Sunday, March 29, 2015

All I know is I'm hungry...

A 1988 debut, and by the looks of it, this quintet's
sole album.  From Limerick I believe.  Not quintessential Wilfully Obscure fare, but damn, what a colossal hook in that first song...

Jawbox - My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents 2xLP (Arctic Rodeo) & Zonaea Apocalypse Beach (2015, Zoo & a Movie)

I just had a particular thought prior to writing this.  Had vinyl not taken it's steep and steady decline in the '80s and '90s in favor of CDs, we would have potentially been treated to an array of spectacular LP jacket gatefolds and ingenious packaging.  Of course, the worm has turned in the other direction in the last five to ten years, and now we're actually being treated to more visual and tangible delights than we have Samolians to shell out for.  Jawbox's odds and sods double album makes a good case in point.  My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents was originally released in 1998 only in a compact disk iteration.  While any Jawbox fan worth their salt already owns this collection, they have a real incentive to obtain it again, as Arctic Rodeo Records out of Hamburg, Germany have done a marvelous job of repackaging it as a colored vinyl, double LP set.  Per the photo above, mine is outfitted in a seaworthy blue/turquoise hue, and from what I understand purple is still an available option.  Like the DeSoto Records CD incarnation of Scrapbook..., this freshly minted wax comes with not one, but two booklets, one of which is a veritable scrapbook in itself of on and offstage Jawbox photographs and concert posters.  The other is text only, spelling out a thorough discography and gigography.  Last but not least, Arctic Rodeo's reissue contains an extra track, a cover of Tori Amos' "Cornflake Girl," which first appeared as a hidden track on the CD version of Jawbox's self-titled parting album.

Perhaps it's not realistic to encourage those uninitiated with Jawbox's smart, tuneful post-hardcore incisiveness to delve in with such a tricked-out package as this, yet Scrapbook touches on all phases of their tenure.  Essentially divided into four quadrants, the records make a case for this D.C. quartet by way of a 1994 Peel Session (circa their For Your Own Special Sweetheart LP), compilation appearances and b-sides, four live numbers from their RFK Stadium performance in 1996 as part of the HFStival, and an assemblage of cover tunes featuring interpretations of REM, Buzzcocks, Minutemen, and the Big Boys songs among others.   The vinyl edition of Scrapbook is available from Arctic Rodeo mailorder, Dischord, and  RevHQ.  BTW, several years ago I posted an unofficial "sequel" to My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents, prepared by a fan containing a whole 'nother set of non-LP and live Jawbox goodies that's yours for the taking here.

As the phrase goes, they come in twos.  It's a new Zonaea record, in stunning splatter on clear wax no less.  I introduced you to this Charleston, SC bunch two years ago by way of their first ep, As the Stars Collapse.  They're as noisenik and mathy as ever, and they've got a truckload of unwieldy dynamics to prove it.  The soft/loud/soft quotient is in full effect on the shape-shifting opener, "Ghost Cycle: Ghost Mom," as well as it's immediate follow-up "Ghost Dad." Shortly thereafter, the trio go to the trouble of covering one of Sebadoh's deeper album cuts (Harmacy's "Crystal Gypsy") however it's one of Zonaea's own songs, the comparatively melodic "Eviscerate Me" that could pass for a primo Barlow/Lowenstein composition.  Apocalypse Beach is available physically in an extremely limited edition of 150 copies, and it actually comes in a more colorful sleeve than what I've depicted.  It can be obtained through their Bandcamp hovel, and if vinyl isn't your bag, there's a name your price download option as well.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

V/A - Teen Line, Vol. 1 (covering 1977-86)

The Teen Line compilation series was the province of an archivist(s) falling under the larger Hyped to Death umbrella.  H2D was/is a fan-curated venture dedicating to exploring and exposing bygone DIY cult-classic recordings.  The Hyped to Death series itself was dedicated to American punk and like-minded variants thereof.  The H2D tent also housed the Messthetics series of homegrown post-punk and dissonant rock, extending to Europe.  The Teen Line compilations were more in my wheelhouse, with an emphasis on power pop singles, some exceedingly scarce and collectible.  Deriving it's name from a Shivvers song (included here), the eight volumes in the TL series were designed alphabetically around the first letter of the artist name.  R&S are the magic letters for Vol. 1, ironically not A-B, which featured later in the series.  Several letters of the alphabet are neglected altogether in the Teen Line collections, as future postings will reveal.  I'm working under the assumption that there were to be more Teen Line compilations to encompass the entire alphabet, but for whatever the reason the original concept for the series was never fully realized.

