Sunday, August 30, 2015

Just for laughs let’s stay in and we’ll perfect our autographs…

Today's its a double albums worth of B-sides and such from a band whose ten albums have been richly rewarding.   And,  yes, that's an understatement.

Part 1   Part 2

Saturday, August 29, 2015

...and I'll be back on your sofa in a puddle in a couple of weeks.

I usually don't get too attached to live bootlegs, but I've been dipping into this one a lot in the past week.  Ben Folds upcoming album, So There (drops September 11th y'all) is a collaboration with yMusic, a pocket-chamber collective based in New York who provide strings, flutes and other high-brow accouterments to Ben's unremittingly dazzling piano pop fare.  And here they are, all six y's, in concert with Ben at Bonnaroo this past June in Manchester, TN.  The set features no less than five songs from So There, that would be just as idiosyncratic if they were performed by Ben by his lonesome.  Irony meets melody, ya dig?  The stuff this guy gets away with, I tell ya... As for the new batch of tunes "Capable of Anything" is quite the rouser, and by the sound of "Phone in Pool" I think I've figured out what the single is going to be.  Naturally, perennial sing-alongs "Not the Same" and "Army" are present (starting to get a tad predictable, Ben).

This is a 320 kbps rip likely taken from streaming video, if not a soundboard tape.  "You Don't Know Me" has a brief glitch, and according to there's an intro piece played by yMusic that isn't included in this recording.  Rock this, beyotch.  Enjoy.

Ben Folds and yMusic, Bonnaroo 6/12/15

01. So There
02. Long Way to Go
03. Not a Fan
04. Erase Me
05. Capable of Anything
06. Rock This Bitch
07. Effington
08. Phone in a Pool
09. Jesusland
10. Steven's Last Night in Town
11. Army
12. You Don't Know Me (partial cut)
13. Not the Same


Thursday, August 27, 2015

VA - Burger Records Tribute to VU's White Light/White Heat (2013)

Oh boy.  The rendering of any Velvet Underground song is likely to be wildly hit or a miss (take a guess where Macaulay Culkin resides on this spectrum?) let alone an entire album.  The cassette lovin' Burger Records peeps slung together this lil' thang in late 2013, and for the life of me I'm not sure why they thought a mere 500 copies would be sufficient.  The six revisionists responsible for this tape are all virtual unknowns. so you're forgiven if you plead ignorant to all/any parties involved.

Those of you who've lived with White Light/White Heat, be it for a few years or several decades knows this was the grittiest thing V/U ever put their beloved stamp on, but that facet doesn't always translate over to this bad boy.  Natural Light are the most effective of this tribute's half dozen at conveying the raw, analog aesthetic in roughly the same mold originally cast by Lou Reed and Co.  Memories replicate the pithy, word-for-word dialogue of "The Gift," which frankly never did squat for me in the first place.  "Lady Godiva's Operation" is my favorite WL/WH selection, and Mozes and the Firstborn are as adept as anyone in reinterpreting it, while Curtis Harding infuses "Here She Comes Now" with a distinct Motown bent.  And sadly, Gap Dream thoroughly butcher the dirge-like grandeur of the Velvet’s slow burning “Sister Ray,” bleaching it into one
solid streak of wordless, space-age ambience rendering it unrecognizable, passionless, and for that matter, innocuous.  I call bullshit.  And to think I actually respected these guys before I heard this monstrosity.  

If you would prefer to stream this as opposed to absorbing 80 or so megabytes Soundcloud has you covered.  My rip is culled straight from the cassette. 

