Saturday, December 31, 2016

V/A - Powerpearls Vols 1 & 2

Here it is folks, night eight.  Have I saved the best for last?  That's entirely your determination my friends.  There's one thing I can say for sure.  Wilfully Obscure hasn't been deficient on compilations over the years, much less ones related to the genres specified in the blog header.

I'd say the granddaddy of all various artists series might involve Hyped to Death's Teen Line dynasty, which I've already posted five installments of.  That alphabetically curated saga pruned the finest and most visceral moments from an array of primo '70s and '80s vinyl sides from the halcyon era of American power pop, but who was keeping watch of the fort on the other side of the pond and beyond?

That's roughly were Powerpearls comes in.  The emphasis on this series was predominantly on UK and European exports, even stretching down to Oceania on occasion.   On top of that, not only is power pop represented, but equal portions punk and mod to boot.
Unlike the Teen Line comps which had a traceable source of origination, Pearls was the work of a compiler who was comparatively unknown, giving these collections more of a "bootleg" reputation.

Between the first two volumes of Powerpearls 36 acts are accorded their moment in the sun, even the most recognizable of which (TV21, Tweed, The Jags, and The Shivers) have nothing approaching mainstream notoriety.  Then again, that precisely the point, and these long-players put a premium on quality exposing us to shoulda been hits by the likes of Excel, The Various Artists (as in the band), The Blades,  Tours, Strangeways - not to mention a spins outside of England including three minute miracles by such enterprising Yanks as the Verterbats, Atlantics and The Go, plus we get an early rarity from none other than the Fastbacks, circa '81.  Canada is represented by The Bureaucrats, a New Zealand export dubbed the Techtones chime in with half of an ace 1980 single, and Oz gets in on the act with the spunky Leftovers.  You'll even find a few non-English speaking contenders on Vol. 2. 

One thing to bear in mind before you dig into everything.  These are vinyl records, that were presumably, in most cases, sourced from the original singles.  There are a handful of glitches amidst these grooves that I couldn't do squat about.  They're pretty much kept to a minimum though, and as compensation the music is pretty sublime on more than one occasion.  The back cover of each record provides brief biographical on the bands, and I kept the pics full size so you can (hopefully) read them.  Cheers.

Powerpearls Vol. 1
01. Really 3rds - Everyday, Everyway
02. Straight Up - One Out, All Out
03. Bureaucrats - Feel the Pain
04. Tours - Language School
05. The Gents - Modern Time
06. The Atlantics - One Last Night
07. Jimmy Edwards - Nora's Diary
08. Techtones - That Girl
09. Famous Players - Who's Kissing You
10. Tweed - Fashion
11. The Distractions - It Doesn't Bother Me
12. TV21 - Playing With Fire
13. The News - The Kids Are Dancing
14. Fastbacks - It's Your Birthday
15. The Rousers - Susan's Day
16. The Squares - No Fear
17. Small World - Liberty
18. Local Heroes - Blast the Pop!

MP3  or  FLAC

Powerpearls Vol.  2
01. The Moderns - Got to Have Pop
02. Shivers - Teen Line
03. The Vertebrats - Diamonds in the Rough
04. The Go - Don't Take Her Away
05. The Blades - Ghost of a Chance
06. Kolla Kestaa - Kirjoituksia Kellarista
07. The Names - Too Cool to Dance
08. Strangeways - Show Her You Care
09. The Jags - Dumb Blonde
10. Vogue - Pill Girl
11. Toys - Breakdown
12. Protex - Just Want Your Attention
13. Excel - Rock Show
14. Leftovers - Killing Time
15. Various Artists - The Original Mixed Up Kid
16. Telegrama - Chica del Metro
17. Ratsia - Ole hyvä nyt
18. Longport Buzz - Fun

MP3  or  FLAC

Friday, December 30, 2016

Redd Kross - Hot Issue & Oh Canada! Hot Issue 2, Show World Live (2016, Redd Kross Fashion)

It didn't occur to me until today, but Redd Kross's tenure has spanned four decades (though not a whole lot of this one).  Funny how the math works out like that.  From bratty, idealistic punks to transcendent pop/rock brokers the brothers McDonald have always been...themselves (albeit on a slightly inconsistent performing basis).  Since their third album, 1987's transitional Neurotica, Redd Kross' songwriting has been nothing short of meaningful - skewed and conspicuous as that meaning frequently is, and much like their adopted moniker they've truly matured into an institution.  But I probably don't have to tell you this.

