-titled fig. 4 LP (AF4 Records)
11 - unreleased live in studio
12 - from Bevil Web/3 Dream Bag 7" (Simple Solution)
14 & 16 - unreleased
15 - from Tobin Sprout - Popstram ep


Monday, November 3, 2014

And now Harry's walked away with Johnny's wife.

This week it's a two CD set of singles and live material circa 1989-1991 by a band who've recently enjoyed an extensive reissue campaign.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ultra Velvet - Automat (1998)

Oddly enough, I don't have much recollection of how this one slipped into my trove of CDs - a college radio station giveaway perhaps, or maybe a bargain bin find?  Anyway, I usually don't delve into mainstram-ish '90s alt-rock on these pages, but I'll make an exception for this three-piece suit hailing from Lafayette, CA, if only for the fact that Ultra Velvet weren't really mainstream at all.  Automat was ostensibly self-released and under-promoted, but was nonetheless polished and presentable enough to fit in among the ranks of higher profile aggregations of the time like Dishwalla and Gloritone.  Nice crunchy riff pop, with the most affecting hooks surfacing in "Weldon Kees" and "40 Sec. Pop Song," the latter of which actually clocks in at a hair over a minute, and in a more perfect world would have been quadrupled in length.  "Male Ching" blatantly plagiarizes the riff in David Bowie's "Queen Bitch," but ultimately ends up sounding more like Nirvana.  Not that I'm complaining.  The venerable Internet Underground Music Archive is hosting five Ultra Velvet tracks that presumably predate Automat. 

01. Miriam McElroy
02. Cellophaned
03. Lonesome
04. Monkey Shine Down
05. 40 Sec. Pop Song
06. A Minor
07. Troubador
08. Male Ching
09. Only Seventeen
10. The Breakup Song
11. Weldon Kees
12. unlisted track


Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band - s/t (In Spades) & D. Smith - Groping for Luna, Vol. 1 (Dromedary) - A brief overview.

Graig Markel is back with a trio, and it's not (exactly anyway) his old Seattle three piece of yore, New Sweet Breath whom I've revered over the years.  In fact Markel ditched the distorto-punk thing almost two decades back, branching out considerably.  His new enterprise, Graig Markel and the 88th St. Band is touted as being forged on a foundation of soul and blues, but truth be told that isn't that drastic of a departure when you consider he was was dabbling with posh urban contemporary grooves and flavors all the way back on his 2000 solo outing Hard Grammar.  Ditto for his "R&B" dalliance with the newly minted 88th St Band, though I will concede the opening "Don't Stop" and "Back Into My Arms" adopt sonic motifs and textures that aren't far removed from the Stax and Motown aesthetic.  "Blame it on You" and "Take a Walk" on the other hand, wield an economical, mid-fi spin on the dirty garage stomp of the White Stripes and the Black Keys.

Post-Twentieth Century, Markel has really perfected an indigenous knack for crafting bittersweet soliloquies that split the difference between contemplative ballads and relaxed-fit jams.  "Holding On" and "Live It Up" fit said bill perfectly, and sound like business as usual even with new drummer Joe Patterson, and bassist bro and NSB alum Nicholas Markel in tow.  When all is said and drummed, the finished product isn't so much a purist genre piece, so much as a solid set of new Graig Markel tunes with some slight and often welcome tweaks to keep things from getting stale.  BTW, for those of you who indulged in Graig's insular 2012 solo album (highly recommended I might add), ...the 88th Street Band is considerably less despondent. Buy a CD here or digitally thru CD Baby, Amazon or iTunes.  You can preview one song in the sampler linked below.

Onto D. Smith (aka Dan Smith).  Remember the band Shirk Circus?  Yeah, I had a hunch you probably didn't, but you can catch up on them via a feature I wrote in 2011, in memoriam of front-man Josh Silverman.  Smith played bass for them, and from what I understand, Groping for Luna, Vol. 1 is his solo debut.  Alternating between muscular melodic rock and quieter reflective pieces, Groping... is chockablock with sixteen pensive and considered numbers that tend to err on the side of melancholy.  Comparisons to Bob Mould are inevitable, but if you're anything like me you might also hear traces of likeminded singer songwriters including but not limited to Jon Sondgrass (Armchair Martian, Drag the River) and Mark Eitzel.  Despite his weariness at times, Smith manages to brew up a howling, manicured maelstrom on some of Groping's most assertive slammers, nicely exemplified on "Worst Case Secnario," and "An Ultimatum."  You can preview/purchase the whole thing at Bandcamp or via the stream at Big Takeover online.  Hard copies are available from Dromedary Records, and as usual, iTunes and Amazon have you covered digitally.