01. Natural Child - White Light~White Heat
02. The Memories - The Gift
03. Mozes and the Firstborn - Lady Godiva's Operation
04. Curtis Harding - Here She Comes Now
05. Mr. Elevator and the Brain Hotel - I Heard Her Call My Name
06. Gap Dream - Sister Ray 


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Obvious - Home ep (1987, I Wanna)

Here's a fairly recent discovery of mine, even if the record itself dates almost three decades ago.  Presumably from Dayton, OH (or thereabouts) The Obvious didn't have to look far for inspiration - specifically to Minneapolis where the Replacements were crankin' away in their prime.  The four youngsters (and I emphasize young based on the back cover photo) responsible for this disk had a penchant for edgy punk 'n roll that I'm sure had them entrenched on left-of-the-dial playlists back in the day.  Pleasantly enough, I'm hearing similarities to the Nils as well.  The title cut is the obvious emphasis piece on this record, appearing in original and censored versions, but I think you'll do just as well, if not better with "Black and White" and "77."  Incidentally I Wanna Records was responsible for the debut Guided By Voices ep Forever Since Breakfast, and they also issued an Obvious full length in 1993.

01. Home
02. Black & White
03. Suicidal Anne
04. Sold Out
05. "77"
06. Home (radio edit)


Sunday, August 23, 2015

I feel guilty every time I have a dream…

A "Greatest Hits" package in name only.  Considering how earnest and unpretentious these 21 songs are, in a perfect world they would have soared high into the Billboard stratosphere when they were cut in the mid/late-80s.  Enjoy (or not).


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mega City Four - Terribly Sorry Bob (1991, Decoy)

In the 1980s you might say the premise of American punk rock transitioned from the socio/political to something of a more personal nature.  Husker Du, The Descendents, and a bit further along Superchunk, were a handful of key propagators of this trend.  In England, Mega City Four were analogous to this sort of "re-purposing" and they boasted a damn fine catalog to show for it, including five length studio albums and an avalanche of singles.  Terribly Sorry Bob chronicles 45s and eps from the first half of their career (1987-90), leading up to and surrounding MC4's Tranzophobia and Who Cares Wins albums.  Many a deliriously melodic and euphoric tune can be experienced here including the likes of "Clear Blue Sky," "Thanx," and "Miles Apart."  I made their fourth LP, Magic Bullets available here many moons ago, and the record that preceded it, 1992's Sebastopol Road recently underwent a grand de-luxe reissue treatment.  Frontman "Wiz" Darren Brown sadly passed on in 2006 due to an aneurysm.

01. Miles Apart
02. Running in Darkness
03. Distant Relatives
04. Clear Blue Sky
05. Less Than Senseless
06. Dancing Days Are Over
07. No time
08. Awkward Kid
09. Cradle
10. Finish
11. Severance
12. Thanx
13. Square Through a Circle


Friday, August 21, 2015

The Muffs - s/t (1993, reissue 2015 Omnivore) & Hard-ons Too Far Gone (1993, reissue 2015 Citadel)

1993 in and of itself may have seemed like a relatively inauspicious year for music - and maybe it was, but as far as I was concerned that year solidified the 1990s as a decade that was every bit as credible and prosperous as the the three or four decades preceding it.  Let's consider all that contemporary rock music had going for it in '93 - the Pacific Northwest, albeit having blown up a few years prior was still a hot spot, there were copious amounts of indie/punk tuneage emanating from such hubs as San Diego, Chapel Hill, Washington D.C. and Dallas, and in case you needed a reminder, things were raging on the other side of the pond to boot with no deficit of quality shoegazer outfits, not to mention more traditional Britpop entries.  So where did The Muffs and more specifically their recently reissued debut album slot into this horn o' plenty?  Not squarely into any of the aforementioned categories I'm afraid, rather this quartet (subsequently a trio) represented a very sweet cherry atop an already bustling cake of rock and roll riches.