This entry concerns two very limited run offerings the band has been self releasing...and selling exclusively on Ebay.  Why the online auction behemoth is their sales outlet of choice isn't entirely clear, as they could sell their music for fixed price anywhere, but that's hardly a gripe.  Last year we were treated to a CD-r reissue of their self-titled, 1981 ep, but the gravy began to flow in full this June with the roll-out of Hot Issue, a vinyl-only LP limited to a scant 500 pressing, showcasing predominantly unreleased studio material.  Curated by Jeff McDonald, Hot Issue is something of a die-hard's holy grail, particularly for ears keen on R/Ks mid-90s studio records Phaseshifter and Show World.  Why?  Well, that's where a plethora of Hot Issue's bona fide studio outtakes are derived from (though frustratingly, we aren't provided with track-by-track dates of origination).  At least one selection (presumably "Puss 'N Boots' from the Hell Comes to Your House comp) stretches back to 1983, and the record even fast-forwards to 2007 for "Don’t Take Your Baby Downtown," a revealing and highly appealing demo of 2012's Researching the Blues "Stay Away From Downtown."  Overall, it's fun listen, and BTW, if you're gonzo for Marc Bolan and T Rex, "Insatiable Kind" and "Motorboat" just might be worth their weight in glammy gold.  For more details on Hot Issue, check out Redd Kross's website...but don't expect to find a purchase link.  Naturally, I'm sharing the whole kit and caboodle below.

Hot on the heels of Hot Issue came the compact disk, Oh Canada! Hot Issue 2, Show World Live, similarly confined to a few hundred copies.  A seemingly simple premise of a live Redd Kross gig in Vancouver, BC in 1997 is more rewarding than expected, with the group firing on all cylinders and tauter than a duck's behind.  The first bundle of tunes draw on those '90s-era studio records I mentioned above, but Oh Canada! concludes with an exclusive four-part song suite.  It commences with a brief traipse through Linda Rondstat's "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," and gets considerably more long-winded and indulgent from there.  Not enough to scare you off mind you. Trust me, you'll get through it.

I'm making both disks available in their entirety below, but the links may disappear sometime in the near future, so don't sleep!  Bon appetit.

Hot Issue
01. Insatiable Kind
02. Motorboat
03. Pop Show
04. Take it Home
05. That Girl
06. It's a Scream
07. Switchblade Sister
08. Puss N Boots
09. Moon Sun (No Limit)
10. Don’t Take Your Baby Downtown
11. Starlust
12. Born to Love You

Oh Canada! Hot Issue 2, Show World Live
01. The Lady in the Front Row
02. Switchblade Sister
03. Stoned
04. Jimmy's Fangtasy
05. Mess Around
06. Annie's Gone
07. Silver Threads and Golden Needles.mp3
08. Follow the Leader
09. It's in the Sky
10. Huge Wonder

Removed by request

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Sweat - No More Running (1981, Double D/2007, 1977 Records)

Clive Culbertson was the driving force behind Ireland's The Sweat, but if you don't recognize either of those names you're hardly alone, especially if you find yourself Stateside.  For that matter, given the bent of No More Running's reissue liner notes, you'd get the impression they didn't make a dent in the British Isles either, due to a poor distribution effort on the part of The Sweat's label, Double D.  Furthermore, this is one record that really deserved an entry in John Borack's Top 200 power pop albums roster in the 2007 Shake Some Action book.  No More Running is sincerely that white-hot of a contender, entailing such deftly crafted, melodious salvos as "You Gotta Lotta Nerve," "How Much Longer" and "Isn't Anything Sacred Anymore."  Culbertson's aptitude often borders the same hallowed turf as Shoes, Jesus of Cool-era Nick Lowe, and the Nerves (yes, that Nerves).  When you place this high a premium on hooks the results are bound to be good, and in this case they're veritably off the charts.