For a relatively informal string of cd-r compendiums, the folks at Hyped to Death exercised impeccable quality control, albeit their releases offered little in the way of household recognition.  In fact there's merely one outfit here your local person on the street might successfully identify, that being the Romantics. Combos like the Speedies, Scruffs, Riff Doctors, and the Sex Clark Five nonetheless left an indelible mark on those that were fortunate to encounter them, often wielding hooks and rhythms rivaling the par excellence output of more renown acts like the Shoes and 20/20.  In fact, think of the Teen Line compilations as the '80s equivalent of the Yellow Pills series.  An embarrassment of riches for any power pop connoisseur.  I don't have time to go into a play-by-play of Volume 1's teaming 28-song cavalcade, but the booklet does, and I've thoughtfully scanned it into the folder.  The tracklist is to your left.  Bear in mind, many of the tracks within were sourced from vinyl.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


King of long overdue, eh?  Will be back by the end of the week.  Be good.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tell me lies, that’s what I’d rather hear from you.

A retrospective spanning 1981-84 from an unheralded Boston post-punk act (and it's not Mission of Burma).

Iron and Wine - Archive Series, Vol. 1 (2015, Black Cricket Recording Co.) - a brief overview.

To encounter Iron and Wine for the first time is one thing.  Bonding with Iron and Wine is quite another.  Of course not everyone who hears Sam Beam makes the connection.  For me, it was hearing the lullaby vignette "Jesus the Mexican Boy" on college radio, circa 2003, that whet my appetite.  I wanted to hear more, and I did.  Quite a bit more in fact.  In addition to his first official Sub Pop releases of acoustic home recordings, The Creek Drank the Cradle and The Sea & the Rhythm, there was a bevy of outtakes from the same session.  Transferred through the post-Napster, peer-to-peer speakeasies, these leftovers made "the rounds" if you will, and I indulged as much as the next guy.  The bonding part, however, transpired under less than preferable circumstances.

Around this time my Mom had passed away, and the responsibility fell upon me to clean out her house before placing it on the market.  It was a time of intermittent despondency, but in those rare moments where I was emotionally strong enough to carry out anything constructive I occasionally listened to music.  It was a shortlist of a soundtrack for sure - Slowdive, Pale Saints, This Mortal Coil, Glide...and a cd-r of various Iron and Wine selections.  Sam Beam's hushed soliloquies hardly had the capability of healing me, though at the very least they were impeccably consoling.  A bond had been formed, just as it had for perhaps thousands of other listeners, hopefully under less grievous circumstances.

Many comparisons have been leveled at Sam Beam ranging from Robert Johnson to Nick Drake, yet there are no definitive parallels.  Lo-fi is a term that's downright mandatory in any written description of his homegrown tapings.  These recordings sound not merely analog, but rustic - so much so that one get's the impression that Beam's four-track recorder isn't powered by "D" batteries so much as an actual hand crank.  Surely that's a sorry stab at hyperbole on my part, but when I hear Iron and Wine I envision Beam working in a creaky, candlelit attic placing a small piece of tape over the removed tab of a Cat Steven's cassette, plunging it into his Tascam, and letting it flow.  Beyond the aforementioned sonic aesthetic, our man's timbre is an invariably hushed, telephone whisper, perhaps a tad too close to the mic.  All ballads too, with an emphasis on heavy-hearted romantic ruminations, often incorporating slice-of-life tangents.  That's a bit of an oversimplification, but for the unacquainted, think folk music sans the social agenda, or singer/songwriter craftsmanship minus ego. 

