Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pooh Sticks - Formula One Generation (1990, Sympathy)

Per the liner notes, not to mention the telltale audio snippets comprising Formula One's intro track, The Pooh Sticks claim to have been inspired by The Records and Raspberries among others.  In terms of conventional power pop however, this Welsh co-ed troupe tended to play it fast and loose in that particular domain on their premiere long-player (one which followed an avalanche of singles and eps).  Lots of idiosyncratic tangents and such here, that I'm sure must have kept John Peel intrigued.  Formula... boasts a couple covers, including the Vaselines "Dying For It" which nearly bests the original.  Since I can't offer much more insight into this record, I'll let Trouser Press have their say:

Formula One Generation — the Poohs' first proper studio album — is self-indulgent ("Tonight" takes forever to gather itself into an actual song) and uneven, but the lack of sonic luster can't possibly spoil such wonderfully cool tunes as "Susan Sleepwalking," "Radio Ready," "Dare True Kiss Promise," "Soft Bed, Hard Battles." (The inclusion of yet another version of "Dying for It" doesn't hurt, either.) But there's an especially hasty quality to the performances, which leaves them mildly lacking that certain esprit de pooh.

01. Intro
02. Radio Ready
03. Teenage High
04. Time to Time
05. Susan Sleepwalking
06. All the Good That's Happening
07. Dare True Kiss Promise
08. Teenage High 2
09. Tonight
10. Soft Bed, Hard Battles
11. Dying for It


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Catching up with Jigsaw Records - Zebras, Lavender Faction, Gravy Train and more!

It took the release of the new Zebra's album for me to dig a little deeper into the recent catalog of the label responsible for it, Jigsaw Records.  A label I might add that's not solely tethered to the present, but also has an eye on the past, and a decidedly obscuro one at that.  Today we're going to examine not only said Zebra's record but three of their most intriguing reissues of late.

With a sonic penchant that incorporates the pastoral clarity of bygone country-mates The Go Betweens, while occasionally grazing the dream-pop meniscus of Lush, Brisbane’s Zebras are the should-be “it” band that the world is virtually ignorant to, outside of Australia anyway.  Making it seem all too easy and effortless, the Zebras impeccable concoction of chiming, strummy chords frequently dovetail with co-ed vocals, courtesy of Jeremy Cole and  Edwina Ewins.   Songs as breezy and twinkling as the sublime “Try,” “Grace,” and “Berries” yield nary an imperfect maneuver…so much so that they arouse suspicion.  I need not bestow any more virtue onto the Zebras, as this record is capable of meeting that end, though I’ll cut the line by recommending Siesta to those with a preference for Beach House and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.  

The reputations of certain bedroom indie labels are so arcane and under-the-radar it takes yet another label to shine a spotlight on their output.   The Newcastle, UK based Woosh imprint enjoyed a lifespan of merely two years (specifically 1988-89) and in that humble expanse of time the bulk of their releases amounted to 7" flexi disks bundled in fanzines.  Jigsaw Records has digitally compiled these recordings into Ten Little Records: The Woosh Collection.  None of the eleven featured acts went onto any commercial prominence, though to their credit, The Pooh Sticks lived out a portion of their tenure on a major label.   In terms of sheer domination, The Nivens chart no less than seven times here, carrying on in brisk, chiming fashion clinging tightly to the C86 aesthetic, best exemplified by "Yesterday."  Other pleasant surprises include the Holidaymakers, and The Sunflowers who dole out a steaming garage punk nugget in the form of "Bubble Bus."  The Pooh Stick's "Hard on Love" is a vigorous and visceral as all get out I might add.  Finally, Ten Little Records ends on an especially high note with an exclusive form Illinois' Choo Choo Trains (aka Paul Chastain and Ric Menck who would later transfer their train fare for Velvet Crush).  It sure sounds like Matthew Sweet is on the mic for the Choo's contribution, "Many Happy Returns."  Just sayin.  Many tracks here were sourced from vinyl as a last resort, but as for my primary complaint, "dude, where's my liner notes?"