Anyone with an inkling of what the Muffs are about know that the heart and soul of the band is ensconced within Kim Shattuck, who in the '80s had paid her dues in The Pandoras, and was a frequent collaborator with the on/off again punk send-up troupe White Flag.  Kim's timbre registers somewhere between a shrill whine and a howling roar - just the kind of moxie necessary for survival in virtually any strata or punk rock.  It was a given that she'd eventually front her own band, yet I doubt anyone could have predicted how effective and powerful that endeavor would be.  Preceded by some bodacious singles issued on labels like Sympathy for the Industry and Sub Pop, The Muffs major label affiliation had seemingly nil effect on the sixteen boisterous proceedings within.  Equal quotients pop and punk The Muffs eponymous debut was a positively pummeling yet bubblegum splattered body of song - a hookfest so unremitting that it could easily pass for a greatest hits compilation.  Key salvos like "Better Than Me," "From Your Girl" and "Big Mouth" meld sticky-sweet persuasion to a decidedly aggro sonic aplomb, bearing the kind of visceral muster that only the waning years of the twentieth century could claim culpability for.  If The Muffs strikes you as un-toppable, that's because it sorta was, though the groups third attempt, 1997's Happy Birthday to Me clocked in at a respectable second...but I digress.

The freshly remastered incarnation on Omnivore boasts ten bonus cuts, the bulk of which are Shattuck solo demos.  "Do You Want Her" and "I Don't Expect" are remarkably hot prototypes left on the cutting room floor that could have been competitive album contenders.  Also, remember "Everywhere I Go," the Muffs tune that was featured in a Fruitopia TV ad of all things?  The cassette version of The Muffs featured a version that differed from the CD, and it makes an appearance here as well.  MIA are two songs from the Muffs "Big Mouth" promo single on Warner Bros, a re-recording of the ace single side "Right in the Eye," and the actual 45 version of another non-LP nugget, "New Love."  I'm presenting those tracks here, but as far as the reissue itself goes, it can be obtained straight from Omnivore, or Amazon and iTunes.  No vinyl I'm afraid.

Lately, I've been talking up a series of reissues from the somewhat likeminded Hard-ons, punk/skate legends from the great state of Australia, Sydney to be exact.  Over the last three years Citadel Records has done yeoman's work in orchestrating an exhaustive series of collections surrounding all five Hard-ons albums and their attendant eps, singles and more from the band's original 1980s/90s incarnation.  The fifth and final of these packed-to-the-gills compendiums involves Too Far Gone.  The album landed three years after the Hard-ons most consistent and dazzling album to date '90's Yummy!  And whereth did said "dazzle" emanate from specifically?  Simply put, Yummy! played to this trio's heightened melodic strengths, intermittent at best on their earlier ventures which often wallowed in a sophomoric (albeit amusing) stupor.  If anything else I expected TFG to be the next rung up the ladder, relatively speaking.  Instead, the album is haphazard and slapdash, meandering in and out of varying styles, with an excessive amount of obnoxious and messy hardcore dabbling.  Still, Too Far Gone has more structured saving graces  - "I Do, I Do, I Do," "Notice Me," "If She Only Knew," and "Wishing Well," with that last one being culled from the "Crazy Crazy Eye" ep padded on as bonus material to disk one.  That leaves the second disk, a marathon 31 song smorgasbord comprised predominantly of demos and outtakes from the same era that is truly for the dedicated Hard-ons acolyte.  If anything else the liner notes and packaging are bountiful and impressive as ever.  If you're new to the Hard-ons, indulge in Yummy! first and then work your way backward.  For better or worse, the band called it a day after this record.

The expanded edition to Too Far Gone is available from Citadel, Red Eye and Amazon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Doc Hopper - Aloha (1993, Ringing Ear)

Several years ago I barely mentioned Doc Hopper on these pages, specifically in a feature I did on a split 45 of theirs with the Bollweevils.  I'm surprised it didn't occur to me until now to run something else by them up our proverbial flagpole.  Denizens of the New England corridor (Maine originally, and later Boston from what I understand) D/H were practitioners of the "popcore" thing, conveying themselves as a looser, scrappier variation on what All, Big Drill Car and even early Goo Goo Dolls had so successfully mastered.  Aloha was the first of three riffola-laden full lengths, and in my opinion the most satisfying album they did, home to a host of gems like "Melcher" and "Skyler."  Though it would have been regarded utterly passe by today's standards, a punk band doing classic rock retreads was an acceptable idiosyncrasy in the mid-90s.  The Hopper managed to get away with thrashy renderings of Simon and Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound" and the Go-Go's "Head Over Heels." 

