Saturday, October 31, 2015

Winter Hours - Chicago, Cabaret Metro, 10/18/89 (R.I.P. Michael Carlucci)

This Thursday I learned the sad news that Winter Hours guitarist/leading light Michael Carlucci passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  I've featured music from the Hours on W/O, and quite coincidentally I corresponded with Michael earlier in the year for the first time.  He expressed his appreciation for keeping the name of his former band alive, and also informed me that plans were in the works for a 2016 reissue of some of Winter Hours earlier records.

While I didn't foster a frequent or deep rapport with him personally, the music was a different story.  The New Jersey five piece he performed in were consistently vaunted by critics, who often emphasized the Americana inflections that by and large became their calling card.  True, but there were some diffuse post-punk elements peppered in as well, particularly on their first two EPs and the debut 1986 full length Leaving Time, all surfacing on Link Records.  To get a better handle on what they offered sonically, think a less knotty Dream Syndicate, or the Rain Parade had they curtailed their psych urges a notch.  These college radio staples were followed by their second album, Winter Hours, arriving via Chrysalis  in '89.  Although they hadn't sold their soul upon moving to the big leagues, the record could have made greater commercial inroads had Chrysalis not been so intent on promoting hair metal hacks instead, but I digress

I'm presenting a pristine radio broadcast of a 1989 Winter Hours concert in Chicago, in which the band was touring in support of their then-new album, mentioned above.  Bristling with warm frenetic energy the Hours delivered an inspired performance that evening heightening the effectiveness of an already potent body of work.  As you might guess, there's a focus on material from Winter Hours, but they're eager to delve into their back catalog, pulling out among other pearls, "Hyacinth Girl," the band's jangly signature piece that shall echo from the broadcast towers of left-of-the-dial outlets for decades to come.  I would hope anyway.  Take your pick of MP3 of lossless FLAC below, and feel free to check out a set of demos from the immediate precursor band to Winter Hours, Ward 8 here.

01. Longest Century
02. One Small Achievement
03. Smoke Rings
04. Tried So Hard
05. Hyacinth Girl
06. Roadside Flowers
07. The Confessional
08. At a Turtle's Pace
09. Bus Stop
10. Broken Little Man
11. Rise
12. Stay With Me
13. Just Like Love
14. If I Could Make You Hear Me
15. Sweet Virginia
16. Island of Jewels
17. Soul Kitchen

MP3  or  FLAC

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Junk Monkeys - Firehouse (1987, Happy Face)

It appears my turntable is sick, so this might be the last vinyl I'm able to share for a spell (though I hear a tape deck can be a lot of fun).  My apologies if the audio quality is a tad compromised.  Firehouse is the first album by the Junk Monkeys, a band I've been touting the virtues for eons on here, and in fact, this is the only record by them I haven't shared heretofore.  Deliberately or not, this long departed (but occasionally reunited) Detroit foursome came across as Replacements proteges, and amazingly, over the course of four albums their development was loosely in tandem with the Mats reluctant slouch to maturity.  This isn't their finest moment, but in some respects it's the Monkeys at their most candid and sincere, rawking out with brotherly spirit and abandon.  "Everything Remains the Same," "Lost My Faith," and "Anywhere With You" weren't anthems shooting for the nosebleeds so much as the pool tables - and that was perfectly ok with me as well as the other couple thousand earholes that absorbed these nine grooves.  Enjoy, and check out he remainder of the JM oeuvre via the link above.

01.  Lost My Faith
02. Anywhere With You
03. Whaddaya Know
04. Lookin for Fun
05. Fever Riot
06. Round and Round
07. Front Row Park
08. Tying Up Daytimes
09. Everything Remains the Same


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Poncho - s/t ep (2015) - A brief overview.

Holy smokes.  We don't see many bands coming out of the Hawaiian woodwork, but this combo barrels out of the Aloha State like a damn steamroller.  In all senses of the expression, Honolulu's Poncho are your proverbial hot mess to be reckoned with, wielding a gloriously tuneful din that outdoes the likes of buzzkids Vietcong handily.  Indeed, theirs is a dichotomous amalgam of strenuous vocals (approaching a bona fide scream) with melodic, distorto-punk guitar lines roaring about like Metal Circus-era Huskers, and Bitch Magnet to boot.  "Green Apple," and "A Third Past Four" are my preferred examples of Poncho's manicured noise that has equal footing in the post-punk and emo realms.  Such sweaty. sinewy passion, tempered with a healthy dose of sheer nonchalance is a seemingly incomprehensible proposition to wrap one's mind around, but these blokes have actually done gone pulled it off, and I couldn't be more charmed with the results.  Hear Poncho for yourself over at Bandcamp (available at a price of your choosing) and it would seem you can find a hard copy here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October's at the storm door coloring the lawn...