Sonically, the fidelity on No More Running dangles towards the "lo" end of the spectrum, oozing warm, analogue hues that couldn't be replicated in this day and age no matter how much effort was put forth to do so.  In short, this is power pop as it used to be made, and Culbertson happens to be an immensely unheralded practitioner of the medium.  The 2007 reissue on the Japanese 1977 imprint includes seven bonus cuts, including four from Clive's precursor act No Sweat.  Additional material from this era was also committed to tape under his own name, and is available on a separate release that I can hopefully attend to later (and you shouldn't have to wait a whole 'nother year to partake in it).

01. Isn't Anything Sacred Anymore
02. Here Comes Another Lonely Night
03. No More Running
04. You Gotta Lotta Nerve
05. I Can Hardly Wait
06. Can't Help Myself
07. I Must Be Crazy
08. Please Don't Say You Love Me
09. We All Make Mistakes
10. Why'd Ya Have to Lie
11. Do You Wanna Break My Heart
12. How Much Longer

Bonus tracks:

(The following all recorded by No Sweat)
13. Start All Over Again
14. You Should Be So Lucky
15. Lete Your Love Shine On
16. Ginny Don't Cry

more by The Sweat
17. Hey Little Girl
18. Nobody Told Me
19. Don't Say a Word 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Jagged Rocks On The Perimeter - The Soldier And The Painter (1986)

Sometimes MP3s just aren't enough.  I met up with Jagged Rocks On The Perimeter several years ago via another music blog and was so impressed I sought out my own copy of their record, presented here today.

This might set a record for the briefest write up for one of our Chanukah posts, simply because these Arizona kids never garnered much of reputation, webwise anyway.  Mid-paced jangle pop was their fixation, with a keen emphasis on the Anglophile genus.  The Soldier And The Painter leans on the heft of more visible practitioners like the Smiths and Dream Academy, falling well short of any wholesale plagiarism.  Jagged Rocks... tamp the pretension level to a hair north of non-existent, which is precisely where it should be. Selections like the crisp title track and the lilting "Sunday at Dusk" gently foreshadow the endeavors of near-future US colleagues the Ocean Blue and Springhouse.  And I'd bet my bottom dollar this quartet was a shoo-in on collegiate AM/FM frequencies.

Even though I've harbored a personal copy of Soldier... for a good three or four years now, I've opted to forgo sharing a personal rip, as the pitch appears be acting up on my turntable.  In short, a FLAC version may follow within the next month or so once I get my act together, but for now, here's a pristine MP3 rip.

01. The Soldier And The Painter
02. Compression
03. Lana
04. untitled fragment
05. Woods
06. Sunday at Dusk
07. In a City South
08. Likes and Truth
09. New Country
10. Dream Station


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Neon Rock Garden (NRg) - Perfect Sounds...Were Never Found tape (1987)

So you might be asking yourself, why in the world in an oddly-monikerd and almost thoroughly unknown outfit dubbed Neon Rock Garden occupying one of merely eight coveted Chanukah slots on Wilfully Obscure?

Truth be told, this Hickory, NC trio made their presence felt on these pages in 2012, by way of a fantastic 1986 7" I plundered off Ebay. Both cuts, "Never Listen" and "Don't Say Baboon" were incontrovertibly the best of both whirls, blending the utmost strengths of fellow NC natives Let's Active and early U2.  A match made in noise-pop heaven as far as I was concerned, and when I learned of a cassette album, Perfect Sounds..., that was released in close proximity to the 45, I went on nothing short of a manhunt in obtaining said cartridge...or at the very least a reasonable facsimile thereof.  It took three years and personal contact with virtually all NRg members, but my persistence paid off late last year when original Gardener Mike Cook, hooked me up will all ten MP3s composing Perfect Sounds, as well as scans of the accompanying artwork.  The quest was fulfilled, and now I'm sharing the spoils with you.

As was the case with the "Never Listen" single, the tape was produced/recorded in it's entirety by Mitch Easter at his now fabled Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem.  For the trio (Gene Preble on gits and vocals, Tina Pinnix guitar, and Craig Delinger presumably manning the drum kit) the collaboration was a thoroughly appropriate one, given NRg's adoption and/or adaptation of the "New South" sound which skewed heavily to Easter's own troupe, Let's Active and period combos like Dreams So Real, Love Tractor, and Matthew Sweet's Buzz of Delight.  The band's hometown of Hickory was nestled due west, halfway between Winston-Salem and Charlotte.  In short, this threesome was in very good company, but t'was not to be for long, for after Perfect Sounds this Neon delight would go dark.