Closer to when Aloha was released it was mentioned to me that these fellows had a preceding cassette album in circulation.  Would love to lay my ears on it if any of you can offer some assistance.  If there's any interest I can share a couple of Doc Hopper singles as well.  Their two follow-up albums, Ask Your Mom and Zigs, Yaws & Zags are available as paid downloads on iTunes and Amazon, and CD copies are a bargain at the latter.

01. Geiger
02. Kiosk
03. Skyler
04. Moxie
05. Clown
06. Homeward Bound
07. Melcher
08. Head Over Heels
09. Virginia Slim
10. Lonely Guy
11. Post-Letterman/Tuesday Morning 4 a.m.

Bandcamp, if you don't mind.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dunlop, Firestone, Pirelli too.

From 1979.  A record this good only comes along every 36 years.  Green Day got way many more people through the doors than these guys, but it should have been the other way around.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Treebound Story - I Remember ep (1986, Fon)

I recently had a request for some sort of music from a Sheffield, England band dubbed Treebound Story.  I don't actually possess the record I'm presenting today, so a big round of applause to whomever digitized it.  Treebound were archetypical C86 indie pop, and were quite literally in the precise spot at thee right time - down to the year in fact.  Clean, chiming guitar leads and the rest of it, and yes it's pretty damn good.  Imagine if you will the June Brides dragging a gallon of Orange Juice to a Mighty Lemon Drops concert, and you'll see where this is going.  In addition to the four-song I Remember ep you'll else get to hear TS's ace follow-up single "Swimming in the Heart of Jane," and a cover of the old standard "Trains And Boats And Planes."

01. I Remember
02. Like a Fool
03. Hunger Mountain High
04. If I'd Known

Swimming in the Heart of Jane
Trains And Boats And Planes


Friday, August 14, 2015

V/A - Colorwheel Compilation (2015, Hidden Gem) - A brief review.

Any fan of twentieth-century rock and pop (especially the type of toothsome treats I present on this very site) know full well that scoping out quality present day talent is akin to an excavation.  It requires motivation, an appreciation of the the trend du jour, and an unyielding sticktoitiveness.  Many of you aging cynics in the audience have long relented the hunt due in no small part to happening upon an abundance of ho-hum "rocks."  I say why plunder for mere stones and pebbles when you could be digging for GEMS!  Conveniently enough, a newish Philadelphia record imprint, Hidden Gem Records has assembled a vinyl compilation, Colorwheel, comprised of nine up and coming acts offering everything from tweaked electronica to combos that recall '80s British indie pop.  Let me tell you about a few of my favorite selections. 
  •  Might as well start with Hidden Gem's flagship band.  Helmed by Gregory James, The Skating Party's lucid and buoyant pastiche strikes me as an intoxicating amalgam of New Order and Pains of Being Pure at Heart   Check out their Drowning the Electric Boy ep while you're at it for six more songs cut from the same enticing cloth.
  •  TEEEL and Night Panther, hailing from New Jersey and Philly respectively, serve up pulsing techno pop that very well might beckon you to the dance floor, but won't regard you as a slouch if you opt to remain seated.
  • Austin's Young Pharaohs massage their new-romantic canvas into something more soulful and plush with sweet results on "Truth and Fiction"
  • As for Arctic Flow and Death of Pop, I can't recommend both of these upstart post-punk powerhouses enough.  Neither tread the darkwave path, rather the road they've opted to traverse is considerably more subtle, revealing flourishes of chiming, gazy guitars and primo melodies along the way.  Terrific.
Colorwheel is yours on double-dipped, splattered wax straight from Hidden Gem.  You can preview a few songs for via Soundcloud

say-so - tape (1986)

Got an ultra, uber-obscure curio in the form of a four song cassette by Nashville’s presumably defunct say-so.   This co-ed Nashville duo(?) dealt with lightweight Christian themes, but even if that's not your bag (as is the case with me) the music manages to transcend the intermittent religious overtones.  Spiking their progressive new wave bent with a pensive, mildly downcast demeanor, say-so's modus operandi was if anything else tuneful.  Some telltale ‘80s eccentricities, but nothing you wouldn’t encounter from other mainstream alt-rock follies of the period.   This was a pleasant surprise.