A rerun of one of the earliest Mystery Monday entries you may have missed.  One of my top-20 favorites from the '90s.  Wide-eyed Midwestern romanticism with a searing rock backbone.  An absolute masterpiece.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Church - Slaving Plantinum to Gold... The Gold Afternoon Fix demos

I was considering saving this for one of my world famous Chanukah features, but since these were at one point in wide circulation online, I assume this is a old news to many of you.  In a nutshell, The Church have long been a top tier favorite of mine, with 1990s Gold Afternoon Fix easily earning a spot in my hypothetical list of their five best albums.  It's almost by sheer coincidence that Steve Kilbey and Co, tracked working versions of GAF to begin with, as typically they were never accustom to doing so on prior albums.  Blame it on the behest of their label at the time, Arista, for insisting they submit demos before executing the finished product.  Given their most recent LP at the time, the international breakthrough Starfish, went platinum in the United States alone, the suits wanted to be assured their new "cash cow" wasn't about to gum up the works.

Ultimately, Gold Afternoon Fix was green-lighted by the label, and though it failed to produce a hit as universal as "Under the Milky Way," the band's vision for the record wasn't clouded by frowning executives.  I gauge this by virtue of these demos generally bearing the same arrangements and sonic inflections as the album versions (albeit a trifle rough around the edges, naturally).  Per this well-maintained Church fan page, the first eleven cuts eventually found a home on the GAF, with seven more winding up as B-sides (later consolidated on the import-only A Quick Smoke at Spots). The final selection, "Wardance" is exclusive to these recordings. No mondo revelations here, rather Slaving Platinum... is a treat designed with the dedicated acolyte in mind.  As mentioned above these tracks were made available on a Church website in the early '00s and were resident there for a good ten years before apparently being removed.  The relatively low bitrate is not my doing.  Hope you enjoy nonetheless.

01. Pharoah
02. Metropolis
03. City
04. Monday Morning
05. Russian Autumn Heart
06. Essence
07. You're Still Beautiful
08. Disappointment
09. Laughing
10. Fading Away
11. Grind
12. Forgotten Reign
13. The Hunter
14. Much Too Much
15. Desert
16. Take it Back
17. Dream
18. The Feast
19. Wardance


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Vigil - s/t (1987)

Don't let the paisley album jacket fool you, as the Baltimore quartet responsible for it weren't cut from psychedelic stock in the least.  Starting life as Here Today, the band inexplicably took up a new moniker (Vigil) upon inking a deal with CBS Records in '84.  Problem was their album was in limbo for three years due to personnel changes at the label, and ultimately, Chrysalis came to their rescue.  Ostensibly Vigil were marketed as "alternative" product, if only for their mildly noir bent that didn't slot comfortably into the new wave mold.  Side one includes "I'm Waiting" and "I Love You Equinox," both suggesting what a mainstreamed Bauhaus could have conjured up had Peter Murphy and Co. been sufficiently cash-whipped.  The other side of the coin entails the inspired, post-punky "Whistle in the Yard," a piece that was originally written and tracked in '83 when they went by their former name, while "Celiba Sea" (get the pun?) finds these lads on a particularly tuneful tear.  I apologize for the fidelity here, as my secondhand vinyl copy had apparently endeavored one too many rotations from it's former owner.  Vigil made it onto CD, but copies are exceedingly scarce.  A second album, Onto Beggar and Bitter things was apparently recorded on Chrysalis' dime, but the label opted not to release it.  Left to their own devices the band distributed it locally on cassette circa '89 or so.  Check out Vigil's corner of Facebook here

01. Until the Season
02. White Magic Spell
03. I am Waiting
04. Gargoyles
05. I Love You Equinox
06. Whistle in the Yard
07. The Celiba Sea
08. The Garden
09. Born Again
10. The Benefit of the Doubt


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Answers gone till I don't know when.

I really don't have much of a spiel to relate on how I became a Johnny-come-lately fan of the Red Rockers.  Saw the video for "China" on 120 Minutes or late nite MTV.  Loved the song, bought a cassette of Good As Gold, and eventually picked up the Good As Gold/Schizophrenic Circus twofer CD when it was reissued in the '90s.  And while I haven't had much to share by them heretofore, I've namechecked ze Rocquers of Rouge at least a dozen times when making band comparisons and such over the last eight years.