As for Archive Series Vol. 1 itself, this sixteen song collection is culled primarily from tapes that slightly pre-dated the three dozen or some odd songs that birthed the watershed The Creek Drank the Cradle session.  From my per view as an archivist of those MP3 bootlegs, the bulk of Archive's sixteen-song set-list is wholly unreleased in any guise.  Cut from the same earnest sackcloth as the rest of his early output, there are no stylistic departures here.  In essence, the approach to titles like "Loretta," "Beyond the Fence," and "The Wind is Low" isn't a revelation itself, rather the songs are, ergo Archive Series Vol. 1 will be of immense interest established customers.  The unacquainted may want to reach for Iron and Wine's Sub Pop records first, but if and when they're convinced, they can backtrack to this enticing prequel.    You can find stream "Everyone's Summer of 95" below, and purchase the album direct from Black Cricket, or iTunes and Amazon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Game Theory - Real Nightime (1985/2015 reissue, Omnivore) - a brief overview.

In all honesty, I didn't catch wind of Game Theory until the game was long over.  And it wasn't because I was a Loud Family fan first and worked my way backward.  I was merely a late bloomer. In the late '90s I was belatedly introduced to Scott Miller and Co., while I was beginning to indulge in another bygone band that had off of Mitch Easter's power grid, The dB's.  I can't recall the exact circumstances that led to my Game Theory plunge (perhaps a used copy of The Big Shot Chronicles procured at a local record shop)?  To cut to the chase, I didn't have the luxury of experiencing the band's evolution from nascent college kids to baroque indie visionaries.  I've heard lots of people, critics and music fans alike, extoll praise regarding Real Nighttime's overarching magnificence - and it's plenty warranted.  As music scribe Pat Thomas phrases it in the first paragraph of the liner notes to the fresh Omnivore reissue of 1985's Real Nighttime, " many ways this is Game Theory's first real album."  If you delve further into the text, you'll understand more specifically why he makes that claim, but there in fact was a first Game Theory album, Blaze of Glory, that was no slouch, spawning stunning, deftly arranged tunes like "Sleeping Through Heaven," that would equal anything on G/T's subsequent releases.

That being said, Real Nighttime was the pinnacle of Scott Miller's output at the time (and arguably, ever).  Mitch Easter was occupying the producer's stead, and not only does he maximize and expand Game Theory's sonic capabilities he elevates the group's wherewithal.  The vague esoteric tendencies that populated the band's earlier oeuvre are even vaguer on Nighttime, yet neither Miller or Easter seemed to be gunning for a streamlined, radio-friendly modus operandi.  This may have cost the band commercially, but had they pursued the opposite we might be looking back on them in disdain.  The seemingly intricate arrangements that garnished Blaze of Glory and it's two succeeding EPs, were tightened, not tweaked, and made more lucid without conceding to any of Miller's original intent.  

Game Theory scale perilously dazzling, melody infused heights on "Curse of the Frontier Land," "Waltz the Halls Always," and the tempo-shifting title track.  There's an anthemic moxie to all of the aforementioned, akin to what REM subtly achieved on Murmur a couple years prior.  The propulsive "Friend of the Family," is as close to punk as anything Game Theory attempted, and they do so with ample punch and vigor.  The pristine "24" find's Miller in a relatively soul-bearing light, and a rendition of Big Star's "You Can't Have Me," manages to sound even more stark and distinct than the original.  Be it rhythms, arrangements, or whatever, there's a certain sway to a Game Theory record and Real Nighttime manages to enhance this penchant that much more.

The Omnivore Records reissue of Real Nighttime tacks on an albums worth of bonus material.  The nine live cuts entail a casual reading of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" (sans saxophone), a bevy of songs from the then current album and the barely vintage "Metal and Glass Exact."  "Any Other Hand" is reprised from the original ...Nighttime reissue on Alias Records.  A solo home demo, "Lily of the Valley (not the gospel standard) closes things out.  The booklet features among other things, an in-depth interview with Mitch Easter.  You can experience all of it direct from Omnivore, iTunes, Amazon and all the usual suspects.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm jumping up and down, I'm choking on a Tootsie Roll...

So it was announced in late 2014 that after 21 years apart, the Juliana Hatfield Three were reuniting - Jules, bassist Dean Fisher and drummer Todd Phillips.  It was the lineup responsible for the 1993's quasi hit album, Become What You Are, spawning the alterna-classics "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle." This inevitably meant a requisite tour (in progress, btw) wherein the threesome would perform said album front to back.  While I wasn't utterly stoked on that aspect alone, the revelation of a new JH3 platter (crowd-sourced in part by yours truly) held even greater promise.  After all, Become... was the most substantive record of her career, post-Blake Babies, and maybe the reunion would rekindle some of those Clinton-era embers.