I could go on and on about Gene's dazzling arpeggios, or NRg's urgent but tempered pace, or for that matter the near-anthemic tenor of so many of their tunes, but I'll spare you any further deconstruction.  Quite simply, this band emanated virtually everything I desire in music.  And although this tape was likely to be heard by a few hundred local fans, I like to think NRg approached the Perfect Sounds sessions as if it was a full fledged album, not merely a glorified demo.  Hope you concur.  BTW, an earlier (not to mention a tad more vulgar) NRg tape has been made available for public consumption on YouTube.

01. Sixty-one
02. Perfect Sounds
03. Big Shot
04. You Make Me
05. Only Child
06. Don't Say Baboon
07. Crimes
08. Never Listen
09. Why Do You Hate?
10. 20th Century Nero


Monday, December 26, 2016

Three EPs: Jim Basnight & the Moberlys, UV Prom, and Nuns of the Great West + bonus.

The premise of this one is pretty much identical to my singles spree from last night.  Three really exceptional short-form records that I deemed worthy of special representation.  I'm pretty certain all of these acts are making their Wilfully Obscure debut this evening.

Jim Basnight and the Moberlys - s/t ep (1984, Precedent)

Straight up, crankin' power pop from a Seattle fellow who's staked his very name on it.  Jim Basnight and Co. pull from inspirations ranging from the Beatles to contemporaries The Nerves and Plimsouls, with this self titled ep boasting four capable and highly potent numbers.  Jim's tact is fairly linear, yet immediately gratifying whether applying to the racing "Cinderella" or the Raspberries-inflected "I Want to Be Yours."  The man in question still performs frequently in the Pacific Northwest (soon to be the breakaway public of Cascadia, don'tcha know?). You can track his exploits here.

01. I Want to Be Yours
02. Cinderlla
03. I Need Your Love
04. Wherever You Take Me

MP3  or  FLAC

UV Prom - Field of Vision ep (1985, Cenotaph)

Info is scant to non-existent on this North Carolina, Comboland-era outfit whose entire discography may have began and ended with this record.  But a damn good record it is, which unsurprisingly was produced and engineered by that noted Tar Heel tag team, Don Dixon and Mitch Easter.  There are subtle post-punk inclinations infiltrating UV Prom's dense and occasionally moody pastiche, reminiscent of west coast counterparts Red Rockers and Wire Train.  In fact, this foursome would have slotted in nicely on the 415 Records roster.  A solid undercurrent of melody makes Field of Vision a must listen.  

MP3  or  FLAC

Nuns of the Great West - The World Ain't Safe ep (1988)

Finding this in the used bin at the always rewarding In Your Ear Records in Boston last year was a massive treat.  Nuns of the Great West were a Fredonia, NY based enterprise, which means they likely hobnobbed with homeboys (and girl) done good, 10,000 Maniacs.  Their sonic aptitude was sprite and clangy bearing oodles of that '80s college rock flair, but outside of western New York I have a hunch they were more left-off-the dial than left of it.  Sad thing that, as The World Ain't Safe illustrated the Nuns were off to a pretty vibrant start.  I'm also tacking on six bonus songs, originally made available on Nuns bassist and keyboard slinger Doug Arnold's Reverbnation site.  Enjoy.

01. Touch Your World
02. The Right and the Wrong
03. Dance, Move, March
04. Trouble in My Heart

Bonus Nun's spiel (incl as a folder of MP3s in the download): Back to you, Fuse, How Do you Sleep, The World Ain't Safe, What's it Like, You Never Believe Me.

MP3  or  FLAC

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Seven more scintillating singles.

This is a follow-up to last Chanukah's popular assemblage of fantastic, vintage 45s that I either recently acquired or finally got around to listening to in 2016.  At the end of the write-up is a link to download the entire bundle in MP3 or FLAC.  Here's the record-by-record breakdown of the whole ball of wax.