The band's segue from the pronounced punk ethos of their debut single (and subsequent 1981 LP Condition Red) to the cleaner and not so meaner new-wave inflections of the aforementioned Gold, must have been a bit startling to RR's early minions.  I'm sure there must have been a few faint cries of "sellout," but they were likely drowned out by "China's" keen, melodic prowess and poetic moxie.  A phenomenal song in all respects, and the contents of the promo 12" for it are presented below.  You get the straight version, a cliched dance remix, and a non LP cut, an interesting reworking of the Temptations "Ball of Confusion," which features uncredited female backing vocals. 

A. China
B1. China (dance mix)
B2. Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Blake Babies - Vintage live show available, and brief reissue news.

Just wanted to give you a heads up on a 1989 Blake Babies recording that surfaced today via Noisetrade.  It's an eleven song show performed on WERS radio in Boston somewhere contemporary to the era of the Babies Sunburn record.  And speaking of albums and such, a reissue campaign of the band's entire catalog is in the offing, albeit with few details being reported at present. 

The WERS performance may or may not be available indefinitely so don't sleep.  BTW, they're suggesting a donation of $6, but ultimately it's at your discretion.  Check out a recent post I did on the recently reconvened Juliana Hatfield Three here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Some kinda major disaster.

The comparatively unheralded third and fourth albums from a Garden State alt-rock institution.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Gigolo Aunts - Learn to Play Guitar (1997, Wicked Disc)

And so ends another sporadic week here on W/O.  Thought I'd button things up on a high note.  Haven't talked about the Gigolo Aunts in some time.  Despite their moniker, they don't recall Syd Barrett or Floyd in the least (in case you were wondering).  Their riveting, atom-smashing 1994 long-player, Flippin' Out, presented this Boston bunch at their power pop apex, and they never quite returned to their halcyon strength on subsequent records.  The Aunt's post-Flippin' Out forays may not have been as amp-shreddingly visceral, but they were still rewarding, including this ep which is almost upon it's twentieth anniversary.  "Rocking Chair" might be the finest tune Cheap Trick forgot to pen in the '90s," the propulsive "Sway" lives up to it's title, and "Kinda Girl" wiggles it's way into it's own special sweet spot that would make Matthew Sweet green with envy.

If you're jonesing for a vintage Aunts fix, exit here for their 1988 debut, Everybody Happy.

01. Kinda Girl
02. Wishing You the Worst
03. Sway
04. Sloe
05. Rocking Chair
06. The Sun Will Rise Again


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Then Jerico "Let Her Fall" 7" (1987)

So I've had these guys on the brain since name-checking them a couple nites ago.  I gave you the lowdown on Then Jerico in my entry for their enrapturing debut, First (The Sound of Music) eons ago.  Hailing from London, TJ were not of indie stock to say the least, signing to a major not long after their formation in the mid-80s.  Even if their ambitions weren't as epic as say, U2, they were still batting in the same ballpark, with rousing fireballs like "Let Her Fall," arguably bordering on the anthemic.  This is the same version that appears on the album, backed with a non-LP number, "Searching," which oddly enough manages to incorporate a few verses from Grandmaster Flash's "The Message."

A. Let Her Fall
B. Searching


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Epic Rumors - The Feral Child (1989, Bok Du)

Last year our buds over at Down Underground blog exposed us to the smashing 1986 debut ep from Epic Rumors, a San Jose, CA act who straddled the not-so barbed wire fence between commercially viable rock...and that there stuff on the left of the radio dial.  Said ep was a helluva listen, offering bristling, forward thinking tunes bejeweled with Big Country and Cult style guitars leads and kinetic fervor to burn.

Three years on, ER got around to making a full length, specifically the one I have in store for you today.  In the interim, this quartet curbed their enthusiasm a pinch, thankfully retaining much of their initial melodic punch, conveyed best on "The Procession," "At the Edge of Heaven" and "Only Love."  Closing things out with a lofty instrumental doesn't work to their advantage however.  If you're anything like me, you might detect more than a few opaquely veiled themes lending themselves to moral allegory here, albeit nothing alienating.  RIYL past W/O entries entailing the Rhythm Corps, Then Jerico, and The Love In.

PS: I've got a YouTube clip for you of a reunited Epic Rumors covering SVT's power pop classic "Heart of Stone."