By the results of this year's Whatever, My Love, my suspicions were largely confirmed, as it housed some of Juliana's best songs since the 2001 Blake Babies reunion disk God Bless...  Closer to the release of Whatever, it was revealed that some of the songs were written and demo'd as far back as the mid-90s.  Coincidentally, some of those demos were temporarily made available as MP3s to the public via Jules website in the late '00s.  In fact dozens of songs were "leaked," most never released in any other iteration.  They've long since been taken down, but among the tracks I was fortunate to capture were no less than five songs that were re-recorded for Whatever, My Love, namely: "Invisible," "If I Could," "I'm Shy," "Ordinary Guy," and lastly "Now That I've Found You."  Now, wouldn't it be a hoot to hear demos of all the aforementioned?  You're in luck, because I'm making that proposal a reality - and not just for the sake of it.  These are some real, true-blue gems here, with hooks that leave miles of devastation in their wake.  But there's more.  I'm also including "Eye to Eye," my favorite selection from the unreleased, aborted, and quite fabled God's Foot album, the record Juliana had intended to deliver after Only Everything.  I also tossed in another good random website track, "Never Coming Out" dating back to 1996.

And it gets even better.  I'm padding this set out with seven long out of print b-sides from Juliana's '90s halcyon era.  "Ruthless," "Baby's Not My Name," and "Girl In Old Blue Volvo Disowns Self" parallel or surpass her most golden album cuts.  I should note that "Feed Me," culled from the I See You ep. is a rewrite of the Blake Babies "Boiled Potato."  A loose tracklist is below, but you dictate the sequence.

If you enjoyed the demos, please consider purchasing Whatever, My Love from American Laundromat, iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere.   Support the band!  One more thing - I re-upped a 1997 Juliana Hatfield concert in Toronto that you can check out here.

Demos, etc.
If I Could (2000)
I'm Shy (1997)
Invisible (2000)
Now That I Have Found You (1998)
Ordinary Guy (1998)
Never Coming Out (1996)
Eye to Eye (from God's Foot)

Feed Me
Here Comes The Pain
Put It Away
Hello my Name is Baby
I Got No Idols (Piano Version)
Girl In Old Blue Volvo Disowns Self


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Social Club - Flogging Peasants (1988, Petroleum By-Products)

Looks like this is the first entry I've dedicated to a San Jose combo (well, Cupertino anyway).  Close enough.  Social Club were your basic four-piece setup, more left-off-the-dial than left-of-the-dial by the sound of things.  I'm digging the lead-off number here, "Left to Understand," which bears a healthy dollop of the stamina and fervor of period Replacements or Buck Pets.  It's kinda downhill from there, but side-two's commencing "Jump Something Big," is the surlier and darker cousin to the aforementioned flipside cut.  A couple of appealing janglier stabs too - "Hide Your Tears," "Last Chance Home."  As for the rest, Flogging Peasants gets a little bit pedestrian in spots, vaguely reminiscent of David & David, but I'm not really complaining.  And I doubt you'll be either.

01. Left to Understand
02. Nothing New
03. Everywhere
04. Hide Your Tears
05. What Difference
06. Jump Something Big
07. Last Chance Home
08. Kook
09. Gotta Go
10. Up in the Sky


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Did our chemistry cause a chain reaction?

From 1980.  This album garnered comparisons to Elvis Costello.  Go figure.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Humidifier - Nothing Changes (1996, Link)

I did a piece on Humidifier a good four years ago when I made their 1993 Gazer ep available to the world at large.  I provided a relatively thorough backgrounder on the quartet (later pared down to a trio) in that entry, but the synopsis on the band is essentially this - Jon Wilbur, renown for his tenure in Superchunk,  and likewise John King for his time in Spent, comprise the Humidifier nucleus.  In the late '80s up through about 1991, they recorded two 7" eps, and a full length, Misery's Redeeming, during their initial tenure.