Next on the docket, England's Gravy Train who ladled out three singles in the early '90s.  Hmmm, don't recall these guys being written up in NME or Melody Maker, but then again I missed quite a few issues of both.  At any rate, Thank You For Nothing! is just the thing for that post-C86 hangover, compiling all of those 7" sides, compilation appearances, and some miscellaneous and previous unreleased smatterings.  Randomly hopscotching from good to decent to just kinda "there," Gravy Train, at their most inspired, incorporate some of the finer facets of the Mighty Lemon Drops and The June Brides, albeit within a demonstrably more homegrown context.  There's a staggering 28 songs here, and with that in mind I'd recommend Thank You... to be absorbed in considerably smaller doses.   

And finally, The Lavender Faction, another across the pond export I've been meaning to study for a number years, even having gone so far as to downloading some low-bitrate MP3s eons back that I barely listened to.  As was the case with the aforementioned Gravy Train disk, Tear Down the Walls is a discography compiler of the Faction's predominantly vinyl catalog distilled to a handy digital release.  Format specifications aside, if you're hankering for a blissed-out merger of dream pop and (slightly) chilly post-punk you'll find a good many of this early '90s quartet's offerings to be downright mesmerizing.  "Harbour Me," "Ride," "Crawl Down," and the title track among other pearls, strike a near-perfect melange of manicured feedback, splashes of tremolo, and succulent melody.  Hinting at the likes of Swevedriver, Bailter Space and beyond, the Lavender Faction had some immense moments to bestow in a catalog that was achingly sparse. 

All four of these titles are available direct from Jigsaw.  Digitally, Bandcamp has you covered, as does Amazon and iTunes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Running far away out of your eyes...

From 1985.  I can't believe it's not butter The Cure.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Re-uploads for April.

Here's the best I could do.  Thanks for your requests.

Visitors - No Sign of Intelligent Life
Luxurious Bags - Frayed Knots
Sheila Divine - s/t ep
Jellyfishbabies - The Unkind Truth About Rome
The Furys - Indoor/Outdoor ep
The Fugue - Waiting for Something
Rooney - three eps
Dramarama - The Days of Wayne and Roses
Nightman - No Escape
Brave New World - The Law of Series ep
Bitter Pleasures - Eat the Monument ep
Sea Hags - demo
Expando Brain - Mother of God its...
Young Pioneers - tape
A Picture Made - 7"
The Chant - Two Car Mirage & Three Sheets to the Wind
Field Trip - Beautiful
Clay Idols - Falling Down Backwards
Sammy - Chili Lite 7"
Eric Menck and Paul Chastain - Firetrucks and Periwinkles
Fig Dish - Unleash the Cracken
Sweet Jesus - discography
Caretaker Race - Hangover Square
Minerva Strain - Blue Tarantella
Contras - Ciphers in the Snow
Fingers - Video Games ep
V/A - Imaginary Records comp
Tina, Age 13 - The Alcoholic Father of My Inner Child
Windbreakers - At Home With...
Howard and Tim's Paid Vacation - I Never Met a Girl
Beat Temptation - Concerned About Rock Music?
Nocturnal Projections - Nerve Ends in Power Lines
Lucy Brown - s/t 1988
Scared of Chaka/Flake Music - split 7"
New Musik - Straight Lines ep
Propaganda - Calling on Moscow ep
Yo - Charm World
Mock Turtles - 87-90
Juliana Hatfield & Evan Dando - The Mercury Lounge, NYC 9/30/10
Luxury - EP #1
The Teardrop Explodes - live 3/7/81, Mount Vernon, NY
Dharma Bums - Givin' In 7"
Dangtrippers - Incantation 7"

Friday, April 24, 2015

Swervedriver - I Wasn't Born To Lose You (2015, Cobraside) - a brief review

Swervedriver’s reunion is one of those rare rock and roll rekindlings that’s not the least bit questionable.   No need to ponder over the integrity of the singer guy's (Adam Franklin) vocals, nor should one be suspect about the group’s motives.  In fact, the only circumstance where you'll be paying three-figures a pop to see them perform is if they've attached themselves to a music festival.  Simply put, there's no acrimony between this band and their humble legion of hanger-oners , and despite the decade long layover once a Swervies fan, always a Swervies fan.