01. Knee Jerk Reaction
02. My Eyes (say so much)
03. The Procession
04. Are We Winning
05. At the Edge of Heaven
06. Miracle
07. The Puppets Dream
08. Phoenix
09. Only Love
10. Masquerade
11. The Feral Child


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Gear - In the New Hitsville ep (1988, Chocolate Mustache)

Not to be confused with the similarly monikered Gears from L.A., this record is from a rust belt trio whose stomping grounds appeared to be the environs of Warren, MI.  Heck, they even reference car manufacturing in the wordy "Get Twisted."  Competent and witty bar rock with some discernible power pop proclivities is how I'd sum these fellows up.  ...Hitsville is a damn near perfect record if Material Issue and the Magnolias are/were your thing.  Enjoy.

01. In the New Hitsville
02. The Real You
03. Loud Fast and Hard
04. Get Twisted


Friday, October 9, 2015

Sneakers - s/t ep (orig 1976, Carnivorous/2015, Omnivore) - A brief review

Not unlike the Yardbirds, Cream, and even seminal Seattle grunge punks Green River, Sneakers were a "supergroup" that weren't so conscious of their "super" status, at least not until they disbanded.  Winston-Salem, NC's Sneakers would be renown not so much for their own achievements, rather the future endeavors of frontman Chris Stamey and drummer Will Rigby in the even more capable and accomplished dB's.  Another celebrated Tarheel, Mitch Easter was an on/off again Sneakers collaborator, and I likely need not rattle off the man's resume (Let's Active and production work for REM, just in case you've been squatting under a rock for the last three decades).  Toss in the then emerging Don Dixon as engineer of the Sneaks debut ep (the record in question) and you've got one hot mess of a musical axis on your hands.  What were the odds that all of these rough diamonds would wind up in the same leather pouch?  Sneakers and their attendant 1976 ep would slowly, surely and perhaps unwittingly kick off the "New South" musical movement, that would not only birth a key vanguard of bands like the aforementioned dB's and Let's Active, but dozens of lesser known hopefuls, reverberating all the way down to the reaches of the deep south, particularly to the oft noted haven of Athens, GA.

Mildly eccentric and uncompromisingly organic, The Sneakers ep mapped out the blueprint that Stamey and Rigby would perfect in a few years time alongside Peter Holsapple in the dB's.  Rife with minor chords and slightly angular nuances, Sneakers doesn't ring terribly exotic - that is unless you're accustomed to a steady diet of Boston and Bad Company.  For example "Ruby" is standard but extremely effective power pop fare, but in it's entirety, the record isn't the strenuous Rickenbacker love-fest you might expect either.  Indeed, slipping your feet a little deeper into this pair of running shoes reveals that these gents were a little too adventurous for that.  What lent itself most to the Sneakers asymmetrical penchant was their "crooked" harmonies, led prominently by Stamey, evident on the slyly dissonant "Love's Like a Cuban Crisis," and "Driving."  In fact, no one has ever quite sounded like the Sneakers ever since this little platter dropped, save for the dB's themselves (go figure).  Sneakers is an audio snapshot of four young dudes, unhindered by pretense or moneyed interests making music for whom it counts most - themselves.

Sneakers initially emerged on the Stamey-run Carnivorous Records in 1976, it's six numbers crammed onto one 7" record  Since then the contents of the record have been reissued four times by my count, the second to last time appearing on a 10" version of the ep on Black Friday of 2014.   Omnivore's current CD/digital incarnation scrambles the tracklist, and pads on five extra songs, three of which were recorded by a briefly reunited Sneakers in 1992, originally seeing the light of day on an earlier anthology, RacketIn the Red, a full length by the Sneaks (then pared down to merely Stamey and Easter) was issued in '78 and was also included on Racket, and subsequently another reissue of the band's meager catalog, Nonsequitur of Silence.  Confused?  Don't be.  Buy the latest and truly greatest reissue from Omnivore, Amazon or iTunes

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dimestore Darlings - Senior Ball: Spirit of '96 tape (1996)

Yet another virtual unknown, though in fairness I presented you with an earlier Dimestore Darlings tape in 2012.  That cartridge, 1994's What is My... was actually more impressive than I originally let on, brimming with a bouquet of Minneapolis inspirations (Replacements, etc) conveyed with a warm, mid-fi aptitude.  Two years later another DD cassette entered the marketplace, Senior Ball: Spirit of '96.  Still lovingly rough-hewn and riff heavy as all-get-out, some of the quartet's grit was sanded down a notch here, albeit barely worth mentioning.  Fans of the Figgs, Libertines (US) and Finger would do well to investigate these lads, who by the way were fronted by Justin Kirk who later played a role in everyone's favorite 420-friendly TV serial, Weeds.