Fast forward to 1996.  After making a name for themselves with the aforementioned indie rock titans, Wilbur and King, along with drummer Dennis Saulnier revived Humidifier.  Armed with an album's worth of new tunes, considerably more experience, not to mention a record deal with a credible label, Nothing Changes was born.  The album plays out like it's composite might suggest, yet there's little here that outright surpasses anything in Superchunk's considerably more visceral repertoire.  The Gazer ep's most convincing moment, "Nicotine" is rerecorded for Nothing Changes, and comes out noticeably more lucid in the wash, losing some of it's charm in the process.  NC is recommendable, especially for established clientele of Wilbur and/or King, albeit it's not particularly timeless.  Oddly enough, maturity wasn't always to Humidifier's benefit here, and furthermore there was to be no follow-up to this album.

01. Death on the Cape
02. Nicotine
03. If You Want to Make This Right
04. Intelligent Vehicle Nightmare
05. Telephone Poles
06. Nature Calls Albert Collect
07. Rubber Gloves
08. Way Station
09. Five Relatives in the Cemetery
10. Martian Timeslip
11. Actified
12. Not Afraid, Terrified
13. Slowburn
14. When My Fingers Fall Off


Friday, March 13, 2015

Angle Park 7" (1986, Gark)

Here's a Minnesota quartet, possibly from Minneapolis, who apparently had no affiliation with that town's "big three" (Mats, Husker Du, Soul Asylum).  In fact, Angle Park seemingly made no attempt to blend in with that trifecta, and jolly good for them because this 45s A-side, "On My Back," is a riff-roaring ass kicker that roots up plenty of dirt on their own terms.  Think along the lines of the Magnolias, Georgia Satellites and the Neighborhoods and you'll get the idea.  The sensitive "Someday," rounding out the second half of this disk is the ballad-esque ying to "On My Back's" proverbial yang, proving there are indeed two sides to every single.

A. On My Back
B. Someday


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lemmings - Running ep (1984)

Full disclosure - I bought this one based on the "had to have it" sleeve alone, and while I'm not sharing it for solely that reason, the rather ironic image of cars diving off a cliff (like lemmings, duh) was a sizable motivator.  Apparently, the original inner sleeve was removed before I purchased it, as the album jacket itself bears not a shred of info on who the Lemmings were, where they hailed from, etc.  I have nothing to go on save for a 1984 copyright date.  And speaking of the '80s, only that cherished decade could have prompted such an intriguing, cartoon-ish album cover, something akin to a Far Side cartoon, eh?  Was hoping for punk or power pop.  Not quite.  The Lemmings weren't tethered to any particular genre, and with an uneven and nondescript batch of tunes such as those populating, Running, that fails to work to their advantage.  These folks have a vague wave-ish tilt to them, but they prefer polite organs over synths.  Furthermore, they insert decidedly pedestrian sax solos on the title cut merely upping the cheese factor.  "Murphy's Law" is English Beat on a starvation diet, 'Walk Along" busts a few socially aware verses, but in my book, Running's only true-blue keeper is the driving and quite gratifying "Brains." Maybe some of the others would have worked if they had been pared down from five minutes to three.  At any rate, the album exists, it's got a snappy cover and it's yours in ones and zeroes should you elect to download it.  Feel free to chime in if you have any specs on the Lemmings.

01. Toast
02. Running
03. Lost Not Plost
04. Brains
05. Murphy's Law
06. Walk Along


Sunday, March 8, 2015

I used to think people would tolerate me if I kept my mouth shut and kept off the streets...

Two albums of often raucous, indie guitar rawk from a power duo that never got their due. If you enjoy Guided by Voices this has "you" written all over it.  Maybe.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Local Rabbits - This Is It Here We Go (2002, Brobdingnagian)