I was absolutely besotted with their debut Raise, when it dropped in 1991.  A seemingly effortless (and perhaps unintentional) amalgam of ear-bleeding dream-pop rock, buttressed with grunge-worthy heaps of distortion that found this Oxford, UK quartet traipsing on the coattails of both disparate spheres in more than respectable fashion.  No question about it, Raise was a revelation - an often murky latticework of amped-out feedback, woozy pedal-ridden effects, and subrosa melodies.  Truth be told I pined for the guitarsy freak-outs of "Sandblasted" and "Son of Mustang Ford" to be remolded on subsequent Swervdriver albums.  That selfish “pining,” as it were, remains unfulfilled to this day, but even with the more noisome attributes tamped down, the band's sinewy and complex arrangements were retained on Mezcal Head, Ejector Seat Reservation, and 99th Dream, albeit in a measurably more lucid modus operandi.  So where and how does I Wasn't Born to Lose You stack up after such an elephantine wait?

Amazingly, I Wasn't Born... sounds like a bona fide Swervedriver album, and not merely a continuation of Adam's solo albums, or stretching back a bit further, his post-SD conglomeration Toshack Highway.  Perhaps we can chalk this up to three quarters of the '90s line-up still loyally intact, with lead six-stringer Jimmy Hartridge and bassist Steve George remaining in tow - almost as integral to the band's chemistry as Adam Franklin himself.  The tuneful and glistening opening salvo, "Autodidact" doesn't pick up where 1998's 99th Dream left off, so much as their sophomore 1993 platter Mezcal Head.  "Autodidact" is a remarkably good sign of things to come, leading into Born's... most sonically dense cut, "Last Rites," which is accented with washes of flanged guitars and sturdy sonic musculature.  Further in, "Deep Wound" is about as close as the Swervies come to replicating Raise's feedback-layered aesthetic.  "Setting Sun's" chiming interplay and the resonating "For a Day Like Tomorrow" could also pass for outtakes of yore.  Aside from the overlong "Everso" and "Red Queen Arms Race's" bluesy, slow-burning stride, I Wasn't Born... is near faultless.  It's tempting to refer to this as Swervedriver's "return to form," but the fact is they've deviated negligibly from their twentieth century formula.  Furthermore, one is left to wonder how many more terrific Swervedriver albums we'd have on our hands had it not been for their fifteen year dormancy between records!

The band have concluded a run of dates in the States, and will be visiting Canada in May and June.  Check out I Wasn't Born to Lose You from Amazon, iTunes, and Insound.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

VA - Teen Line No. 2. (covering letters S to U, 1979-86)

It appears a heck of a lot of you were down with my first Teen Line compilation offering from last month, making the presentation of volume two in the series a no brainer.  For those of you who wish to get caught up to speed, check out my write-up in the link above.  In a nutshell, the fan-curated Teen Line series was a Nuggets-esque assemblage of American DIY power pop singles with an emphasis on acts that opted not to tread in the more aggressive footsteps of punk.  Not much in the way of household name status here, dovetailing perfectly within the wheelhouse of this humble webpage.

Boasting 27 songs by nearly as many participants, certain cuts are unsurprisingly more prime than others on Teen Line no. 2.  There are no less than three compositions from a Santa Barbara act the curator was notably partial to, The Tearaways, who by the way still maintain a presence.  In fact I posted  a (mulleted) Tearways related project dubbed the Volcanos not too long ago, but I digress.  Another band featured here with an even closer brush with fame is Shrapnel, featuring a pre-stoner, pre-Monster Magnet Dave Wyndorf.  Damn, why they didn't go with the far more potent and visceral "Combat Love" instead of the comparatively flacid "Go Cruisin'" is beyond me.  Ponderous.  Other offerings on the heightened likability side of the fence include The Tyrants, Tiny Voices, Two Minutes 50, Buffalo's Toys and Milwaukee's invariably satisfying SquaresI'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Tweed's cult classic "I Need That Record," a Nick Lowe-induced three minute surge praising vinyl (and exclusively vinyl), earns it's rightful spot on the Teen Line roster to boot. The track list is to your left.