01. Superheroes
02. Stuck
03. Falls Through
04. Cynthia's Sorority


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fontaine/Delicious Toothpaste 7" (1997, Popfaction)

I have hardly any pertinent details to offer on the pair occupying one song a piece on this split 7," save for their presumed locale of the Richmond, VA area.  The four-piece Fontaine imbue gritty, indie rock panache into their three selections, suggesting what Small Factory might have amounted to had they ventured out on a slightly more high strung limb.  The meager fidelity utilized on "Riza" and "Boober's Dental Appointment" suit these nascent tunes perfectly.

As for the opposite side of the coin, Delicious Toothpaste dole out a sad-sack slack attack that might actually have been effective if their man on the mic actually sang as opposed to talked.  Picking up some mathy/emo textures here, and while this is a fairly pleasant listen it's barely memorable.   

01. Riza
02. Boober's Dental Patient
03. Baggage

Delicious Toothpaste
01. Broken Towns
02. Shaking Thankless


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Can you tell me where this road ends...

Today it's a bundle of four indie rock eps.  Your proverbial cup runneth over.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

VA - The Enigma Variations 2 (1987, Enigma)

Enigma Records may not have been the first imprint to unleash a label-specific compilation ("aka sampler") onto the public, but their two Variations compendiums did raise the bar in terms of quality control, and inadvertently presented a microcosm of the alternative rock circuit of the day.  Genre-ly speaking, Enigma (and it's punkier sister label Restless) were if anything downright diverse, spanning the gamut from jokeabilly legend-in-his-own-mind Mojo Nixon to the refined Peter Hammil and back again to the perennially sardonic Dead Milkmen.  So far as I'm concerned those were the low-lights.  The most toothsome meat of the Enigma roster consisted of Game Theory, TSOL, Wednesday Week, Agent Orange, and venerable class of '77 dazzlers Wire.  And speaking of the latter two, Variations Deux houses two of their career landmarks, "Fire in the Rain" and "Ahead," respectively.  Like any decent label comp, this double threat LP (or single CD in my case) shoehorns in some previously unreleased booty from TSOL, Plan 9, and the aforementioned Wednesday Week, Milkmen and Mojo.  By and large this is one roster that sells itself. Boogie 'til ya puke ya'll.

01-Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - Burn Down the Malls
02-TSOL - Colors (Take Me Away)
03-The Dead Milkmen - The Thing That Only Eats Hippies
04-Agent Orange - Fire in the Rain
05-Plan 9 - Man Bites Dog
06-Wire - Ahead
07-Don Dixon - Praying Mantis
08-Wednesday Week - Why
09-Game Theory - Erica's Word
10-Peter Hammill - Too Many of My Yesterdays
11-Plan 9 - Ship of Fools
12-The Dead Milkmen - Stupid Maryann
13-Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper - Amsterdam Dog Shit Blues
14-TSOL - Best Friends
15-Agent Orange - Bite the Hand that Feeds (Part II) Remix
16-Wire - Drill
17-Wednesday Week - That Train
18-Game Theory - Shark Pretty
19-Don Dixon - Why
20-SSQ - Pleasure Dog


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Woofing Cookies - Horse Gum Tortilla Shoes (1986, Midnight)

Has it really been almost three years since I shared Woofing Cookies "In the City" 7" some three and a half years back?  At the time, one of my readers was kind enough to digitize the New York combo's full length I was seeking, and at long last I'm presenting it today.   Let's see, how would I sum this one up in a Tweet? Heartfelt DIY indie rock running the gamut from amateurish to intermediate bearing a bevy of inspired slice-of-life motifs and vignettes.  Case in point, the leadoff "Plain Truth" details the exploits of a promiscuous Catholic school girl, conveyed with a flurry of riveting power chords.  Horse Gum Tortilla Shoes isn't flaunty or fancy, but it does allot a plentiful proportion of clangy guitars and espouses a markedly rough-hwen aesthetic that aficionados of early Replacements, Mercyland and Snatches of Pink will appreciate.  The standout here is the rather miscellaneously dubbed "TBA," mining some tingly post-punk textures, in an Athens, GA sort of vein.  A hearty thanks to whomever took the time to rip this record for us.

01. Plain Truth
02. Johnny's Dead
03. State of Adventure
04. Lying
05. Girl Next Door
06. Leave it all Behind
07. Blue Rose
08. New Song
09. Soundcheck
10. Thank You
11. TBA
12. Like Us