You're completely forgiven if you have no clue who the Local Rabbits are, especially if you live outside of Canada.  Before I forget, I'm pretty sure I made this available as a Mystery Monday feature, but after learning it was no longer commercially available, I'm decided to share it for the long haul.  LR originated from Montreal, but by the time they recorded TIIHWG they had relocated to Toronto.  Despite this album being an all time favorite of mine, I had a major aversion to the Local Rabbits at blush, namely their 1996 debut You Can't Touch This.  Don't remember much about it, except it's silliness - and the fact that it irritated the hell out of me.  It was more than convenient to write them off.  Then there was album two, Basic Concept.  A definite improvement, but they had yet to really bring their A-game.  Around 2001 I caught them opening for the Flashing Lights.  I was impressed, but still not a convert.  Then in 2002 they dropped da bomb, and it was dubbed This Is It Here We Go.  Up until then the Rabbits, IMHO, lacked an identity.  This time they adopted one.  Granted, said identity had been around the block a few times, and was typically the province of far more renown musicians, but the Rabbits incorporation of creme de la creme '70s rock maneuvers blended perfectly with their own exponentially rising acumen.   

Deftly crafted and sophisticated This is It... not only brought to the fore a wealth of truly amazing songs, but showcased the burgeoning talents of the quartet's key scribes Peter Elkas and Ben Gunning.  The Local Rabbits had improved a zillion-fold since their You Can't Touch This-era, and could have probably delivered an album just as potent as This is It... had it purely been the product of their own internal muse, but a funny thing happened.   Loosely speaking, the band picked up on the modest but warm strains of Sloan's Twice Removed...and spiked that drink considerably with telltale glints from a few decades prior.  With what you might ask?  How about Steve Miller hooks, BÖC guitar fills, a smidge of Joe Walsh sneer, and plenty of Steely swank?  Yet there's no wholesale plundering or usurpation here, nor does any iota of This is It... sound the least bit Frankensteined.  The Rabbits thing was subtlety, and they prodigiously distilled only the most dashing morsels from those painfully overplayed classic rock titans.  "Never Had to Fight," "Pass It to You," and the plush "At Least You Got the Cake," tastefully tease in intermittent nooks and crannies, allowing your imagination to wander, or in my case, run completely wild.  Elsewhere, reverb soaked ballads "Poured All that I Got" and "Fill Them In," sound like the most pristine tunes Steve Miller never dreamed of, and the jazzy tangle of zig-zag riffs populating "The Fiery Wall" channels Spyro Gyra.  

All of this may not sound dazzling, let alone innovative, but this record has somehow ensconced itself into my soul.  If you don't get it on the first spin, subsequent plays should do the trick.  TIIHWG is one of those rare albums that you wish you'd never heard, if only so you could encounter it for the first time again.  

To my chagrin the Rabbits called it a day after this record Peter Elkas continues to perform and has three solo albums to his credit.  Ben Gunning hasn't slowed down much either.

01. The Lights Turn On
02. Never Had to Fight
03. At Least You Got the Cake
04. Poured All That I Got
05. Purple 7 Grey
06. Spilling Mistake
07. The Fiery Wall
08. Pass It to You
09. Drag Out the Barrel
10. Fill Them In


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Doctors Children - King Buffalo (1987, Down There/Restless)

In 1987 there was a lot of "new music" emanating from the UK - early Madchester swill, C86/indie galore, and the last vestiges of the fading new romantic movement.  As for the Doctors Children they were having none of it, simply opting to be a rock and roll band.  I've sort of been struggling to draw any obvious (or not so) parallels to this long-departed quartet and any of their home-country brethren, and am pretty much stumped.  Lead Doctor Paul Smith recalls the guy from the Wonder Stuff, but that's likely a coincidence.  If anything D/C took to contemporary Americana rock for inspiration, and boasted Hammond organist/harmonica wielder Matthew Woodman in their lineup to bolster such ethos.  And they were adept at delivering the goods - no frills, bells or whistles, just earnest sturdy tunes with more than enough charisma and passion to get by.

King Buffalo is a consolidation of two previous eps that were theretofore only available in the UK.  Buffalo came out in the States on Down There Records, the same imprint responsible for some of The Dream Syndicate's and Green On Red's earliest vinyl offerings, if that means anything to you. 

01. Girl With Green Eyes
02. Cold Climate
03. Rock and Roll Jesus
04. Baby Teardrop
05. Born to Wander
06. Baby Buddha
07. Rose Cottage
08. Me, September 24th, 1983
09. Blessed is the Man
10. When I Was Young


Sunday, March 1, 2015

It was clearly never meant to be.

From 1997.  The debut album from one of my favorite singer/songwriters.