Faith. No Man - Quiet in Heaven b/w Song of Liberty (1983, Ministry of Propaganda)

Holy cow.  This was a find (and that's coming from someone who doesn't even own an original copy of the record).  Faith. No Man was a very, very early incarnation of Faith No More.  The only members that transitioned over to the platinum hit-makers were Roddy Bottom, Mike Bordin and Bill Gould.  Mike Patton and even Chuck Mosely were nowhere near the band when this 7" was cut.  M. Morris is the man on the mic.  Both songs bear a heavy handed Killing Joke influence, right down to the tribal percussion  A really cool, intriguing record even if The Real Thing wasn't your thing.  Check out the bio in the hyperlink above.  Note: I only have this one available in MP3.

Killing Joke - A New Day (dub)/A New Day (1984, EG)

And speaking of KJ, this was the record that got me through the front door, in a colossal way I might add.  Seeing the video for this (and "Eighties") on 120 Minutes launched me on a profound and vastly fulfilling post-punk trajectory.  Geordie's doomy but tuneful guitar lead-in had me enticed from second one, and Paul Ferguson's martial drum line couldn't have fit "A New Day" any better.  A perfect ten all the way around, and although Killing Joke put out many fine singles and records I think this one tops them all.

Lords of the New Church - Lil' Boys Play With Dolls 7" ep (2012, Devils Jukebox)

The untimely passing of Stiv Bators in 1990 has always posed a big "what if" for me.  Were he alive would he have reunited with the Dead Boys, Lords of the New Church, or both?  Neither perhaps?  Maybe we'd be Facebook friends.  Who knows.  The only thing I can confirm is that I was a fan, and when it came to the first LotNC album (a 1982 self-titled effort) few debuts have impressed me more.  This 7," which is supposedly limited to 300 copies, but seems more common, is obliviously a cash in.  We get a subtle remix of "Lil' Boys Play With Dolls," Stiv's homage to the New York Dolls, and two '82 live tracks on the flip, with the guitars a bit low in the mix unfortunately.   The tunes shine through though, and I hardly regret the purchase.

Klark Kent - Don't Care, b/w Thrills & Office Girls

Excellent as The Police were, they operated within considerably strict parameters.  No wonder Stewart Copeland opted for something on the side.  Klark Kent was his alias, and over the course of an EP and a handful of singles, Copeland manifested a nervier power pop stride that "the cops" only hinted at. Safe to say if early Elvis Costello was your bag, or Brit power pop in general, you might enjoy this.  BTW, all of the Klark Kent material was reissued on CD in the mid '90s as Kollected Works, but it's a heck of a lot scarcer than the original records.

The Wishniaks - Tickertape Trash b/w River (1990, Junk)

Philly's Wishniaks had been hiding in plain sight for years.  In fact, I recognized the name as far back as the '90s but didn't venture a listen until I got around to playing their wonderful 1988 Nauseous and Cranky ep just a few months back.  Smart and inspired power pop with an indigenous stripe, and even something of a serrated edge to boot.  Here's a single that came a couple years later that's nearly as vibrant, especially the thoughtful "River."

The Beef People - Fragile b/w Nothing You Can Do (1986, Zub)

Bit of a cold case, this one.  The only vital stats I have is that The Beef People were a co-ed, female fronted (Adrienne Meddock's the name) four piece from Greenville, SC.  "Fragile" has a quivery but entrancing snyth line running the gamut of it's all too fleeting 161 seconds.  Some serious homegrown magic on this one.  The flip, "Nothing You Can Do" is punkier and not as immediate, but hey, there's only two songs here, so I'll take what I can get.  Coincidentally, there was a completely different but concurrent crew dubbed The Beef People, also making the rounds.  Make your best effort not to get 'em confused.

Pylon - Crazy b/w M-Train (1981, DB)

Pylon were the epitome of 'cool' if there ever was such a thing.  Like the Beef Peeps, they were also a co-ed quartet, but made significantly bigger waves in their native Athens, GA not to mention numerous points beyond.  Some of the most affecting and curiosity-inducing post-punk you're likely to ever lay ears on.  "Crazy" was later covered by REM, and Michael Stipe has gone on to admit his jealousy of the original.  "M-Train" is angular as all-get-out, but that bass line is irresistible.  There's never been anyone like Pylon before or since.  Check out the reissues of Gyrate and Chomp (if you can still find them) plus a more recent live record from DFA Records.