01. Fire Song
02. Celebration Waiting
03. Strengthening My Grip
04. Say-so


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Instructions - s/t (1982, Radio/WEA)

Once upon a time, possibly the late '80s I threw a buck at the cassette version of this album in a cut out bin.  At the time I deemed it a wee bit left-field for my tastes and chalked it up as a loss.  More recently I came across another cut out incarnation of Instructions, this time on vinyl, and whadda ya know, it actually clicked with me a full quarter of a century later.  If you're looking for point by point factoids on Instructions apparently lone release, What is Frank Listening To has all the particulars mapped out, even going so far as to offer song-by-song critiques.  Problem is you can't hear much of the music.  That's where we come in.

Yes, this is synth pop.  Nothing too heavy handed mind you.  The aforementioned link suggests similarities to Gary Numan and DEVO (among others) but there's little here that's as robotically rigid as the former, or as sardonic as the flower pot donning mofo's from Akron.  Instructions wielded a decent array of hooks when it suited them - subtly on the smooth "Ha Ha Ha," and more vividly on the beefier "Wicked Heart" and "The Extra."  The What is Frank... review mentions that members of Instructions formerly dedicated themselves to decidedly safer, more mainstream endeavors before plunging into the de regour "wave" onslaught of the '80s, though personally I wouldn't submit that as a foregone conclusion.

I should mention that a quote on the back cover arouses a bit of an enigma:  "the fleshtones would like to express their gratitude to the many machines which made this project possible."  A scan of the Instructions personnel reveals there is no crossover whatsoever with the band The Fleshtones so I'm thoroughly stumped as to what that blurb actually pertains to.  Lead Instructor Owen Smith is apparently not using an assumed name, as there is linkage between him and Instructions on multiple online sources.  Furthermore these folks hailed from Canada, whereas the Fleshtones were products of New York.  Anyway, if you can get past this unresolved triviality, you've got a decent little artifact on your hands.

01. Wicked Heart
02. So You Learn From Computers
03. Don't Say Love
04. Suburban Dream
05. Ha Ha Ha
06. The Factory
07. The Extra
08. Naked Deer
09. Cleek
10. Ok


Monday, August 10, 2015

A history of headaches.

Today it's the bonus disk belonging to a deluxe reissue of a much coveted new wave-era platter from 1982.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Scott Wilk + The Walls - s/t (1980)

Well, this one was formally the province of a Mystery Monday post from earlier this year, but for no apparent reason I've opted to make it available at large.  When Scott Wilk + The Walls was dropped some 35 years ago, a big fuss was made to the quartet's rather blatant similarities to one Elvis Costello.  Can't argue there I suppose, but Wilk and Co. were also absorbing the then burgeoning American power pop/wave tradewinds.  Furthermore, Wilk didn't quite possess Costello's pithy acumen, but I'll be damned if "Suspicion" and "Shadow-Box Love" didn't share that giant's uncanny vocal aplomb.  The band's one and only record was reissued several years ago on CD for the first time, and appears to be out of print again.  Here's Trouser Press' assessment of the situation.

Encountering the line between artistic influence and stylistic plagiarism, Scott Wilk grabbed a copy of Elvis Costello's Armed Forces and blithely pushed ahead. Parts of his record are uncannily accurate impressions; the cover design and group photo do nothing to reduce the Costello/Attractions allusion. Funny thing, though — the album is really good! If you can ignore its derivative raison d'être, you'll find powerful, well-crafted songs, impressive playing and production and an overriding sense of cohesion. An unexpected but disconcerting thrill.

01. Radioactive
02. Suspicion
03. Victim of Circumstance
04. Danger Becomes Apparent
05. Man in the Mirror
06. Too Many Questions
07. Shorting Out
08. Careless
09. Instant This, Instant That
10. Familiarity Breeds Mutation
11. Shadow-Box Love