MP3  or  FLAC

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Chills - Secret Box 1980-2000 (2001)

Well, this may not be as enticing as say, an eight disc Big Star box set (last year's premiere Chanukah upload) but for aficionados of Dunedin, New Zealand's most prominent purveyors of indie pop, the triple CD Secret Box will be sacrosanct nonetheless.  Behold, a warts and all smorgasbord of just about ever conceivable Chills song that never made it to the proper albums or the Kaleidoscope World compilation.  Limited to a mere 500 copies, the Secret Box was geared to the most die hard of fans, but it's hard to believe that after their initial volley of singles and 1987's Brave Words LP that virtually anyone who encountered those sacred sides of vinyl could be anything but a hardcore acolyte.

For the uninitiated, The Chills were arguably the flagship band for Flying Nun Records.  Anchored in Christchurch, New Zealand Flying Nun probably didn't launch with the intention of setting the world afire but despite it's relatively desolate locate the label fostered forward-thinking artists and gradually built their "brand" as a consistent and rewarding trademark of quality and creativity.  Kiwi cult legends including the The Clean, Bats, Straitjacket Fits and even more notably the Chills, put their label on the map.  In the eighties and early '90s it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that many a Flying Nun band set a higher bar for indie music in both hemispheres.

The Chills incorporated in 1980, but the world at large didn't catch wind of them until they got around to releasing classic singles like "Pink Frost," and their internationally disseminated debut full length Brave Words.  Frontman Martin Phillips has commandeered an array of Chills lineups on and off since, yet most of these configurations have demonstrated a firm semblance of chemistry and consistency.  Coincidentally or not, they wielded a similar sonic aesthetic to such anglophile contemporaries as the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen.  Perhaps also coincidentally, the Chills traversed the same wavelength as C86-era Brit-pop combos like Close Lobsters and the Bodines.  Fine company to be part and parcel of, yet the Chills possessed a competent agility of their own design, which by the way made local New Zealanders like Split Enz look frivolous by comparison.

Phillips and his cohorts doled out no shortage of jangly chords, but fleshed their modus operandi with organs to boot, another telltale Chills earmark.  Speaking to some of the tunes occupying their first three full lengths (Brave Words, Submarine Bells and Soft Bomb) the band's compositions ranged from incendiary surges like "Oncoming Day" to buoyant, melodic confections including (but hardly limited to) "Heavenly Pop Hit."  For better or worse these songs aren't represented on Secret Box, at least not in their original iterations.  In fact, several great songs are MIA, but the thing to bear in mind is that this collection was designed for collectors who had long mined their commercial releases.  Nor is this an ideal jumping off point for neophytes.  If you're looking for an intro to the Chills, I would suggest going for the recently reissued Kaleidoscope World or even an equally representative compilation of archived BBC recordings.  Otherwise if you're looking to excavate, you'll find a brief synopsis of each disc in Secert Box below.  Also, make sure to note a painful omission I made from the second disc.  Special thanks to EVR who was instrumental in furnishing us with photos of the art/sleeve notes, all included in the folder of disc one.

Full tracklist available here.

Disc One: Sonic Bygones  
23 live selections that never quite transitioned to the studio, much less anywhere else but the stage, all tracked between 1980-85, save for a Coca-Cola jingle that closes things out.  In actuality, a few songs were retitled and retooled and were eventually cut for Chills records.  An interesting look into the band's rather raw, embryonic beginnings

MP3  or  FLAC

Disc Two: Salvaged Bullion  
Please note: tracks 9-20 are omitted, as they have recently been made available on the Chills BBC Sessions album.  Sorry!

More live rarities madness from the same era occupy the first portion of Salvaged Bullion, while the disc concludes with unreleased studio material including demos and outtakes, though I have to say some of which aren't particularly pivotal.  The flexi-disc version of "Oncoming Day," however, is not to be missed.  After cleaving off the BBC tracks, you're still left with a good 17 tunes.

MP3  or  FLAC

Disc Three: Singular Booty
Singular Booty is a 31-song clearinghouse of sorts, gathering up miscellaneous Chills b-sides, compilation appearances and general studio offal that never found a home on their full lengths.  Perhaps the strongest and most revealing of the three CDs.  Track source info is available in the art/liner notes folder found with disc 1. 

MP3  or  FLAC

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Watching the candles burn...BFD uploads return Saturday evening for Chanukah 2016!

In what has become an annual tradition on Wilfully Obscure (not to mention the ever increasing bane of my sanity) I'll be rolling out extra special, super duper entries over the week of Chanukah.   Beginning in 2012, I decided to spread the goodies out over the eight nights of Chanukah (check out the preliminary details for 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015.  This made sense on a couple of different levels.  For one, it gives me a convenient excuse to share several mind-blowing "gifts" instead of just one biggie on Christmas.  Secondly, Chanukah represents personal relevance to me.  We all know you were envious of that boy down the block who had a yarmulke festooned to his head, who was given the privilege of lighting the menorah, and of course, reveling in eight glorious nights of presents.  Once again, I'm paying it forward.  Previous Chanukah entries have featured Wire, Velocity Girl, Jellyfish, The Pursuit of Happiness and Redd Kross, but name recognition is not hardly a guarantee.  As in past years, there will definitely be familiar faces, but also several participants that have never garnered face-time on W/O.  As you may recall, I kicked things off with a BIG mondo bang last year.  This time around, the opening salvo will reveal itself as something of a Chill.

At the top of each Chanukah upload will be a thumbnail photo of a menorah, with the appropriate number of lit candles to denote each succeeding evening until all eight slots in the candelabra are occupied on the concluding night, December 31st.  Other than that the format will appear as usual, however some of the titles I'm gifting you will not only be available in MP3, but lossless FLAC as well. 

All of this begs the question, "Has Wilfully Obscure been holding out on us for the last 11 months?"  Somewhat...but not quite.  In short, the presents I plan on revealing over the eight nights of Chanukah are of considerably high caliber.  I like to think that everything I share qualifies as good to excellent, but to paraphrase that sage Orwellian dictum, some are more equal than others.  One final note of housekeeping - I will forgo Mystery Monday for the next week in order to maintain the continuity of the holiday as it falls on the calendar.  

See you Saturday 'round sundown. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ultracherry Violet - tape (1992)

Here is what appears to be a demo from a band I featured in 2014, more specifically their full length I Fall to Pieces.  Bearing hefty plumes of
feedback and a billowy guitar sprawl, Ultracherry Violet peddle a mildly downcast din that will be familiar to virtually any connoisseur of shoegaze, dream pop, etc.  And being that this is a demo, the D.C. based quartet convey themselves in an even rawer context than on their aforementioned 1994 LP, often reminiscent of another contemporary east coast combo, Smashing Orange.  Ultracherry are nonetheless pretty easy to wrap your head around, even on the overstretched, near-twelve minute closer "Disinspired."  Enjoy (or not).

01. Losing My Friends
02. Yawn to Smile
03. This Girl I Know
04. Wayve
05. Disinspired


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Haircut One Hundred - Blue Hat for a Blue Day (1982, unreleased)

Life is why not indulge in an unreleased Haircut One Hundred album?  Yep, that's exactly what Blue Hat for a Blue Day, the aborted would-be follow-up to the stone cold classiq, Pelican West.  Truth be told, there was an official follow-up to Pelican that saw the light of day in '83 titled Paint and Paint, BUT original and sacred mouthpiece Nick Hayward had no involvement on it.  Nick was present at the mic for Blue Hat..., albeit only on the tunes containing vocals, leading me to believe these were actually demos.  There's less of an emphasis on brass and horns here than on the debut, and Haircut's overall pop acumen is more developed.  Had Blue Hat been fully realized something tells me that Haircut wouldn't have been the one-hit wonder footnote they sadly seem relegated to.  BTW, I don't have the sequence of the tracks, so alphabetical it is.

Blue Hat for a Blue Day
Brookfield Girl
Cheek to Cheek
Club Boy at Sea
Coming Home
Haley's Heart
I Believe in Sundays
Maytime Moments
Steambus Junction
Sunny Boy Sunny Girl

This is on the verge of being reissued.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Beulah - Demo (Yoko demos) 2003

Setting up shop in the mid '90, Beulah were taken under the wing of the Elephant 6 recording label/collective, which in itself gave rise and promotion to a dozen-plus artful, neo-psychedelic artists, most of whom boasted considerable pop tendencies.  With a nucleus of Miles Kurosky and Bill Swan and a somewhat revolving crew of backing accompaniment, Beulah shined on early singles, and especially on their 1997 & 1999 albums, Handsome Western States and When Your Heartstrings Break, respectively, purloining more from modern power pop than the Brit-Invasion hero worship evidenced by much of the other Elephant 6 contingents.

By the time of their fourth and final platter, 2003's Yoko, the band largely separated themselves from that storied enclave and settled into a modus operandi that was more in league with The Shins and Rhett Miller (rough comparisons, be that as they may).  Yoko was commendable, and still manages to make it's way into my car's in-dash, yet some of Beulah's initial charm had clearly diminished.  Issued later that year, Demo, as it's namesake implies, is just that - a set of acoustic prototypes laid down at home, smack dab in Swan's living room.  As you might surmise, the stripped down and considerably sparer incarnations of the album's ten songs are more organic in this setting, and provide an alternate subtext that's often more rewarding than the finished product.  You be the judge.

01. A Man like Me
02. Landslide Baby
03. You're Only King Once
04. My Side of the City
05. Hovering
06. Me and Jesus Don't Talk Anymore
07. Fooled with the Wrong Guy
08. Your Mother Loves You Son
09. Don't Forget to Breathe
10. Wipe Those Prints and Run


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just remember how you got there...

From 1991.  Co-ed rock de modérne from Lincoln, NE. 


St Lenox - Ten Hymns From My American Gothic (2016, Anyway) - A brief review.

I imagine it would have been nearly impossible for anyone who heard St. Lenox's 2015 debut, Ten Songs About Memory and Hope to walk away feeling anything less than gobsmacked.  Such reactions in the arena of music were scarce in the twentieth century and are far rarer today, yet Midwest to Brooklyn transplant Andy Choi's sophisticated songcraft and trill-ridden timbre informed me and anyone else within earshot that a major new contender had arrived.  Even if he didn't naturally emanate the resonance and vocal hues of Stevie Wonder, Craig Wedren, (and to make a more contemporary comparison CeeLo Green) his debut ...Memory and Hope would still be worth experiencing purely for the sentiments, observations, and subtle philosophical prism Choi's songs uniquely entail.  But yes, a fantastic set of lungs aren't going to get him expelled from the choir anytime soon.   

Arriving a year and a half later is another ten song installment, wherein the author and crooner waxes verbosely on lifetime ambitions, politicians and relevant international locales.  Choi must have garnered a great deal of positive feedback on the aforementioned ...Memory and Hope, because it's successor, Ten Hymns From My American Gothic, doesn't tinker (at least not drastically) with his debut's overarching tenor and pace.  The conveyance of these lucid and personal ruminations border on stream of consciousness, but unbeknownst to the listener is the time it actually takes Choi to stitch his seemingly fluid prose together.

There's an obvious theme running through at least pair of songs amidst Ten Hymns..., regarding Choi's ancestral home, on the thumping "Korea," and a bit further in the docile keyboard ballad "What I Think About When You Say South Korea."  In the latter he alludes to spending time there at some juncture in his life, but ironically, just about the entire remainder of Ten Hymns... speaks about growing up in such landlocked locations as Iowa and Missouri.  So landlocked in fact he refers to making it to California as the equivalent of reaching "the end of the universe" on "Fuel America."  This dichotomy is never fully explained, but Choi's soaring, melodic prowess and detailed vignettes makes such juxtapositions irrelevant - and that's where the magic really lies in veritably any song he attaches his name to.  But it isn't just wanderlust he extols on.

"Nixon" employs a word salad approach to humanizing our 37th president, while his ample gratitude towards "Thurgood Marshall" is yet another choice iconic foray.  "The Public School System," an acoustic piece largely ensconced in an adolescent motif, also manages to tap into a class-struggle ethos, a la Tracy Chapman, and "You Don't Call Me Anymore" is a patented tale of romantic disconnection.

Even if Andy Choi's slice-of-life scenarios and confessional inclinations weren't as poignant as they are, his nimble and often soulful vocal panache would be worth the admission fee alone.  Fortunately we have the luxury of experiencing the best of both worlds.  You can do so digitally via Amazon, iTunes, or on clear red vinyl straight from Anyway Records.